After The Storm, Covering Hurricanes and Flooding
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, here are some resources to help you dig into the problems left in the storm's wake, including disaster relief efforts, using databases and mapping to show the extent of damage in certain areas and neighborhoods and how to follow the money.
Putting It All Together: Breaking News and Disaster Coverage
Learn tips about how to sucessfully report on breaking news and cover disasters.
Be Prepared, Before the Storm Hits (PowerPoint)
Start planning before the storm hits. Stock and Armendariz provide this useful PowerPoint on what to do before it's too late.
Covering Natural Disasters
Covering natural disasters can be an overwhelming task, use these tips from McClure, Chief Environmental Correspondent at InvestigateWest. He provides advice for before the weather starts.
Databases in Disaster
Kucharski details how to report on natural disasters with the assistance of databases. He covered the June 2008 flooding in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "Databases played an important role in our coverage as the community went from a state of shock to rebuilding. We used databases in three main ways: simple searchable databases providing basic community information, as a tool to assist our ongoing reporting and as a stand-alone storytelling tool."
Investigating the Aftermath of Disasters
Kestin explains how she and other reporters at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel discovered and revealed $530 million in fraud and waste in FEMA disaster aid nationwide. She provides an overview of FEMA and tells reporters covering disaster stories what things they should be looking for. Kestin also provides a list of sources for these types of stories.
CAR after the disaster: FEMA, SBA and other data
This tipsheet is a good guide to investigating the government aid that generally follows large natural disasters. Specifically, Maines discusses his own experience investigating FEMA after Hurricane Katrina. He recommends various websites as a good starting point, and then offers advice for more detailed investigations. For example, Maines suggests comparing the FEMA database of funeral-related expenses to the number of deaths listed by the local medical examiner.
CAR for covering natural disasters
Maines offers many suggestions for incorporating CAR into fast-paced disaster investigations. For instance, he suggests using mapping to show the extent of damage in certain areas or neighborhoods. Maines also discusses some of the surprises that reporters for the Sun Sentinel faced after Hurricane Wilma, and how in the future journalists can anticipate similar surprises and work around them.
Natural Disaster Investigations
This tipsheet describes how IRE Award Finalist authors Kestin and O'Matz gathered information for their story "Cashing in on Disaster." They give hints as to what questions to ask and what money to follow when sorting through information after a storm. For those ordering through snail-mail this tipsheet includes the 55 page story it references.
Florida's Insurance Nightmare
Six years after eight hurricanes ripped across Florida, state residents still struggle to recover from the storms' legacy - a wrecked property insurance market. Exorbitant premiums, the highest in the world, have soured the state's struggling economy, killed real estate sales and forced families from their homes. Homeowners were told that unless they paid even more, no insurance company would take their hurricane risk. The Herald-Tribune showed that is a lie. Floridians have been lied to about why there is a crisis, where their money is going, and whether they're even protected against storm losses. Public policy has been corrupted by fiction spun by the insurance industry and its supposed regulators. Billions of dollars desperately needed for the next disaster have been siphoned offshore. And millions of homeowners are left to entrust their financial security on a system rigged to extort profit. To expose the hidden truth of Florida's insurance crisis, St. John cultivated key sources deep within every aspect of the insurance industry and sought massive amounts of financial and policy data from multiple state and national entities. When it became obvious Florida's crisis was manipulated from afar, she traveled to Bermuda and Monte Carlo to discover the hidden players truly in charge.
Charity or Con?
One hundred victims of Hurricane Katrina were supposed to have their homes rebuilt because of a multi-million dollar charity, but families were left homeless and the money was unaccounted. The charity, "100 Homes, 100 Days," was a partnership of national charities like the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and local charities, collecting more than $3 million.
NOAH Housing Program Investigation
WWL-TV's 50 part investigation into a non-profit City of New Orleans agency revealed a post-Hurricane Katrina house gutting program designed for the poor and elderly may have been a scheme to funnel money to contractors. The investigation showed homes the non-profit claimed to have gutted using federal dollars, but the work was never done. Through extensive research, the WWL-TV team also found significant links between the highest paid contractors and the executive director of the non-profit. And one contractor was even linked to the city's mayor, Ray Nagin.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)kept tens of millions of dollars worth of new household supplies meant for Katrina victims stored in FEMA warehouses for two years. In early 2008, the agency decided the items were no longer needed and declared them surplus, even though agencies that help hurricane victims told CNN they desperately needed those types of items. The supplies ended up with federal and state agencies, but not Katrina victims. The investigation revealed the groups that are helping rehouse Katrina victims did not know these items existed. Furthermore, CNN discovered a serious disconnect between FEMA and the states, as well as within states themselves. Louisiana's surplus agency passed on taking any of the surplus items because the director said he was never told they were still needed. Mississippi, on the other hand, took the supplies and gave them to state prisons and other agencies, but not to non-profits helping Katrina victims. Those non-profits told CNN they never knew these items were available.
Hurricane Katrina environmental coverage
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the surrounding areas faced high environmental risks. This series of stories covers the effect that Katrina and the resulting floods had on the area. It uncovered risk ranging from oil spills to high mercury levels.
- Disaster loans from the Small Business Administration are the primary form of federal assistance for non-farm, private-sector disaster losses.For this reason, the disaster loans program is the only form of SBA assistance not limited to small businesses. Disaster loans from SBA help homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and nonprofit organizations finance their rebuilding.The data identifies the borrower, the disaster, the amount and, for business borrowers, whether the loan was paid in full or deemed uncollectible.
This is the official U.S. government database of storm events around the country. Some of the events tracked are: tornadoes, hurricanes, tropical storms, droughts, snowstorms, flash floods, hail, wild/forest fires, temperature extremes, strong winds, fog, and avalanches.
The data is collected by more than 120 National Weather Service forecast offices, including in Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa. The data is archived by the National Climatic Data Center.
Fields in the database include: date and time the storm event began; event type; states and counties hit; latitude and longitude; property and crop damage; and injuries and fatalities.
Historical data is available going back to 1950, however the accuracy of the data prior to 1996 is uncertain because of the way the information was archived by NCDC.