disasters

A Vibrant Sound Is Now Dead Silent

Los Angeles Times
February 27, 2008
By Alex Tizon

CORDOVA, Alaska – By way of telling his story, and the story of this fishing village, Mike Maxwell — born, raised and hoping to die here — wants to talk about what happened to the herring. They were the little kings of the sea in these parts. They ran so thick in Prince William Sound that some days, it was said, you could walk on the water stepping on their silvery-blue backs. When the Exxon Valdez spilled its oil in March 1989, the world saw images of blackened seabirds and otters and seals, of bloated whale carcasses and once-pristine beaches covered with crude. Hardly anything was said about the herring.
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The Sky is Falling in Alaska

Los Angeles Times
February 10, 2006
By Alex Tizon

HOMER, Alaska — It is, in the world of volcanoes, one of the little guys, a bump on the sea, a molehill among mountains. Some days, Mt. Augustine barely peeks above the mist that settles across Cook Inlet in south central Alaska. Residents of this fishing town 70 miles to the east have been keeping an eye on the volcano, which woke up Jan. 11 and dusted the inlet with ash. The mountain has been erupting intermittently ever since. It is the focus of attention for the region and the talk of the town for Homer, the nearest community of any size.

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Living in a Box

Los Angeles Times
December 3, 2005
By Alex Tizon

DEL RIO, Texas – Once he lived in a house; now he lives in a box. The box sits alongside other boxes — all gray aluminum, all the same size, all facing the same direction — like rows of dominos in the desert.The box that Jose Luis Porras Jr. refers to is a mobile home. He’s glad to have a roof over his head, “but check it out,” he says. “Is there any other word to call it?”

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Stranded in the Sticks

Los Angeles Times
November 1, 2005
By Alex Tizon

GREENSBURG, Louisiana – At the end of a long gravel driveway, up a few steps on a wide wooden porch, a mother and son discuss their conundrum. Gladys Brown, 66, and Maurice Brown, 47, praise God for keeping them safe through the ordeal. But two months after Hurricane Katrina tore up their homes and chased them out of New Orleans, they find themselves resettled in a place to which they feel — mildly put — unsuited. Like catfish in a cornfield.

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“I Ain’t Ready”: A Katrina Survivor Eyes the Next Plunge

Los Angeles Times
October 15, 2005
By Alex Tizon

“I ain’t ready, I ain’t ready, I ain’t ready.”

The woman ambling down the corridor of Judson Baptist Church is talking to herself, not crazy but scared. More than a hundred Hurricane Katrina evacuees ended up in a church in Walker, Louisiana, a farming-town-turned-suburb west of Baton Rouge.

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Nuclear Fallout: Hanford “Downwinders” Speak

Los Angeles Times
May 16, 2005
By Alex Tizon

FAIRFIELD, Washington – It all began for wheat farmer Ralph Hein with a finger gliding down his neck one cold morning in 1952. The finger, his doctor’s, came upon a lump just below the Adam’s apple. The lump was a malignant tumor on his thyroid. Later, Hein’s wife, Dolores, and three of their four daughters developed thyroid problems. Then neighbors — all farming families in this rolling grass country between Spokane and the Columbia River — began to fall ill, and many died.

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Can One Man Turn the Tide?

Los Angeles Times
October 28, 2004
By Alex Tizon

NEWTOK, Alaska – The boys hunt for mastodon bones on the tundra as the women and girls gather salmonberries from their secret spots in the hills. The men keep busy with various manly things, fishing and fixing roofs and hauling water from the community well. It’s another sunny afternoon in this Eskimo village of 340 on Alaska’s west coast, and there isn’t the slightest hint that life is approaching a cataclysmic change. In as little as 10 years, the village will be swallowed up by a torrent of water from the Ninglick River, and an ancient way of life will be erased.

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The “Dead Zone” Next Door

Los Angeles Times
May 6, 2004
By Alex Tizon

BELFAIR, Wash. – Scuba diver Jerry Ehrlich saw the signs of something ominous in Hood Canal starting in the summer of 2002. The blunt-nosed six-gill sharks swimming in the shallows caught his attention first. You never see that, he thought. Such sharks, which have a strong aversion to light, almost never leave deep water. There were other deep-water dwellers — dogfish, octopuses, shrimp — squirming in the shallows, as if trying to escape to shore.

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In Memory: The Crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261

The Seattle Times
February 6, 2000
By Alex Tizon

It is our feeble response to the swoosh of so many souls departing at once. The list. We begin there, compiling the most basic facts first. The list had names like Bob and Carol and David and Patty. Most of us did not know them personally, but we sort of knew who they were. The passengers of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 were like most of us. People with jobs, with problems and stories to tell.

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