2018-10-10 Reports: Hurricane Michael

Jan 14, 2011
St. Louis
I intercepted Hurricane Michael in Panama City. I left home at 10AM on Tuesday, making it to Panama City just before midnight. I took the usual 5 days of canned pasta and fruit for food, a cooler full of drinks and ice, 4 cans of Fix-a-flat and three 5-gallon gas containers for fuel reserves. The fuel shortages extended a long way from the coast, all the way to Troy, Alabama.

Michael's outer rain bands arrived around 2AM with lightning and thunder just offshore. I got about 3 total hours of sleep in my car before starting the chase at 7am.

I drove around Panama City and Callaway as the outer and inner bands moved in, then headed downtown to the First Baptist Church parking garage for shelter during the eyewall. The outer and inner bands were very weak - damage and power flashes did not start until 9:30AM. The eyewall started moving in after 11AM and was fully over the city at noon.

The high-end Category 4 (possibly 5) eyewall winds were one of my all-time top chase experiences. The sound and visuals were incredible. Very similar to Jim Edds' Charley video from Punta Gorda. I was awestruck. I lingered 5-10 minutes too long while shooting the incoming eyewall, and had a close call with a tumbling storage container nearly hitting the car.

I left the parking garage shortly after the eyewall winds subsided around 1:30-2:00pm, and was able to get out of the city after about an hour of slowly making my way through the maze of debris and flooding. After a few stops to work on video and do some minor repairs to my car, I made it to my hotel in Destin at 8:00pm.

My car took a lot of small debris impacts. I have many new dents and scratches. The front cowling of the car was pulled forward 3 inches, and the bumper air dam was dislodged. Miraculously, I did not get any flat tires.

I made it home just before midnight on Thursday night.

Full chase account with more photos:



May 6, 2017
Well that was fun, I will say I missed being in the field and it is time to get back out in the field more next season!!!

So here is the recap

Monday night I got the green light to chase and in short I already said, I was not going but I was told by Neva that if I DID NOT chase this storm, she would not want to be around me for a month since I missed out last year and with Florence.

I flew into the area and already had pre positioned survival supplies and a SUV waiting for me and surprisingly after I said meh, not going to chase, the flights and rental dropped in price so the cost was actually less then if I drove my own vehicle. It was a sign that everything was getting in line for an epic chase.

Once on the ground in Florida, I base camped outside of the target area and I spent the night in Destin, FL. The night before I flew out I did a detailed topographical forecasts with elevations and escape routes along with a detailed forecast for the storm and the turn. I followed up with more forecasting the night before and the morning of and saw it was going to the perfect position for the point of landfall, the Tyndall, AFB. I say perfect spot since this was mostly open areas with just forests and trees for the most violent part of the right front quadrant as it came on shore.

So I worked my way down from Destin, FL that morning since the eye still had not made the turn, I was starting to wonder, was the forecast off and was it really going to hit Panama City with the right front quadrant and the eye come over Panama City Beach or worse, come straight north towards the Destin, FL area? That would be a worst case scenario for the surge and the wind field.

Around 9:00 A.M. I started to notice the turn and the wobble and talking to a couple friends nowcasting, I made the decision to head towards Mexico Beach. I also talked to Simon and Juston when I was in Panama City and the decision was final, off to Mexico Beach.

The drive through Tyndall on Highway 98 was "Sketchy" since the tall pine tree's were all along the road and really did not want to stuck by the tree's down on the road and miss the eye.

Once in Mexico Beach it was strangely eerie as the town was pretty much a ghost town. I only saw one other vehicle while there and it was some people that at the last minute must have said nope, not staying here. That was at the El Governors while the building was starting to fall apart with only Cat 1 wind gusts.

I spent a little time there documenting the storm while live streaming. And Live Streaming is still the biggest pain in the... while chasing.

As the winds and the debris started to pick up, I ventured out of the wind shelter of the hotel and drove southeast towards highway 98 to explore. I found a bank that could be a decent wind break if the surge was not going to be a factor but I did not want to venture too far away from the area I spotted as where the clear eye of the storm was going to come in which was over the base.

Seeing the surge had not yet started to come in and was still large waves off shore but they were not crashing on shore, YET, I was just hoping nobody would get a false sense of security about the surge not being that bad since the worst was not even there yet.

After checking out the area around the bank, I worked my way back up to the northwest on 98 to the gas station that was starting to take a beating from the winds.

I then decided to keep checking out the escape route to the NW since the eye was only about 5 miles away from me and was going to make landfall within the hour.

I drove up 98 and just as I had hoped, the angle of the roadway to the angle of the winds made the winds going directly parallel to the road. This meant that all of the pine trees on this side of the eye were going to take a massive beating but they were going to fall parallel with the road so the road would be open for the most part to get into the center of the eye. This was the key that I saw that you can see on the map below, the coast line over out about a mile from the road so the surge was not going to be a factor here if everything lined up as I was planning and hoping.

