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Reading Comprehension 4.2

There is nothing like it in the atmosphere. Even seen by sensors on satellites thousands of miles above the earth, the uniqueness of these powerful, tightly coiled storms is clear. They are not the largest storm systems in our atmosphere, or the most vio lent; but they combine those qualities as no other phenomenon does, as if they were designed to be engines of death and destruction.

In our hemisphere, they are called hurricanes, a term which echoes colonial Spanish and Caribbean Indian words for e vil spirits and big winds. The storms are products of the tropical ocean and atmosphere, powered by heat from the sea, steered by the easterly trades and temperate westerlies, and their own fierce energy. Around their tranquil core, winds blow with lethal velocity, the ocean develops an inundating surge, and, as they move ashore, tornadoes may descend from the advancing bands of thunderclouds.

Hurricanes have a single benefit--they are a major source of rain for those continental corners which fall bene ath their tracks. Perhaps there are other hidden benefits as well. But the main consequence of the hurricane is tragedy.

In Asia, the price in life paid the hurricane has had biblical proportions. As late as 1970, cyclone storm tides along the coast of what now is Bangladesh killed hundreds of thousands of persons. Eleven thousand people perished in a storm that struck that region in 1984.

Our hemisphere has not had such spectacular losses, but the toll has still been high. In August 1893, a storm surge drowned between one and two thousand people in Charleston, South Carolina. In October of that same year, nearly two thousand more perished on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. The Galveston storm of 1900 took more than six thousand lives. More than 1,800 perished along the south shore of Florida's Lake Okeechobee in 1928 when hurricane driven waters broached an earthen levee. Cuba lost more than two thousand to a storm in 1932. Four huµ

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