EIGHT or ten times each year, the southeast coast of the U.S. is struck by hurricanes. Born over the warm seas of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, these large cyclonic systems result from a peculiar blend of heat, winds, atmospheric pressure and moisture. Anywhere from 100 to 800 miles across, they rage north toward Cuba or Florida, assaulting everything in their path. Usually, however, they dissipate before they do too much damage, or veer out to sea. Only one out of four hit the U.S. They are ordinary enough so that they are systematically named, always after women—Beulah, Flora,...

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