August 12, 2020

A powerful derecho storm that swept through the Midwest on Monday has left thousands of acres of crops completely devastated, and officials say more than half a million people could be without power for quite a while.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said the storm, which had hurricane-force winds up to 112 mph, destroyed at least one-third of the entire state's crops. More than 10 million acres were completely flattened, leading Reynolds to say she thinks the storm should qualify for federal disaster declaration. The Washington Post reports between 180 and 270 million bushels of corn were likely damaged, shortly before harvesting usually begins in September.

The storm left one man dead in Iowa and one woman in Indiana. Teams are working to restore power, though USA Today reports full recovery could take weeks.

Photos demonstrate just how dramatic and widespread the damage was:

June 17, 2020

America's coronavirus death toll has hit a grim new milestone.

As of Wednesday, 117,129 Americans have died of confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19, according to numbers kept by Johns Hopkins University. That's more than the 116,708 Americans who died during World War I, albeit a good number of them did presumably die from the 1918 flu pandemic circling the globe at the time.

America's COVID-19 death toll also happened over a much shorter time period than World War I's. The first reported death from COVID-19 in the U.S. came just four months ago in February, while America's involvement in World War I lasted more than a year. And the coronavirus pandemic is still far from over — new estimates suggest the U.S. could see more than 200,000 deaths from the virus by October. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 7, 2020

Celebrities may be calling COVID-19 a "great equalizer," but statistics from across the U.S. show that's far from the truth. Coronavirus case numbers and death tolls have revealed the virus is disproportionately affecting black Americans in many parts of the country — though statistics from some of the hardest hit areas haven't been revealed yet, The New York Times reports.

Black Americans make up just about a third of Louisiana's population. But according to numbers released Monday by the state government, more than 70 percent of those who've died of COVID-19 were black. Chicago is less than a third black, but 72 percent of those who've died of the new coronavirus were black. And while the county around Milwaukee is about 27 percent black, around twice as many black residents tested positive for COVID-19 as white residents.

There's not enough data to fully explain the overwhelmingly disproportionate numbers, experts tell the Times. But the fact that black Americans are less likely than white Americans to be insured, suffer racial bias in medical testing and treatment, and more often have jobs that haven't let them stay home during the pandemic all certainly contribute.

California, New Jersey, New York and Washington are among the states COVID-19 has hit the hardest, but they haven't yet released statewide information about the race of patients, the Times notes. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have demanded the federal government track and release this data. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 26, 2020

Americans are increasingly underemployed as coronavirus spreads, a Thursday report from Pew Research Center shows.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down businesses and left millions of people unemployed, at least until their workplaces reopen. A fifth of Americans say they or someone in their household has lost their job due to the new coronavirus spread, while more than a quarter say someone in their household has had to take a pay cut, Pew reports in its survey. In all, that's a full third of Americans who say they or someone in their household has had their job affected by the outbreak.

That devastating statistic was echoed in Thursday's Labor Department report that showed unemployment claims had surged from 282,000 to a record high of 3.3 million. Many of those job losses are supposed to be temporary, but some will undoubtedly end up permanent. And those numbers don't even include contract and gig workers or those who've been out of work for months, all of whom are ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Pew surveyed 11,537 U.S. adults on its American Trends Panel throughout March 2020. The online survey had a margin of error of 1.5 percent. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 18, 2019

Mozambique's death toll is already at 84 after a cyclone tore through the region over the weekend, and the country's president says it'll only get much, much worse.

Cyclone Idai brought devastating rainfall and flooding to southeast Africa, killing 122 people even in the days before it made landfall Thursday night, per NPR. It then moved inland to wipe out Zimbabwe and Malawi, leaving at least 215 people dead in total and hundreds more missing as extreme flooding continues.

The devastation was at its peak in Beira, Mozambique, where the storm made landfall and destroyed about 90 percent of the city of 500,000, The Associated Press reports via the Red Cross. Beira's electricity, roads, communications systems, and airport have shut down, and now, flooding has taken over the city. Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi predicts that more than 1,000 people could have already died in the storm, he told state radio on Monday.

After an initial round of pre-landfall flooding, another 48 people died in Malawi and Mozambique, per U.N. reports. Zimbabwe says 89 people have died in the flooding so far, but a member of parliament told NPR the number will likely only grow. At least 1.5 million people have been displaced or otherwise affected by the storm, the Red Cross estimates. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 13, 2017

Northern California is burning, leaving some neighborhoods as nothing more than charred, apocalyptic-seeming wastelands.

So far at least 31 people have died in the wind-fueled wildfires, which are sweeping through wine country just north of San Francisco. Still hundreds more are missing. Once-vibrant neighborhoods like Coffey Park in Santa Rosa have been incinerated, with nothing but ashes left where hundreds of suburban homes once stood. More than 2,800 homes are gone, Santa Rosa city officials said Thursday, as well as some 410,000 square feet of commercial space.

As of Thursday, the fires had decimated more than 191,000 acres of land, or about 300 square miles, across the northern part of the state, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Below, a look at the horrifying scale of the destruction. Kelly Gonsalves

(Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

May 23, 2017

Richard Collins III was set to graduate from Maryland's Bowie State University on Tuesday, not long after being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. He was killed on Saturday in an "unprovoked attack," and his father is left trying to understand how something like this could happen.

"A parent's worst nightmare has just reached my doorstep," Richard Collins Jr. told NBC Washington. His 23-year-old son was waiting with friends for an Uber car on the University of Maryland campus when they were approached by the suspect, 22-year-old Sean Urbanski, court documents said. Witnesses told police Urbanski said, "Step left, step left if you know what's best for you," and Collins said no. Urbanski continued to walk closer, then pulled a knife out and stabbed Collins once in the chest, court documents said. Collins was pronounced dead at a local hospital, and Urbanski, after being identified by witnesses as Collins' attacker, was arrested while sitting at a bus stop. Urbanski has been charged with murder and assault, and a judge on Monday ruled he should be held without bond because he was "an absolute danger to the community."

After it was discovered that Urbanski was a member of a Facebook group called Alt-Reich Nation, University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell asked the FBI for help determining if the incident was a hate crime. Meanwhile, Collins' father is remembering how his son could "make friends no matter what group he was around" and enjoyed running and playing soccer and lacrosse. The younger Collins was a competitive athlete who had a "loving and giving heart," his father told NBC Washington. "He would go out of his way, sometimes to my chagrin, to try and help others. But you want to try to encourage that in your children." Catherine Garcia

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