Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm Wednesday, Oct. 10 northwest of Mexico Beach, Florida with winds of 155 mph and a pressure of 919 mb. In addition to wind speeds of more than 150 mph, the storm caused up to 14 feet of storm surge in some coastal areas and dumped up to 12 inches of rain. Michael is the most powerful hurricane on record to hit the Florida Panhandle and the third-strongest hurricane on record to hit the continental United States. The fast-moving cyclone entered Georgia, as a Category 3 hurricane and continued to move northeast. The worst damage in Georgia occurred in the southwest corner of the state. On Thursday, Oct. 11, Tropical Storm Michael dumped more rain across the Carolinas, which were still reeling from Hurricane Florence in September. Michael passed through Virginia before moving out over the Atlantic Ocean.

The damage wrought by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida. October 11, 2018. (U.S. CBP Photo by James E. Wyatt)

Hurricane Michael was the seventh hurricane and the 13th named storm of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane season. The first National Hurricane Center (NHC) advisory on Michael was issued in the afternoon of Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 after a tropical disturbance in the Northwestern Caribbean sea became better organized. The system progressed very quickly, becoming a tropical depression by 4 am Sunday, Oct. 7, and Tropical Storm Michael at 11:55 am later that day. On Monday morning, the NHC declared Michael a Category 1 hurricane. By the time it made landfall in Florida, Michael was just two mph short of a Category 5 hurricane.

The low pressure system that eventually spawned Michael caused significant damage in Central America. Torrential rains caused severe flooding and the storm was blamed for at least 15 deaths in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. At least 3,300 homes were damaged in the three countries, and the storm caused an estimated $100 million in damage across the region.


Authorities have blamed at least 45 deaths on the storm, 35 in Florida, six in Virginia, three in North Carolina and one in Georgia.

Hundreds more have been reported missing across the state, but some may have evacuated and lost touch with family or friends due to telecommunication issues. Red Cross maintains a Safe and Well database and evacuees are encouraged to register to assist loved ones in finding them.

The storm caused extensive destruction in the Florida Panhandle and Georgia. Virginia and the Carolinas, still reeling from Hurricane Florence, also suffered damage. Thousands of customers are still without electricity throughout the affected states, and parts of Florida may not get electricity back for weeks.

Small Florida coastal communities such as Mexico Beach, Panama City, Lynn Haven and Port St. Joe suffered extensive damage. Many of these towns were hosts to seasonal visitors and second homes, but also had a full-time, year round population, many of whom worked to service the tourist industry.

Tyndall Air Force Base also sustained significant destruction, including damages to military aircraft including F-22 Raptor fighter jets that were undergoing repairs and could not be relocated before the storm.

Schools in Bay County, Fla. are closed indefinitely. Every single school in district has some type of damage, some more extensive than others and officials they have no idea when 26,000 students will return to class.

Federal Disaster Declarations have been issued for both Florida (DR-4399) and Georgia (DR-4400) and an Emergency Declaration was issued for Alabama (EM-3407). Eleven Florida counties (Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Taylor, Wakulla, Washington) are eligible for Individual Assistance and Public Assistance (categories A and B) with an additional five counties approved for Public Assistance only. Six Georgia counties (Baker, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Miller, Seminole) have been approved for Individual Assistance and Public Assistance (categories A and B) with an additional 25 counties approved for Public Assistance only.

As of Oct. 15, FEMA reports that in Florida, 58 Individual Assistance Applications have been approved and $172, 201.31 has been approved under the Individual and Households program.

Critical Needs

CDP recommends donations of cash rather than product – with the exception of corporate in-kind donations that have been vetted by local officials. Donations of used items such as clothing, toys or individual cases of water are often termed the “second disaster” by disaster recovery experts. Learn more about the challenges of product donations here.

Immediate needs include shelter, food, medical support, search and rescue operations, livestock relocation and power/communications restoration. These are primarily the responsibility of local and state government entities and existing partners within the state.

Intermediate needs include cleaning, gutting and mucking affected homes and businesses, along with debris removal. Replacement of belongings including furniture and clothing, appliances and vehicles is also likely. But the short-term needs are only part of the story. Previous experience has shown us that most people, corporations and foundations, make donations in the first few days after a hurricane makes landfall. Yet the needs continue for years to come.

Long-term recovery will include restoration of property, business recovery and environmental cleanup. There will also likely be significant infrastructure damage to roadways and bridges. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) is carefully monitoring Hurricane Michael and the needs that may arise.

Through the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season Recovery Fund, donors may give now to support recovery needs that will continue to surface throughout many parts of the United States and the Caribbean long after our attention has turned away from these major weather events. Learn more here.

You can also donate to support medium- and long-term recovery in communities affected by this disaster directly through Google. Just search Hurricane Michael and click “Donate.”

Learn more about our partnership with Google, and how we’re working together to provide donors worldwide the opportunity to be responsive and effective with their disaster giving.

If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to tanya.gulliver-garcia@disasterphilanthropy.org.

If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help in this crisis, please email regine.webster@disasterphilanthropy.org.

Additional Resources

Featured image source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Glenn Fawcett