Environment

On the side of a busy expressway in northern Puerto Rico, dozens of cars stand in a line, parked at careless angles off the shoulder. Drivers hold their phones out of car windows; couples walk along the grass raising their arm skyward.

This is not a picturesque stretch of road. It's about 90 degrees out, and the sun is beating down relentlessly. All you can hear is the rumble of cars and trucks passing by, sometimes dangerously close. Then, inside a Ford Escape near the edge of the highway, Casandra Caba exclaims, "Look!"

Updated at 11 p.m. ET

Puerto Rico is trying to start the process of recovering from Hurricane Maria — and it's doing so after the powerful storm blew homes apart, filled roads with water and tore at its infrastructure. Flash floods are persisting, and the island has no electricity service.

"We are without power, the whole island is without power," Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico's resident commissioner — its representative in Congress — told Morning Edition on Thursday. González-Colón spoke from Carolina, near San Juan.

With Hurricane Maria still smashing up Puerto Rico, the economic costs of this year's hurricane season continue to grow by the minute. It will take a while for economists to tally it all up.

But this much already is clear: The recent enormous storms have taken a toll on the housing industry.

Three separate industry reports, issued over the past three days, have all shown that rough weather in the South and wildfires in the West have been creating problems for this key economic sector.

Updated at 7:45 p.m. ET

As the morning sun rose over the cities of Central Mexico on Wednesday, where city blocks had lain neatly arranged, there was now a mess of rubble and stunned residents, watching as thousands of earthquake volunteers and rescue workers dug through scattered stones searching for signs of life.

The 7.1 magnitude quake struck Tuesday in Puebla state, some 75 miles from Mexico City, but it devastated a vast expanse of the country. Mexican authorities put the death toll at 230.

USGS

  The U.S. Geological Survey reports that a small earthquake in southeastern Illinois was felt across parts of Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky.

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET Wednesday

Even though Maria has weakened to a Category 4 storm, it remains a dangerous hurricane. Maria's maximum sustained winds are near 155 mph. The National Hurricane Center says the storm should keep that intensity until it makes landfall. Puerto Rico has long been spared from a direct hit by a hurricane.

Updated at 2:20 a.m. ET Wednesday

Sarah Dudas doesn't mind shucking an oyster or a clam in the name of science.

But sit down with her and a plate of oysters on the half-shell or a bucket of steamed Manila clams, and she'll probably point out a bivalve's gonads or remark on its fertility.

Updated at 5:30 a.m. ET

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Maria is an extremely dangerous storm. It was a Category 5 storm when it hit the island of Dominica. Later it was downgraded to a Category 4 hurricane. But a short time ago, forecasters says Maria had regained the strength of a Category 5 hurricane.

Updated at 3:15 a.m. ET Tuesday

Updated at 11:55 p.m. ET

People who live along the U.S. East Coast from North Carolina up to New England should monitor Hurricane Jose, forecasters say. The storm's winds won't get close to land until Sunday or Monday — but it was formally declared a hurricane again on Friday afternoon.

Snow leopards are no longer endangered, according to the global authority for assessing risks to species. However, the situation is looking dire for five species of ash tree, now listed as critically endangered.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced the changes to its Red List on Thursday.

Let's start with the good news.

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