natural disaster

Devastating floods in Louisiana have left an estimated 40,000 houses damaged; some 86,000 people have applied for federal disaster aid in the wake of the disaster.

It's a crisis some people are comparing to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The disaster area stretches over 20 parishes, Eileen Fleming of member station WWNO reports, and officials are working to determine how to provide temporary housing to meet the extreme need.

Devastating floods in southern Louisiana have killed at least five people and pushed tens of thousands from their homes.

As the Two-Way reported Sunday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency over the weekend, describing the flooding as "unprecedented and historic."

Robin Lubbock / WBUR

Five years ago, on June 1, 2011, an F3 tornado, with wind speeds between 150 and 200 miles per hour, swept through eight communities across western and central Massachusetts, from Westfield east to Southbridge.

One of the hardest hit was Monson, where the tornado cut nearly a half-mile swath of devastation through the center of town of about 8,500 residents.

This Wednesday, June 1st,  marks the fifth anniversary of a devastating tornado striking western Massachusetts.

    As he has done in years past, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno has called for a city-wide moment of reflection on the tornado anniversary.

" We want to commemorate it, not celebrate it.  I've asked the houses of worship to ring the bells at 4:38 p.m.," said Sarno.

A change in the weather has helped firefighters battling a massive blaze in Fort McMurray, a Canadian oil-sands town in the province of Alberta.

Cooler temperatures and light rain have officials sounding optimistic, hopeful that the wildfire — which continues to burn — might have reached a "turning point" that will lead to its containment.

"This is great firefighting weather," Alberta fire official Chad Morrison said at a weekend news conference. "We can really get in there and really get a handle on this fire ... get a death grip on it."

Authorities have issued a mandatory evacuation order for the 80,000 residents of Fort McMurray in Alberta, where a wildfire has taken hold in the oil sands region. According to officials, it's the largest evacuation order caused by fire in the province's history.

Lori Mack / WNPR

Community members and organizations gathered for a meeting at the Consulate of Ecuador in New Haven on Monday night to discuss relief efforts following the country's 7.8 magnitude earthquake. 

A magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Ecuador on Saturday has left more than 400 people dead and many more injured.

Thousands are homeless, The Associated Press reports, and highways, air traffic control towers and buildings along the coast have collapsed.

Rescue workers were working to find and aid survivors, while officials warned the general public of the perils of digging through the rubble.

An deadly earthquake struck southern Japan on Thursday.

At least nine people were killed and more than 700 were injured, The Associated Press reports, citing the government's chief spokesman.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Kumamoto at 9:26 p.m. local time. The organization evaluated the earthquake's damage as level red, meaning "extensive damage is probable and the disaster is likely widespread," the website said.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Wikimedia Commons

Few of us remember Hurricane Ike as vividly as we remember Katrina and Sandy. But for people down in Houston, Texas, the 2008 storm was a major wake-up call. 

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Creative Commons

Few of us remember Hurricane Ike as vividly as we remember Katrina and Sandy. But for people down in Houston, Texas, the 2008 storm was a major wake-up call. 

The company that built a 17-story apartment building that collapsed during Saturday's earthquake in Taiwan no longer exists, but three of its former executives have been arrested as prosecutors look into allegations of shoddy building practices.

Cyclonebiskit / Creative Commons

Connecticut has received a $54 million federal grant to improve shoreline infrastructure and make portions of the state more resilient.

At the end of every year, U.S. meteorologists look back at what the nation's weather was like, and what they saw in 2015 was weird. The year was hot and beset with all manner of extreme weather events that did a lot of expensive damage.

December, in fact, was a fitting end.

Tim Green / flickr creative commons

For most shows, I’d use these first paragraphs to explain why we’ve chosen to spend an hour on its particular topic. I’d remind you of events in the news. I’d site a publication date. I’d point out a trend that we’ve maybe noticed that you maybe haven’t.

For today’s show, for instance, I could type a list of towns here — international towns, domestic towns, Connecticut towns — and you’d recognize them all as spots on a map that share a wound, as place names that represent a raw, unhealed sore in our shared memory.

A new house in Matunuck will sustain winds of more than 130 miles per hour. It’s the first home under construction in New England built to disaster certification standards known as FORTIFIED.

After a string of severe storms in recent years, the state hopes to shift to a more rigorous building code so that homes can sustain high winds and water damage.

Jhonnathas Trindade

The failure of two mining dams in southeastern Brazil earlier this month killed around a dozen people and left hundreds displaced. It's also created major environmental and humanitarian fallout in the country, which is being watched by people in Connecticut who hail from this region of Brazil. 

