Tom Banse

Regional Correspondent

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from 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 found online and heard on-air 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

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Sure, you're a good Pacific Northwesterner because you recycle your beer cans, cardboard boxes and plastic milk jugs. But what about that dust-collecting piano you have long wanted to unload? It doesn't fit into the recycling bin. Creative upcycling might be the answer.

Pool photo / Courtesy of UW Medicine

The initial deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to Oregon, Washington state and Idaho are spoken for — at least well into next month. High-risk health care workers, EMT/paramedics and nursing homes have top priority to get the vaccine jab. But then who?

Tom Banse / NW News Network

Three years ago on December 18, a speeding Amtrak Cascades train bound for Portland derailed near DuPont, Washington, and tumbled onto Interstate 5. The crash killed three passengers and injured scores of others. An Olympia woman marked the anniversary Friday by going back to her local blood donation center to achieve a related, but happier milestone.

Courtesy Jo Arlow

It stands to reason that all the stress, anxiety and isolation of the pandemic could lead more people to take their own lives. But newly obtained data for Oregon and Washington show this is one bad thing that 2020 has not delivered.

Anna Boiko-Weyrauch / KUOW file photo

Since early in the pandemic, rapid contact tracing has been considered one of the keys to controlling the spread of the coronavirus. But in recent weeks, an overwhelming surge in new cases has let thousands of COVID-positive people and their close contacts fall through the cracks.

Amtrak

A new government report on high speed rail in the Pacific Northwest recommends that Oregon, Washington and British Columbia formalize their interest in a Cascadia bullet train by creating an independent body to plan and eventually build it. But a critic associated with a conservative think tank responded that the region should take heed of California's high speed rail woes and put a spike in the Cascadia bullet train ambitions.

Derek Wang / NW News Network

An online survey conducted out of Whitman College found more than half of Washingtonians say they have delayed medical visits this year. The findings underscore widespread concerns about disruptions to health care during the pandemic.

Tom Banse / NW News Network, file photo

You can add a new term to your lexicon: "Zoom towns." These are scenic places experiencing a surge of house hunters. Booming demand comes from workers freed by the pandemic to work from home long term.

Derek Wang / NW News Network

Washington state on Monday launched a coronavirus exposure alert tool for smartphone users statewide. Washington joined more than a dozen other states further east using an automated, anonymous notification system to aid in the fight against virus spread. Oregon and California are expected to roll out similar smartphone-enabled exposure alerts statewide soon, too.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

University students and staff in the Pacific Northwest are giving a trial run to a smartphone app that tells you if you were recently near someone who just tested positive for COVID-19. State health departments are rolling out similar apps across the country to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Tom Banse / NW News Network, file photo

The most recent extension of the U.S.-Canada border closure expires this Friday, November 21, but no one expects the restrictions to be lifted then. First implemented in March, the closure of the land and sea border to nonessential crossings have been extended monthly by mutual agreement between Ottawa and the Trump administration.

Vancouver Economic Commission

We don't know if the pandemic has a happy ending, but British Columbia is delivering a surprise plot twist courtesy of its film industry. Filming of TV shows and movies is going gangbusters in the Vancouver area this fall, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Daylight saving time goes away this Sunday, November 1. You'll get an extra hour of sleep from the time-change ritual. But wait, wasn't this hassle of resetting our clocks supposed to go away? Bide your time, folks, because multistate coordination and inaction by Congress is mucking with the gears.

Compass Health

In a newly launched pilot project, civilian mental health crisis responders are riding alongside Skagit County, Washington, sheriff's deputies on 911 calls. It's the latest example of reimagining policing in the Pacific Northwest.

Randi Whipple

There is probably no better place to social distance than on a small boat in the ocean. But you do have to go into port occasionally, provided it's not closed. The risks and unknowns created by the ongoing pandemic have put off some people's plans to sail around the world right now. But not for one Portland couple.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

A new distillery will soon begin making whiskey, vodka and gin on Chehalis tribal land in southwest Washington state. It's the first legal, Native-owned distillery to open on tribal land in the nation. The Chehalis Tribe's effort to diversify its economy by joining the craft spirits boom had to first overcome a nearly two century old prohibition on liquor production in Indian Country.

