Natural Disasters

It’s more than just whimsy

Our hurricane-naming system evolved much the same way our baby-naming system did. Just as it’s easier to say “Jane Q. Read more >>

On the 100th anniversary of the 1906 calamity, a student of earthquakes seeks its traces in the city he loves most.

How Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture sent an eccentric Russian mystic on a sensitive mission to Asia and thereby created diplomatic havoc, personal humiliation, and embarrassment for the administration

Early in 1934 Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Read more >>

An astonishing saga of endurance and high courage told by a man who lived through it

This is a true story of a boy and his family living on the high prairie in a dobe house in eastern Colorado and the tragic experience that occurred in March 1931. Read more >>

We talk about it constantly and we arrange our lives around it. So did our parents; and so did the very first colonists. But it took Americans a long time to understand their weather—and we still have trouble getting it right.

Weather makes news headlines almost every day in some community in the United States. Read more >>

The Great Lakes hurricane of 1913 was a destructive freak. As far as lakers were concerned, it was …

SOMEWHERE IN THE emptiness between Hudson Bay and the Rockies, a vagrant puff of wind raised a dusty snow and went skittering over the plains, picking up a spiral here and another one there to create a north-country November blizzard of the kind that rages l Read more >>

The storm that wrecked the Virginia-bound ship Sea Venture in 1609 inspired a play by Shakespeare— and the survivors’ tribulations may well have sown the first seeds of democracy in the New World

The story of the British ship Sea Venture is one of history’s most remarkable sagas, an almost unbelievable tale of shipwreck, endurance, and human resourcefulness. But it is more than that. Read more >>

An all-but-forgotten San Francisco photographer has left us a grand and terrible record of the destruction and rebirth of an American city

Sixty-eight years before Mount St. Helens blew, Alaska’s Mount Katmai erupted—and nearly brought on a second ice age

On August 26, 1883, Krakatoa, a small island between Java and Sumatra in western Indonesia, erupted with a violence perhaps unprecedented in geological history. Nearly five cubic miles of material were blown into the atmosphere. Read more >>

When The Great Earthquake struck New England, learned men blamed everything from God’s wrath to an overabundance of lightning rods in Boston. Two hundred and twenty-five years later, geologists are at last discovering the true causes.

Shortly before dawn the five-inch pine spindle of the Faneuil Hall wind vane snapped, dislodging the thirty-pound gilded cricket that spun ten feet above Boston’s marketplace roof. Early risers first heard the baying of dogs, then the roar. Read more >>
A stifling spring or early summer afternoon draws on toward evening. To the west and south, a sullen cloudbank, swollen with moisture, pulsing with electrical display, rides up on the push of hot Gulf air. Read more >>
All through the late spring and summer of 1894 a haze of woodsmoke hung over the town of Hinckley in Pine County, Minnesota. Small fires burned unheeded in the cutover timberlands throughout the county, throughout the whole eastern part of the state. Read more >>
At fifty-eight years of age, Roscoe Conkling was still a strapping figure of a man, proud of his strength. The former senator, presidential aspirant, and kingpin of Republican politics in New York State neither smoked nor imbibed. He exercised and boxed regularly. So when William Sulzer, a young lawyer who had an office on the same floor as Conkling’s in a Wall Street building, could not find a cab, Conkling decided to leave for his club, two and a half miles away, “on my pins.” Read more >>

THUS SPAKE THE GREAT INDIAN CHIEF TECUMSEH, PREDICTING— SOME BELIEVED—THE SERIES OF VIOLENT EARTHQUAKES THAT STRUCK THE MIDWEST IN THE WINTER OF 1811–12

The town of New Madrid in southeastern Missouri looks out over a treacherous stretch of the Mississippi River, studded with bars and laced with stumpy shores—a graveyard of rivercraft, and haunted. Some of the ghosts are dead dreams. Read more >>
Few places are more unpleasant ban Washington in the summer, and the summer of 1930 was worse than most. Read more >>