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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 →


Bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas, are among the wildflowers that emerged early this year thanks to warmer than normal temperatures. (Photo of a Hill Country patch on March 18, 2017, by Kay Bell) Hello, Spring! You used to be my favorite season, but for the last few years — OK, the last dozen that we've been back in Texas — you've arrived in late February or early March and only lasted about three days. By the time you're official, which was when you clocked in at 6:29 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (5:29 a.m. CDT; I was asleep) today, it... 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 →


It's Groundhog Day and for many folks that brings to mind the Bill Murray movie of the same name more than the Pennsylvania rodent who purportedly can forecast weather. Bill Murray as weatherman Phil Connors in the 1993 film "Groundhog Day." (Photo courtesy Columbia Pictures) In case you haven't seen it, in the 1993 Harold Ramis movie Murray is a television weatherman who, after being dispatched to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 2 to cover groundhog Punxsutawney Phil's emergence from his burrow, finds himself living the same day over and over and over again. Murray's character Phil (we see what you... 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 →


Merry Christmas! The big day for all good boys and girls of all ages is finally here. And here in Central Texas it's in the 70s. Cheery but not chilly: I know, 'tis the season for joy, not whining about the weather, especially since 70-degree temperatures are a heck of a lot better than dangerously cold ones. Still, it's the warmest Christmas in Austin in 52 years. The short snowman on the left in the photo above and I are definitely a bit taken aback by the unseasonable turn this so-called winter weather has taken. But it won't stop us... Read more →


Today is officially winter. You know what that means. Taxes. For folks in Michigan, at least. Much of the United States has been in the grips of the Weather Channel named winter storm Decima this month. The Arctic air even dropped down to the Austin area earlier this week, producing a bit of a freeze in our back yard waterfall/stream. (Click image to watch my YouTube video.) OK. Tax collection in the Great Lakes State isn't limited to the coldest months, which are pretty plentiful there. And it's not even limited to one state. Property tax bills, which actually are... 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 →


With the Oct. 17 filing extension colliding with Hurricane Matthew's aftermath, the Internal Revenue Service today announced additional counties in which taxpayers affected by the storm will have more time to file. Federal Emergency Management Agency Urban Search and Rescue team members rescue a dog stranded by Hurricane Matthew flooding in North Carolina. (Photo courtesy FEMA) The IRS has officially added parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to the Hurricane Matthew areas that will get additional tax relief. It also included more counties in North Carolina counties, which it had previously announced as eligible for special storm-related tax relief.... Read more →


If earlier this year you asked the Internal Revenue Service for an extension to file your 2015 tax return, you're running out of time. That deadline is next Monday, Oct. 17. Unless you live in parts of Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina or West Virginia. UPDATE: Or in other areas of Florida and North Carolina, as well as South Carolina and Georgia. The IRS on Oct. 17 announced tax relief for these added Hurricane Matthew disaster areas. North Carolina, which has been hard hit by flooding from Hurricane Matthew rains, is the latest state where taxpayers are getting special consideration when... Read more →


Sorry, not sorry, to yell at you in my headline, but Hurricane Matthew is going to get awfully close to expected to hit Florida's east coast -- in fact, very near where the hubby and I lived for six years -- in the next few days, so time is short to get ready for him. National Hurricane Center's 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, update of Hurricane Matthew's projected path, aka the cone of uncertainty, or as we called in when we lived in South Florida, the cone of panic. I know I blogged about this storm earlier this week, which... Read more →


This post has been updated throughout with weather and news updates. The good news is that Hurricane Matthew, which was a category 5, has weakened a bit. The bad news is that it's still a very dangerous and destructive storm. GOES radar 4:15 a.m. Central Time, Oct. 4, via National Hurricane Center/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Click image for animated view. Caribbean, and more, threat: Haiti is now feeling Matthew's force. The storm is expected to make landfall on that Caribbean island later this morning. Nearly a foot of rain is expected in parts of western Haiti, Jamaica and eastern... Read more →


A workplace retirement plan, where, in most cases, employees automatically put in some pre-tax money each pay period, is the largest -- or only -- savings many folks have. Louisiana flood victims can now access their retirement money more easily to help with their recovery efforts in flooded areas, like Port Vincent shown in this National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) photo. Click the image to see more NOAA aerial before-and-after shots of Louisiana flood areas. And as the name indicates, retirement plans are for your post-work years. Sometimes, though, you need that money before you leave the workforce. In... Read more →


This post has been updated to reflect the developments of late-August tropical systems. We enjoyed many good years in South Florida, but this time of year, I'm glad we moved back to Texas. Central, not coastal, Texas. Clean-up is underway in Zachary, Louisiana, after flooding earlier this month, but more rains from a system that could grow into a tropical storm could be headed toward the Gulf Coast. (Photo courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency/FEMA) The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1, but mid-August to mid-September is the peak storm period. This year looks to be on the usual track.... Read more →


Almost 7 trillion gallons of rain in just one week across Louisiana produced the worst U.S. natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. A Mississippi Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter delivers sandbags to the levee near the Elayn Hunt Correctional Facility in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, on Aug. 16, 2016. Click image to view the video and learn more about Mississippi's aide to its neighbor. "This disaster is the worst to hit the United States since Superstorm Sandy, and we anticipate it will cost at least $30 million -- a number which may grow as we learn more about the... Read more →


Torrential rains have produced deadly flooding across central Louisiana. In response to the historic downpours, the Internal Revenue Service today announced that storm victims will have until Jan. 17, 2017, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments. Folks who are affiliated with recognized government or philanthropic organizations and helping in the Louisiana relief effort also qualify for the special IRS tax treatment. Official disaster areas: The IRS move comes after President Barack Obama declared rain-soaked parts of the Pelican State major disaster areas. These include East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena and Tangipahoa parishes.... Read more →


One thing you can say for California is that its impressive diversity also extends to disasters. San Francisco houses built on loose ground sustain damage in the massive 1906 earthquake. Compared to other damage from the 7.8 magnitude temblor, this was minor. (Photo courtesy National Archives) The only good thing about such widespread destruction is that affected residents might be able to claim some disaster losses on their taxes. And in a recent decision, the Internal Revenue Service has offered some additional tax relief for Californians who got private relief in connection with an historic natural gas leak. Earthquakes, fires... Read more →


Mother Nature got a jump on the 2016 storm calendar, creating Hurricane Alex back in January and Tropical Storm Bonnie four days before today's official start of the Atlantic hurricane season. Seasonal forecast for the Atlantic Hurricane Season from Colorado State University (CSU), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and The Weather Channel. The forecast from CSU includes Hurricane Alex and Tropical Storm Bonnie. The Weather Channel and the NOAA forecasts include Hurricane Alex. Does that mean we'll have more storms this year than the dozen or so that are predicted? Maybe. Maybe not. Weather prognostications from a variety... Read more →