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Home > Tuscaloosa Business News

Tuscaloosa Business News - 2015-12


We have news items here related to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard loses lead defense lawyer ahead of ethics trial - MONTGOMERY — Indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard has lost his high-power defense lawyer three months ahead of his trial on ethics charges.
Prominent defense lawyer Mark White filed a motion Thursday to withdraw from Hubbard’s defense team. The other lawyers in White’s team also withdrew.
The motion did not give a reason for the decision, but White issued a statement saying it was unrelated to the merits or status of the case.
“We believe Speaker Hubbard will be completely cleared of the charges against him. We wish him the very best in this matter and his other endeavors,” White said.
He declined to say whether finances were a reason.
Hubbard signed a declaration that accompanied the motion saying White and associates had “candidly” discussed the reasons for the withdrawal and that he agreed to it.
Hubbard faces 23 ethics charges accusing him of using his public offices — as speaker of the house and in his former position as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party — to drum up investments and business for his companies.
The withdrawal is a blow to Hubbard’s defense ahead of his trial tentatively scheduled for March 28.
Hubbard has other lawyers working for him. However, White was the lead defense lawyer and the spokesman for the defense team.
Hubbard has maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty.
The motion to withdraw was initially filed under seal, but Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker ordered it made public. Walker said a list of pending motions will remain under seal because some of them reference grand jury material.
Walker said he was taking the withdrawal motion under advisement and that the parties could discuss any issues related to it at a January hearing.
The March 28 trial date, if it goes forward, will overlap with part of the 2016 legislative session. The session begins Feb. 2 and could last until May 16.
32120
December 31st, 2015
Attorney general tells court electronic bingo illegal , despite Victoryland arguments - MONTGOMERY — The Alabama attorney general's office tells the state Supreme Court that electronic bingo is illegal, despite what Victoryland lawyers argue.
The attorney general's office made the argument in a Wednesday brief as it appeals a judge's order to return 1,615 of the slot-like machines seized from the casino in 2013.
VictoryLand lawyers have argued that legislators and voters knew electronic games were a possibility when they approved a constitutional amendment allowing charity bingo.
The attorney general's office said the amendment doesn't mention electronic gambling at all. The state argued lawmakers would have included it they intended to legalize electronic gambling.
The Supreme Court stayed the judge's order to return the machines, as it hears the appeal.
VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor says he intends to reopen the casino with new machines.
32119
December 31st, 2015
Eutaw man charged in fatal hit-and-run in Demopolis - A 44-year-old Eutaw man has been arrested in connection with a Nov. 29 fatal hit-and-run accident in Demopolis.
The Demopolis police announced on Thursday they had arrested Herman Gilmore Jr., 44, of Eutaw on charges of leaving the scene of an accident with injuries, tampering with physical evidence, and possession of cocaine in connection with the death of 24-year-old William Christopher Reid of Demopolis on Nov. 29. Reid was struck by a vehicle as he walked along Bell Grayson Road.
32118
December 31st, 2015
Tuscaloosa man charged in vehicle burglaries - A 31-year-old Tuscaloosa man was charged with breaking into vehicles in north Tuscaloosa on Thursday.
Blake Joseph Wood was arrested on charges of breaking and entering a vehicle, possession of drug paraphernalia and attempting to elude on Thursday. Wood’s arrest followed a vehicle pursuit by officers responding to a report early Thursday of vehicles being burglarized, according to a release from the Tuscaloosa Police Department.
Officers detained Wood and an unidentified individual and recovered some property. Police believe multiple individuals and vehicles were involved.
Lt. Teena Richardson, a Tuscaloosa police spokeswoman, said the investigation was ongoing when asked about the number of vehicles that were burglarized and other suspects. Wood was taken to the Tuscaloosa County Jail. Bail was set at $22,500.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact Tuscaloosa County Crime Stoppers at 205-752-STOP.
32117
December 31st, 2015
New Alabama Bicentennial tag commemorates statehood - Alabama motorists can now choose a license plate design that commemorates the state's bicentennial.
