In late October 1998, Hurricane Mitch struck Central America, leaving more than 11,000 people dead, destroying hundreds of thousands of homes and causing more than $5 billion in damages. It was the deadliest hurricane to hit the Western Hemisphere in more than 200 years.
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On September 8, 1900, a Category 4 hurricane ripped through Galveston, Texas, killing an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people.
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States. Nearly 2,000 people died in the storm and its aftermath, and hundreds of thousands more were displaced from their homes.
Florida, which joined the union in 1845, is known for its tourism industry, orange crop and warm climate.
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The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, developed in the early 1970s, is a 1 to 5 rating system based on a hurricane’s intensity. A Category 1 storm has sustained winds of 74-95 mph, while a Category 5 storm has sustained winds of 157 mph or higher.
Hurricane Mitch: October 1998
Hurricane Mitch began as a tropical depression on October 22, and by October 26 had intensified into a Category 5 hurricane. Sustained winds reached 180 mph, while gusts were more than 200 mph. After making landfall in Honduras on October 29, Hurricane Mitch moved through Central America before reaching Florida as a tropical storm on November 4-5.
Honduras and Nicaragua were especially hard hit by the hurricane. In Honduras, floods and mudslides brought on by heavy rainfall washed away entire villages, and the majority of the country’s crops and infrastructure were destroyed. The hurricane also took a major toll on Nicaragua. In one area alone, Posoltega, more than 2,000 people perished in a huge mudslide. The other Central American nations (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama) also were affected by Hurricane Mitch, although the death tolls in these locations were significantly lower than Honduras and Nicaragua.
Hurricane Mitch: Casualties
In total, more than 11,000 people (some estimates put the figure as high as 18,000) died because of the hurricane, making Mitch the most deadly storm in the Western Hemisphere since the Great Hurricane of 1780 in the eastern Caribbean, in which more than 20,000 people perished. Additionally, several million people were made homeless or severely impacted by Hurricane Mitch, which is estimated to have caused more than $5 billion in damages.
In the aftermath of the disaster, the World Meteorological Organization retired Mitch from its list of Atlantic Ocean hurricane names, due to the storm’s devastating impact.
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