Cyclone Nargis death toll may top 100,000

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:58 PM GMT on May 08, 2008

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The tragedy of Cyclone Nargis' aftermath in Myanmar continues to intensify, with the top U.S. diplomat in the county now predicting a death toll of 100,000. A death toll of 80,000 has been estimated by a local official in just one district of the country--Labutta--so the death toll may go much higher than 100,000. Although the first major U.N. relief flight of emergency supplies has finally landed, the criminal indifference of the nation's leaders towards the plight of the cyclone's survivors will doom hundreds or thousands more to death or terrible suffering. One can only hope that the people of Myanmar will rise up and put an end to Myanmar's dictatorship as a result of this awful tragedy.

There is historical precedent for this sort of occurrence. The deadliest tropical cyclone of all time, the Great Bhola Cyclone of 1970, killed upwards of 550,000 people is what was then called East Pakistan (and now called Bangladesh). A statement released by eleven political leaders in East Pakistan ten days after the cyclone hit charged the government with "gross neglect, callous indifference and utter indifference". They also accused the president of playing down the news coverage. The dissatisfaction with the government response to the disaster boiled over into full-fledged civil war the next year, which ultimately led to the overthrow of the government and the establishment of the new nation of Bangladesh. As bad as the West Pakistani response to the Great Bhola Cyclone of 1970 was, the response of the Myanmar government to Nargis is far worse. The slowness of response to this tropical cyclone disaster is unprecedented in modern times.

Nargis is one of the 20 deadliest cyclones in history
Cyclone Nargis' official death toll of 22,500 ranks the storm as the 19th deadliest in world history. Fourteen of the world's twenty deadliest cyclones have been Bay of Bengal storms. Until Nargis, these storms have all affected Bangladesh and India. The bay's shallow bathymetry and low-lying, heavily populated river deltas make the Bay of Bengal the world's most notorious tropical cyclone graveyard. If Nargis's death toll does exceed 100,000, the storm will still only rank as the tenth deadliest tropical cyclone of all time.


Figure 1. This pair of images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite use a combination of visible and infrared light to make flood waters obvious. Water is blue or nearly black, vegetation is bright green, bare ground is tan, and clouds are white or light blue. On April 15 (top), rivers and lakes are sharply defined against a backdrop of vegetation and fallow agricultural land. The Irrawaddy River flows south through the left-hand side of the image, splitting into numerous distributaries known as the Mouths of the Irrawaddy. The wetlands near the shore are a deep blue green. Cyclone Nargis came ashore across the Mouths of the Irrawaddy and followed the coastline northeast. The entire coastal plain is flooded in the May 5 image (bottom). The fallow agricultural areas appear to have been especially hard hit. For example, Rangoon (Yangon), the capital city with population over 5 million, is almost completely surrounded by floods. Several large cities (population 100,000-500,000) are in the affected area. Muddy runoff colors the Gulf of Martaban turquoise. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

Nargis' storm surge
Nargis took the worst possible path, tracking right along the low-lying, heavily populated Irrawaddy River delta. Moreover, the storm hit at high tide, greatly increasing the impact of the storm surge. Tidal range in the Irrawaddy River delta is about five feet between low tide and high tide, and the death toll would have been much, much lower had the storm hit at low tide. Further amplifying the storm surge's height was the fact that Nargis was moving rather slowly--about 11 mph. Slow moving tropical cyclones can drive a much higher storm surge into narrow estuaries that connect to the ocean, since there is more time for the surge to penetrate inland. Nargis' track, forward speed, and high tide timing created a "perfect storm" able to cause an unprecedented storm surge in the Irrawaddy River delta. The only saving grace was the relatively small size of the cyclone.

I talked to Stephen Baig, the National Hurricane Center's storm surge expert, about Nargis. He confirmed that the surge from Nargis was likely about 12 feet, and that had Myanmar asked, NHC would have happily made them custom storm surge forecasts for the storm. He offered that NHC would do the same for any country in need of storm surge forecasts for an approaching storm.

