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El Nino Damage Report

The winter of '98 walloped the West, South and Northeast but it spared much of the nation's midsection

April 09, 1998

Normal jet stream pattern for the winter months. This allows colder air to drop into the Plains and East, creating more favorable conditions for snow.

This is an El Nino jet stream pattern. It lasted from December through February.

Jet Stream Splits in 2

(1) Storms originate over warmer Pacific.

(2) Torrential rains and high surf hit California coast.

(3) Storms move into desert southwest, causing flooding in valleys and heavy snow at highest elevations. Cooler-than-average temperatures persist.

(4) Jet stream keeps storms away from central U.S.

(5) Northern branch of jet stream keeps cold air contained over Canada and away from northern U.S.

(6) Storms pick up moisture as they travel along warm Atlantic current known as the Gulf Stream. In areas where cold air moves in from north, heavy snow and ice storms are common.

(7) Tornadoes hit Minnesota in late March, unusually early for tornado season.

(8) More moisture feeds into storms as they reach Gulf Thunderstorms, including hail measuring 7 inches in diameter in Louisiana, bombard the Gulf Coast in early March.

(9) Tornadoes and heavy rains soak Florida.

Seattle rain: down 10%

Los Angeles rain: up 132%

Chicago snow: down 24%

Buffalo snow: down 21%

Boston snow: down 45%

Washington: rain up 56%, snow down 50%

Tampa rain: up 254%

A String of Disasters

Federally declared disasters, in the order they occurred, including the amount of aid pledged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the date it was pledged.


1. Nebraska Blizzard $31.7 Nov. 1 2. Iowa Snow storm $2.5 Nov. 20 3. Florida Flooding $10.2 Jan. 6 4. New York Ice storm $21.5 Jan. 9 5. Tennessee Storms/flooding $22.7 Jan. 11 6. Maine Ice storm $16.4 Jan. 13 7. New Hampshire Ice storm $5.2 Jan. 15 8. North Carolina Storms/flooding $8.6 Jan. 15 9. Vermont Ice storm $6.0 Jan. 15 10. New Mexico Snow storm $1.7 Jan. 29 11. California Winter storms $54.7 Feb. 2 12. Florida Flooding/tornadoes $2.3 Feb. 12 13. Delaware Nor'easter/flooding $1.7 Feb. 13 14. New Jersey Nor'easter/flooding $0.7 March 3 15. Kentucky Blizzard $1.5 March 3 16. Alabama Storms/snow $3.7 March 9 17. Georgia Flooding $7.0 March 11 18. North Carolina Flooding $2.0 March 22 19. Minnesota Tornadoes NA April 1


Note: Damage to insured property, between January and March, totaled $1.005 billion, according to Property Claim Services.

What's Ahead

Forecasters are predicting El Nino's impact will diminish by the end of May, with most of the country returning to normal temperatures and precipitation.

Source: WeatherData Inc; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Western Regional Climate Center; Federal Emergency Management Agency

Researched by ANNA M. VIRTUE and JULIE SHEER / Los Angeles Times

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