Five geologists spent two weeks in the Alaskan wilderness studying one of the fastest-moving earthquake faults in North America. Project leader Rob Witter led the team on the expedition to the Fairweather Fault, only accessible by boat, with the group camping outdoors during their field work.

Even though their work takes place 500 miles from the contiguous U.S., much of what the team will learn during the ongoing project can be utilized in many other areas.

“Our research in Alaska likely will have its greatest impact elsewhere in the U.S., by informing federal agencies and the public about the seismic hazards posed by the Fairweather Fault,” said Witter. “Our data will be used to update the Alaska seismic hazard map, part of the collection of USGS maps used to support effective building codes. Other federal agencies, such as the National Park Service, NOAA, U.S. Forest Service, and FEMA use our data to increase public safety related to earthquake and tsunami hazards.”


Days after fatal debris flows devastated Southern California’s Montecito community,  a team of U.S. Geological Survey geologists joined county, state, and federal partners to survey and  evaluate the aftermath. Commonly known as mudslides or mudflows,  debris flows are slurries  of water, rock, soil, vegetation, and boulders with the consistency of wet concrete that can move rapidly  downhill and down channel.

USGS geologists from the Landslide Hazards Program and Earthquake Science Center  deployed to Santa Barbara County to support a geohazard assessment of the Montecito area; led by the California Geological Survey,  with the support of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).

“We’re  mapping the area that’s been inundated by debris flows so that we are able to get some sense of the spatial extent of the area  debris flows impacted,  as well as the magnitude of the flows,”  said USGS geologist Dennis Staley. “We will also be able to produce a forensic reconstruction of what happened throughout the event.”


Early in his college career, U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Rufus Catchings became drawn to the mysteries that lie beneath the earth’s surface — and was determined to understand them. This interest began during the first geology conference he attended, while an undergraduate student at Appalachian State University, North Carolina.

“I remember there was a huge debate that broke out about the sub-surface of the earth and whether there were faults in various locations,” said Catchings. “ I felt that it really wasn’t that difficult to solve. I thought they could’ve used geophysical techniques to answer those types of questions. Early on, I became very interested in the physics of the earth.”

Sparked by this newfound passion, Catchings, one of the first African-American research geophysicists to join the USGS in 1979,  started what was to become a much-lauded career in geophysical science. He began to advance the understanding of seismic activity with his groundbreaking sub-surface research.


Struggles of single moms — Democrat and Chronicle

Six months ago, Karen Tyson made a difficult decision: She and Chaunté, her 9-year-old daughter, walked out.

“There was domestic violence in the home, so I knew I needed to separate myself from that,” shesaid. “I had to reestablish myself all over again.”

Tyson, 44, left her husband – without her own car, job or place to live – and started her life over as a single mother, risking poverty in exchange for safety.

Now, as the sole head of her new household, she and her daughter live on the $1,700 a month she receives in disability payments. Like 78 percent of the Rochester households with children that are headed by women, they’re living below what it takes to make ends meet.


Homeless face losing refuge —Democrat and Chronicle

The dark corners of the Civic Center parking garage are the closest thing Nathan Prasad has to a home. The concrete floor is his bed.

Unemployed and battling drug addiction, Prasad, 23, is one of about a dozen homeless men and women who take shelter in the Monroe County-owned garage on cold nights. Some have come, off and on, for years or even decades.

The garage was privatized in 2003 and is owned by Civic Center Monroe County Local Development Corp., which is a nonprofit company created by county officials to take ownership of county assets.

Now, amid what operators say are growing customer complaints and declining sanitary conditions, the encampment is facing closure.


In Gates, a pricey problem : Owners, town fight flood maps — Democrat and Chronicle 

Sixty-nine-year-old Len Perno has lived in his Gates home for 30 years. He always imagined that he would one day sell his house and move with his wife to a ranch near their children.

That dream was dampened after his property and more than 100 others in town were placed into possible flood hazard zones by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2008.

“Now, with the devalue of the property, it sort of prohibits me from (selling my home),” he said. “I’ve never had a flood. I’ve never had anything close to flood.”

Perno is now paying more than $1,000 a year for new mandatory flood insurance and says he’s facing an up to 30 percent decrease in property value.


’12 Years’ descendants proud of family history

Born a free man in upstate New York – then later kidnapped and sold into slavery – Solomon Northup’s story,now a film, is not just entertainment for his Rochester-native descendents.

Northup’s biopic, 12 Years a Slave, named after his 1853 memoir, details his treacherous journey through slavery from 1841 to 1853 on major Louisiana cotton plantations.

“My sufferings,” Northup wrote: “I can compare to nothing else than the burning agonies of hell!”

Northup was born in Minerva, Essex County, and worked as a successful musician, cab driver and carpenter in Saratoga Springs, Saratoga County, for years before his abduction in Washington, D.C. He worked on different plantations, owned by some he praised for their humanity and others he criticized for their cruelty.

“I read the book myself three times, and each time I had a different emotion, but overall, I’m very, very proud,” said Kevin Linzy, 51, Northup’s great-great-great-grandson. “I really want not just Rochester, but the world to know about Solomon Northup, what he did and what he stood for at that time.”


Crane program helps returning veterans gain new skills, find jobs–Herald-Times

Anthony Edwards thought he would always be able to rely on his physical capabilities to provide for his family. The bomb changed his perspective.“I told my son to get a skill — it’s something no one could ever take from you,” Edwards said. “It just never hit me that I, physically, would not be able to do that.”

Edwards, who joined the Illinois National Guard in 1983 and found himself serving as a sergeant first class in Iraq in 2004, can still recall every gruesome detail about the night that changed his life forever.During a mission, a roadside bomb exploded and hit the truck Edwards was driving. The blast blew the tires off his truck and rolled it over several times. One soldier was killed and two severely injured.


Families in crisis rely on housing program–Times-Mail

Tyler Babbs vividly remembers the night his family became homeless. A tornado struck the 10-year-old’s home on May 25, scattering his family’s life to the wind.“I always been scared of storms, and that was my biggest fright,” Tyler said, trying to hold back tears. “I was scared, and I could hear my mom and sisters screaming.”

He remembers the chaos and panic that ensued as the tornado lifted the mobile home off the ground. His mother, Marie Carter, said their home was then dropped five feet while her husband, two daughters, youngest son and two family friends were inside.“Our walls were blown in and half of our roof was ripped off,” she said. “It wasn’t livable at that point.”

According to Carter, the family went back to their home on Ind. 45 on May 31 and attempted to salvage anything that remained. They found it hadbeen bulldozed by their landlord without notification.


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