Tag Archives: disaster

It’s official: The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is going to be bad

A hurricane is the last thing the country needs right now as tens of millions of Americans stay at home to protect themselves from COVID-19. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual Atlantic hurricane forecast, published Thursday, shows an abnormally active season in the coming months.

The Atlantic hurricane season, which officially starts June 1 and ends November 30 but for the past six years has been arriving early like an overeager dinner guest, typically produces 12 named storms. This year, NOAA is forecasting between 13 and 19 named storms, six to 10 of which could become hurricanes (compared to the average six). Three to six of those hurricanes could develop into major hurricanes — category 3, 4, or 5 storms with winds of 111 miles per hour or higher. The average season sees three major hurricanes.

According to the forecast, there’s a 60 percent chance of an above-normal hurricane season, a 30 percent chance of an average season, and just a measly 10 percent chance of a below-normal season. Prior forecasts unaffiliated with NOAA predict a similarly damaging Atlantic hurricane season ahead. One forecaster said it could be one of the most active seasons on record.

This year is shaping up to be a doozy in large part because an El Niño, which suppresses storms in the Atlantic, is not likely to form this year. Signs point to either neutral conditions or El Niño’s opposite, La Niña — a weather pattern that blows warm water into the Atlantic, creating conditions for more hurricanes. Warmer ocean surface temperatures observed in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Carribean Sea, NOAA’s report notes, also contribute to the likelihood of a busy season.

“NOAA’s analysis of current and seasonal atmospheric conditions reveals a recipe for an active Atlantic hurricane season this year,” Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator, said in a statement. Already, the season’s first named storm, Arthur, came and went — brushing up against North Carolina before it churned back out into the Atlantic.

That doesn’t bode well for a nation under lockdown. The Federal Emergency Management Administration, which has been running point on the federal coronavirus response, is already stretched thin. Add a few major hurricanes to the mix and the federal agency might be completely overwhelmed. FEMA is “just not built to handle anything like this,” Robert Verchick, a Loyola University law professor, told Mother Jones earlier this month.

Whether FEMA is prepared or not, the agency is taking the hurricane forecast as an opportunity to remind people to make their own preparations. “Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place, including what is in your go-kit, evacuation routes, shelters and more,” said FEMA’s acting deputy administrator for resilience, Carlos Castillo, in a statement. “With tornado season at its peak, hurricane season around the corner, and flooding, earthquakes and wildfires a risk year-round, it is time to revise and adjust your emergency plan now.”


It’s official: The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is going to be bad

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Fire in Paradise: An American Tragedy – Alastair Gee & Dani Anguiano


Fire in Paradise: An American Tragedy

Alastair Gee & Dani Anguiano

Genre: Nature

Price: $12.99

Publish Date: May 5, 2020

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company

Seller: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

The harrowing story of the most destructive American wildfire in a century. There is no precedent in postwar American history for the destruction of the town of Paradise, California. On November 8, 2018, the community of 27,000 people was swallowed by the ferocious Camp Fire, which razed virtually every home and killed at least 85 people. The catastrophe seared the American imagination, taking the front page of every major national newspaper and top billing on the news networks. It displaced tens of thousands of people, yielding a refugee crisis that continues to unfold. Fire in Paradise is a dramatic and moving narrative of the disaster based on hundreds of in-depth interviews with residents, firefighters and police, and scientific experts. Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano are California-based journalists who have reported on Paradise since the day the fire began. Together they reveal the heroics of the first responders, the miraculous escapes of those who got out of Paradise, and the horrors experienced by those who were trapped. Their accounts are intimate and unforgettable, including the local who left her home on foot as fire approached while her 82-year-old father stayed to battle it; the firefighter who drove into the heart of the inferno in his bulldozer; the police officer who switched on his body camera to record what he thought would be his final moments as the flames closed in; and the mother who, less than 12 hours after giving birth in the local hospital, thought she would die in the chaotic evacuation with her baby in her lap. Gee and Anguiano also explain the science of wildfires, write powerfully about the role of the power company PG&E in the blaze, and describe the poignant efforts to raise Paradise from the ruins. This is the story of a town at the forefront of a devastating global shift—of a remarkable landscape sucked ever drier of moisture and becoming inhospitable even to trees, now dying in their tens of millions and turning to kindling. It is also the story of a lost community, one that epitomized a provincial, affordable kind of Californian existence that is increasingly unattainable. It is, finally, a story of a new kind of fire behavior that firefighters have never witnessed before and barely know how to handle. What happened in Paradise was unprecedented in America. Yet according to climate scientists and fire experts, it will surely happen again.


