MOORE, Okla. -- Mary Higgins never made it to shelter. And so she survived.
The shelter was the elementary school across the street, one of two that would be destroyed by the devastating tornado that tore through this Oklahoma City suburb Monday, killing at least 24 and injuring hundreds more.
Just before the storm hit, Mary's husband, Brian, called to tell her to flee their home, which lacked an emergency shelter, and take refuge at the school.
But when she opened her front door, she was confronted by a rushing wall of black noise. She turned and sprinted back inside the house and took cover in an interior room. Continue reading
As downtown Moore, Okla., slowly emerges from the wreckage of the tornado that ravaged its core, the structures that remain are starting to serve important purposes.
The popular Warren Movie Theater has transformed into a volunteer station and makeshift morgue. Meanwhile, the Red Cross has deployed resources to the handful of churches and shelters that remain.
Take a look at how Moore's center is faring below. Click on the green items to learn about safe zones and relief centers, while red indicates what was destroyed:
Map created by Anna Almendrala. Continue reading
When Tim Baker began racing to the front lines of unfolding natural disasters 18 years ago, it was just him, his video cameras and the tornado.
But those "good old days" are over. Now, when Baker chases tornadoes, he finds himself joined by a mix of curious onlookers, amateurs taking photos with smartphones, and a growing cadre of self-made, semi-professional storm chasers -- seeking adventure, wealth or at least exposure for storm videos distributed via social media.
"In the last three years it's become ridiculous," said Baker, who spoke to HuffPost a day after the latest deadly twister carved its way through central Oklahoma, part of a landscape known as "Tornado Alley." When he's going after twisters, he'll see as many as 15 to 20 cars joining him, many with local license plates, the drivers armed with amateur equipment like small video cameras and smartphones that can record HD video.
Whether any storm chasers were caught in latest Oklahoma storm remains uncertain, but a surplus of viral videos posted to the web offer testimony to the increasing prevalence of the amateurs Baker routinely sees. Continue reading
A proposal by UC Berkeley and a collection of local government agencies to cut down over 85,000 trees in Berkeley and Oakland to reduce fire danger has drawn the ire of Northern California environmentalists.
The main issue at hand is the preponderance of non-native eucalyptus trees. The trees have flourished in the Bay Area's temperate, foggy climate but represent a major fire threat due to their flammability. In fact, eucalyptus trees secrete an oil that's so flammable it can literally cause the trees to explode when the tree is set alight.
UC Berkeley and the other agencies involved in the plan want to remove the eucalyptus trees and restore the native flora, and have applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to secure the necessary funding.
Citing a history of destructive fires in the area--including the massive Oakland Hills fire of 1991 that killed 25 people and caused $1.5 billion worth of damage--FEMA outlined the general tenor of the plan in an April press release. Continue reading
When 97 percent of Greenland’s ice experienced at least some melting in July 2012, scientists wondered if it was a one-time phenomenon. Now a new study in Geophysical Research Letters indicates it is a sign of things to come.
In a bold move to protect the well-being of dolphins, India has moved to ban dolphin shows -- a push that helps elevate their status from creatures of mere curiosity to one that borders more closely to the personhood we seem to share.
As people in central Oklahoma emerge from the wreckage of the tornado that flattened entire neighborhoods, some will face another bitter realization: Residents of Moore and neighboring areas may lack insurance coverage to compensate them for the loss of all of their worldly possessions.
About 98 percent of homeowners carry insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Standard homeowner and business insurance policies cover wind damage from tornadoes and thunderstorms, but some individuals and companies choose to buy less insurance than they need to keep costs down. As a result, some Oklahoma homeowners and businesses will find that they lack enough insurance to fully rebuild, even though their policies may cover a portion of their losses.
Many residents affected by tornado damage in Oklahoma are renters, and are unlikely to have an insurance policy to cover any losses at all, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak told NewsOK.
“It's not just mobile homes, there’s apartment complexes,” John Wiscaver, vice president of public affairs for Oklahoma Farm Bureau Insurance, told The Huffington Post in an interview Tuesday. “There are remarkably many renters in those large apartment complexes that did not carry renters coverage. Continue reading
After the educators at Plaza Towers Elementary School learned that a raging tornado was headed their way Monday, they had few options. The decades-old building -- one of five schools hit in the area -- didn't have a "safe room," or a shelter deemed safe for storms of that size.
All hell broke loose. The roof caved in. Teachers carried students out. "They literally were lifting walls up and kids were coming out," Oklahoma State Police Sergeant Jeremy Lewis said, according to Reuters. "They pulled kids out from under cinder blocks without a scratch on them." Tornado drills in Oklahoma traditionally train kids to leave their classrooms, head to the hallways, and duck for cover in fetal position. Continue reading
Want to know why D.C. commuters are cranky on Tuesday night?
DC Water spokeswoman Pamela Mooring told the Washington City Paper on Tuesday afternoon that the 15-foot-deep sinkhole at the intersection at 14th and F streets NW was caused when a piece of concrete broke through a sewer line.
"The concrete fell and broke our sewer line, and that compromised all the soil around it," Mooring told the City Paper. Continue reading
The two elementary schools leveled by the deadly tornado that swept through the Oklahoma City area Monday lacked designated safe rooms designed to protect children and teachers, despite state warnings that the absence of such facilities imperils lives.
At least two other schools in Moore -- the epicenter of the disaster -- did have safe rooms. So far no fatalities have been tied to those schools, whose buildings were fortified after a devastating twister hit the area in 1999.
These disparities in structural standards speak to the seeming randomness of who lived and who died in a natural disaster now blamed for taking the lives of at least 24 people, including nine children. Requirements for safe rooms in public schools vary from community to community across the swath of Midwestern and Southern states so accustomed to lethal twisters that it is known as Tornado Alley.
In Oklahoma and in bordering states, land-use regulations are often derided as unnecessary government intrusions. State building codes do not require that schools provide safe rooms, leaving the decision to individual school districts. Continue reading