Hurricane Michael Damage Assessment: Scope and Scale

Hurricane Michael Damage Assessment: Scope and Scale

Posted on: October 23, 2018

When it touched ground Hurricane Michael was measured to be 350 feet in diameter.  This is slightly smaller than Hurricane Irma at approximately 400 feet and much smaller than Hurricane Florence which was just under 500 miles.  Though smaller than Florence, Michael was a much more intense storm but it was fast moving.

We’ve seen the extensive damage in the gulf-coastal regions (Mexico Beach, Panama City, Port St. Joe) but because of its speed, inland flooding is not expected to be as severe as it was for Florence.  Though there was significant storm surge along the barrier islands, much of the “wash” went into the marshy areas behind the islands which are relatively sparsely populated.

As to wind, many residential properties were affected and the storm is expected to be, from 60 to 80 percent, a residential event.  Exceptions are a number of cotton, poultry and dairy farms which were notably damaged due to windstorm.  It should also be noted that, of the residential homes that were damaged, those on the barrier islands were much more of a mix of newer constructed, elevated homes and older, non-elevated much more susceptible homes.  Different than many Florida hurricanes (such as Irma) that affected the much more sturdily built Florida Peninsula homes, Michael has brought record wind speeds to a region that has been spared such exposure since Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

Though very early, Hurricane Michael is currently estimated to reach $4.5 to $8 billion in damages.  In light of the massive costs of many prior storms (Katrina – $161 billion, Harvey – $125 billion, Sandy – $71 billion) this is a relatively moderate number by comparison. As an aside, Hurricane Florence, only a Category 1 storm but much slower moving with massive amounts of water, is currently estimated at $50 billion.


Much of this portion of Florida’s “Big Bend” region is currently without power, and many communities are still actively engaged in restoration.  However, it was observed that Tallahassee, FL appeared to have power to most of its buildings. Though located slightly less than 100 miles from many of the towns, due to the wide spread power outages and lack of telephone and internet capabilities, this was determined to be the most staging location for Vanguard’s efforts.  As the infrastructure begins to recover, it may be possible to shift farther west to service Bay and Washington Counties but due to how sparse this the region of Florida is, the next city that could properly accommodate staging would be as far out as Pensacola.

That said, even miles of downed power lines throughout the region, hundreds of maintenance repair people operating scores of repair units were observed.  With that level of response, progress will be realized sooner rather than later.

Though little comfort for hard hit communities like Mexico Beach, Panama City and Port St. Joe, Hurricane Michael’s speed and the fact that it generally struck lightly population regions was beneficial.  There will be significant costs but a storm that moved slightly west or more east toward Tampa would have caused much more extensive and, therefore, expensive damage.

Robert Gilliam is the original founder and only president of Vanguard. As part of his role, he also serves as the active director of all corporate operations including claims handling, marketing and finances. Even with these diverse duties, Robert still maintains a small pending to ensure that corporate responsibilities don’t cause him to lose touch with the ever-changing state of the adjusting profession.