Fire in Paradise: An American Tragedy – Alastair Gee & Dani Anguiano

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A year after an environmental disaster in Texas, chemical company executives face charges

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Hurricane Harvey struck southeast Texas last August with 130 mph winds and dumped more than 50 inches of rain across the region. In the aftermath of the second-costliest storm in recent American history, a Category 4 nightmare that left at least 88 Texans dead and forced thousands to flee into shelters, government agencies have finally begun reckoning with Harvey’s environmental cost. The storm contributed to the release of more than 8 million pounds of air pollution and more than 150 million gallons of wastewater.

Arguably no city was hit harder by the environmental devastation during the storm than Crosby, a 2.26-square-mile satellite of Houston with fewer than 3,000 residents. Chemicals left in refrigeration trailers at a plant owned by the multinational chemical manufacturer Arkema Inc. in the northeast part of town caught fire on August 31 and September 1, sending toxic clouds of smoke billowing into the air. More than 200 neighbors evacuated their homes, and 21 first responders sought medical treatment for the nausea, vomiting, and dizziness they experienced after exposure to the chemicals.

Along with hundreds of residents, those first responders have sued Arkema in a pair of class-action lawsuits for negligence, charging that the company did not properly safeguard its chemicals or inform the community of the “unreasonably dangerous condition” created by their release. Harris and Liberty counties have separately sued the company. Arkema has fiercely denied any wrongdoing, but now, a year after the disaster, its leaders may have more to worry about than fronting a huge payday for disgruntled residents.

On August 3, a Harris County grand jury indicted the company’s chief executive, Richard Rowe, and the Crosby plant’s manager, Leslie Comardelle, for “recklessly” releasing chemicals into the air and putting residents and emergency workers at risk. “Companies don’t make decisions, people do,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. “Responsibility for pursuing profit over the health of innocent people rests with the leadership of Arkema.”

“These criminal charges are astonishing,” Arkema responded in a statement. “At the end of its eight-month investigation, the Chemical Safety Board noted that Hurricane Harvey was the most significant rainfall event in U.S. history, an Act of God that never before has been seen in this country.”

The series of fires at Arkema’s plant were far from the only environmental disasters to hit southeast Texas in Harvey’s wake. Matt Tresaugue, who studies air quality issues at the Environmental Defense Fund, says Arkema barely even cracked his top 10 list. More serious, he argued, was the cumulative impact of several lesser-known incidents across the region. But fairly or not, Arkema remains, for many people, the most public example of executive malfeasance in the face of environmental calamity during Harvey. Companies like Valero and Chevron, among many others, were sued over their actions during the hurricane, but only Arkema’s executives face possible criminal penalties.

Arkema was certainly not the only entity at fault during the storm, but in its lack of preparedness and defiant defense of its actions, the company struck residents — and Harris County prosecutors — as eager to prioritize its profits over safety. The firm’s history did not help.

The year before Harvey, Arkema was slapped with a nearly $92,000 fine after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found 10 violations at the Crosby plant related to its handling of hazardous materials. Previous incidents, including the release of sulfuric acid in 1994 that left a 5-year-old girl with severe burns, led one Crosby resident to tell the Houston Chronicle she had “a bitter taste in [her] mouth about Arkema.”

Perhaps most troubling, Arkema has twice before faced civil penalties for improperly storing organic peroxides, the same chemicals that caught fire during Harvey. In 2006, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality cited the Crosby plant for releasing 3,200 pounds of pollutants because a “pallet of organic peroxide was stored inappropriately” and burned up. The state imposed a $20,300 penalty five years later, after finding that Arkema was not maintaining the proper temperature in the devices it used to decompose dangerous gases.

