El Nino's Human Toll

We've all been so wrapped up in news about Iraq and the White House under fire from the republican special prosecutor that perhaps none of us has been as sensitive, as caring, as we should about the disasters in Florida and California.

And by "we" your reporter does not mean just those of us in the craft of news, although it certainly applies to us.

As a nation, as a people, as neighbors in these United States, there may have been a tendency not to see these natural disasters for what they fully are.

More than three dozen people are known to have died in the six to ten El Nino- driven tornadoes that wrecked a wide swath of central Florida. Not everyone has been accounted for. That means the final death toll could be even higher.

Hundreds more are injured, some seriously. Homes and other property, the dreams of many of our fellow Americans and their families are in ruins.

There simply never has been anything like it in this part of Florida; nothing on record there or in few other places anywhere in our country approaching this kind of damage from this many tornadoes swooping death and destruction in one compact period of time.

And in California, north more than south (but in both northern and southern California), one after another El Nino-driven storm has had a companion effect.

Mudslides in Southern California are getting most of today's headlines. At least one tornado has been reported in Southern California in the past 24 hours. Rain in Southern California is the heaviest this month since records started in l877. In the San Francisco area, it is the wettest February this century. Lives lost, people hurt, property damage tremendous.

And El Nino is not done yet. Not nearly. There are some indications that this El Nino in the Pacific is beginning to dissipate, and perhaps dissipate at least a bit more, earlier than was previously believed. However, plenty of El Nino troubles remain in the future, at least through the spring. That is clear.

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