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Hurricane Michael Hits Panhandle

Hurricane Michael has gradually ramped up in strength to a Category 4 storm over the last few days, as it ascended the Gulf of Mexico and veered toward Florida’s Panhandle. With winds up to 150 miles an hour, Michael is making landfall this very moment "with astonishing power," according to the New York Times. "This is the worst storm that our Florida Panhandle has seen in a century," Governor Rick Scott was quoted as saying.

"The eye of Michael [seen here from the International Space Station] is expected to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday afternoon, tracking northeast across Georgia and the Carolinas on Thursday before moving off the Mid-Atlantic coast on Friday," the New York Times reported.

© 2018 International Space Station

We just received this email from Joshua Longbottom, who was sailing a Bayfield 25 from Kansas City to Belize, and witnessed the birth of Hurricane Michael.

"Placencia, Belize, felt like a real sea port, with a mountain range in the background, dark days and bubbling skies. The feeling was all its own, one of a kind, sailing out from under a plate that wanted to spin, just out from under its outer edge where the plane above turned its lip back up to the open sky. A smarter man would never get to see skies like this above him.

"We sailed just from the core of a gathering storm, looking back and watching. A waterspout formed and touched down. Then a second spout, while the first was still running its course. And a third tried to form too, all the same distance from the core. All came out of that flat-plate cloud, emanated out of the storm center like a ring around Saturn. I was grateful we weren’t five hours later, sailing a course right into this monster."

On the left-hand photo, you can just see the red dot of Placencia, Belize, where Josh Longbottom was sailing as several tropical storms tried to take root. After several days, Hurricane Michael finally congealed, and (right-hand photo) headed north, gaining strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 

© 2018 Google Earth/Weather Underground

"All the winds were being sucked toward this thing. And then blowing out the top. I think, ‘What if we got trapped in it?’ Every direction out was a head wind. The ring-cloud started to spin clockwise. The center core tried to twist with it too, but stalled. It wouldn’t quite move — it wanted to, but it couldn’t. Something was still missing.

"An hour later, the sky-covering storm system completely dissipated and disappeared, leaving nothing but blue skies to naked eyes. The conditions were all still right here though, waiting for their next chance at gestation. A moment later, it started over again, seemingly from scratch. It was like this for days — skies bubbling, a rolling boil. Forty-eight hours later, the same thing happened again, only this time it didn’t dissipate; it was assigned a number (13) by NOAA and designated a tropical storm as it headed north of us, out the Yucatan chute and north to Florida, with a 100% chance of cyclonic formation. My dad called to see if I was safe, though the storm is past us already."

This was the first of several infant storms that began to form but ultimately petered out off Belize, before Hurricane Michael finally coalesced and marched north to Florida. Note the waterspouts in the middle-left of the horizon.

© 2018 Josh Longbottom

After ravaging the Caribbean last year, Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys, then Naples and Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast, with the eye passing over Tampa. Floridians were forced to do an evacuation shuffle, initially fleeing the east coast for the west, before returning east after Irma shifted directions.

We spoke with several charter businesses last year in both the Keys and Gulf Coast, many of which emerged mostly unscathed. In some cases, the devastation was compartmentalized to ultra-specific areas — boats that came through with minimal damage were just a few miles away from sections of the Keys that were totaled.

We send our best wishes to the Gulf Coast, and hope the people of Florida pull through this terrible storm.

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On July 10, Morning Star prepares to anchor in Hanalei Bay.  latitude/Chris
© Latitude 38 Media, LLC Singlehanded TransPacific Yacht Race rookie Lee Johnson sailed a Valiant 32, Morning Star, in the race from Tiburon to Hanalei, Kauai, in July, and he departed from Nawiliwili Harbor, bound for San Francisco, on July 20, rather later than his fellow Transbackers.
These days, everything seems to be droning on. What with your self-driving cars, boats, and not far on the horizon .