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datatime: 2022-12-03 21:40:14 Author:FKEXOncS

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.

Early reports were far from encouraging.

Quite often, storms spin around and head in a totally different direction. Again, Lizzie wasn't going by the book. If ever a hurricane had a one-track mind, thought Heidi, it was this one.

He decided to run a check of Max's systems first thing in the morning before sharing the report with Sandecker. He wasn't about to take a chance on Max somehow becoming misguided.

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.

HEIDI AND fellow meteorologists at the NUMA center began hovering in conferences and studying the data on the latest system sweeping in from the east. They saw no slackening of Lizzie as she swept past longitude 40 west in mid-Atlantic, still throwing all previous predictions out the window by running straight with barely a wobble.

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.

Yaeger looked at her guardedly. "Which is?"

He decided to run a check of Max's systems first thing in the morning before sharing the report with Sandecker. He wasn't about to take a chance on Max somehow becoming misguided.

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.

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.

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.

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.

"When the glop is cleaned out from the interior of the amphor, you'll find a gold figurine in the shape of a goat."

Before night fell, a dozen other ships would suffer Lizzie's destructive violence.

Yaeger looked at her guardedly. "Which is?"

There was no nearby port to head toward for shelter, so he steered Mona Lisa directly into the teeth of the gale in the calculated gamble that the faster he steamed through the heart of the storm, the better his chances of coming through without damage to his cargo.

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

Before night fell, a dozen other ships would suffer Lizzie's destructive violence.

Heidi took a few minutes to type a fax to her husband, Harley, at the National Weather Service to alert him to the hurricane's latest numbers.

Quite often, storms spin around and head in a totally different direction. Again, Lizzie wasn't going by the book. If ever a hurricane had a one-track mind, thought Heidi, it was this one.

An eighty-foot yacht owned by the founder of a computer software company, carrying ten passengers and five crew on a cruise to Dakar, simply vanished, overwhelmed by huge seas without time to send a Mayday.

"When the glop is cleaned out from the interior of the amphor, you'll find a gold figurine in the shape of a goat."

Before night fell, a dozen other ships would suffer Lizzie's destructive violence.

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.

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