Hurricane Michael: Impact in Georgia

Hurricane Michael struck the Florida coast near Panama City as a category 5 hurricane on October 10, 2018. The hurricane caused significant damage to beaches, infrastructure, and trees along the Florida coast and inland, impacting over 19 counties in Georgia. It was the first category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the continental United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. With wind speeds of 160 mph, Hurricane Michael was the third most powerful hurricane on record to strike Florida. Due to the high wind speeds, the storm had a particularly severe impact on trees near the coast and northeast along its path across the Florida panhandle and into southwest Georgia.

Ultimately, Michael caused roughly $25 billion worth of damage in the United States. Although the hardest hit areas were in the Florida panhandle near the coast, the storm caused significant damage to inland areas as well. Nine Georgia counties in particular Calhoun, Crisp, Decatur, Dougherty, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, and Terrell experienced the most severe winds of the storm. 22 cities within those, and neighboring, counties were included in the assessment area of this study. Cities were selected using on-the-ground observations and knowledge of the severity of the storm damage in combination with geospatial data of the hurricane’s path and wind speeds. Generally speaking, this study looks at the damage that occurred in cities that experienced hurricane force winds, but several other cities that had significant damage are also included. 

Access the Urban Tree Canopy Assessment

With category 5 hurricanes and other damaging storms, there is often significant damage followed by an ongoing recovery period for the impacted areas. In recent years, earth observation tools have become available that can make recovery efforts more effective by providing more accurate, relevant, and timely information to decision makers. Urban tree canopy assessments were first developed in the early 2000’s and, in the past 5-10 years, have become a key part of many cities’ urban forest management strategies by providing increased understanding of the effectiveness of management activities and the impacts of pests, disease, development, and severe weather events on tree canopy.

Hurricane Michael is the first category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the continental U.S. since tree canopy assessments have become a common practice of urban forestry management. Michael was especially damaging to tree canopy in the impacted region, as results from this assessment show that the study area lost over 1,700 acres of tree canopy between 2017 and 2019. This study also provides information to impacted communities that will assist in their recovery. Key information on income levels and racial and ethnic makeup of populations is highlighted to help urban forest managers locate the most important areas to focus their efforts. This project represents a novel approach to recovery efforts of urban tree canopy in storm-affected areas.

Fill out the form to access the Urban Tree Canopy Assessment.

Access the Urban Tree Canopy Assessment

Urban Tree Canopy Assessment: Impacts of Hurricane Michael in Georgia

-1,787 Acres

Tree Canopy Lost


Urban Tree Canopy


Possible Planting Area