“This tag will show that our citizens are proud to celebrate the achievements of our forefathers who established statehood from what was once the Mississippi Territory,” said state Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur, who chairs the Alabama Bicentennial Commission.
The bicentennial license plate features a black and white design with a stylized bold red 200 logo that is available beginning in January at all state courthouses at no additional cost. He said the plate promotes the state’s 200th year celebration that begins in 2017 and continues through 2019.
The Alabama Tourism Department used the red and white colors of the state flag in developing the logo that anchors the left side of the plate design, Orr said. An outline of the state map is inset into the center numeral of the “200” design. Alabama motorists have three choices for standard tag designs: the bicentennial, God Bless America and green and yellow mountain scene plates.
Orr credited Sen. Gerald Dial of Clay County, who chairs the legislative license plate review committee, with steering a bill through the final days of the regular 2015 legislative session approving the design.
Orr said more than 100 volunteers are serving on three major committees that are planning a series of events to commemorate the Alabama's bicentennial. He said that state-based businesses and organizations will fund the majority of the projects during the three-year commemoration.
“The statewide events and hometown festivals will generate economic development through tourism," Orr said.
The 13-member Alabama Bicentennial Commission, created in February 2013, is tasked with planning the commemoration of the anniversary of Alabama's statehood.
On March 3, 1817, President James Madison signed an act authorizing the creation of the Alabama Territory. On Dec. 4, 1819, Congress approved Alabama as the 22nd state in the United States.
32116
December 31st, 2015
Children's Hands-On Museum ringing in the new year, kid-style - Noisemakers and cheering from a group of nearly 300 kids and parents sounded Thursday at the end of the traditional countdown to the new year as more than 500 black, silver and gold balloons showered from the ceiling of the Children’s Hands-On Museum.
But the party happened at noon instead of midnight.
“Midnight is a little late for the kids to stay up, so we do a countdown to noon, and it gives kids a way to celebrate the New Year in a kid-friendly, age-appropriate manner,” said Kelly Adams, CHOM pre-K and public programs coordinator.
CHOM throws its New Year’s Eve for Kids party with kid-friendly toasts of sparkling grape juice in plastic champagne flutes, party hats, noisemakers, music, dancing and a balloon drop every year.
And every year, Maya Champion brings her daughter, Lily, 9, to celebrate.
“New Year’s is really hard with kids, so this gives them a really good experience and (shows them) this is what New Year’s is about,” Champion said.
Champion said her family’s New Year’s traditions include reflecting on the past year and writing down resolutions for the coming year, toasting with sparkling juice, staying up until midnight to watch the ball drop on TV and attending the CHOM party.
“It’s really fun,” Lily said, adding that her resolutions are to be a better person, be kinder to friends and family and to become a famous horseback rider.
Haven Magouirk, 7, said she doesn’t make resolutions, but she does enjoy the festivities and spending time with family.
Haven attended the party with her mother, Bri Magouirk, and her three-year-old brother, Graeme.
Magouirk said the kids’ party is the only celebrating her family does for the new year because the holiday is typically a nighttime celebration geared toward adults.
“It gives them some time to celebrate, and we can still get to bed at a decent time,” she said.
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Children clamor for balloons Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015 during the CHOM's New Year's Eve party for Children at the Children's Hands on Museum. Photo\Daniel Melograna
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Trip Nader, 2, gets his mother, Sherwood, to blow his party favor Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015 during the CHOM's New Year's Eve party for Children at the Children's Hands on Museum. Photo\Daniel Melograna
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Hampton Mills Robinson, 5 months, fell asleep before the balloons droped Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015 during the CHOM's New Year's Eve party for Children at the Children's Hands on Museum. Photo\Daniel Melograna
32115
December 31st, 2015
Crimson Tide clobbers Spartans for shot at another national title - The expected defensive showdown between the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide and the No. 3 Michigan State Spartans was no showdown at all.
Instead, the Crimson Tide put on a show. Alabama rolled up 440 yards with Jake Coker throwing for 286 yards and two touchdowns, both to freshman Calvin Ridley, in the 38-0 shutout in the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Thursday.
Alabama advances to the CFP national championship game on Jan. 11 in Glendale Arizona, and will face the unbeaten and No. 1 Clemson Tigers, a 37-17 winner over Oklahoma in the other CFP semifinal.
