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M. V. Bilskie
T. G. Asher
P. W. Miller
J. G. Fleming
S. C. Hagen
, and
R. A. Luettich Jr.


Storm surge caused by tropical cyclones can cause overland flooding and lead to loss of life while damaging homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure. In 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, on 10 October with peak wind speeds near 71.9 m s−1 (161 mph) and storm surge over 4.5 m NAVD88. During Hurricane Michael, water levels and waves were predicted near–real time using a deterministic, depth-averaged, high-resolution ADCIRC+SWAN model of the northern Gulf of Mexico. The model was forced with an asymmetrical parametric vortex model [generalized asymmetric Holland model (GAHM)] based on Michael’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast track and strength. The authors report errors between simulated and observed water level time series, peak water level, and timing of peak for NHC advisories. Forecasts of water levels were within 0.5 m of observations, and the timing of peak water levels was within 1 h as early as 48 h before Michael’s eventual landfall. We also examined the effect of adding far-field meteorology in our TC vortex model for use in real-time forecasts. In general, we found that including far-field meteorology by blending the TC vortex with a basin-scale NWP product improved water level forecasts. However, we note that divergence between the NHC forecast track and the forecast track of the meteorological model supplying the far-field winds represents a potential limitation to operationalizing a blended wind field surge product. The approaches and data reported herein provide a transparent assessment of water level forecasts during Hurricane Michael and highlight potential future improvements for more accurate predictions.

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