CBS Blows Hurricane Season Death Toll Out of Proportion

     Theres no denying Hurricane Katrina was easily the worst storm of a devastating hurricane season, but on the November 29 CBS Evening News reporter Jim Acosta couldnt help but exaggerate. Acosta falsely labeled it the deadliest hurricane season of all time when it is nowhere near that. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 1900 Galveston hurricane alone killed at least 8,000 people.

     Acostas segment immediately followed the newscasts opening story by correspondent Lee Cowan on severe weather in the Midwest. Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer shifted to Acostas piece by noting that the most active and destructive hurricane season was officially ending on November 30, but the weather service is already warning next year could be just as bad. Acosta then ominously introduced his report: The experts have spoken, this hurricane season will go down as the biggest, baddest, deadliest, and costliest of all time.

     The deadliest storm of the 2005 season, Hurricane Katrina, was certainly big, bad, and costly, but the toll it took on human life, while tragic, was nowhere near as horrific as previous hurricanes.

     Asked to comment on Acostas remarks, NOAAs Chris Vaccaro described the 2005 season as one of the deadliest in modern times, registering perhaps more dead overall than in 1928, but not as deadly as in 1900, which yielded 8,000 deaths by the most conservative calculations. Vaccaro added that deadliest calculations would differ depending on the location of the tally, noting that Hurricane Mitch in 1998 killed around 9,000 in Central America.

     A National Hurricane Centers (NHC) list of deadliest hurricanes marks a category-four hurricane which struck Galveston, Texas, in 1900 as the deadliest on record for the United States. At least 8,000 perished in the turn-of-century storm, with the actual death toll possibly as high as 12,000, according to the NHC.

     Even 1998s Hurricane Mitch, however, paled in comparison to the Great Hurricane of 1780, which National Geographic, noted killed 20,000-22,000 as it ravaged the eastern Caribbean.

     By comparison, the death toll from Katrina at the time of Acostas report was significantly lower. A November 29 story by UPI available at placed the Louisiana death toll at 1,086.

     Its possible Acosta confused missing persons figures with presumed dead numbers. An alarming USA Today story from November 21 counted 6,644 people still missing in Louisiana, but noted two experts who believe that the number among these who will be found dead will be significantly lower due to poor record-keeping by the government.