Human factors helped make the storm surge worse. About 80% of the mangrove forest along Myanmar's coast has been destroyed, to make room for rice paddies and shrimp farms. Mangroves--tall, gnarly, salt-tolerant trees--act to blunt and slow down the progress of the storm surge and reduce the wave action of the ocean. Had more mangroves been left to survive, the impact of the storm surge would have been lessened. How much so, no one can say, for there are few observations of the storm surge to verify models of this. Keep in mind that the mangroves are far more effective in protecting against a sudden, powerful wave like the 2004 tsunami, than the slower, hours-long inundation of a storm surge.

Comments from Chris Burt
I've been in regular communication about this disaster with Chris Burt, author of the excellent book Extreme Weather. He has been visiting Myanmar every year for 30 years, and has much insight on the situation there:

Yet another official Chinese news agency has gone on record about the disaster, going so far as to quote the U.S Chief of Mission (the top ranking US diplomat in Myanmar since we have had no ambassador in the country for 30 years now):

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-05/08/content_8127548.htm

Again, I can tell you that this is VERY significant. China is Myanmar's only real friend in the world and when THEY begin to publish critical reports, I really am now starting to think this dreadful regime in Myanmar has met its match.

Here is a letter I received from a friend in the capital city, Yangon today:

Dear Chris,

Help received within the country is insufficient and inefficient. We need so much of outside professional, efficient help. NOT in three days. SHOULD be in three hours. Should have been in the last three days. Why are they waiting for three more days? We cannot risk any more life. The dead toll is shockingly too high and it is increasing minute by minute. Please keep me posted with international support. I will also keep you posted.


Great Plains storm chasing
Wunderblogger Mike Theiss is in Tornado Alley this week, performing his annual chase efforts. Be sure to catch his spectacular photos of the amazing storms that form over our Great Plains.

Jeff Masters

Tornado Damage 2 (jlg)
Damage from today's Tornado in Windsor, Colorado
Tornado Damage 2

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944. pottery
6:09 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Greetings.
a hot 94 here ( 91 at the airport, 10 miles north of me ). Heat index 98 !!! Feels like that too.
You know, this is a small tropical island, about 80 miles by 50 miles. It is not supposed to ever get as hot as this, and 15 years ago, it NEVER did.
I notice the difference in the vegetation, and the fact that El Tucuche mountain, at 3012 ft, used to ALWAYS have a cloud sitting on it, obscuring its summit. Have not seen that cloud in some years now, because the inversion level has gone up to 3500 feet.
This has affected the streams that spring from the mountains that run the length of the north coast ( this is the last section of the Andes, that swings east at Columbia, and down the northern flank of Venezuela, to here ( Trinidad). This is naturally affecting water-catchment areas, as is de-forestation on the hillsides.
From where I am, I can see the Andes of Venezuela, on the Paria peninsula, rising to 6000 ft. There are still enormous tracts of virgin rainforest there, and the Orinoco River ( which is no small stream) empties into the ocean right here. Trinidad is almost in its delta actually.
The Orinoco flood waters provide us with an abundant source of flora and fauna from the mainland, and it is not uncommon to see huge "rafts" of trees and other vegetation washed up ,on the south coast here, with monkeys, snakes,bugs, caiman, etc coming ashore. Its a 7 mile crossing.
Just a little ramble, on an otherwise gentle day. I'll stop now, open another cold beer.
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943. surfmom
5:50 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Orca - just a quick note regarding Cancun & PV. PV has two areas "old" & "New" new PV is like disneyworld, or a manufactured resort, "Old" has lots of culture, real architecture etc. BUTTTT, they will not tell you how "crapped-up" they Bay is...(where I assume you may be swimming in)I was very disappointed by the water quality...it is a situation where growth has exceeded the infrastructure --sooo the sewage is often over-spilled into the Bay. The sewage treatment plant constantly overspills, and all the boats - tourist boats, fishing dump as well. I was very disgusted by this and the local government is not addressing the problem. I had some great surfing, some great meals (The Red Cabbage) etc...but the ocean was a sad awakening. We stayed in a small village/rental house on the water (very local) outside of Nuevo PV (which was no locals, only tourists) The beaches in Cancun are far superior, but I don't know about the water quality there, other then it won't get trapped in the Bay like PV. I learned the truth about the Bay via my eyes spying sewage sludge and networking w/local surfers. The people were great in PV (nicer then Cancun) we met some ranchero's and took a trail ride via horse that started at the beach and took us up into the Sierra Madre Mts. One of my most memorable rides of my life. Got to go --it's Mother's Day and even if I am off-duty I am on
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942. StormJunkie
5:49 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Dr M has a new blog up

