Hurricane Mitch was one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes ever observed, with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph (290 km/h). The storm was the thirteenth tropical storm, ninth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season. At the time, Mitch was the strongest hurricane ever observed in the Atlantic Ocean in the month of October, though it has since been surpassed by Hurricane Wilma of the 2005 season. Mitch formed in the western Caribbean Sea, eventually reaching Category 5 status on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale (SSHS). It remained nearly stationary over water for several days before eventually weakening, striking Honduras as a minimal hurricane.
Though Mitch weakened before striking land, it drifted just off the coast of Central America from October 29 to November 3, dropping historic amounts of rainfall, with unofficial reports of up to 75 inches (1,900 mm). Deaths due to catastrophic flooding made it the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane in history; nearly 11,000 people were killed with over 8,000 left missing by the end of 1998. The flooding caused extreme damage, amounting to around $7 billion (2005 USD), though exact totals will likely never be known.
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