The Crimson Tide defense, as advertised, completely shut down quarterback Connor Cook and the Spartans, holding the offense to just 239 yards, including 29 rushing yards. Alabama enters the national title game as a seven-point favorite.
32114
December 31st, 2015
Man killed in hit-and-run accident - The Alabama state troopers are investigating a fatal hit-and-run accident on Interstate 20/59 on Wednesday evening near mile marker 77.
Investigators are trying to identify the pedestrian, an older white male without identification who was pronounced dead at the scene, and the vehicle that struck him, which left the scene of the accident, Senior Trooper Reginald King said.
“There was no debris left behind,” King said.
The accident occurred at 6:15 p.m. on I-59 near the 77 mile marker, according to the troopers.
Anyone with information about the incident should contact troopers at 205-553-5531.
32113
December 31st, 2015
Pharmacist indicted on drug charges - A federal grand jury has indicted a Fayette pharmacist and one of his pharmacy technicians on charges they conspired to distribute opioid painkillers and other controlled substances.
Pharmacist George Richard "Rick" Bolling Jr., 54, and technician Cassandra Taylor Holliman, 44, both of Fayette, turned themselves in to Drug Enforcement Administration agents on Tuesday after the indictments were released on Monday. Bolling and Holliman were each released on $5,000 bond on Tuesday, according to federal court records.
Prosecutors allege between January 2013 and March 2015, the two conspired to illegally distribute and dispense prescription drugs in Walker, Lamar, Winston and Fayette counties.
“Medically necessary use of painkillers is appropriate, but when a pharmacist violates his medical oath and becomes a drug dealer preying on prescription drug addicts, like any other trafficker in illegal drugs, he should expect the same sort of prosecution,” U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said in a statement released by her office. “Abusers of prescription opiates often shift to heroin abuse, and that trend contributes to our epidemic overdose death rates. Pharmacists should not abuse the trust the community places in them by selling opiates illegally in order to make a profit.”
Five of Bolling’s pharmacies in northwest Alabama were implicated in the conspiracy, according to a release from Vance’s office. The pharmacies include Berry Discount Apothecary in Berry, Bolling Apothecary in Fayette, Hospital Discount Apothecary in Vernon, Brown’s Discount Apothecary in Jasper, and Gateway Discount Apothecary in Double Springs.
Bolling was indicted on one count of conspiring to distribute a controlled substance, two counts of distributing a controlled substance for alleged illegal transfers of oxycodone between pharmacies in Walker and Fayette counties, directing a pharmacy employee to destroy evidence, and 14 counts of using a telephone to facilitate the alleged drug-trafficking.
Bolling, through his attorneys Michael P. Hanle and Richard S. Jaffe, of the firm Jaffe, Hanle, Whisonant & Knight P.C., disputed Vance’s characterization calling it “untrue and outrageous” and denied the allegations in a statement released on Wednesday.
“Rick Bolling is an upstanding member of the community and has served the prescription needs of the people of Walker, Lamar, Winston, and Fayette counties legally for more than two decades,” the attorneys said. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office has alleged that Mr. Bolling was illegally distributing and dispensing prescription drugs. In reality, the charges allege a failure to comply with federal record keeping requirements. Rick Bolling had an ownership interest in both pharmacies mentioned in the indictment. Any transfers of prescription drugs between these pharmacies, and the use of a telephone to facilitate those transfers, are commonplace and occur in the regular course of business, and are a far cry from drug dealing.”
Holliman was charged with one count of conspiring to distribute a controlled substance, one count of distributing a controlled substance, and four counts of using a telephone to facilitate the alleged drug-trafficking.
The charges against Bolling and Holliman are part of Operation Pilluted, a multi-state investigation by the DEA in the Southeast earlier this year focused on reducing the trafficking and abuse of pharmaceuticals.
32112
December 31st, 2015
Longtime Tuscaloosa News' employee Vicki Hager retires Thursday - Vicki Hager was hired part-time as a carrier for The Tuscaloosa News when she was 23 years old, tossing papers out of the window of her 1973 Corvette along her route. A few years later, she heard a full-time position had opened up in the warehouse.
