natural disaster

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.

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.

There hasn't been much to cheer about in Nepal this week as it copes with a devastating earthquake — but cheers and applause broke out in Kathmandu Thursday after a teenager was pulled alive from a collapsed building.

For five days, the teenager was covered in the rubble of a seven-story building hit by Saturday's powerful quake. Rescue workers who got him out included an American disaster response team that arrived in Nepal this week.

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.

SIM Central and Southeast Asia / Creative Commons

The death toll from the earthquake that rocked Nepal over the weekend has surpassed 5,000 people. The quake and its aftershocks toppled homes and historical buildings, and caused a deadly avalanche at Mount Everest that killed at least 18 climbers.

Updated at 8:55 a.m. ET

More than 5,000 people are confirmed dead from Saturday's earthquake just outside Kathmandu, Nepal. Nearly 11,000 more were injured, according to Nepal's National Emergency Operation Center.

From Kathmandu, NPR's Kirk Siegler reports that strong tremors are continuing:

Updated at noon ET.

Nepal's devastating earthquake that hit Saturday is now blamed for at least 4,000 deaths. Reconstruction is estimated to cost billions. International aid efforts are underway, but aftershocks are rattling survivors' nerves and making the recovery even more challenging.

Rescue crews and aid groups are working to reach survivors — but their efforts are being hampered by the stricken areas' remote locations. Roads that are drivable are clogged with traffic.

Updated at 11:10 p.m. ET

The desperate search for survivors continues Sunday in Nepal. Strong aftershocks woke thousands of Nepalese who were forced to spend the cold night outdoors.

A huge apartment complex under construction near Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles was in flames early Monday, closing two major highways that intersect nearby.

More than 250 firefighters are responding, fire department spokesman David Orti told the Los Angeles Times.

Within four years, the town of Westerly experienced four major storms: the Great Flood of 2010, Hurricane Irene in 2011, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and the February 2013 Nor’easter. Like many coastal cities and towns around the state, Westerly is also vulnerable to high tides that flood roads even without storms.

Josh Glovo / Creative Commons

John Aldridge, a 45-year old lobster fisherman from Long Island, flew off the back of his boat when a plastic handle supporting a box hook snapped with the power of his pull. He grabbed at the side of the boat, missing it by inches before landing in the water at 3:30 am, alone and stunned, as the boat sped away with his partner sleeping in his cabin. They were 40 miles off the coast of Montauk, Long Island. First, yelling, then panic, then silence before he allowed himself to think he was going to die. 

There is frustration and anger over a delay in rebuilding the only Catholic high school in Springfield, Massachusetts that was destroyed in the 2011 tornado.

   Parents and alumnae of Cathedral High School said they were blindsided by Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski’s call for more study to help him make a decision on the school’s future.  Mayor Domenic Sarno said Rozanski had reneged on a pledge made by his now retired predecessor to rebuild the high school in the same neighborhood where it had stood since 1959

Jessica Whittle / Creative Commons

One of the most basic functions of local government is to protect its citizens. We talk with a panel of local firefighters who do just that.

When a fire breaks out, many Connecticut towns have volunteer forces that go to the rescue. What draws firefighters to this profession that includes a lot more than just fighting fires? Some Connecticut firefighters are even taking it a step further, and are going out west to help fight forest fires.

Two years after Superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast, hundreds of Staten Islanders are deciding whether to sell their shorefront homes to New York state, which wants to knock them down and let the empty land act as a buffer to the ocean.

Stephen Drimalas was one Staten Islander faced with this tough decision. He lived in a bungalow not far from the beach in the working-class neighborhood of Ocean Breeze. He barely escaped Sandy's floodwaters with his life.

Within hours of Superstorm Sandy slamming the East Coast two years ago, Americans opened their wallets to help — donating millions to the first charity that came to mind: the American Red Cross.

President Obama, like most elected officials and celebrities, vouched for the organization, encouraging people to give.

Wavian / Creative Commons

It’s been almost two years since Hurricane Sandy tore her way through the Northeast -- leaving behind a trail of destruction throughout much of our region. 

More than 3 years after a tornado tore through the East Forest Park neighborhood of Springfield, Massachusetts the city is removing damaged trees from private property.

Michelle David watched Tuesday morning as a crew hired by the city cut down the tall oak tree that teetered dangerously close to her house.

"It is a relief. It has been a long time. The street was a mess, but it looks beautiful now. We are grateful to the mayor and everyone in the city who helped get this done."