It was at that time that I got a call to do an interview. Bad timing but I it was doable so I headed back into Mexico Beach and that was when the eye wall started coming on shore. Some of the most insane winds and debris flying past, over and all around the vehicle. See the raw video link.

By the grace of god, nothing hit the vehicle. I did run over some debris but I did have a mini air compressor with me to fill the tires if needed but otherwise the vehicle was untouched and the fix-a-flat sealed up the tires after the storm so I was good to go.

So driving in the insanity of the eye wall. How, why, WTF was I thinking. Knowing that this was a straight line wind event and the wind was going to parallel the road, I was not worried about flipping the SUV. I was driving in some Cat4 and Cat5 winds and wind gusts head on with debris flying all around me. I was worried about the surge and in the video link below, you can see when the surge started to move in, that was when I said it was time to move inland.

As I turned around on Highway 98 and headed back towards the northwest up 98 and to the edge of town, I saw the spot I picked out for the gas station as a shelter was already filling up with storm surge and that was all I needed to say F This, go for the eye. Knowing that there was no real place I could find to take shelter along the coast to see the storm and get into the eye itself, I opted for the eye, the holy grail of chasing, The High Noon Blue Sky Eye!!! Yes I was surfing the surge up 98 to get out of town.

I did turn around at the bridge on the west side of town on 98 and thought maybe, just maybe and take a look at what was happening all around but another glance at the radar and it showed the eye was now coming on shore and I was still just over 3 miles from the edge of the eye. I was in the hell on earth of the right front eye wall of a 155mph storm, in a rental SUV.

With the glance at the radar and a quick prayer I threw the Hail Mary pass to drive down what I was hoping was going to be the unobstructed highway 98 to the point of the wind shift where the trees would be blocking on the west side of the storm with the off shore winds.

In the map image below, I marked my spot where I stopped and documented what I could in the limited time I had of the high noon blue sky eye of Hurricane Michael. Another image below is what I saw of the eye and all I could think of was to call it "Stadium Of The Gods". Such a rare calm peacefulness in the eye of the hurricane but you could still hear the rumble of the roar of the storm as the right front quadrant eye wall was only about a mile away from me. Here I stood at the Nexus, the center core of the eye and had to force myself to take photos and video since I just wanted to look at the stadium with the sun at my back and seeing something so rare and so incredibly deadly and destructive but yet so beautiful and peaceful. It was not long before the eye started to move off towards the northeast and it was SNAP back to reality as the right side and right rear quadrants of Hurricane Michael were still to come and I had to ride them out, out side, in the SUV.

Ford.jpg mp map.jpg kevx_20181010_1725_BR_0.5 copy.jpg Stadium Of The Gods StormTrack.jpg Ford.jpg mp map.jpg kevx_20181010_1725_BR_0.5 copy.jpg Stadium Of The Gods StormTrack.jpg Ford.jpg

Here is the insane video I shot un cut

mp map.jpg kevx_20181010_1725_BR_0.5 copy.jpg mp map.jpg kevx_20181010_1725_BR_0.5 copy.jpg

Stadium Of The Gods StormTrack.jpg
May 6, 2017
Part 2, chase log continued.

What was it like going into the eye from the eye wall? I was like skydiving and opening the parachute. You go from a violent extreme winds to okay it is starting to calm down now then you land and its all calm and all good, for a little bit of time.

Then what is it like going from the calm of the eye and back into the eye wall? It is like taking off in a plane and flying into a storm. You are on the ground, everything is someone calm, maybe a little wind buffeting you and then you take off, it gets a little more bumpy until you fly into the clouds and then extreme turbulence hits you. As the inner eye wall started to move over the position where I was at in the eye, I knew it was going to get bad ASAP but most of the tree's were already down, the surge was not a factor and since I was on the edge of a military base forest an there was pretty much NOTHING around me for man made debris, I felt pretty safe for the conditions that I was about to spend the next ninety or more minutes in of the eye wall passing over me.

I drove back towards Mexico Beach to see what was happening and I was stopped about a mile away by the surge. I marked on the map with an X for that area to show how far up the surge made it up 98. Just as I predicted, the curve of the coastline and the distance to the coast from the position on 98 and the path of the storm all lined up to make the eye a perfect intercept.

So for the back half of the storm, the winds were screaming and I did have to position myself in an area with smaller grove of trees that acted as a wind block for me. At this point, I saw ZERO man made flying debris. The first half took out most of the taller trees and the smaller trees worked to calm the insane winds just above the vehicle and the tree line to something more survivable. I dare to say that where I was at, it was almost a pure on shore wind Cat4. with Cat5 gusts once the eye came on shore. Only small vegetation was flying around and the larger trees, well most were already down so I did not have any fear of a house flying apart, man made debris like a 2x4 hitting me.