In 1934, a weather observer stationed at the peak of Mount Washington recorded a, then record, wind gust of 231 miles per hour. As a point of reference, that’s in the same neighborhood as an F5 tornado.

Even on hot summer day, conditions at the peak can drop below freezing in a matter of minutes – which is just one reason more than 135 people have died in the shadow of Mount Washington since 1859.

And yet, Mount Washington isn’t just Home of the World’s Worst Weather--as a sign at the summit famously boasts--it’s also home to a weather station, where a team of researchers are able to safely live year-round.

Which begs the question: would the Mount Washington Observatory be the perfect place to survive a zombie apocalypse?

Listen to this radio story to find out:

More than 300 people are dead the day after an earthquake hit Afghanistan and shook surrounding countries. At least 2,000 people are injured, NPR's Philip Reeves reports on Morning Edition.

"This is a very remote landscape," Reeves notes, "and it can take a long time before you find out exactly who's been impacted by a disaster of this kind."

Harriet Jones / WNPR

A team from Connecticut-based non-profit AmeriCares is on the ground in Mexico assessing the need for disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Patricia. Patricia made landfall late Friday as a Category 5 hurricane, but weakened rapidly to a tropical storm.

Updated at 7:24 p.m. ET

The death toll continues to climb from the massive earthquake that rocked northeast Afghanistan near its border with Pakistan. More than 260 people are confirmed dead across the region with the majority of the reported casualties in Pakistan.

The epicenter of the magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck a remote area of Afghanistan but could be felt across the region as far north as Tajikistan and as far south as India.

Wavian / Creative Commons

Three years ago, Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, killing 71 people and causing damages worth $50 billion. We suffer from a kind of amnesia: we know it happened, but we hesitate to change much about the way we prepare for future events. New York invested nearly $20 billion in new protective measures, simultaneously allowing 900 new housing units to be constructed next to the water.

At least eight people were reported killed following a powerful earthquake off Chile's coast Wednesday night. The 8.3-magnitude quake triggered tsunami warnings across the Pacific, from California and Hawaii to New Zealand.

Chile's government ordered a million people to evacuate their homes on the coast, fearing a repeat of a 2010 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 500 people. But fears of a devastating tsunami in Chile eased Thursday morning, and the alert was rescinded.

Updated 3:15 p.m. ET

An unusually fast-moving wildfire in Northern California's Lake and Napa counties has destroyed at least 400 homes since it started Saturday, officials say. The fire is 5 percent contained; it has injured four firefighters, and authorities are investigating reports of a civilian death.

While driving to his studio in New York's Rockaway Beach neighborhood, artist Christopher Saucedo looks out across Jamaica Bay. He sees a glittering Manhattan and the spire of the new World Trade Center gleaming in a cloudless sky.

"Obviously, where it stands there were once two other very tall towers," the art professor says dryly.

Updated at 11:05 p.m. ET

Tropical Storm Erika has caused extensive flooding and landslides on the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, killing at least four people and cutting power and water to many residents.

The storm dumped 9 inches of rain on the mountainous island late Wednesday.

"The situation is grim. It is dangerous," Ian Pinard, Dominica's communications minister, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.

The Science of Sinkholes

Aug 24, 2015

This week a sinkhole in Interstate 93 near Concord prompted an emergency road closure and a major traffic jam. Despite the disruption it caused, the cavity doesn’t actually meet the definition of a sinkhole, but it maybe the sort of thing that the Granite State could see more of.

To answer how can a gaping hole suddenly appear in the ground, you need to start somewhere in the sky.

A small company in California is hoping to make a big splash by providing detailed flood maps to homeowners and insurance companies. And to do that, the company is using one of the fastest supercomputers in the world.

The company is called Katrisk, based in Berkeley, Calif. Hydrologist and computer modeler Dag Lohmann is one of the company's founders. He says the flood maps the Federal Emergency Management Agency already produces will tell you how prone a particular area is to flooding.

Federal and local officials Monday highlighted the rebuilding and recovery that occurred since a powerful tornado tore into western Massachusetts four years ago.

   Top officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development got a first- hand look at the new homes built, businesses re-opened, public parks renovated, and trees planted along the 6.2 mile path the tornado carved through several neighborhoods in Springfield.  

A magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck Nepal on Tuesday, just over two weeks after a massive magnitude-7.8 quake killed more than 8,000 people.

The United States Geological Survey puts today's quake as close to the capital, Kathmandu, as the one two weeks ago.

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