Hager began her 34-year stint as a full-time worker at the News in the warehouse. Over the years, she also worked a dispatcher before moving to the customer service department, where she works now.
She has become known as the face of the News -– the first person employees, advertisers, mail carriers, visitors and customers see when they walk into the lobby -– greeting them with a smile and cheery attitude.
“If I’m the face of the News, this face sure has gotten wrinkles in it,” she said.
After 34 years of full-time employment, Hager, now 63, will drive her 2015 GMC Terrain into the News' parking lot today for the last time as an employee.
Hager said she had planned to work for another year, but she is retiring early to take care of her new grandchild.
“She will be missed,” said Paul Hass, The Tuscaloosa News' operations director and Hager’s supervisor.
Hager said she is going to miss the employees and customers she has developed relationships with and learned a lot from over the years.
In her time at the front desk, helping customers with their subscriptions, she said many of them have brought her peas, tomatoes and other crops, cards and little trinkets. She said her “coupon girls,” a group of women who come in to purchase papers for the coupons, taught her how to save money.
“I love it up here. I love meeting people,” Hager said.
One of those people is Margaret Hannah, a customer and widow of the News’ former chief photographer, Calvin Hannah.
Hannah said she thinks of Hager as a public relations person for the News.
“She’s a valuable asset. She’s always pleasant and very accommodating,” Hannah said. “She will definitely be missed. I just love her.”
But Hager said she plans to keep in touch.
She said some customers have asked for her phone number and home address so they can give her a call or drop a card to her in the mail, and she said she will stop in at the News every now and then to see how things are going.
“I’ll be around,” she said.
32111
December 31st, 2015
Alabama fans take in activities in Dallas - DALLAS | One side of Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas was layered in green pullovers and sweatshirts. The other side was covered in crimson.
"Go green!" one side shouted.
"Roll Tide!" the other responded.
There was still another day to wait before the University of Alabama played Michigan State in the College Football Playoff, but the Battle of the Bands had begun. Michigan State's Spartan Marching Band and Alabama's Million Dollar Band went back and forth for an hour. Each band played its fight song and a handful of its most popular tunes.
Some locals from Dallas mixed in with the two fan bases to watch the event, but most of those who came to see the bands had traveled hundreds of miles.
Alabama student Tom Andreano drove 17 hours from Grand Rapids, Mich., to get to the game. He drove through the night and arrived early Wednesday morning.
"All of my best friends go to Michigan State," Andreano said. "Every since we started college, we were all kind of like 'One of these days we'll go against each other and it'll be awesome.' Because it was Michigan State, all of my best friends from home are down here. It'll be fun, hopefully, beating them."
When the Spartans won the Big Ten championship, he realized there was a strong chance Alabama could be matched up against them in the playoff. He might not have made the trip if Alabama's opponent had been Iowa or Oklahoma, but Michigan State was different. That was too good of an opportunity for him to pass up.
"I was like 'OK, it's a good chance it's going to be us versus them. I've got to be at that game,'" he said.
He's not alone in Dallas, with friends cheering for both teams.
"It's fun going back and forth with my buddies and talking a little trash before the game," he said. "A lot of fun being down here, too."
Other Alabama fans drove from friendlier territory. Edwin Smith, Tonya Helm and a group of friends drove about 10 hours from Cullman. They've traveled to most of Alabama's recent bowl games and were enjoying the day in Dallas and festivities leading up to the game.
"The activities are always fun," Helm said.
The bands kept going back and forth, but there was still one song the Alabama fans were waiting to hear. It was the part of the trip that Smith said he was most looking forward to.
"The best part is singing to the other team after the game, though," Smith said.
Helm nodded.
"The Rammer Jammer," she said.
Reach Ben Jones at ben@tidesports.com or 205-722-0196.
32110
December 31st, 2015
Robbery reported near UA - An armed robbery was reported at a business in the 600 block of University Boulevard early Wednesday morning.
Tuscaloosa and University of Alabama police responded to the business at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday. An employee reported that a masked man armed with a gun entered the building and demanded money from the cash register, according to UAPD.
