Moist air, warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, and ideal wind patterns turbocharged Hurricane Michael in the hours before it smacked Florida's Panhandle.
Hurricane Michael's wind speed increased by 50 mph in 24 hours, to 140 mph Wednesday.
University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said the storm is making the "worst fears" of meteorologists come true: rapid intensification just before landfall on an area that has never experienced a storm this size before.
McNoldy said a key factor was that the water was 4 to 5 degrees warmer than normal, giving the hurricane extra fuel. Also, high atmosphere winds that can disrupt a hurricane were quiet, allowing Michael to gather momentum.
Recent studies show that Atlantic storms have been strengthening faster over the past 30 years.