Arkema’s passionate defense of its behavior has led its representatives to quibble over relatively minor concerns. Janet Smith, a company spokesperson, responded to a request for comment from Mother Jones by first criticizing other media companies, such as the New York Times and CNN, for using the term “explosion” to describe what happened last August at the Crosby plant.“The flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey led to a series of short-lived fires at our Crosby plant, but there was no explosion,” she wrote in an email. “We have repeatedly pointed this out to news media covering the incident, but the inaccurate coverage persists.”

Even as residents have begun the process of returning home and paying off storm-related debts, many neighbors still do not know the long-term health effects of exposure to the toxic cloud, because federal investigators could not figure them out, according to a lengthy U.S. Chemical Safety Board report published in May.

The models Environmental Protection Agency staffers used to track how local air and water quality were being affected by the Arkema fires “did not reflect the nature of actual dispersions that occurred,” the CSB found. Combined with “other practical difficulties,” the EPA was unable to draw any firm conclusions about the health threats brought about by Arkema’s plant.

In its public statements soon after the disaster, the EPA was also not clear about the risks posed to residents who were soon forced to evacuate. After testing water samples near the Crosby plant, the EPA announced that the results “were less than the screening levels that would warrant further investigation.” The agency’s inspector general’s office said on August 2 it would investigate how the EPA responded to accidents during Harvey.

The Trump administration played a role, too. Under President Barack Obama, the EPA proposed a series of rules designed to strengthen industry’s reporting requirements to mitigate future chemical disasters. Known as the Chemical Disaster Rule, the proposal was opposed by companies like Arkema and indefinitely delayed once President Donald Trump’s first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, took office. Pruitt defended his reasoning after the Arkema fires by claiming that terrorists could have exploited the information chemical companies would have been forced to give up under the rule.“What you’ve got to do is strike the balance,” he said, “so that you’re not informing terrorists and helping them have data that they shouldn’t have.”

For now, at least, that rule has been restored. On August 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the EPA’s decision to delay the rule. Calling the agency’s actions “arbitrary and capricious,” the court ordered the EPA to let the rule remain until the agency amends its requirements by standard regulatory action. That ruling may only prove temporary given the Trump administration’s commitment to rolling back dozens of Obama-era environmental regulations.

Whether the Chemical Safety Board even exists the next time another environmental disaster occurs is an open question. Embattled former chair Rafael Moure-Eraso was the target of a series of congressional probes into his workplace conduct during a five-year tenure that ended in 2015. Since taking office, Trump has tried to eliminate the agency twice in the White House’s budget proposals, but Congress has restored full funding both times. The resulting uncertainty has impeded “the CSB’s ability to attract, hire, and retain staff,” according to a report from the EPA inspector general’s office in June.

Stopping the next Arkema disaster will require more stringent oversight from federal regulators and a willingness by industry leaders to pony up the cash for frequent safety evaluations and up-to-date equipment. With industry-friendly leaders at the helm of the EPA and a CSB clinging to life, those reforms do not appear likely anytime soon.

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A year after an environmental disaster in Texas, chemical company executives face charges

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As Gordon eyes the Gulf Coast, America’s most vulnerable shoreline girds itself

The Gulf Coast is bracing for Tropical Storm Gordon, the latest extreme weather event to draw attention to America’s least climate-ready coastline.

Though Gordon’s impact isn’t expected to be catastrophic, its arrival brings into focus the sluggish efforts underway to protect the country’s “third coast.” The largely poor and strikingly under-resourced region spanning from Texas to Florida is the more susceptible to heavy rain than any other part of the continental U.S. And it’s seeing more downpours as the atmosphere warms.

The National Hurricane Center expects Gordon to reach hurricane strength by landfall late Tuesday and produce up to five feet of “life-threatening” storm surge and as much as a foot of rain. That precipitation will pile on after a week of unrelated torrential showers, heightening concerns about flooding.

Over the long weekend, as Gordon neared land, the city of New Orleans declared a state of emergency. Louisiana closed dozens of storm surge barriers constructed after Hurricane Katrina battered the region in 2005. In Mississippi, coastal cities issued mandatory evacuations and opened storm shelters for those who need to leave their homes.

