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US Weather Extremes Prophesy Future

At least twelve people have lost their lives as a devastating series of storms swept across the United States from the Southeast to the Northeast. Eighty mile per hour wind gusts were recorded in the New York City area, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama recorded an extremely rare midwinter tornado that reached an F4 intensity level.

The Northeast has experienced a strange combination of record-breaking high temperatures, high winds and rain producing flooding, downed trees and power failures. Planes have been unable to land at New York airports during the year?s busiest season. A 15 year old Boy Scout, on a group hike in New York state, was swept away and drowned in a river.

But while the rain pounded down with unusual force, what was really strange about the weather was the temperature: it was a spring-like 62 degrees in Central Park, and 64 in Boston.

Meanwhile, Tuscaloosa, Alabama experienced a fearsome but rare winter tornado that killed 12 people. In "The Coming Global Superstorm," which will be out in paperback in February, Art Bell and Whitley Strieber warn that bizarre weather events like these are likely to signal the beginning of a process of sudden climate change.

In New York City on Sunday, after it was all over, residents stepped out of their buildings and saw an enormous double rainbow arching over the city. "Beautiful, and there?s two of them," said Joseph Ruggerone, of Queens.

While the death toll of previous tornadoes have been higher in Alabama, Governor Don Siegelman, who toured the damaged areas yesterday morning, called the December 16 storm ''one of the worst tragedies'' in the state's history not only because of the loss of life, but because of the extensive property damage.

The National Weather Service classified the tornado as an F4 on the Fujita scale, meaning it had wind of 207 mph to 260 mph, said Don Hartley of Tuscaloosa County' s emergency office. An F5 is the strongest, with wind above 260 mph.

It was the deadliest tornado to strike Alabama since the spring of 1998, when a twister killed 32 people in nearby St. Clair and Jefferson Counties, and the most dangerous tornado to strike Tuscaloosa since a 1932 storm killed over a hundred. It was the first such storm of its kind to hit the area in winter, and came as a powerful cold front clashed with the unseasonably warm air that had spread across the southeast and northeast in recent days, in a scenario that will become more common before superstorm conditions begin to appear. Most of the deaths occurred in a trailer park near Tuscaloosa, which was reduced to unrecognizable by a direct hit from the powerful tornado.

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