WASHINGTON—In what many are calling the most devastating natural disaster of 2008, a massive hurriphoonado touched down in Southeast Asia this summer, upending countless homes and drowning thousands before picking up speed and also ravaging the other six continents.
A storm system characterized by high winds, torrential rain, lightning, fist-sized hail, massive tidal waves, low barometric pressure, and six separate cyclonic eyes, the first-recorded hurriphoonado caused billions of dollars in property loss along the coast of China in early June. From there, meteorologists said, the weather system traveled inland, covering most of Asia Minor, where it sparked a series of even more destructive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, monsoons, and landslides.
"The scope of Hurriphoonado Claire was unprecedented," said Mark Mancuso, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, who classified the hybrid storm as an F4 tornado, Category 5 hurricane, and Level 7 redemptive act of God. "By the time it surged through the Middle East in late August, there was little anyone could do but pray."
"If only we'd evacuated all of Eastern and Western Europe in time," Mancuso added. "And Northern Africa."
According to a handful of survivors in the Bahamas and what was once the island of Saint Kitts, the Hurriphoonado continued to gather strength as it traveled across the Atlantic Ocean, swelling in size, producing a number of catastrophic tsunamis, and, in early September, sucking up sharks from the warm Caribbean waters and heaving them onto unsuspecting residents in Nicaragua.
"It's difficult to make sense of what occurred in Nicaragua as most of our weather satellites were pulled back down to Earth by the sheer force of the Hurriphoonado," Mancuso continued. "However, we do know that the impact of those satellites into the Gulf of Mexico did not help matters."
Experts were not able to measure Hurriphoonado Claire's true strength until it made landfall in Florida Oct. 5. Barreling through Georgia and Alabama over the next two days, the storm dropped 15 feet of snow on Tennessee, opened a mile-wide chasm in Missouri, and then doubled back and obliterated much of southern Texas. It then returned to Florida to flood its remaining four cities.
After igniting hundreds of wildfires in California, the Hurriphoonado reportedly made its way out to the Pacific Ocean, where it finally slowed down and broke into four separate storms, which then ravaged Oregon, a coastal state located 25 miles from Hawaii.
Despite the utter devastation, many Americans said they weren't going to let "just any little Hurriphoonado" change their way of life.
"It's going to take more than the complete destruction of our planet to make me pack up my belongings and leave my home behind," said West Virginia resident and mother of three Margaret Baker. "Now, if you don't mind, where exactly am I?"