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Updated at 11:20 p.m. ET

The governors of Florida and Puerto Rico have declared pre-emptive states of emergency ahead of Hurricane Irma, a powerful Category 4 storm churning through the Caribbean on a westward track. The U.S. Virgin Islands also declared a state of emergency.

Forecasters say the dangerous storm also looks increasingly likely to hit the U.S. East Coast, either in South Florida or the Carolinas.

"We have established protocols for the safety of all," Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said, urging islanders to take precautions.

Now that the rain has stopped and floodwaters are slowly starting to recede, government officials are figuring out where tens of thousands of evacuees in Texas and Louisiana can stay.

The White House estimates about 100,000 houses were affected by the storm. Many were destroyed or are too damaged to live in. More than 30,000 people are staying in emergency shelters and will soon be in need of permanent accommodations.

Barret Anspach / Flickr/Creative Commons

People hoping to help with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts might actually be doing more harm than good. That’s according Juanita Rilling, former director of USAID's Center for International Disaster Information.

The National Guard / Creative Commons

While Harvey ravages the Gulf Coast, some in Connecticut are stepping up to provide relief. This hour, we hear about their efforts and find out how you, too, can support the storm’s victims

Updated at 10:40 p.m. ET

Fire broke out and containers of chemicals burst at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, early Thursday, confirming fears that highly flammable organic peroxides produced at the plant could pose a threat after Hurricane Harvey knocked out safety systems.

Updated at 12:15 a.m. ET

The National Hurricane Center says Harvey is now a tropical depression. As of 8 p.m. ET, the storm was located southwest of Alexandria, La., with sustained winds of 35 mph.

As Tropical Storm Harvey, it had made landfall in Louisiana, at 4 a.m. Central time, just west of Cameron, according to the Center.

The confirmed death toll from Harvey is at least 25, across five Texas counties — although that figure is likely to rise and does not include people who are missing or believed dead.

Randy Bresnik / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Insurers are among those deploying teams to communities affected by Hurricane Harvey. Travelers, which has its property casualty lines based in Hartford, has dispatched three mobile claims centers to the state. 

Texas National Guard / Creative Commons

Texas Governor Greg Abbott called Hurricane Harvey "one of the largest disasters America has ever faced." The devastating storm has dumped more than 40 inches of rain on Houston, the most "extreme rain event" in U.S. history. It has displaced thousands, and rescue efforts continue. 

Updated at 6:06 p.m. ET

President Trump visited Texas on Tuesday to show support for residents reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey and to assess the first stages of the federal recovery effort.

On Jan. 28, 1986, President Ronald Reagan was supposed to deliver the State of the Union.

Instead, he made a very different address to the nation that day, one that would transform the role of president, making it mandatory thereafter that presidents serve as consoler-in-chief.

Disasters like the flooding that has followed Hurricane Harvey, displacing thousands of people, always create a tremendous need for help — and a tremendous desire to provide that help.

But those who have dealt with disasters before say people need to be careful about how they contribute to disaster relief, and when. Cash donations are almost always preferred over items — such as blankets, clothing and stuffed animals — often sent into overwhelmed disaster areas by well-meaning donors.

Updated 5:30 p.m. ET

In Houston, reservoirs swollen by rain from Hurricane Harvey were opened early Monday, a move that was expected to flood more homes — but one that the Army Corps of Engineers says is needed to limit the scope of the disaster that's threatening lives and property in Texas.

Updated at 1:30 a.m. ET Monday

At least two people have been killed as the Houston area continues to be inundated by torrential rain and catastrophic flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey, which officials called an "unprecedented" weather event that has left thousands of homes flooded, stranding some people and overwhelming rescue workers.

United Nations Development Programme

The Department of Homeland Security has issued a six-month extension of temporary protected status (TPS) for thousands of Haitians. This allows them to live and work legally in the U.S.

The area around a huge dam at California's second-largest reservoir is in a state of emergency, with some 180,000 residents ordered to evacuate the area Sunday out of fears that part of Oroville Dam could fail. A glimmer of hope arrived late Sunday night, when officials said water had finally stopped pouring over the dam's emergency spillway.

The secondary spillway was in use because the main spillway had developed a huge hole, stressed by the need to release water accumulated from California's wet winter — and brought to a new crisis point by last week's heavy rains.