Mario Rivera

Last year, a couple who lives near Port Townsend, Washington, agreed to let the federal government drop off a dead gray whale to decompose on their semi-isolated beach. Now, the couple has a permit to keep the whale skeleton and will soon assemble the most amazing yard art.

Molly Solomon / OPB 2019

One of the first Native American women elected to the Washington State House of Representatives says she is drafting legislation to retire Native-themed mascots and team names at public schools. This has been a goal of Native American leaders for a while, but has new-found momentum in the wake of the Washington, DC, NFL football team’s name change.

Nomad Go

A tech startup in the Seattle area is offering new software that it says can help businesses track whether they are COVID-safe, including monitoring for whether employees and customers are wearing masks and social distancing.

Pacific Bonsai Museum

One of the more unusual ways the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II is being marked this summer is with an exhibit of stunted trees. They’re bonsai trees on display at the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, Washington.

Andy Petersen / Port of Bellingham

The Port of Bellingham is increasing temporary ferry service to the isolated enclave of Point Roberts, Washington. That community was largely cut off from the U.S. mainland when Canada and the U.S. closed their land border this spring to nonessential crossings to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

A World War II army veteran in Great Britain achieved world renown earlier this year with a charity walk to raise money for British health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic. The achievement went viral -- in a good way -- and inspired another pandemic feat by a 100-year-old U.S. Army veteran across the ocean in Portland, Oregon.

Obon Society

Pandemic stay-at-home orders gave lots of households extra time for spring cleaning. Some people rediscovered World War II artifacts, including inscribed Japanese flags taken as souvenirs by American soldiers from Pacific battlefields.

Now, aging veterans and their descendants are attempting to return memorabilia to the families of their former enemies ahead of a milestone anniversary. Next Wednesday, September 2, marks 75 years to the day since the Japanese surrender ceremony that ended World War II.

Tom Banse / NW News Network, file photo

The months-long closure of the U.S.-Canada border to non-essential crossings has been extended again. The border crossing restrictions will last at least until late September, probably longer, due to the pandemic. The outlook is leading people who used to cross regularly to make major life changes.

Tom Banse / NW News Network

It's not often that you'll read an obituary for a tree. Or that a dead tree gets a memorial service of sorts. But then there aren't many like Vancouver, Washington's "Old Apple Tree."

Tom Banse / NW News Network

The recovery in airline travel seems to have hit a plateau in recent weeks, according to Transportation Security Administration checkpoint screening numbers. With the end of coronavirus pandemic seemingly beyond the horizon, the near future is turning grim for workers in the airline and airports sector.

Multiple airport tenants in Seattle and Portland issued layoff notices in the past week. But in a possible sign of optimism over the long term, the Pacific Northwest's major airport operators, the ports of Seattle and Portland, are continuing with big budget construction projects.

Kimberley French / Summit Entertainment

The Twilight phenomenon gets an injection of fresh blood this Tuesday with the release of a new installment in the bestselling vampire saga from author Stephenie Meyer. The series of novels and subsequent hit movies spurred legions of fans to visit the fictional story's real-life setting on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. But a predicted "renaissance" in vampire tourism could be bled by the resurgent virus pandemic.

Evan Agostini / Invision/AP 2018

Multiple nonprofits and universities that received large gifts this month from Seattle billionaire MacKenzie Scott are describing the donations as "transformative." Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, disclosed Tuesday that she made nearly $1.7 billion in donations since her April 2019 divorce from the world's richest man.

Courtesy of Western Towboat Co.

The coronavirus pandemic has served to remind many of us how much we count on strangers staying healthy so we can restock our cupboards and go about daily life. That's especially true for Alaskans who depend on a marine cargo lifeline from the Pacific Northwest for the majority of their goods.

Courtesy of Susan Weber

The carefully followed death toll from COVID-19 may not fully capture the loss of life during the pandemic. Analysis of state and federal statistics for deaths from all causes shows hundreds of additional deaths above normal levels this spring in the Pacific Northwest. Some or many of those may actually be missed COVID deaths.

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