A reader asked whether Hurricane Michael has been declared a Cat. 5 storm. Through our Bay Asked, We Answered series, we took a look.
Editor's note: This story was updated on Feb. 11 to reflect the fact that a Category 5 designation does not automatically mean more federal money.
PANAMA CITY — An official federal report on whether to re-label Hurricane Michael a Category 5 storm could be unveiled by April.
Ever since the storm, whether or not the Category 4 storm would be "upgraded" to a Category 5 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center has been a common point of conversation in impacted areas, prompting a reader to ask “Do you know if NOAA has declared Hurricane Michael a category 5 or not?” through the Bay Asked, We Answered platform.
Not yet, but it's still a possibility. The Hurricane Center is still working on the Tropical Cyclone Report, which will look at storm size, maximum sustained wind speed and other information. The report was originally expected in February or March, but is now not expected until April.
"The change in the time-frame is a direct result of the 35-day U.S. government shutdown," said Dennis Feltgen, a Communications and Public Affairs Officer and Meteorologist with the NOAA Communications and External Affairs and National Hurricane Center.
For now, the storm — which had wind speeds of 155 mph, just two ticks below the 157 mph speed that would have it a Cat 5 by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale — is "operationally" a Category 4.
“In the weeks since Hurricane Michael, NOAA's National Hurricane Center (NHC) has been gathering wind, rainfall and storm surge data from those areas that were affected by the hurricane,” Feltgen wrote in an email. “This information is an important component of NHC's Tropical Cyclone Report, which will contain comprehensive information including storm history, meteorological statistics (including maximum sustained wind speed and wind gusts), damage estimates, storm surge levels and the post-analysis best track (six-hourly positions, intensities, and storm size)."
Feltgen did not address if Hurricane Michael is anticipated to be labeled a category 5, but did say "it is not unusual in a post-storm analysis for a tropical cyclone maximum wind speed to be changed up or down, as more data is available."
Many locals and elected officials have called for the storm to be upgraded over the past few months.