Disaster Feed

CNN forecast screenshot I thought I'd have a couple of months before I had to worry, or post, about severe weather, but Mother Nature today is in a proper snit. The official National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center has for days been talking about upper level lows and Gulf of Mexico air masses. I prefer the description by Texas songwriter/singer Terry Allen in The Lubbock Tornado (I Don't Know): "But when a high-pressure zone hits a low, somethin' gotta give, yeah somethin' gotta go." That's why folks from down here in Central Texas to the Midwest, upper and otherwise, to... Read more →


The individual tax filing season doesn't officially open until Jan. 27, but you're ready to file your taxes. Or are you? Tax filing, whether you do it yourself via tax software that you buy, use online or access via Free File or hand off the annual task to a tax pro, requires its own specific preparation. You've got to have all your tax-related documentation before you can start filling out that Form 1040. Here's a checklist of forms and documents you'll need to complete your taxes, as well as a look at tax situations you need to consider before filing.... Read more →


Congress played Santa this week, averting a government shutdown and approving a wide variety of anticipated tax breaks. Merry Christmas U.S. taxpayers. H.R. 1865, the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, is now law. In a surprise move earlier this month, House and Senate negotiators cobbled together a massive bill that not only, as the name indicates, assures that the federal government stays open, but which also included some long-awaited (at least by those who will benefit) expired tax provisions. In addition, lawmakers corrected — and by corrected, I mean repealed — some obvious — and by obvious, I mean universally... Read more →


These West Texas cattle don't appear worried about much. Their owners, however, have a lot of concerns, including severe weather that could hurt their agribusiness operation. In the case of drought, they might get some tax relief. (Photo by Kay Bell) "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it," observed Hartford Courant editor Charles Dudley Warner back in the late 1800s. More than a century later, that meteorological quip is still applicable. Long-time readers know I'm one of the guilty weather complainers. Heck, I do it so much that it's earned its own category on the ol'... Read more →


A walk along Long Bay in the British Virgin Islands (Photo courtesy Long Bay Beach Club Resort) The first Caribbean vacation the hubby and I took was to the British Virgin Islands (BVI). We had a lovely suite on a hillside overlooking Long Bay. The beaches were fantastic, the weather was ideal, the food superb and we — and by we, I mean the hubby — got in some scuba diving during a day-sail trip. I saw that barracuda in the water and opted to stay on deck. Since then, we've hit a few other island getaway spots, but BVI... Read more →


Nestor, show in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite image above as it gathered steam yesterday (Oct. 18) in the Gulf of Mexico, moved today closer to the Florida panhandle. The good news is that Nestor is now a post-tropical storm. That designation change, however, doesn't mean this 14th named storm of the 2019 hurricane season is harmless. As Nestor moves inland across the southeastern United States, it is projected to bring heavy rains and associated flooding, coastal surges and severe thunderstorms, some with tornadoes. Meanwhile, in the northeastern part of the county, a large bomb cyclone wreaked havoc.... Read more →


You've now got one week, until next Tuesday, Oct. 15, to file your 2018 Form 1040 that you extended earlier this year. During these next seven days, you need to at least get a start on that return. The deadline will be here before you know it. And this time, there's no more time. Here are 9 tips and reminders to help you get that 1040 on its way to the IRS by next week. 1. Gather all your tax material. By now you should have every document you need to file your taxes. Double check. Now. There's no give... Read more →


Flooding along I-10 in the Port Arthur, Texas, area due to Tropical Storm Imelda's excessive rain. (Photo by Jefferson County Sheriff's Office via Twitter) Coastal and East Texas is flashing back to 2017. That year, major Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. Many parts of Space City and the Gulf Coast are still recovering. Now it's Tropical Storm Imelda, which now has devolved into a depression, that has dropped way too much rain on the area. At least five people have died and the southeastern part of the Lone Star State is facing record-setting flooding. Google Maps Using nest egg to make... Read more →


What's worse than losing your home to a disaster? Having to pay taxes on the destroyed property. That's what a Southwestern Pennsylvania family is dealing with now. After losing their home and all its contents to a fire last November, Rich and Catherine Hooks recently learned that they are responsible for the 2019 property taxes due on their no long in existence Westmoreland County home. "The taxes should be lower because the house isn't there," Mrs. Hooks told TribLive.com. But the county tax assessor didn't know that. So the prior tax valuation stood. When a significant change occurs on a... Read more →


Some of the devastation facing Bahamians following Hurricane Dorian's direct hit on the islands. (Photo courtesy Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance via Facebook) Hurricane Dorian is still traveling up North America's eastern coastline, but it did its most damage on Sept. 2 when it made landfall as a Category 5 storm in The Bahamas. More than 40 people were killed and that toll is expected to rise. At least 70,000 people are homeless. Early estimates of property damage are around $7 billion in losses. Concerned people are looking for ways to help the residents of the island nation. This... Read more →


