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Gilbert

Hurricane Gilbert blows some treetops on the island of Jamaica, which was completely covered by the storm.

© Carl & Ann Purcell/CORBIS

There are many ways to measure a hurricane, whether wind speed and rain or lives lost and property damage caused. Then there's sheer size. With a 500 nautical mile (926 kilometer) diameter, Gilbert was one of the largest hurricanes ever observed in the Atlantic basin. The storm originated near the Cape Verde Islands on the west coast of Africa, the birthplace of some of the worst hurricanes in history, including Andrew.

After becoming a Category 5 storm in September 1988, Gilbert literally covered the entire island of Jamaica, damaging roughly 80 percent of the island's homes. The hurricane then moved on to the Cayman Islands and Mexico, among other areas, before weakening and crossing into Texas, manifesting itself in a series of tornadoes. The storm caused 318 deaths, including 200 people killed in flooding in Mexico and 28 who died when a Cuban freight ship was thrown into a shrimp boat. Gilbert-related damage topped out at about $5.5 billion [sources: The Daily Beast, History.com].

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