Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, the NOAA says.
Monster hurricane Michael, which decimated the Florida panhandle last October, is now rated at the top of the scale for classifying these destructive storms.
That means it was a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale - just one of four such US storms on record.
Despite that, Michael's landfall winds were tied with the San Felipe 1928 hurricane - when it struck Puerto Rico - as the fourth highest of any USA state or territorial landfall since 1900.
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The reclassification came after scientists analyzed wind speeds and other data that weren't available during the actual storm, including aircraft winds, surface pressures, satellite intensity estimates and Doppler radar velocities.
"Category 5 winds were likely experienced over a very small area at and near the coast", the Hurricane Center said in its statement announcing the change. A Category 5 storm has wind speeds of 157 miles per hour or higher, according ot the scale. The last hurricane of such intensity at landfall was Hurricane Andrew, which struck South Florida and Louisiana in 1992.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's analysis found that storm surge brought water 9 to 14 feet above normal level along parts of the Panhandle and reached the highest levels at Mexico Beach.
"You still ride through our city and it's depressing", Cathey said, adding that they've dealt with 1 million cubic yards (0.76 million cubic meters) of debris. Vacant lots line US 98 as it winds west toward Panama City, also heavily damaged by the storm. When accounting for indirect deaths, the death toll in Florida stands at 52, according to local officials.
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The upgrade comes after the National Hurricane Center sifted through and reanalyzed reams of data.
The estimated damage totaled near $25 billion, according to the report, with almost $18.4 billion from Florida alone.
Agricultural and forestry losses represented about $3.3 billion, primarily in Florida and Georgia.
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