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El Niño's American Toll

Power shortages in Maine, heavy snows in the Texas Panhandle, and dead seal pups in California. Across the United States, El Niño has reared its ugly head with a bevy of both bizarre-and diverse-results.

El Niño has brought an unusually warm winter to the Northeast. That's meant ice storms where snow usually falls. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Upstate New York were crippled with ice in early January. In Maine, more than 300,000 homes and businesses were stranded without electricity, and the Department of Agriculture reported an estimated loss of $6.9 million in agri-business across that state.

Mid-Atlantic and Southeast
Snowstorms in Virginia and West Virginia confirmed forecasts for a cool and wet winter in the South. Florida was hit by severe storms and tornadoes, while four counties in Tennessee were declared federal disaster areas. The National Guard was activated to help in the recovery effort.

With snow in El Niño's forecast at the higher elevations, Midwestern ski resorts have had reason to be optimistic. But if El Niño's impact intensifies, those ski resorts can be snowed out themselves. Across the northern states, warm winter weather is a welcome relief. Such cities as Chicago and Detroit can expect their mildest winters in years.

West Coast
Flooding has plagued California. Clear Lake in Northern California and many beach towns in the south are beginning to look like disaster areas. And El Niño is taking a toll on wildlife too. Unusually warm waters have carried tropical fish as far north as Seattle. Unaccustomed to the warm waters, seal pups have been hit hard-many dying off California's coast. By March, wildlife biologists predict thousands of sea lions, harbor seals, and northern elephant seals will also die as their food supply shrinks.

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