TIME weather

The Most Destructive U.S. Hurricanes of All Time

As the 2014 hurricane season begins, TIME looks back at the most damaging storms to barrel down on the US.

Hurricanes have been menacing the U.S. as long as anyone can remember, but the monetary damages the storms have caused has increased in recent years, as this TIME photo collection shows. The devastation from Hurricane Sandy — later dubbed a “Superstorm” — rang in at $65 billion, leaving 72 people dead and more than 6 million homeless.

Does that mean hurricanes are getting more powerful or more common? Not necessarily. While many atmospheric scientists believe that climate change may strengthen tropical cyclones—higher temperatures at the ocean tend to feed hurricanes—the power of the storm isn’t the only factor in the extent of the damage. Far more important, at least for now, is the increase in the number of people and the value of the property in coastal areas that are perennially vulnerable to major hurricanes. Hurricane Katrina was so expensive not just because it was powerful, but because it landed directly on top of a major American city—and one that was clearly unprepared for a storm of that magnitude.

The more people and property we put in harm’s way, the greater thee damage any storm will cause. If climate change really does give hurricanes an extra kick—and if we do nothing to slow global warming or prepare for the effects—damage will be incalculably greater.

TIME Bizarre

Man Captures Video of Himself Getting Hit By Lightning

Now what are the chances he can do it twice?

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There’s a one in 10,000 chance you will get struck by lightning in your lifetime. What’s the probability of catching it all on video?

While it’s probably more likely for storm chaser Scott Sheppard than most other bystanders, it’s still pretty incredible that he caught himself getting struck by lighting in a storm in South Dakota Tuesday. Luckily he’s doing alright—the bolt hit his arm and then the ground.

Watch the scene unfold in the video above.

(h/t: Daily Dot)

TIME weather

Watch a Tornado Rip Through North Dakota Workers’ Camp

A video of Monday's storm in McKenzie County gets up and close and personal with the eye of a tornado

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Amateur footage out of North Dakota shows what it’s like to get caught in a tornado after one tore through an oil field workers’ camp Monday.

Nine people, including a 15-year-old girl, were sent to the hospital after the tornado passed, the Associated Press reports. McKenzie County Emergency Manager Jerry Samuelson said the girl, who suffered a head injury and was in intensive care, is expected to survive.

The tornado, a rare event for North Dakota, reached wind speeds of up to 120 miles per hour and destroyed 15 trailers near Watford City.

TIME weather

Two Bolts of Lightning Strike One World Trade Center

Two bolts of lightning hit the antenna on top of One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan as an ele
Gary Hershorn—Insider Images/Corbis

As a thunderstorm passed over New York City Friday night, photojournalist Gary Hershorn captured two bolts of lightning hitting the spire on top of One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.

A seasoned photographer and photo editor, Hershorn described how he captured the photo: “I saw the storm clouds forming while I was shooting some pictures of lower Manhattan from Jersey City right across from One World Trade Center. I was shooting with a point and shoot camera so I raced home and grabbed my real camera and tripod and went to a gazebo next to the Hudson River and shot endless 10 second exposures hoping to catch the bolts of lightning. I shot about 150 pictures and 6 frames had lightning bolts. I missed about 5 others in between frames. I was able to shoot from a covered spot in the pouring rain. It feels like I spend half my life shooting the New York skyline but have been waiting for years to have the perfect electrical storm around sunset…[T]he light in the sky was nicely balanced with the lightning and the brightness of the buildings on the skyline.”

MORE: One World Trade Center: How New York rebuilt the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere

TIME Serbia floods

Satellite Images Show Serbian Town Underwater after Floods

The town of Obrenovac, in northwest Serbia, was among the worst hit by historic floods that wreaked havoc across the Balkans. The flooding killed at least 40 people, including 14 in Obrenovac

The town of Obrenovac in northwest Serbia was largely submerged in flooding that wreaked havoc across the Balkans last week. The town was evacuated, but at least 14 people were killed and entire portions of the town were destroyed.

The historic flooding–more rain fell in three days than normally falls in a month–killed at least 40 people in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia and caused more than a billion dollars in damages. On Tuesday, Serbia declared three days of national mourning. In Bosnia, where a day of mourning was also held on Tuesday, the government says more than 1 million people — a quarter of the neighboring nation’s entire population — were affected by the flooding and landslides.

The satellite photos of Obrenovac, provided by Digital Globe, Google, CNES, and Astrium, may be even more explicit than the numbers. The rooftops of homes can be seen poking out above the floodwaters; entire fields disappear under the murky water; and roads lead into newly formed lakes.

TIME weather

Watch Lightning “Strike” The Tallest Building in Western Europe

Despite the harrowing photos and video, a spokesperson for the skyscraper told Sky News that there was no damage to the building

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Londoners are buzzing about video and Twitter photos that appear to show a bolt of lightning flashing over The Shard, which bills itself as the tallest building in Western Europe at 1,016-feet.