Slowly over the next hour, the winds calmed down and I waited for the surge to go back out too sea. When the winds dropped below Cat1 speeds, The surge was painfully slowly receding and I would venture up a little ways on 98 and in and out of the downed trees and I started up the next phase, fill the tires and look around the forest area on the road to see what was out there.

To my surprise, I would have never believed it in a million years but I found the go pro camera I had on the roof of the SUV that blew off in the eye wall. The case was cracked and the camera was dead due too the surge and salt water but the card was still readable. To bad it was pointed at the ground but it worked right up until the surge.

As the winds were dying down more and the surge was pretty much no longer a factor, I made my way back into Mexico Beach. I did have to stop at the first bridge area as I saw several large chunks of asphalt ripped up and on the road. Before I drove over it, I wanted to walk over the area first to inspect it to make sure I was not going to drive on something the was a void and into the ocean. The road was passible but I could not see what was on the other side of the main bridge. When I drove up to Mexico Beach, it went from down trees in the forest to downed trees with all kinds of debris in what was left of the trees and forest.

It only took a couple minutes until some of the first victims of the storm approached me looking for help. There home was destroyed and collapsed on them in the storm and surge. They somehow managed to make it out of the wreckage and ride out the storm. It was a older woman and her son. They thought I could help them somehow but I told them all cell service was down, the road out was totally blocked and I'll try and get word out to get help in here. Again by the grace of god, I did not know what to do to really help them since I'm not EMS and they needed to get out of the storm. I saw a home on stilts that was still standing and looked pretty much untouched for the most part compared to everything else around me. Just up the street a few doors down were two homes that actually blew over and collapsed. So I went up to the door of the home ready to kick it in. I said under my breath, please lord let the door be open and unlocked, and it was. So from that point on I just cleared a path for them to walk to the door of the home without any debris or nails or anything that could hurt them more and helped them get into another home for the time being to take shelter from the storm. Days later the owner of the home saw the footage and the people in one of the videos I posted to Youtube where I just had them say their names quick and what happened so I could get word out to their family that they were still alive. He contacted me and thanked me for helping them out. He said they wrote him a heart breaking note about having to take shelter but did not know what happened to them.

I did manage to get a few text messages out to contacts in the media to tell officials to send help since the areas was in bad shape. I did not think I could drive out and was planning on spending the night there. I documented what I could in the next several hours of the storm damage and aftermath as the tropical storm force winds were still hitting the area along with the drizzle and rain.

As the sun was setting that was when I saw others make their way into the area. I was hoping for EMS or some kind of rescue for the injured women but it turned out it was Von Caster and John Humphress. I did see that they were able to get into the area, just barely but I knew I could get out and try and get them some help.

This was the first time I never saw any EMS or rescue crews racing into the area after the storm moved out. Not one emergency vehicle came down the road. The only help I saw was two guys with the Flip Flop Flotilla of the Cajun Navy that I met by the downed FSU tower and told them about the the injured women and that they needed to make her the priority. I found out later that is what they did and they went to where they were and provided some medical assistance and got them out of there at first light.

Still pouring over all the video and photos from this chase.


Jun 12, 2004
Sunrise, Florida
Good day all,

I just got around to posting this ... This is my chase log for catastrophic hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle area. Details are below...