The robber fled on foot toward DCH Regional Medical Center with an undisclosed amount of cash, according to police. There were no injuries reported.
32109
December 31st, 2015
CHOM to hold New Year's party for kids - The Children's Hands-On Museum will have a New Year's Eve party for kids with a massive balloon drop at 11 a.m. today.
The party will include hats, tiaras, noisemakers and a toast to 2016.
The museum, 2213 University Blvd., will open at 9 a.m. All the party activities will be included in the price of admission, which is free for children younger than 1 years old, $6 for 1- to 2-year-olds and $9 for children 3 years old and older. Adult admission is $9, with those 60 years old and older admitted for $7.
For more information, call 205-349-4235.
32108
December 31st, 2015
Magazine names Alabama top state in economic development - Mercedes-Benz U.S. International’s plans to expand its Tuscaloosa County plant led a magazine focusing on corporate and business relocations and expansions to name Alabama its 2015 State of the Year.
Gov. Robert Bentley said Wednesday that Business Facilities magazine chose Alabama after the state landed several economic development projects, including Polaris Industries, Google and others.
This is the first time Alabama has been chosen for the highest award from a publication that considers itself “the leading source of intelligence on corporate expansion and relocation since 1968,” according to its website.
“This has been an extremely successful year for economic development in Alabama, and Business Facilities’ ranking is fantastic news,” Bentley said in a news release. “Our chief focus continues to revolve around creating jobs and new opportunities for residents across the state.
“I believe we are well-positioned to do that thanks to the state’s skilled workforce, great job-training programs, and a business environment that promotes growth.”
According to the governor’s office, Business Facilities looked at the top five economic development projects in terms of job creation and capital investment between Oct. 1, 2014, and Nov. 1, 2015, during its evaluation of the states.
Alabama’s award was announced Wednesday on the publication’s website and will be featured in a cover story in the bi-monthly magazine’s January/February issue.
“The Crimson Tide has brought in a bevy of big-ticket projects that have provided a solid foundation for future growth,” said Business Facilities editor-in-chief Jack Rogers in a prepared statement. “With Mercedes-Benz and Airbus anchoring its top-tier positions in automotive and aerospace manufacturing, an expanding high-tech hub and forward-thinking leadership in 21st-century workforce training, Alabama has put together a winning combination that’s tough to beat.”
In addition to Polaris and Google, other Alabama projects highlighted by Business Facilities included:
n Mercedes’ plans to invest $1.3 billion to expand its Tuscaloosa County assembly plant and prepare it for the production of next-generation SUVS. The project will add 300 jobs; many of them highly paid engineering positions.
n Auto supplier Kamtek’s $530 million project to expand its Birmingham facility and add a new aluminum casting line, creating 350 jobs.
n Yorozu’s plans to open a plant to produce auto suspension parts in Jasper, generating 300 new jobs.
“Alabama’s economic team will continue to work tirelessly to bring companies such as Google and Polaris to the state, and our support system will help these firms achieve success,” Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said. “Our ability to attract companies of this caliber makes a strong statement about doing business in Alabama.
“With the new ‘Made in Alabama’ incentives platform prioritized by Gov. Bentley and the Alabama Legislature and a streamlined approach to workforce development, now centered in commerce, we will enhance the state’s competitiveness in 2016 and beyond.”
Business Facilities is a “full-service media brand specializing in the site selection marketplace, with a bi-monthly magazine, e-mail newsletters and an online news portal,” its website said.
It is owned by New Jersey-based Group C Media.
32107
December 31st, 2015
Brisk sales for fireworks - The family owned business Dixie Fireworks has been selling fireworks since 1984 at the same location. Their busiest day this season is expected to be New Year's Eve. "Safety is our No. 1 priority" co-owner Sammie Low said. She added customers must be 16 years old to purchase and they will check ID's. Local law enforcement agencies want to remind residents within Northport and Tuscaloosa city limits that igniting consumer fireworks is illegal. But it is legal with no restrictions for residents in unincorporated areas of Tuscaloosa County.