See y'all there ☺
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16229
941. presslord
5:47 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
mel...just south of Charleston...near Kiawah...Does that help?
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940. melwerle
5:44 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Hey Press - where is John's Island?
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939. melwerle
5:43 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Good - no more stuff like this morning. I was getting peeved between the weather radio and the tv both giving warnings at different times...

Any significant damage in your area?
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938. StormJunkie
5:42 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Afternoon mel, we could see some pops late this afternoon this evening, but they will most likely be scattered in nature.
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937. presslord
5:40 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
mel....I'm on Johns Island....it's hot, clear and really really windy....
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936. melwerle
5:38 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Good afternoon - everyone make it through the storms okay? And - is that it for the yucky weather for the day or do we have more coming?

Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 1837
935. Orcasystems
5:38 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
I now have to go and make the ultimate Mothers day sacrifice.. while the kids are taking the wife out for lunch..I am going to surprise her and clean up the garage :( and install the IR Sauna.

Wish me luck.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
934. Orcasystems
5:35 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
928. StormW 5:22 PM GMT on May 11, 2008 Hide this comment.
917. Orcasystems 12:43 PM EDT on May 11, 2008
914. Patrap 4:29 PM GMT on May 11, 2008 Hide this comment.
Thats a "wow" question. I'd say 50/50 on that one. Cancun easier to Bug out in a emergency evact, Id expect, but the water is soooo nice on the other side.

Bring sunscreen in Both cases..LOL

Took Storm W's advice last year and did Cancun, it was fantastic. Storm gave us a 14 day forecast for the entire time we were there and was bang on over 90% of the time. He actually did better then the local forecaster who was only giving three days.


Thanks for the plug, Orca!!


Like I said last year Storm, you beat the locals something bad... so same question to you... East/West?
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
933. presslord
5:34 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
agreed orca...and, for the record, one of the best weeks of my life was in Toronto...involving a ridiculous amount of beer...and a blonde whose name I don't recall...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10480
932. Orcasystems
5:31 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
929. presslord 5:22 PM GMT on May 11, 2008 Hide this comment.
actually...I live in a coastal area way over populated with Canadian ex-pats...


Glad we are back to talking nice :)
I assume your in Ft Lauderdale or somewhere close by. I know my Mom visits friends there once or twice a year.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
930. FloridaRick
5:24 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
I don't know how many of you work in Emergency Management but let me give a little input from a professional stand point and not political.

All disasters whether natural or man made start at the local level. That is where the first response will come from. Once those resources are tapped out or overwhelmed requests are made to surrounding jurisdictions including state government. If the state can not fill the gaps in response it has two choices: 1- request for mutual aid from other states (EMAC) emergency management assistance compact, or 2- request for assistance to the FEDS. but in order to recieve you must ask. A rule used here in florida is planning. If you know that you are going to need some sort of assistance, ask early and ask often. It takes time to stand up federal response as that is not what fema was designed for. Fema is there to support. Many think FEMA is a response agency but the fact is that a very small percentage of FEMA is in the response business. Those assets being in the form of contractual agreements with private entities and other agencies.

