For East coast surfers, the tradeoffs presented by the Atlantic hurricane season are well-known, and mostly accepted; a window of good waves for a significant scare every decade or so. This season, however, the few sessions gleaned from ramped-up tropical activity have been found to be more superfluous than before, as nearly-Cat 5 Hurricane Michael--the second significant and potentially devastating storm to impact the right coast--made landfall on Wednesday near Panama City on Florida's Gulf Coast, bringing with it 155-mph-plus winds and torrential rains, after just a short window of quality surf.
With the Carolinas still reeling the sixth named storm of the 2018 season, Hurricane Florence--which landed in Wrightsville Beach in Mid-September--the West Coast of Florida was already on high alert early this week, as Michael began to strengthen late Sunday. By Tuesday it was clear that the storm would be one for the ages. And by the time it came ashore on Wednesday at Category 4 strength, Micheal was the strongest storm to make landfall since Hurricane Camille in 1969 and the third strongest on record. With winds as high as 155 mph, Michael leveled buildings and structures, flooded streets, and left a trail of destruction. One veteran storm chaser said that Panama City was so badly damaged it looked like it had been struck by a bomb, according to the Washington Post.
“Hurricane Michael is the worst storm that the Florida Panhandle has ever seen,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a press conference Wednesday evening.
There were moments of glory for Gulf Coast surfers, however, as Florida Panhandlers like Sterling Spencer were able to squeeze in sessions at novelty spots before the storm became an imminent threat.
Early Thursday, Michael, now a tropical storm, was abut 30 miles south-southwest of Macon, Georgia, with winds of about 70 mph. It was proceeding northeast at about 17 mph.
We're sending positive thoughts to the Gulf Coast and others in Micheal's path. We'll update this story as more information becomes available.