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1998 Hurricane Season Ends

The deadliest hurricane season in 200 years ends Monday, leaving behind trails of death and destruction.

An above-average 14 tropical storms formed in the Atlantic basin this year. The most recent, Nicole, formed just last week and still churning in the Atlantic. Their overall death toll may top 11,000, making the 1998 hurricane season one of the deadliest on record for Atlantic basin storms. The cost of damage is in the billions.

CBS This Morning Meteorologist Craig Allen reports that two monster storms - Mitch and Georges - sent the death toll spiraling.

Mitch was a category 5 storm at one point with 180 mph winds and gusts over 200 mph. The biggest problem was the flooding from the rainfall and the deforestation from winds.

In the late-October storm, more people died from mudslides than from other effects of the storm. The storm surge that followed was pretty tough on most of the region, especially the coastal areas, but the mud coming down from the hillsides is what caused all the major deaths in this area. The current death toll (10,000) is considered a very low estimate.

Georges, the other major storm, was on the verge of a category 5 storm, lashing Santo Domingo and the Dominican Republic with 150 mph winds. Georges went on a path that hit the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and across the sea to Key West, Fla., and Mobile, Ala.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration launched a series of research projects during the season that included research missions flown into and above storms and a study of how rising moisture creates giant storms.

Hurricane forecaster William Gray, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Colorado State University, predicts another violent season next year and says the Atlantic basin is in for years of increased hurricane activity.

The hurricane season is considered June 1 through Nov. 30, although storms have occurred both earlier and later. The latest date on which a hurricane was recorded was Dec. 31, 1954; the earliest was March 7, 1908.

On Sunday, Tropical Storm Nicole joined the ranks of hurricanes as its sustained winds edged over the required 74 mph level. However, the National Hurricane Center said the storm was expected to weaken and, at some 770 miles southwest of the Azores in the mid-Atlantic in late evening, did not pose a threat to any land mass.

Last Tuesday, the American Red Cross reported that the many hurricanes, tropical storms, and other natural disasters that struck the United States in 1998 caused the organization to spend more on disaster relief this year than in any previous year.

The year's 14 tropical storms (including 10 hurricanes) were above average, and the death toll of 11,000 or more is among the highest on record, perhaps the greatest in two centuries.

Up to 10,000 people in Honduras were killed by Hurricane Fifi in 1974, and while the Galveston hurricane of 1900 is generally recorded as causing 6,00 deaths, some estimates run as high as twice that.

Deadliest on record in this hemisphere was a hurricane in 1780 that killed 20,000 to 22,000 people on Martinique, St. Eustatius, Barbados, and other Caribbean islands.

Over the last 30 years, an average of about 10 tropical storms have occurred annually, and five or six have reached hurricane strength. The busiest year on record was 1933, with 21 tropical storms. Only one was recorded in 1890 and 1914.

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