The fact of the matter is that we the people need to take personal responsibility for our responss locally. Help one another. I normally respond as a state resonder, before the wind stops blowing. This starts my assessment phase. But I can not request assets deploy, unless the local EOC (Emergency Operations Center) asks for them. That is why we should elect strong local leadership.
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929. presslord
5:22 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
actually...I live in a coastal area way over populated with Canadian ex-pats...
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926. Orcasystems
5:18 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
ROFLMAO, I have to say it... hehe can't hold it any longer...

Presslord.. which part of West Virginia are you from?
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925. hahaguy
5:15 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
ya adrian its really hot in our area its 93 here and feels like 99
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924. presslord
5:14 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Canada, eh?

Where delivery of healthcare goes something like this: "Do ya have any relatives south of the border who can get ya in to see a real doctor?

Whose space program gave us the robotic arm on the shuttle and ISS...a feat of tecnological marvel replicated everyday across America by 5 year olds with Tinker Toys...

Whose military is comprised of those who couldn't get on at WalMart as greeters...

and whose biggest export is....well....Canadians....
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923. StormJunkie
5:11 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Year to Year SST comparison maps updated as of May 11th.
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922. hurricane23
5:04 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Wow....

95 degrees outside my house as of 1:00 this afternoon.
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921. presslord
4:49 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
oh....that should certainly endear you to everyone here...nice job....
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920. Orcasystems
4:50 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Patrap:

Does LakeShadow still come on here?
Love to know what the final count was on the Snowfall theory?
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
919. Orcasystems
4:47 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
915. presslord 4:32 PM GMT on May 11, 2008 Hide this comment.
with all due respect orca...while the FEMA analogy works in this specific instance ....most others do not...NASA, NWS, and CDC are just a few examples to the contrary....and, for that matter, "patronage" appointments do not inherently negatate the potential for effective leadership....but thanks for your input on how we should run our country....


ROFLMAO, I would never give suggestions on how you run your country... SNL would run out of material.
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918. presslord
4:43 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Hey SJ...we did brunch @ Mimi's...home now...clear and VERY breezey.........
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917. Orcasystems
4:43 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
914. Patrap 4:29 PM GMT on May 11, 2008 Hide this comment.
Thats a "wow" question. I'd say 50/50 on that one. Cancun easier to Bug out in a emergency evact, Id expect, but the water is soooo nice on the other side.

Bring sunscreen in Both cases..LOL


Took Storm W's advice last year and did Cancun, it was fantastic. Storm gave us a 14 day forecast for the entire time we were there and was bang on over 90% of the time. He actually did better then the local forecaster who was only giving three days.

Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
916. StormJunkie
4:39 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Afternoon all

Press, you make through this morning ok? You sleep through it?

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915. presslord
4:32 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
with all due respect orca...while the FEMA analogy works in this specific instance ....most others do not...NASA, NWS, and CDC are just a few examples to the contrary....and, for that matter, "patronage" appointments do not inherently negatate the potential for effective leadership....but thanks for your input on how we should run our country....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10480
914. Patrap
4:29 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Thats a "wow" question. I'd say 50/50 on that one. Cancun easier to Bug out in a emergency evact, Id expect, but the water is soooo nice on the other side.

Bring sunscreen in Both cases..LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127803
913. Tazmanian
4:28 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TULSA OK
313 AM CDT SUN MAY 11 2008

.DISCUSSION...
MUCH QUIETER OVERNIGHT AFTER THE DEVASTATING TORNADOES EARLIER IN
THE DAY. WE/LL BE SENDING 2-3 TEAMS OUT THIS MORNING FOR DAMAGE
SURVEY. THE PICHER TORNADO IS THE DEADLIEST TORNADO IN OKLAHOMA
SINCE THE MAY 1999 OUTBREAK.
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912. Patrap
4:28 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
yeppars..sadly
But in the Marine Corps, one cant willy nilly experience.
It has to be gained,garnered..passed on by leading by example,Politicians,very few at least dont think or act that way.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127803
911. Orcasystems
4:27 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Now, back the subject at hand... Patrap.. do I go to Cancun or P. Vallarta on Vacation this December? In other words.. which is going to be safer this year.. your turn to guess on East/West coast.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
910. Orcasystems
4:24 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
907. presslord 4:09 PM GMT on May 11, 2008 Hide this comment.
if we can keep this about leadership (rather than politics)in a time of crisis resulting from a natural disaster...then we are at least nominally on topic...


