Environment

WNPR's Environmental Reporting Initiative is made possible by United Technologies Corporation.

Flickr user: nicoleym / Creative Commons

A rare die-off of about 100 diamondback turtles has led New York to temporarily ban harvesting of shellfish and gastropods in portions of Long Island.

MarilynJane / Creative Commons

"Map of Life" has a simple premise: tell the app where you're located and it will tell you what kind of wildlife is there. 

The challenge of strategizing the best route to work against the herd of other drivers can be as routine as the daily commute itself. A number of apps are out there to help shortcut one's route and evade traffic jams. But which ones are the most accurate? And how?

The All Tech Considered team put a few competing traffic apps to the test in Robert Siegel's usual short commute from Arlington, Va., to NPR's D.C. headquarters.

The Test Drive

This ride is about 15 minutes in no traffic. But it's now morning rush hour.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

The CTfastrak busway turned a once-abandoned rail line into a limited-access highway spanning New Britain to Hartford, laying the foundation for a new concept in central Connecticut: rapid transit.

Political and economic aspirations now ride on the busway's success.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to continue to monitor daily the three beluga whales exploring Narragansett Bay. Biologists want to make sure they return safely back to their Arctic habitat.

Mystic Aquarium

Three beluga whales have been spotted off Rhode Island's coast in Narragansett Bay, a bizarre diversion for a species generally found much farther north. 

Jason Neely

The beautiful spring weather helps fill up local parks. In Middletown, residents walk and picnic at one of the highest points in the city. It's not a park, but a cemetery. 

Amtrak was formed in the 1970s out of the ashes of several bankrupt rail lines, including the Penn Central. Its has been criticized for poor service, and shaky finances, but its safety record has been good.

More than 31 million passengers rode Amtrak in fiscal year 2013, the last for which figures are available. In the Northeast Corridor, more than 2,000 trains operate daily on Amtrak's rails, between commuter lines and Amtrak trains. And far more passengers ride Amtrak between Washington, New York and Boston than fly.

Update at 1:13 a.m. ET:

Officials have started the process of notifying families, it was announced at a press conference, though it wasn't certain if everyone on the train had been accounted for. The number of injured transported to the hospital was increased to 65, but the number of dead remained at five.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said some major work would have to wait until the morning, as operating some of the heavy machinery in the dark wouldn't be safe. The next press conference also likely will wait until late Wednesday morning, he said.

A substance abuse treatment program for jail inmates from throughout western Massachusetts has moved out of its longtime home in Springfield to make way for construction of the MGM casino.

The Western Massachusetts Correctional Alcohol Center has vacated the building in Springfield where it opened 30 years ago, adhering to a May 8th deadline to turn the  property over to MGM.   But, it will be another two weeks before the rehab program is operating in its new, albeit temporary, location in a former nursing home in Holyoke.

A transformer fire Saturday at the Indian Point nuclear power plant resulted in an oil spill into the Hudson River. There is differing information at this early stage about just how much material -- and what type -- seeped into the river. Meanwhile, investigations into both the fire and spill continue.

Nicholas A. Tonelli / Creative Commons

This year's cold winter killed off a high percentage of insects that target Connecticut's hemlock trees. That's good news for forests and for landowners in the state.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says part of the Indian Point nuclear power plant remains offline after a transformer fire that has created another problem: potentially thousands of gallons of oil leaking into the Hudson River.

(This post was updated at 12:45 p.m. ET.)

A line of strong storms left 2 dead in Nashville, Arkansas, and another two dead in Van, Texas.

CNN reports that Van was badly damaged after the storm system appeared to spawn violent tornadoes. More than 20 people were also injured in that storm. The network reports:

A transformer fire Saturday triggered the automatic shutdown of Unit 3 at the Indian Point nuclear power plant. A spokesman for plant owner Entergy says the fire was put out by both a sprinkler system and on-site personnel.

Famed British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough has been lending his calming voice to nature documentaries ever since TV was in black and white.

