Disaster Feed

Photo by The Explorographer via Flickr CC Sixteen years ago, the unthinkable happened. Terrorists struck on U.S. soil, leaving 2,977 dead in New York City, Washington, D.C. and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. This Sept. 11, residents of Florida, Texas, U.S. territories in the Caribbean and neighboring island nations are struggling to recover from Harvey and Irma, two deadly hurricanes that are among the strongest ever to make landfall. There is no comparing these tragedies. Each is heart-wrenching and horrific in its own way. But they share one important attribute. Today, as on Sept. 11, 2001, people are reaching out to... Read more →


Records, tax and financial, are often among the property damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster. If you're lucky, you might be able, like this woman, to salvage some of the documents. If not, you'll need to recreate them to take advantage of tax-related storm relief. (Image courtesy Louisiana Law Blog) Maybe you didn't think the hurricane's flood waters would reach your neighborhood. Or maybe you just never kept copies, either paper or digital, of your financial and tax records. Now, however, you find you're among the millions dealing with Hurricane Harvey aftermath that destroyed much of the Texas Gulf... Read more →


Remember my post back in June noting that the Atlantic hurricane season was heating up? That's one of the few times I hated being right. Parts of Texas are still flooded by Hurricane Harvey's deluge, but Mother Nature doesn't care. She's cooked up Harvey's angrier sister, Hurricane Irma, now a dangerous — potentially catastrophic, according to the National Hurricane Center's latest alert — Category 5 storm. Even worse than Irma's strength — her maximum sustained winds were at 180 miles per hour in the NHC's 11 a.m. ET report today — is her last forecast path that has her moving... Read more →


Residents of Houston and much of southeast Texas are still dealing with Hurricane Harvey's floods. Texas National Guard members are helping. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Tim Pruitt via Flickr) If you're looking for financial help to help you recover from Hurricane Harvey damages, the Internal Revenue Service says you can use your workplace retirement plan money. The IRS announced that 401(k)s and similar employer-sponsored retirement plans can make expedited loans and hardship distributions to hurricane victims and members of their families in Texas. Since Harvey made initial landfall the night of Aug. 25 near Rockport, Texas, the federally-declared disaster area... Read more →


Some folks have been asking for clarification on disaster loss claims, specifically with regard to the value of a damaged or destroyed home. A Rockport, Texas, home severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey, which made its first landfall on Aug. 25 at the Gulf Coast town. (Photo courtesy National Weather Service, Corpus Christi, via Twitter) At issue is how a home's fair market value factors into a disaster tax claim. I'm sorry to report that a property's high value — I'm talking for sale purposes, not just your personal appreciation and assessment of the house — won't help you get more... Read more →


People are still being rescued in flooded Houston, so very few — even those who made it through Hurricane Harvey relatively unscathed — are thinking about taxes right now. But when they do begin to face rebuilding their post-storm lives, one of the things they'll have to deal with is taxes. A Texas National Guard soldier rescues a woman from her Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston neighborhood. (Photo by 1Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD, via Flickr Creative Commons) The Internal Revenue Service has some good news for folks in Houston and its flooded surroundings, as well as those in other areas... Read more →


Oh, Photoshop. What would the internet be without you? Sometimes, doctored images are welcome innocent examples of good humor. Other times they are cruel and divisive. And the astounding photos tend to skyrocket during times of tragedy and disaster. Take, for example, the photo below of what @Jeggit's Tweet says is a shark swimming in a Houston street flooded by Hurricane Harvey. Jeggit gives us the option to believe it or not. Go with not. It's fake. Mashable has the details on the original shark photo, which over the years has been seen in edited online images swimming through flooded... Read more →


Hurricane Harvey has inundated Houston. And it's still raining there. And in other parts of the Lone Star State. Thanks to The Weather Channel's Matt Sitkowski for posting this image on Twitter, along with one showing these Houston roads pre-Hurricane Harvey so we can get some perspective on the extent of H-Town's hurricane-related flooding. That means lots of folks are going to need help recovering from the strongest tropical system to hit Texas since Hurricane Carla in 1961. From Corpus Christi to Port Arthur along the Gulf Coast and, thanks to Harvey's size and slow movement, well inland, my native... Read more →


As Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on the Texas Gulf Coast, the Internal Revenue Service was providing some tax relief for victims of earlier natural disasters. Severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides in late July caused major damage in parts of West Virginia. Now some of those affected residents get extra time to tax care of tax responsibilities. Tax time, penalty relief: The IRS says that individuals who live or have a business in the West Virginia counties of Harrison, Marion, Marshall and Wetzel have extra time to meet certain tax deadlines that fall/fell between July 28 and Nov. 29.... Read more →


Tropical Storm Harvey is bringing the 2017 hurricane season to my home state. And while it's the Texas Gulf Coast that will take the first hit late Friday, Aug. 25/early Saturday, Aug. 26, the storm will be felt well inland. Including here in Austin. Meteorologists are forecasting that Harvey could be a Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall. If so, it would be the first major hurricane to make U.S. landfall since Wilma in 2005. UPDATE Aug. 24, 2017, 5:30 p.m.: The dire predictions are looking like they are on the mark. This afternoon, Harvey was strong... Read more →


