Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers business, environment, public policy, human interest and national news across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out-of-the-way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be heard during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Before taking his current beat, Tom covered state government and the Washington Legislature for 12 years.  He got his start in radio at WCAL-FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Tom graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in American Studies.

When not sifting through press releases, listening to lobbyists, or driving lonely highways, Tom enjoys exploring the Olympic Peninsula backcountry and cooking dinner with his wife and friends. Tom's secret ambition is to take six months off work and travel to a faraway place beyond the reach of email.

Ways to Connect

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Apparently Northwesterners are not afraid of heights and have a yen for adventure. We draw that conclusion because the industry of zip line tours and aerial adventure parks is booming in the Northwest right now. Within the past couple years, fully a dozen commercial zip line attractions have opened in Oregon, Washington and Idaho... not counting at least twelve more in British Columbia and Alaska. The revenue potential has some municipal parks departments looking to add spendy zip line attractions in public parks. Correspondent Tom Banse reports from Eatonville, Washington.

Bryan Flint / Wash. Department of Natural Resources

Fire bosses at the scene of a destructive wildfire in central Washington are letting more evacuees return to their homes Friday.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Emergency managers in central Washington have started to collect damage reports from businesses and homeowners affected by this week's destructive wildfire. That's a prerequisite to apply for federal disaster assistance. State fire investigators have established that the Taylor Bridge Fire was human-caused.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Firefighters on the scene of a destructive wildfire in central Washington are hoping to make major progress Wednesday toward containment of the blaze. The Kittitas County sheriff's office estimates more than 70 homes and cabins have been destroyed. The fire has chased hundreds of people from their homes. Amidst the ashes, correspondent Tom Banse found one unusual story of survival.

Washington’s lieutenant governor has declared a state of emergency in central Washington because of a still-growing wildfire. The emergency declaration allows the National Guard to lend helicopters to the firefighting effort. The blaze has chased hundreds of people from their homes between Cle Elum and Ellensburg.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Heavy air tankers are dropping retardant on a stubborn wildfire still wreaking havoc in Washington’s Kittitas Valley.

Richelle Risdon / Kittitas County Emergency Management.

Firefighters called in from across Washington state are gaining the upper hand over a destructive wildfire in the Kittitas Valley. Crews with bulldozers are digging fire breaks, and helicopters continue to drop buckets of water on hotspots.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Washington state troopers evacuated the state capitol building in Olympia for several hours Monday morning due to a bomb scare. Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins says several witnesses saw a woman deposit a cloth shopping bag in the capitol rotunda and walk away.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Central Washington was considered at low risk for earthquakes back when big hydropower dams went up on the Columbia River many decades ago. But a recently completed seismic hazard assessment has found greater earthquake potential for the area than previously thought. Now the dam owners have to figure out how to respond. Seismic retrofits could cost ratepayers across the region hundreds of millions of dollars. Correspondent Tom Banse has this exclusive report.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Wednesday will mark the 67th anniversary of the Japanese surrender to end World War Two. With each passing anniversary, there are fewer and fewer living witnesses to the event. Correspondent Tom Banse reports time is also running low for an aging U.S. Marine veteran who wants to return a captured Japanese war flag.

Washington-born and raised goalkeeper Hope Solo saved the day, quite literally, according to her teammates in the Olympic women’s soccer final Thursday. Team USA held on for a 2-1 victory over Japan to win the gold medal. When the final horn sounded, U.S. goalie Solo was mobbed by her fellow players. Solo says she knew the game was on the line when she made a dramatic lunging save in the waning minutes of the game.

Harper's New Monthly Magazine

This Sunday, a group of mountain climbers, students and Lummi tribal members will embark on an expedition to re-create the first ascent of Washington’s second tallest peak. That's Mount Baker. The modern-day expedition includes historical touches along with some concessions to practicality.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Public participation in scientific research is mushrooming in the Northwest and across the country. The trend is called "citizen science." It can take the form of volunteer monitoring and data collection, or crowd-sourced science, or science education with a research component. One sign the movement is gaining acceptance and credibility: It's a big topic of discussion at a science conference in Portland this week. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

InciWeb

Prolonged hot and dry weather is amping up wildfire activity across the inland Northwest.

Asuza Uchikura

A new report on a high profile Pierce County, Wash., murder-suicide concludes that cops and social workers should communicate better. Washington state's social service agency says the child fatality review, released Thursday, supports its belief that no one could have anticipated Josh Powell would kill his two young sons and himself.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Electric utilities in the Northwest have overachieved in meeting requirements to add renewable energy to their portfolios. That's according to fresh regulatory filings.