Warm weather has finally arrived in the Northeast. And along a wild stretch of New York state's Hudson River in the Adirondack Mountains, a section has been opened to paddlers for the first time in decades.

New landmark conservation deals in New York state have protected vast swaths of wilderness. Those deals have also opened waterways that had been closed to the public for more than a century.

A 110-pound silver ingot thought to be from the treasure of Capt. William Kidd — the notorious 17th century Scottish pirate who was ultimately hanged for his misdeeds — has been brought up from the shallows off Madagascar's eastern coast.

The discovery was made by the American underwater explorer Barry Clifford near the island of Sainte Marie, which itself lies just off Madagascar.

More than a dozen tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma on Wednesday, destroying homes and injuring 12 people.

The Oklahoman reports that the damage is widespread and that the thunderstorms that spawned the twisters also brought lots of rain that could lead to record flooding.

The paper reports:

Although it's a tropical island, perhaps surprisingly, Puerto Rico produces very little of its own food. After decades of industrialization, the U.S. territory imports more than 80 percent of what's consumed on the island. There are signs, though, the trend is changing.

FolioRoad / Creative Commons

A young bear that chased two runners in Granby's McLean Game Refuge on Monday has been euthanized. Officials from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection are hoping a necropsy will give them clues about the bears unusually aggressive behavior. One test result late Wednesday showed the bear did not have rabies.

Saying state officials and residents simply haven't done enough to curb water use, California regulators unanimously approved unprecedented water restrictions on Tuesday.

The AP reports:

Lucy Nalpathanchil / WNPR

Since March, avian influenza has hit 14 farms in the western and mid-western United States. So far, at least four million chickens and turkeys have died or been euthanized.

There are no bird flu cases yet in the northeast this year, but the Connecticut Department of Agriculture is advising poultry farmers and backyard flock owners to follow simple precautions.

Selbe / Creative Commons

Connecticut environmental officials said the destructive southern pine beetle has been detected at four sites in Hartford, Litchfield, and New Haven counties.

Officials said Connecticut's native white pine is not at risk, but pitch pine and other hard pines are. 

qmnonic / Creative Commons

Connecticut has begun the first mattress recycling program in the country, which means a $9.00 charge will now be added to any new mattress purchase in the state. 

Swayambhunath — also known as the Monkey Temple, for its holy, furry dwellers that swing from the rosewood trees — is one of the oldest and most sacred Buddhist sites in Nepal's Kathmandu Valley, an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus as well as Buddhists. It was also one of the worst damaged by last month's earthquake.

Ryan King / WNPR

The state Department of Transportation is inviting the public to look at options for redesigning the way I-84 runs through the center of Hartford. All this week, it's holding an open forum in the auditorium of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford.

After 4,104 orbits of Mercury and billions of miles of space travel, NASA's Messenger orbiter ended its mission with a quiet bang on Thursday. Messenger crashed into the planet it has been orbiting for four years.

NASA says the orbiter began the process of lithobraking at 3:26 p.m. ET — meaning that Messenger essentially scraped to a stop after hitting the planet's surface traveling at thousands of miles an hour. The Oxford English Dictionary reminds us that litho is the combining form for the Greek word for "stone."

Ryan King / WNPR

For decades, the elevated section of highway through Hartford along I-84 has been a major feature of the city's landscape. It's now viewed as a barrier, dividing the city in two. It's also aged out of its usefulness.

This week, the Connecticut DOT is inviting the public to take a look at what it's calling the I-84 Hartford Project. Anyone can drop by the Open Planning Studio at a downtown Hartford church to meet planners and engineers who are looking at alternatives to redesign I-84.

When a major earthquake pummeled Kobe, Japan, in 1995, more than 6,000 people were killed, many buried as their traditional wooden homes collapsed under the weight of heavy, unstable tile roofs.

The quake's power was extraordinary and demonstrated Japan wasn't as prepared as it thought it was. Still, it was no match for Japanese resilience.

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