There’s been a recent lull of high-profile hurricanes in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, but the Gulf Coast’s vulnerabilities go far beyond the attention-getting late summer storms. By many metrics, it’s the region most at riskand least prepared — for climate change.

A study published last year in Science magazine showed that for the country’s poorest counties, largely located in the Southeast, climate change could exacerbate already-pervasive economic inequality. If the region continues along a business-as-usual trajectory, warming could knock 20 percent off average incomes as a result of declining crop yields, rising electricity costs, and worsening public health. Mississippi doesn’t even have a plan, and for the most part, the epicenter of America’s offshore oil industry isn’t concerned with the looming disaster on its doorstep.

“Our analysis indicates it may result in the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country’s history,” Solomon Hsiang, the Science study’s lead author, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Thirteen years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi coast, some communities have been largely abandoned as rising insurance costs have made rebuilding housing prohibitively expensive. In New Orleans, the unequal recovery has looked different for white and black residents.

But it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause a catastrophe anymore. Even more worrying than storms like Gordon is the increasing damage from non-tropical rainstorms. In 2016, an unnamed week-long deluge in Louisiana became one of the country’s worst flooding disasters in history.

Within 50 years, increasingly heavy rains and rising sea levels will be enough to swamp the effectiveness of the recently-reinforced levee system that’s supposed to protect New Orleans from Tropical Storm Gordon. In that worst case, according to a 2015 report by experts at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness: “Climate change is likely to make the Gulf Coast less hospitable and more dangerous for its residents, and may prompt substantial migration.”

Though hurricanes may come less frequently overall, the ones that do arrive will could be horrific. Last year, a study focusing solely on Gulf Coast hurricanes found that by late century, warming waters may help storms approach their theoretical maximum strength more often. That means more Category 5 monsters. (And bear in mind, Katrina entered Louisiana as a Category 3 hurricane.)

Though Gordon may pass without many headlines, there will likely be hundreds or thousands of families who will have to endure the increasingly familiar process of de-mucking their flooded belongings, hauling away cherished possessions to the dumpster, and wondering what the future has in store. The bad news is that without radical changes on the Gulf Coast, the future is already here — hotter, wetter, and more dangerous.

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As Gordon eyes the Gulf Coast, America’s most vulnerable shoreline girds itself

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The cost of flood insurance is a price worth paying

This story was originally published by CityLab and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Almost 75 percent of declared disasters in the United States are flood-related, and flood risk continues to rise due to development in floodplains and a changing climate. The beleaguered National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which was due to expire on July 31 but just got a four-month extension from Congress, can help lessen some of that risk and serve as a lifeline for survivors.

However, in reauthorizing the program, Congress did not fix its many problems. The need to make the NFIP more effective is urgent. And as America’s flood risk grows, we will be even more reliant on it.

The NFIP was created 50 years ago after losses mounted from disasters such as 1965’s Hurricane Betsy. In creating the program, Congress recognized three things: first, that the federal government would have to provide flood insurance because private insurers would not. Private insurers had, by and large, refused to cover floods since the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the most destructive river flood in U.S. history to that point. Insurers must weigh the level of risk to individual properties, how much payouts will cost and how profitable policies are, and homeowners’ willingness to pay premiums — all of which are problematic for assessing flood risk.

Second, Congress knew that national flood risk was too high. The government had been working to address this through the Flood Control Act of 1938 and other laws. But by 1968, these policies had been relatively unsuccessful at lowering the risk; flood insurance was seen as a different strategy. Third, and finally, Congress realized that homeowners needed financial assistance to recover from floods.

In its first four decades, the program was generally solvent — that is, revenue from premiums was approximately equal to payouts. Between 1968 and 2005, when the program did incur debt, FEMA, which oversees the NFIP, borrowed money from the U.S. Treasury and quickly repaid it.

Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina and the resulting levee failure instigated an outpouring of anger and frustration with the NFIP. Katrina’s impacts were more severe than anything the United States had experienced since the program began. Post-Katrina, FEMA borrowed $18 billion from the Treasury without a repayment plan, instead of adding it to the supplemental appropriations passed by Congress. The agency borrowed billions more after Hurricane Sandy, and the debt eventually rose to $24.6 billion.

This debt has become the pressure point for the NFIP, with critics citing it as evidence of the program’s failure. But when we consider why the program was created, the debt shows just how vital the NFIP is. Private insurers could not provide affordable flood insurance to the people who needed it, but through subsidies, the federal government — and by extension, the American taxpayer — could. So complaints about insolvency seem misplaced, given that the program’s debt is an obvious outcome of its design.

Financial solvency is of clear interest to taxpayers and politicians. But it’s worth considering the other problems, besides the scarcity of private insurance, that Congress hoped to address by creating the NFIP: flood mitigation and recovery.

A key objective of emergency management is to prevent or limit risk from disasters. Homeowners tend not to voluntarily implement such measures, but the designers of the NFIP thought the program could be used to incentivize safer building and better land-use practices. To this end, the NFIP was intended to work in tandem with the community rating system (CRS), which scores communities for undertaking flood mitigation (by, for example, building levees or changing land-use policies) and offers commensurate reductions in premiums.

There is evidence that the NFIP has succeeded in improving mitigation. Even so, it could do more. The program could be reformed so that more communities are incentivized to join and participate fully in CRS, and it could refuse to cover repetitive-loss properties, or require that they be rebuilt to higher standards.

Repetitive-loss properties are a real problem: Less than 1 percent of homes insured under the program have been responsible for nearly 10 percent of paid claims. Allowing homes to be rebuilt or repaired multiple times without requiring sufficient modifications to prevent future damage is not an efficient use of taxpayer money, and this loophole needs to be closed.

The NFIP was designed to provide insurance to people who could not afford to pay its actuarial price. Critics claim that simply by offering affordable flood premiums, it incentivizes development in hazardous areas. In fact, researchers have found that other factors, such as the high desirability of beachfront property, road and bridge access, and the availability of public services, are equal if not bigger contributors to the increase of development in high-risk areas.

To the extent that the NFIP does help encourage such development, of course, it must be reformed to prevent that. For example, former FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate argued that future development in 100-year floodplains should be ineligible for NFIP coverage.

The NFIP was also designed as a resource for American homeowners during recovery from floods. Disaster survivors often describe recovery as “the second disaster,” a long, expensive process of cobbling together aid from savings accounts, second jobs, loans, friends, family, nonprofits, and the government.

Homeowners with flood insurance can receive substantially more money than those who are helped through FEMA’s individual-assistance program. The maximum NFIP payout is $350,000, whereas the largest possible individual-assistance payment is about $34,000. After Sandy, the average payout from FEMA’s individual-assistance program was only $8,000, compared with over $66,000 from the NFIP. Nevertheless, some survivors have struggled to access the NFIP funds they needed or were entitled to. An investigation following Sandy found evidence of poor management by both FEMA and the private insurance companies tasked with NFIP’s administration.

The extremely small number of people who carry policies also inhibits the program’s assistance in recovery. Currently, only about 5 million American households (or about 4 percent) hold flood-insurance policies, even though about 10 percent of households are located in the 100- or 500-year floodplain and face substantial risk. And the real number is likely higher, given the inaccuracy of flood maps.

These, too, are fixable problems. To improve NFIP’s effectiveness in recovery, FEMA must strengthen its oversight. The agency must provide clarity to policyholders about payout requirements and increase the number of people who buy flood insurance by updating flood maps and extending the requirement to purchase a policy to homeowners at lower risk of flooding.

Congress has, on numerous occasions, attempted to reform the NFIP so that it would avoid future debt. These efforts have consistently failed, because the financial burden they place on homeowners is so large and so politically unpalatable. As a result, the program has been caught in a cycle of short-term reauthorizations, with debt from Katrina and Sandy keeping it on the proverbial chopping block.

As attempts at reform have demonstrated, big, expensive changes to the program will be unpopular. Still, the NFIP has the potential to create safer communities and help people recover faster and more smoothly. Another way of looking at it: The federal government spent more than $100 billion on the response to and recovery from Katrina, and over $48 billion for Sandy. The NFIP’s debt of $24.6 billion is just what’s left of those bills.