I am not sure you can do that in the US. Most of your leadership positions are filled as patronage appointments by the elected government.

I have seen very few that are filled based on skill sets, FEMA being a prime example. Until such time as these senior positions are filled based on Skill and not who you know, this problem will always come back to bite you.

In Canada we have a similar problem, except senior positions are not filled by appointments, they are filled with Senior people who have worked there way up through the system. The head of the organization is normally an elected official.

That being said, you always find people who have been promoted to the level of their incompetence.

Patrap will remember that one from the Military :)
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909. Patrap
4:24 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
CNN embedded reporter in Myanmar

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908. Patrap
4:23 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Hurricane Preparedness Week Link
History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster. Hurricane Preparedness Week during 2008 will be held May 25th through May 31st.

The goal of this Hurricane Preparedness Web site is to inform the public about the hurricane hazards and provide knowledge which can be used to take ACTION. This information can be used to save lives at work, home, while on the road, or on the water.



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 127803
907. presslord
4:09 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
if we can keep this about leadership (rather than politics)in a time of crisis resulting from a natural disaster...then we are at least nominally on topic...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10480
906. K8eCane
4:04 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
. tillou 3:45 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
With some of the recent post about the president and Katrina, where were you. Im sure over 90% of you were on this blog writting what the govenment, at all levels, should be doing.

How can you say that he should have done this and/or that but you stayed home.

I think that we can all agree that the




i think it takes a lot of screwed up thinking and a lot of loss of personal values to have to CHEAT to obtain the presidency and then have the ROTTEN GUTS to screw it up like he has done.
The fact is THE BUCK STOPS WITH THE PRSIDENT and he asked for it
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905. FloridaRick
3:57 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Tillou,
Could not agree with you more! Nough said
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904. CaneAddict
3:52 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Good Late Morning to all!

I just got back home from a nice 3 day camping trip!

Anyway, Im quite impressed with that tropical wave that is currently approaching the coast of South America..
Member Since: October 5, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 2151
903. presslord
3:47 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
ah...unless you know something I don't....I'm not President of the United States...if you know something to the contrary, please give me a heads up on that....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10480
902. tillou
3:45 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
With some of the recent post about the president and Katrina, where were you. Im sure over 90% of you were on this blog writting what the govenment, at all levels, should be doing.

How can you say that he should have done this and/or that but you stayed home.

I think that we can all agree that the situation was handled poorly but how can you live with yourself saying what he should have done while you sat at home and did the same thing.
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901. hurricane23
3:37 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Good afternoon!

Just wanted to remind folks that tommorow Joe bastardi will release his full detailed 08 atlantic hurricane season outlook at the hurricane summit in Houston Texas.For more info READ HERE

Happy Mothers Day!

www.AdriansWeather.com

Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13674
900. Orcasystems
3:37 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Presslord, I assume that wasn't aimed at me?
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
899. pearlandaggie
3:35 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
i wondered how long that would last...the link was to an interesting article concerning the relative strength of common GHGs...and that picture was on the cover.

it's funny that the cow was considered "offensive" but two guys kissing (regardless of who they are) is not...nevermind...all is right in the world again! :)

anyway, here's the link...

Link
Member Since: September 14, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 3963
898. presslord
3:29 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
I wouldn't know Patrap if he walked up and kissed me on the mouth...but I've had a few conversations with him...and he hardly seems the stereotypical bedwetting liberal Bush basher...the issues he addressed here involve leadership, not politics...and I suspect (in fact, I know) the USMC spends more than just a few minutes on the subject...read a couple of history books yourself...

semper fidelis....
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897. Orcasystems
3:28 PM GMT on May 11, 2008
Morning Patrap... I see the political stuff has invaded this Blog also.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.