September usually is a welcome month. The summer's hot temperatures finally moderate as the official start of fall nears. Parents and children get their routines back as school is in session. Then there's the reason why usually comes into play as far as September's arrival. It's traditionally the most active month of the annual hurricane season. Nobody wants to see that. We'll have to wait a few more weeks to see if that holds for 2019, but September's start is ominous. Hurricane Dorian, which already has smashed all sorts of intensity records, is stalking Florida as I type. If forecasts... Read more →


You've secured your house. You've got your go-bag ready if you have to evacuate. You've taken all the other steps to get ready for an impending natural disaster. Or have you? Don't forget about your pets. During recent floods in the Midwest, Reuters reported that hundreds of pets were lost or imperiled by floodwaters. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, an estimated 15,000 animals had to be rescued, according to CNN. "It's a tragedy we've seen too many times: pets stuck in shelters, or worse, because their owners had no place to take them, or homeowners who feel trapped in a... Read more →


The U.S. and British Virgin Islands took a whacking today from Hurricane Dorian, which struck the Caribbean islands as a category 1. Puerto Rico, still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, was spared major damage as Dorian decided to take a more northward turn. Dorian is expected to shift westerly, however, and head to Florida. Forecasters say it could be a category 3 'cane by the time it reaches the U.S. mainland over the upcoming Labor Day weekend. Thanks Mother Nature. Not! Stay safe: The main thing for anyone in a hurricane's path is to do whatever... Read more →


Hello, July! The heat is definitely on, but there are plenty of ways to chill out, both personally and to put your 2019 tax bill on ice. Yes, I know you want to head to the pool or beach or catch up on neglected novels or just be generally lazy. I'm right there with you. But you'll enjoy those recreational pursuits a lot more once you've taken some steps, like the seven listed below, to lower your 2019 tax bill. Let's get to 'em! 1. Get weather ready. A low pressure trough moved overnight from Georgia to the Florida panhandle... Read more →


A U.S. Geological Survey map displays the magnitude-7.1 earthquake that rattled Ridgecrest, California, Friday July 5, 2019. When the Northridge earthquake devastated that part of Southern California 25 years ago, I worked for a company headquartered in the area. Lucky for me, I was in the firm's government relations office in Washington, D.C., when the deadly 6.7 magnitude quake hit the early morning of Jan 17, 1994. Many of my California-based coworkers, however, sustained property damages. Some of those folks still live in Southern California. So do some of my relatives. Dangerous quake duo: This week, they felt the long-distance... Read more →


House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) opens today's (June 20, 2019) hearing on tax extenders and disaster tax relief. (Screen shot of official W&M YouTube hearing). UPDATE, June 21, 2019: After almost more than 11 hours of discussion, the House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, June 20, passed along a 25-to-17 party-line vote a measure to extend through 2020 a variety of tax breaks that expired in 2017 and 2018 or will expire at the end of this year. The bill also provides tax relief for those who affected by certain major natural disasters. The House... Read more →


April 15 came and went without you. You didn't file your annual Form 1040. You didn't send in an extension request to get six more months to file your return either. And you definitely didn't get around to sending the Internal Revenue Service the balance of the tax you owed on last year's income. Hey, I'm not judging. Things happen. But if you don't want to have to fork over even more cash to Uncle Sam, then you better get to work on your 2018 tax return and get it to the IRS soon. June 14 soon. After that date... Read more →


Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast on Aug. 25, 2017. (National Hurricane Center satellite radar image) After a record-setting run of tornadoes over the last two weeks across not just Tornado Alley and the Midwest, but also into the MidAtlantic, the Big Apple even the nation's capital city, it's time for a weather break. Or not. The 2019 hurricane season officially starts June 1. Yes, I'm starting to look at the tropics a bit early, especially since we got a bit of a preview on May 20 when this year's first name storm popped up near Bermuda.... Read more →


It's that terrible time of year when Mother Nature is on the rampage. In the last few days, at least 19 twisters have touched down in Tornado Alley. That dangerous weather pattern is expected to repeat and expand over the coming days. 3:57 PM - We know have TWIN tornadoes northwest of Crescent in far western Logan county, north of OKC. Both of these are currently on the ground. Storm is moving northeast at 35 mph toward Mulhall. #okwx @NEWS9 pic.twitter.com/fAkqaGemmZ — Matt Mahler (@themahler) May 20, 2019 In addition to spawning twisters that destroyed stretches of property, but luckily... Read more →


Children celebrate May Day by dancing around a maypole on the Village Green in Tewin, near Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England. (Photo by Paul Barnett via Wikimedia Commons) Happy May Day! It's the annual May 1 global holiday celebrating the contributions of workers. But the other mayday often comes to mind when taxes are involved. If it's a tax distress signal you're sending out as the merry month of May begins, here are some moves that could help ease your tax trepidations. 1. File your 2018 return. If last month you didn't file your 2018 tax return, either because you... Read more →