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Winter Journal

Volume 31, Issue 4

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Over the past few months, the media has been talking steadily about the recurring El Nino and its devastating consequences on the global climate. From severe ice storms in Northern New England and Canada, to heavy rains and flooding in southern California and Mexico, it appears no one is unaffected by this record-breaking phenomenon.

In fact, the last dramatic series of El Nino events occurred between 1982 and 1983. At that time, the storms generated caused $8 billion dollars in damage alone and was the blame for 1,500 deaths, worldwide. Caused by specific atmospheric and oceanic conditions, one of the worst side effects of the El Nino are the severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Already within the first quarter of this year, the southern states have been inundated with inclement weather, resulting in heavy rains and flooding in various areas. The worst hit has been Florida, in which nine tornadoes were reported in one sequence of storms on February 23. Forty people died as a result of the destructive, 260 m.p.h winds, 265 people were injured. The damages totalled up to $67 million dollars. This incident is considered the worst tornado outbreak in Florida history, beating even the chaos created by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

A second state, Georgia, was heavily hit in late March. Eleven deaths in Hall County were attributed to the tornado, and a hundred people were injured. Fifteen million dollars in damage was initially estimated for the ten mile path of destruction left by the storm. Forty-one houses and twenty-nine mobile homes were destroyed.

This same storm moved into North Carolina killing two residents there, cutting down schools, farms, and handfuls of homes.

Further north of the southwestern states, in the upper midwest, Minnesota was an unlikely target of these powerful storms on March 29. The storm raged for approximately two hours, shifted over nine com-munities, demolishing the structures in its path. Over 800 homes were destroyed in the southern portions of the state. At least 38 people were injured, and two were killed in the violent winds.

The hardest hit was St. Peter, a town of 10,000 residents. Here, 500 homes were swiped away in mere minutes. The campus of Gustavus Adolphus College became rubble; fortunately, most of the 3,000 students were away at Spring Break.

Predictions from meteorologists say the storms will continue through April and possibly into May, stretching the tornado season beyond its limits. The year of 1998 will definitely be one for the record books.

 



David-Glen Smith is a senior editor for the Disaster Recovery Journal.