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In NUMA's Hurricane Center, Heidi Lisherness studied the latest images transmitted down from the geostationary satellites orbiting the earth twenty-two thousand miles above the equator. The data was transmitted into a computer, using one of several numerical models to forecast speed, path and the growing strength of Lizzie. Satellite pictures were not the most accurate. She would have preferred to study more detailed photos, but it was too early to send out a storm-tracking Air Force plane that far into the ocean. She would have to wait before obtaining more detailed images.

Lizzie was also moving at a record pace westward across the ocean.

Heidi never knew who on what island coined the term hurricane. But it was a Caribbean word that meant "Big Wind." Bursting with enough energy to match the largest nuclear bomb, Lizzie was running wild with thunder, lightning and driving rain.

"Before you send me back to Never-Never Land," said Max, "there is one more thing."

What gripped Heidi's concentration was the atmospheric pressure as measured in millibars. The lower the reading, the worse the storm. Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Andrew in 1992 registered 934 and 922, respectively. Lizzie was already at 945 and rapidly dropping, forming a vacuum in her center that was intensifying by the hour. Bit by bit, millibar by foreboding millibar, the atmospheric pressure fell down the barometric scale.

Early reports were far from encouraging.

Yaeger sat there, totally lost, as Max vanished back into her circuits. His mind ran toward the abstract. He tried to picture an ancient crewman on a three-thousand-year-old ship throwing a bronze pot overboard four thousand miles from Europe but the image would not unfold.

Early reports were far from encouraging.

Heidi never knew who on what island coined the term hurricane. But it was a Caribbean word that meant "Big Wind." Bursting with enough energy to match the largest nuclear bomb, Lizzie was running wild with thunder, lightning and driving rain.

THE AVERAGE HURRICANE takes an average of six days to mature to its full magnitude. Hurricane Lizzie did it in four.

Heidi never knew who on what island coined the term hurricane. But it was a Caribbean word that meant "Big Wind." Bursting with enough energy to match the largest nuclear bomb, Lizzie was running wild with thunder, lightning and driving rain.

In NUMA's Hurricane Center, Heidi Lisherness studied the latest images transmitted down from the geostationary satellites orbiting the earth twenty-two thousand miles above the equator. The data was transmitted into a computer, using one of several numerical models to forecast speed, path and the growing strength of Lizzie. Satellite pictures were not the most accurate. She would have preferred to study more detailed photos, but it was too early to send out a storm-tracking Air Force plane that far into the ocean. She would have to wait before obtaining more detailed images.

IT WAS NOON NOW, a crazy, wild, insane noon. The seas had built from a relatively flat surface to thirty-foot waves in what seemed to the captain of the containership, the Nicaraguan-registered Mona Lisa, the blink of an eye. He felt as though he'd thrown open a door to the desert and had a tankful of water thrown at him. The seas had gone steep in a matter of minutes and the light breeze had turned into a full-blown gale. In all his years at sea, he'd never seen a storm come up so fast.

Yaeger looked at her guardedly. "Which is?"

Early reports were far from encouraging.

Her winds spiraled at greater and greater speeds. She quickly passed the stage of "Tropical Depression" with wind speeds of thirty-nine miles per hour. Soon as they sustained seventy-four miles an hour, she became a full-fledged, certified, Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Not content to simply become a lower-end tempest, Lizzie soon increased her winds to one hundred and thirty miles an hour, quickly passing Category 2 and charging into a Category 3 system.

Early reports were far from encouraging.

This storm had all the characteristics of crossing the threshold of Category 5, with winds in excess of one hundred and sixty miles an hour. Heidi could only hope and pray that Lizzie would not touch the populated coast of the United States. Only two Category 5 hurricanes held that appalling distinction: the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 that had charged across the Florida Keys and Hurricane Camille that struck Alabama and Mississippi in 1969, taking down entire twenty-story condominiums.

Hurricanes move slowly, usually no more than twelve miles an hour, about the average speed of someone riding a bicycle. But Lizzie was not following the rules laid down by those storms that went before her. She was hurtling across the sea at a very respectable twenty miles an hour. And contrary to earlier hurricanes that zigged and zagged their way toward the Western Hemisphere, Lizzie was traveling in a straight line as if her mind was on a specific target.

She turned back to the images coming in from the satellites. Looking down on an enlarged image of the hurricane, Heidi never ceased to be impressed with the evil beauty of the thick, spiraling white clouds called the central dense overcast, the cirrus cloud shield that evolves from the thunderstorms in the surrounding walls of the eye. There was nothing up nature's sleeve that could match the horrendous energy of a full-blown hurricane. The eye had formed early, looking like a crater on a white planet. Hurricane eyes could range in size from five miles to over a hundred miles in diameter. Lizzie's eye was fifty miles across.

He reached over and picked up the amphor and peered inside, turning away at the awful stench of decaying sea life. He put it back in its box and sat there for a long time, unable to accept what Max had discovered.

Early reports were far from encouraging.

Already, ships in that part of the ocean were feeling her wrath.

Heidi never knew who on what island coined the term hurricane. But it was a Caribbean word that meant "Big Wind." Bursting with enough energy to match the largest nuclear bomb, Lizzie was running wild with thunder, lightning and driving rain.

She turned back to the images coming in from the satellites. Looking down on an enlarged image of the hurricane, Heidi never ceased to be impressed with the evil beauty of the thick, spiraling white clouds called the central dense overcast, the cirrus cloud shield that evolves from the thunderstorms in the surrounding walls of the eye. There was nothing up nature's sleeve that could match the horrendous energy of a full-blown hurricane. The eye had formed early, looking like a crater on a white planet. Hurricane eyes could range in size from five miles to over a hundred miles in diameter. Lizzie's eye was fifty miles across.

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