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia around 5 a.m. local time on Wednesday, killing nearly 100 people.

The death toll is expected to rise as rescue and recovery efforts continue, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports.

The quake was at a relatively shallow depth, just 11 miles under the Earth's surface, Anthony says. Its epicenter was on the coast of Aceh province, the same region where an earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami in 2004.

No tsunami warning has been issued following Wednesday's quake. Aftershocks continue to shake the region.

Updated at 5:55 p.m. ET

In eastern Tennessee, deadly wildfires are still burning and authorities say it's still too dangerous for thousands of people to return to their damaged and destroyed homes and businesses.

On Wednesday, authorities in Gatlinburg, Tenn., said the confirmed death toll had grown to seven people, reported The Associated Press. Search and rescue crews from local law enforcement agencies and the National Guard combed through the remains of buildings looking for survivors.

When Hurricane Matthew lost strength and headed out to sea over the weekend, the storm took its high winds and driving rains with it.

Updated 11:50 p.m. ET.

The eye of Hurricane Matthew is just off the coast of Georgia, pushing surge flooding into Florida and Georgia, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm's highest sustained winds are 105 mph. The storm is expected to move near or over the coast of South Carolina Saturday.

Updated 1:23 a.m. ET with emergency declaration in Georgia

Late Thursday night President Obama declared a state of emergency in 30 Georgia counties. The president's action authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts and provide "appropriate assistance."

Updated 11:00 p.m. ET with hurricane center report

Haiti's electoral council has postponed the country's presidential election after Hurricane Matthew devastated the country. The nationwide vote was supposed to be held Sunday.

The electoral council did not announce a new date.

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET with further states of emergency in the U.S.

Hurricane Matthew crashed into southwestern Haiti as a Category 4 storm Tuesday morning, dumping rain and scouring the land with maximum sustained winds of 145 miles per hour.

It is the first Category 4 storm to make landfall in Haiti since 1964, when Hurricane Cleo also hit the island nation's southwestern peninsula.

Updated 9:45 p.m. ET with reports of deaths

The National Hurricane Center is warning that Hurricane Matthew will "bring life-threatening rain, wind and storm surge" to parts of Haiti beginning Monday evening. People on multiple Caribbean islands are preparing for the Category 4 storm.

Reuters quotes a Haitian official as attributing two deaths to the hurricane:

The floods that hit Louisiana last month were caused by rainfall that was unlike anything seen there in centuries. Most of the southern part of the state was drenched with up to 2 or 3 inches in an hour. A total of 31 inches fell just northeast of Baton Rouge in about three days; 20 parishes were declared federal disaster areas.

Climate scientists and flood managers suspect there could more like that to come — in Louisiana and in other parts of the country.

Updated 2:55 a.m. ET Friday:

Officials in Italy say the death toll from Wednesday's powerful earthquake has risen again. The Associated Press reports that the country's civil protection agency now says 267 people were killed. The number of injured being treated at hospitals stands at 387.

Aftershocks continue to rumble through central Italy. On Friday, an aftershock registered with a preliminary magnitude of 4.7.

Original Post:

Updated at 8 a.m. ET on Thursday:

Officials in Italy say the death toll has risen to 241. The Associated Press quotes the country's civil protection agency — in updated figures about 27 hours after the earthquake struck, the officials said the death toll was 247, but it has since been revised downward. Urgent search efforts continue.

Original Post:

In the small flood-ravaged town of Springfield, La., Rachel Moriarity waited more than a week for a center where she could apply for emergency food stamps to finally open in the Am-Vets hall — but she's been turned away at the door.

This week they are processing only those with last names beginning with A through D.

"I don't have a vehicle to get here," she tells a staffer from the state, who replies that due to the volume of applicants in need, there isn't anything they can do.

Devastating floods in Louisiana have left an estimated 40,000 houses damaged; some 86,000 people have applied for federal disaster aid in the wake of the disaster.

It's a crisis some people are comparing to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The disaster area stretches over 20 parishes, Eileen Fleming of member station WWNO reports, and officials are working to determine how to provide temporary housing to meet the extreme need.

Devastating floods in southern Louisiana have killed at least six people and pushed tens of thousands from their homes.

As the Two-Way reported Sunday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a state of emergency over the weekend, describing the flooding as "unprecedented and historic."

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