An audience of thousands is expected at the port of Olympia this Sunday to witness the conclusion of the annual Northwest Indian canoe journey.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Eight junior high students and their teachers from the Japanese tsunami zone arrive in Seattle Thursday. It's an unusual disaster relief effort. The schoolchildren are being treated to a free trip to escape the still difficult conditions at home, at least temporarily.

Patricio Lorente / Wikimedia

A second-time Olympian from Beaverton, Ore., will be the flag bearer for Team USA during Friday's Opening Ceremony at the London Games. U.S. team captains chose fencer Mariel Zagunis for the honor.

Meanwhile, one of the fans cheering the athletes on will be another Northwesterner who revolutionized the high jump.

Diane Gilleland / Flickr

The Northwest is known for its love of coffee. Now evidence of that is showing up in the Pacific Ocean. Researchers have found low levels of caffeine at half a dozen locations on the Oregon Coast.

It's a question all of us face sooner or later: whether to spend a good chunk of money to protect against a catastrophe that has a very low chance of occurring. A workshop that just wrapped up in Corvallis considered that dilemma in the context of Northwest dams and a magnitude 9 earthquake. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Athletes going to the London Olympics commonly have stories of overcoming adversity. But few can top African-born distance runner Lopez Lomong. The one time "Lost Boy" of Sudan relocated to the Portland area last year. He's running for Team USA, but hopes to leverage Olympic success into greater aid and attention for his former homeland. Correspondent Tom Banse introduces us.

Photo courtesy UW College of Engineering

Two major earthquakes last year raised red flags for the Northwest. Some of the damage from those quakes in Japan and New Zealand resulted from a phenomenon called liquefaction. This is when the ground turns to jello or quicksand. Transmission towers topple, buildings sink and utility pipes break. Now, geologists in the Northwest have mapped the spots most likely to liquefy here in an earthquake. Correspondent Tom Banse begins our story in Japan.

Jim Barlow / Univ. of Oregon

An archeological dig at a group of remote caves in south-central Oregon may force some rethinking about how the first humans colonized North America. Scientists found the critical evidence in a form you might not expect.

Neil and Kathy Carey / Flickr

Job recruiters from booming Alberta, Canada see opportunity amidst the high unemployment rates of Washington and Oregon. They're in Seattle this week inviting unemployed skilled workers in the Northwest to consider moving north.

The next time a big wildfire erupts or an earthquake unleashes near you, Twitter, Google and Facebook might be useful places to turn. And not just you. Disaster response agencies are plunging into social media. They can develop better situational awareness by seeking out your online gripes and observations. Digital platforms also provide an avenue to give more frequent official updates and correct misinformation during a catastrophe. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Photo by Shelly Pollock

More than 700 volunteers turned out Thursday to help pick up litter and flotsam on the Oregon and southwest Washington coasts. Volunteers were on alert for debris from last year's tsunami in Japan. There were some possible new finds on Long Beach, Washington. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

The fifth of July is a traditional beach cleanup day in Manzanita and Seaside, Oregon and on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula. The coordinator of Manzanita's cleanup estimates the three dump truck loads hauled away were "99 percent fireworks" related.

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Two more runners and two javelin throwers from the Northwest claimed spots in the London Olympics on the final scheduled day of competition at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

Runners, jumpers and throwers from the Northwest performed well in these Olympic Trials. In fact, more than 20 percent of the athletes on the U.S. Olympic track and field team have ties to our region. Correspondent Tom Banse looked for reasons behind the disproportionately high local representation.

A pole vaulter with roots in Seattle and Spokane hopes the second time will be the charm at the Olympics. Brad Walker secured a return trip to the Summer Games with a first place finish at the U.S. Track and Field Trials in Eugene Thursday night. Back in 2008, the former University of Washington Husky set a new American record, qualified for the Olympic team, but then didn’t clear a single height at the Beijing Olympics. Walker says he wants “redemption” very badly this summer.

It was a good night for local Summer Olympics hopefuls Thursday in Eugene. A very good night, in fact. A half dozen athletes with ties to the Northwest earned spots in the London Games. Correspondent Tom Banse reports from the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials.

The capacity crowd at Eugene’s historic Hayward Field saved its biggest roar for last… for the dramatic finish in the men’s 5000 meters.

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