The Telegraph highlights this dramatic view, posted to Twitter by a lifeboat crew based on the city’s River Thames:

And here’s another angle, flagged by the The Evening Standard:

Sky News reports: “A spokesman for The Shard said he was not aware of a strike as there was no damage.”

TIME weather

These Are the Hurricane Names We Could Get This Year

Hurricane Irene Churns Off East Coast Of United States
Hurricane Irene is seen from space from the International Space Station, as it churns off the east coast of the United States on August 26, 2011 NASA/Getty Images

Here's hoping Bertha doesn't get too big

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association released its forecast for hurricane season earlier Thursday, making it a good day to check out the names of the storms that could potentially hit us in 2014 — though NOAA says it’s likely going to be a pretty average year for hurricanes.

For a tropical storm to get a name, its top winds much reach 39 mph; to qualify as a hurricane, those winds must hit 74 mph. These lists are maintained by the World Meteorological Organization, and they get recycled every 6 years. Names of especially devastating storms, like Katrina or Sandy, are cycled out for sensitivity’s sake.

Your 2014 Atlantic hurricane names:

Arthur
Bertha
Cristobal
Dolly
Edouard
Fay
Gonzalo
Hanna
Isaias
Josephine
Kyle
Laura
Marco
Nana
Omar
Paulette
Rene
Sally
Teddy
Vicky
Wilfred

Your 2014 Eastern North Pacific hurricane names:

Amanda
Boris
Cristina
Douglas
Elida
Fausto
Genevieve
Hernan
Iselle
Julio
Karina
Lowell
Marie
Norbert
Odile
Polo
Rachel
Simon
Trudy
Vance
Winnie
Xavier
Yolanda
Zeke

TIME weather

Thousands May Have to Flee as Arizona Wildfire Explodes in Size

Arizona Wild Fire
The Slide Fire burns near 89 A south of Flagstaff, Arizona on May 21, 2014. Tom Tingle—Arizona Republic/AP

The blaze has raised concerns of a devastating wildfire season amid a drought that has left the woods particularly vulnerable.

Authorities in Arizona have warned that thousands of people may have to evacuate their homes on Thursday after a wildfire rapidly expanded near Flagstaff.

Nearly 4,500 acres between Flagstaff and Sedona are now in flames after a wildfire grew roughly 10 times in size over a 24-hour period, AZCentral.com reports. Approximately 500 firefighters are battling the blaze, but erratic winds have grounded fire-fighting aircraft, hampering response efforts.

“Everything’s kind of going against us,” Bob Orrill, a liaison officer for a response team told residents, according to AZCentral.com.

The blaze has raised concerns of a devastating wildfire season amid a drought that has left Arizona’s wooded areas particularly vulnerable. It also comes less than a year after a fire in nearby Prescott killed 19 Hotshot firefighters.

TIME weather

Endless Winter: Aspen Reopens for Skiing on Memorial Day Weekend

Squeezing the last drops out of winter before the white stuff melts away

Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the start of summer, when people head for the beaches and lakes to enjoy the warming sun. This year, winter isn’t going out without a fight, at least not at Aspen. The chichi resort announced that Aspen mountain will reopen for skiing this holiday weekend. A series of late spring storms has left the mountain with a base depth of more than four feet of snow on top, enough to open 21 runs and nearly 130 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain from the 11,212-ft. summit. It’s still cold up there.

Ski areas in the west typically close in late March or early to mid April. It’s not necessarily because the snow is gone, but because the skiers are—they are already in spring mode. Yet there’s traditionally been a battle for bragging rights for the area that can stay open longest and attract the diehards. It’s an honor that typically goes to places such as Arapaho Basin, situated on the Continental Divide or Oregon’s Mount Bachelor. A-Basin has extended its season until June 8. The area collected some 35 ft.. of snow during the 2013-14 season, “so we’re staying open!” says the company’s website. It may even extend the season if conditions permit. In Utah, Snowbird is reopening for the holiday weekend too.

Four-season resorts such as Aspen have robust summer programs to try to entice vacationers when it’s not white outside, so they generally don’t try to squeeze the last drops out of winter. But this year there’s been so much winter that staying open might be the only option. It’s tough to run dirt bike trails when there’s no dirt.

TIME weather

Watch a Cloud Supercell Form in This Time-Lapse Video 

A supercell is a spinning thunderstorm

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A few days ago in Wyoming, swirling clouds came together in a kind of half-tornado. Instead of spinning down to the ground, it ended suddenly in a flat mass that spat out heavy rains and hail. It was a “supercell,” and this time-lapse video shows exactly how it was formed.

Supercells are sometimes called “rotating thunderstorms”—they’re one of the most severe types of thunderstorms in the world. Their spinning, which is clearly visible in the video, sets them apart. Horizontal wind starts the air spinning, then an updraft angles the spin upwards. Then the updraft gets caught up in the spinning column to turn the whole cloud mass into a slightly less dangerous version of a tornado.

Thankfully, Basehunters, a group of weather-chasers, got close enough to shoot the video so we didn’t have to.

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