That the NFIP costs American taxpayers money is the result of policy choices made over decades. We decided we weren’t going to pay up-front to avoid climate change, and we decided to build along the coasts and in floodplains. The debt the NFIP has incurred is expensive, and it will continue to grow. But it is only a small fraction of the interest on the loan that we’ve taken out on our future.

The debt also tends to overshadow the real good that the program does for Americans. Nearly 1.8 million losses have been paid out since the program’s inception. Without it, where would these survivors be in their recovery process?

Although the country has been debating whether and how to limit long-term climate change, we have done relatively little to protect ourselves from its consequences that are already here, including more flooding. The NFIP can help us manage the effects of climate change. But for it to be successful, we have to make it more effective and just — which means accepting its financial cost.

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The cost of flood insurance is a price worth paying

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Kirstjen Nielsen and Brock Long visited Puerto Rico, and it was really weird

Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Brock Long, head of FEMA, went on tour in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Friday. Their mission, nearly a year after Hurricane Maria devastated both territories? To “meet with and thank Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel working on hurricane recovery and preparedness efforts,” according to a news release.

Local media on the islands reported that Long and Nielsen aren’t making themselves available to press during their visits and are limiting public appearances. But we sure got a sense of what’s happening on social media:

Twitter quickly responded to Nielsen’s tweet with a chorus of “too little, too late.”

Last month, FEMA — which is part of Department of Homeland Security — released a report admitting to some of its blunders during the response to Hurricane Maria. That included not having enough qualified staff, food, water, or other supplies on hand to deal with the disaster.

Outrage over the federal response to Maria is still simmering. Now it’s compounded by the frustration of Maria survivors — some of who still face uncertain housing prospects, even as we go deeper into this year’s hurricane season. After several extensions, FEMA plans to end its transitional shelter assistance again at the end of the month, but advocates say that a longer-term plan to help people get back into homes is needed.

And because tossing out paper towels just isn’t enough these days, Nielsen spent time handing out school supplies to children in San Juan before visiting a school in St. Croix.

Nielsen has been facing a lot of kid-related criticism lately. Her department forcibly separated families at the U.S.-Mexico border, lost track of who belongs with who, and has now missed deadlines to reunite them. Some members of Congress, including Senators Dick Durbin and Kamala Harris, have called for her to leave office over the policy.

So, of course, photos of Nielsen handing out backpacks on DHS’ Twitter account didn’t sit well with everyone.

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Kirstjen Nielsen and Brock Long visited Puerto Rico, and it was really weird

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Disaster! – John Withington



A History of Earthquakes, Floods, Plagues, and Other Catastrophes

John Withington

Genre: Nature

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: February 16, 2010

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

A comprehensive catalog of the most devastating and deadly events—natural or man-made—in human history.   If you follow the news it can seem like injury, sickness, and death are now constant, inescapable occurrences that threaten us every second of every day. But such catastrophic events—as terrible and frightening as they are—have been happening for as long as mankind has walked the Earth . . . and even before.   From ancient volcanoes and floods to epidemics of cholera and smallpox to Hitler’s and Stalin’s mass killings in the twentieth century, humanity’s continued existence has always seemed perilous. This volume offers a unique perspective on our modern fears by revealing how dangerous our world has always been—with examples such as: • the Black Death that killed over seventy-five million people in the 1300s; • the 1883 volcanic eruption on Krakatoa; • the Irish Potato Famine; • the 1970 cyclone in Bangladesh; • and the long-ago volcano in Sumatra that may have wiped out as much as 99% of the world population. With this catalog of calamity, readers will be engrossed, enlightened, and relieved to realize that despite all the disasters that have befallen humanity, we are still here. John Withington is the author of The Disastrous History of London and produces television documentaries. He lives in London.  