Summary: This area shows pictures taken from the interception and observation of extremely devastating and catastrophic category-four (borderline 5) hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle east of Panama City including its landfall on October 10. This devastating storm originated as a tropical disturbance in the western Caribbean sea off the Central American coast during the latter part of the first week in October 2018. This disturbance drifted northward over the next few days forming a tropical depression east of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and subsequently tropical storm Michael near or over the western tip of Cuba around October 6 and 7. Michael continued north-northwest, then north, while intensifying steadily over the southern and eastern Gulf of Mexico, becoming a hurricane on October 8. Continuing north, the storm began rapidly intensifying - Maintaining that trend up to and including landfall between Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force base to the east of Panama City, Florida during the early afternoon of October 10 as a borderline category five hurricane, with sustained winds of 155 MPH and a central pressure of 919 mb. The storm began moving north and northeast, causing devastation well inland, crossing the I-10 corridor later that afternoon with 130 MPH winds. By October 11, the storm accelerated northeast, weakening to a tropical storm over Georgia and South Carolina. By October 12, Michael raced off the NE USA and became extratropical that same day. My interception of this storm was not for the faint of heart. I left south Florida on October 9, heading up the Turnpike to Ocala, then I-75 to I-10, and west into Tallahassee for that evening. The following day, October 10, I left Tallahassee very early to meet up with other chasers and the primary target area near and east of Panama City. The base area there was a Holiday Inn Express, in Springfield, FL east of Panama City and north of Tyndall Air Force base. I met up with chasers Derek Sibley and Tim Millar there as well. Many other chasers were also in and around the area, including Josh Morgerman and his film crew, Jason Foster, Brett Adair, and Mark Robinson to the west. Before the storm came in, Derek, Tim, and myself went to Panama City Beach - But decided to back track to Springfield at the last minute as the storm eye was the main target, which was trending east. After a quick check of Tyndall AFB, we basically "rode out" then violent northern eyewall of the storm during the noon and afternoon at the Holiday Inn Express off Highway 22. Damage was catastrophic, with winds gusting at LEAST 160 MPH, and much of the hotel's front and covering disintegrated burying / damaging my vehicle and many others under rubble. The western side of the calm eye was observed, with NE winds rapidly shifting from NE to NW. The conditions inside the eye were warm and sunny, partly cloudy and clear to the east. The eyewall presented a rare and spectacular "stadium" effect seen more from hurricane hunter aircraft than observers on the ground! Conditions around the eye and eyewall were similar - There was simply NO weak side to this storm, and a solid ring of violent thunderstorms (tops to 60,000 feet) surrounded the calm (and clear) eye at landfall. After the second part of the storm calmed down, I continued helping locals with moving debris and clearing the vehicles that were buried. I cleared my vehicle (heavily damaged but driveable) and used the winch to move heavier material. I also helped with transporting some of the locals there, including a woman who was devastated about damage to the paper mill there. Josh Morgerman and his group spoke to my group, and we decided to stay the night there using our provisions, avoiding a mandatory curfew until 8 AM on October 11. On the 11th, we left the hotel and worked our way north and northeast towards I-10, with unimaginable traffic and delays. It took over 10 hours just to reach Tallahassee. Once past there, I continued east on I-10 to I-75, then south back across Florida using the Turnpike and I-95, reaching my home back in Deerfield Beach just after midnight on October 12 with a total mileage on the vehicle (2016 Jeep Wrangler) of 1264 miles.


Above is a shot of what many storm chasers inside the calm eye of hurricane Michael experienced (and waited most of their lives to see) as the storm was making landfall in Bay County, Florida! In this picture above, an oasis of calm and serene majesty, over 10 miles high, greets storm chasers east of Panama City and northwest of Mexico Beach, Florida during the early afternoon of October 10. Surrounded by this cylinder of tall and violent thunderstorms (sustained winds of 155 MPH) is the calm eye, with light winds, clear skies, and warm sunshine. The powerful and symmetric eyewall produces a view called the "stadium effect" (as in this picture looking upwards with a clear view of the vertical wall), seen mostly by hurricane hunter aircraft flying in the eyes of the most intense tropical cyclones - But a view like this from the ground is extremely rare. The sky is virtually clear, from sea to sky.


These are two images showing hurricane Michael. The left image shows a close up of the storm eye offshore on the 15:20z visible satellite image (around 10:20 AM CDT). The eyewall of the storm core, with cumulonimbus clouds 10-12 miles high, surrounds a visually clear and calm eye, and presents an appearance of a sports "stadium" or large "teacup" due to the late morning sun angle. The small "X" in the left image shows our general location where myself and my chase group was with (near Calloway, FL, which is east of Panama City). The right image is the base reflectivity NWS radar image at around 1 PM to 1:30 CDT out of Elgin Air Force Base. The clear eye of the storm has made landfall and is moving to the NNE. Around the eye is the red region indicating violent (wind swept and horizontal) rain. The red dots are storm chasers / Spotter Network positions. My location is the blow cross-hairs, and I am just inside the northwestern portion of the calm eye. My group and I measured barometric pressures as low as 923 mb inside that portion of the eye. The "light radar returns" inside the eye are not clouds, but most likely birds caught up in it.

Full video of Hurricane Michael is below...

Pictures are below...


Above: View of Panama City Beach showing the tremendous hurricane surf in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm eye will actually pass east of this area, putting it under the left / western eyewall.


Above: Ceiling panels falling off and being blown away from the entrance roof to the Holiday Inn Express.


Above: Holiday Inn Express front entrance roof is practically gone in inner eyewall winds - Gusting 150 to 175 MPH. Cars - Including our chase vehicles are buried in the rubble.


Above: View out of broken window looking southwest across the entrance to the Holiday Inn Express and Highway 22 as the backside of the eyewall of hurricane Michael continues to rake the area.


Above: Mobile home tossed upside-down and destroyed among other destroyed structures and stripped vegetation north of Calloway, Florida.