It's officially summer. Time for fun at the beach. And fun making mid-year tax moves. Happy July 5th, the start of midyear tax planning. With six months left in the tax year, it's the perfect time to make some tax moves that could reduce your 2017 tax bill. Here are six easy ones to take care of in July. 1. Adjust your payroll withholding. Did you get a big tax refund this year? Or did you owe Uncle Sam more than you expected? Either situation means that you need to reassess your payroll withholding. It's easy to do. Just give... Read more →


Tropical Storm Storm Cindy is now officially churning in the Gulf of Mexico, with a predicted landfall in a few days along the Texas-Louisiana border. That track could, of course change. And as meteorologists on the Weather Channel note, "it's not the name, but the rain." Tropical system precipitation typically reaches beyond the actual low pressure system, often well inland of coastal properties, and produces dangerous flooding. Such reports have come in from as far north as Atlanta today, with Cindy's expanded rain bands causing highway flooding in that city. Federal and state tax help for recovery efforts: As noted... Read more →


That colorful glob pictured above is Tropical Storm Bret. It formed this afternoon, kicking the 2017 Atlantic-Gulf of Mexico hurricane season into a higher gear. While images from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration can give us — and by us, I mean professional meteorologists — an indication of a storm's strength, what you and I really want to know is where the heck is this mess? Tropical Storm Bret is born: The purple map lines in the image are a bit hard to see, but my U.S. readers can breathe easy, at least for now. Bret is off the... Read more →


Good morning, early-rising Louisiana and Texas shoppers! I know all y'all are headed out to take first advantage of your states' special sales tax holidays this holiday weekend. Both Louisiana's hurricane preparedness reduced-sales-tax event and Texas' no-sales-tax on certain Energy Star appliances and water-saving devices started at 12:01 a.m. today, Saturday, May 27. The Pelican State's tax holiday, however, is shorter. Louisiana shoppers have only today and Sunday, May 28, to purchase tax-exempt items to help them through the coming 2017 hurricane season. The Lone Star State's tax holiday continues through Memorial Day Monday, May 29. Here are the highlights... Read more →


When the clock ticked past midnight today (Saturday, April 22), Texans welcomed their first sales tax holiday of 2017. During the three-day event, which runs until midnight Monday, April 24, no state or local sales tax will be collected on certain emergency preparation supplies. Portable generators like this sure come in handy when natural disasters disrupt regular power sources. Tax-free purchases these next three days include: batteries, fuel containers and flashlights priced at less than $75; hurricane shutters and emergency ladders priced at less than $300; and portable generators priced at less than $3,000. There's no limit on the number... Read more →


People who live in storm ravaged areas of Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi have enough to worry about, so the Internal Revenue Service says they don't have to worry about filing their taxes next Tuesday. Neither do U.S. military personnel who are in combat zones. A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) worker assesses damage in Georgia from late January 2017 storms and tornadoes. (Photo courtesy FEMA Facebook) Major natural disaster victims: Taxpayers in several areas deemed major disasters — the IRS keeps a running list of tax-affected disaster areas —qualify for more time to file their tax returns and pay any... Read more →


Wait. It's April, right? And isn't it March that has the proverbial lion-like entrance? Well, April apparently is trying to steal some monthly arrival literal thunder. Over the first weekend of this new month, violent storms raked much of Texas and are still marching east. Little April showers on spider web GIF by SomethingTraLaLa via Giphy Yes, I know spring heralds thunderstorm season, which is often dangerous and deadly like this weekend. But I also know I speak for a lot of us who were hoping simply for some more soothing April showers. So instead of just worrying about filing... Read more →


Mother Nature has had it in for California this year. On Valentine's Day, the Trump Administration approved federal assistance for deadly storms that in early January buried the Sierra Nevada in snow and inundated low-lying towns along the Sacramento and Russian Rivers. Photo montage posted on Twitter by Mike Myers (‏@csiprints; along with @RickSforza @crimeshutterbug @BlodgettJohnM @BeatrizVNews @ivdailybulletin) of vehicles trapped in post-flood mudslide on Lone Pine/Highway 138 in Southern California. Three days later, the Golden State was hit again, this time by a major Pacific storm described by residents and meteorologists as one of the most powerful weather systems... Read more →


Social media sites are overrun with folks bemoaning the terrible things that happened during this year. I've even aired my grievances about 2016 before and after Festivus, so far be it from me to be pity party pooper. But here's some perspective for all of us. Military vehicles make their way down a flooded North Carolina following October's devastating Hurricane Matthew. (Photo courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency) For millions of people worldwide, 2016 literally was a disastrous year. In the United States alone, Mother Nature pummeled the country throughout the year, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, issuing... Read more →


Really, Mother Nature? I know the Atlantic hurricane season doesn't officially end until Nov. 30, but really? Radar image courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Hurricane Center Tropical Depression 16 formed early this morning (Monday, Nov. 21) in the southwest section of the Caribbean Sea. By midday, it had intensified enough to be named Tropical Storm Otto. No U.S. threat: The good news for the United States and Caribbean islands is that Otto is due east of Nicaragua and is expected to track west over the next few days. The bad news for Nicaragua and residents of Honduras, Costa Rica,... Read more →