Hell and High Water

Article excerpt

Mother Nature was on a tear in 1998, and one of her bad `children' wreaked havoc in the Western Hemisphere with weather that claimed tens of thousands of lives and left millions homeless in its wake.

As the song goes, the weather out there is frightful. In fact, it was frightful all year long. But don't blame the weatherman; blame it on El Nino. That's the easy explanation provided by all those scientists grabbing research money to prove some correlation between the warming of sea-surface temperatures and every natural disaster.

El Nino, which in English means "the infant" is a weather phenomenon that occurs every few years around Christmastime. In 1998 El Nino certainly found its way in nearly every deadly storm story. Regardless, of whether El Nino was truly responsible for such calamities as the migration of killer bees from South America to Nevada or the Florida wildfires, the damage this year has taken its toll on the whole world.

But in case you forgot how bad it got, here's a look back at some of the most devastating weather disasters in recent history, according to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

* In November, Hurricane Mitch killed an estimated 11,000 people across the Central American region and left more than 3 million homeless or displaced. The hardest hit was Nicaragua and Honduras. With thousands more feared dead, it is considered to be the deadliest Atlantic storm since The Great Hurricane of 1780, which killed 22,000 people in the eastern Caribbean. …