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Disaster! – John Withington

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Ruthless Tide – Al Roker


Ruthless Tide

The Heroes and Villains of the Johnstown Flood, America’s Astonishing Gilded Age Disaster

Al Roker

Genre: Nature

Price: $14.99

Expected Publish Date: May 22, 2018

Publisher: William Morrow


“Reads like a nail-biting thriller.” — Library Journal, starred review A gripping new history celebrating the remarkable heroes of the Johnstown Flood—the deadliest flood in U.S. history—from NBC host and legendary weather authority Al Roker Central Pennsylvania, May 31, 1889: After a deluge of rain—nearly a foot in less than twenty-four hours—swelled the Little Conemaugh River, panicked engineers watched helplessly as swiftly rising waters threatened to breach the South Fork dam, built to create a private lake for a fishing and hunting club that counted among its members Andrew Mellon, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Carnegie. Though the engineers telegraphed neighboring towns on this last morning in May warning of the impending danger, residents—factory workers and their families—remained in their homes, having grown used to false alarms. At 3:10 P.M., the dam gave way, releasing 20 million tons of water. Gathering speed as it flowed southwest, the deluge wiped out nearly everything in its path and picked up debris—trees, houses, animals—before reaching Johnstown, a vibrant steel town fourteen miles downstream. Traveling 40 miles an hour, with swells as high as 60 feet, the deadly floodwaters razed the mill town—home to 20,000 people—in minutes. The Great Flood, as it would come to be called, remains the deadliest in US history, killing more than 2,200 people and causing $17 million in damage. In Ruthless Tide, Al Roker follows an unforgettable cast of characters whose fates converged because of that tragic day, including John Parke, the engineer whose heroic efforts failed to save the dam; the robber barons whose fancy sport fishing resort was responsible for modifications that weakened the dam; and Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, who spent five months in Johnstown leading one of the first organized disaster relief efforts in the United States. Weaving together their stories and those of many ordinary citizens whose lives were forever altered by the event, Ruthless Tide is testament to the power of the human spirit in times of tragedy and also a timely warning about the dangers of greed, inequality, neglected infrastructure, and the ferocious, uncontrollable power of nature.

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Ruthless Tide – Al Roker

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Puerto Ricans might be drinking Superfund-polluted water, the EPA says.

In a memo leaked last week, Department of Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert recommended White House staff pivot to a “theme of stabilizing” with regard to messaging around the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.

President Trump, however, appears to have missed that particular update. On Thursday morning, he threatened to pull federal relief workers from the devastated island just three weeks after Maria made landfall.

Meanwhile, most of Puerto Rico is still without power, hospitals are running out of medical supplies, and clean water remains scarce.

Trump isn’t the only prominent Republican refusing to recognize the severity of the crisis. In an interview with CNN on Thursday morning, Representative Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican, accused host Chris Cuomo of fabricating reports of the severity of the disaster.

“Mr. Cuomo, you’re simply just making this stuff up,” Perry said. “If half the country didn’t have food or water, those people would be dying, and they’re not.”

45 Puerto Rican deaths have been officially confirmed so far, and reports from the ground indicate the unofficial number of deaths due to the storm is higher.

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Puerto Ricans might be drinking Superfund-polluted water, the EPA says.

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Devastated Dominica aims to climate-proof the country.

President Trump visited the U.S. territory on Tuesday, two weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Half of Puerto Ricans lack clean water and 95 percent are without power.

So, how did the president approach the unfolding humanitarian crisis? Let’s hear it:

Trump said that Hurricane Maria wasn’t a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina at a briefing with local officials. He compared the certified death count of the disasters as evidence: “You can be very proud, only 16 instead of thousands in Katrina.” To point out a few problems: The official death toll in Puerto Rico is underreported, it will likely continue to climb, and maybe we shouldn’t frame death tolls as something to be proud of.

“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget out of whack,” Trump said at the briefing — apparently joking about the disaster aid pending in Congress.

“Have a good time,” Trump told a family after they showed him their storm-damaged home.

The president went mostly off-script from the White House’s Puerto Rico media coverage plan, but he did take the opportunity to tout the success of the relief effort. “Everybody watching can really be very proud of what’s been taking place in Puerto Rico,” he said.

We can only hope he’s not talking about his own performance.

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Devastated Dominica aims to climate-proof the country.

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