32106
December 31st, 2015
City Hall flags at stake in Cotton Bowl game - The outcome of the Cotton Bowl could have an impact on City Hall -- in Tuscaloosa or in East Lansing, Mich.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox and Mark Meadows, mayor of East Lansing, have announced a wager between the two based on the winner of tonight’s College Football Playoff game.
Should the Crimson Tide win, Meadows will fly a University of Alabama flag over East Lansing City Hall -– home of the Michigan State Spartans -– for one day and wear a crimson and white tie to the next City Council meeting.
Meadows would also donate $50 to the Tuscaloosa Pre-K Initiative.
However, if the Spartans move on to face the winner of the Clemson Tigers-Oklahoma Sooner match-up, then Maddox will fly a Mighigan State flag over Tuscaloosa City Hall for one day and wear green and white tie to the next City Council meeting.
Maddox would also donate $50 to the East Lansing Education Foundation.
"Tuscaloosa and East Lansing are alike in their love for their respective teams," Maddox said in a news release announcing the wager. "The people of our cities are lifted when our teams do well.
“In a sense, both cities have already won."
The Crimson Tide and Spartans kick off in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, at 7 p.m. today.
But under Alabama head football coach Nick Saban’s tenure, Maddox has historically come out on the winning side of these post-season bets.
In 2012, when the Crimson Tide faced off against Louisiana State University in the then-BCS National Championship Game, Maddox wagered three gallons of Tuscaloosa's iconic Dreamland barbecue sauce while Baton Rouge, La., Mayor Kip Holden wagered three gallons of Cane sauce, the signature sauce of Raising Cane chicken restaurant, which was founded in Baton Rouge by an LSU alumnus.
After LSU’s 21-0 dismantling at the hands of Alabama, Holden was the one who had to send some sauce.
The following year, Maddox and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg wagered their own hometown favorites on the outcome of the match-up between Alabama and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
With the 42-14 victory, Maddox claimed a box of chocolates from South Bend Chocolate Co., and Buttigieg also made a donation to Tuscaloosa's Storm Recovery Fund.
Had the Crimson Tide fallen, Tuscaloosa’s mayor would have been obligated to provide a slab of Dreamland ribs and a donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Joseph County, Ind.
No wager between the mayors of Tuscaloosa and Austin, Texas, was made before Alabama's 37-21 victory in the BCS championship game against the Texas Longhorns after the 2009 season.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
32105
December 31st, 2015
Divided loyalties for Alabama grad Nataly Williams - ARLINGTON, Texas -- A week ago, Nataly Williams was surrounded by green and white.
On Thursday night, University of Alabama assistant coach Bobby Williams' daughter – who currently works at Michigan State – will be dressed in crimson and houndstooth.
Nataly, who grew up in East Lansing, Mich., but graduated from Alabama, will root on her dad to defeat her employer.
She was born and raised around Michigan State football with her dad on the coaching staff, but, as if often the case with her father's profession, the family moved away when she was 16. Later, after Bobby had accepted an assistant coaching position on Nick Saban’s Alabama staff, she graduated from UA in 2010.
She worked in the Life Skills and Community Outreach department at UA, working alongside athletes like Julio Jones, Mark Ingram and Eddie Lacy on community service projects. She currently works in the development department at Michigan State.
When she accepted the job at Michigan State the first week in November, the Spartans had just lost to Nebraska, and she thought the odds of a spot in the College Football Playoff were minimal.
“I always kind of said, ‘Haha that would be kind of funny if Michigan State and Alabama play in the playoffs,’ but we didn’t think it was going to be a possibility," she said. "And then they beat Ohio State and it just kind of all snowballed.”
It’s been a sort of a throwback for the Williams family this week, running into so many old friends and colleagues.
“It’s a big reunion. My mom, we’re still great friends with the coaches at Michigan State, so we’ve been having a great time,” Nataly said. “I didn’t bring any green and white with me. I got to see some of my co-workers yesterday, so it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve got my crimson on this week.
“They understand. My first day on the job they asked if I brought a playbook with me. (UA coach Burton Burns) joked, ‘Don’t be bugging the bus or the room for Michigan State.’ So I’ve been getting it from both ends.”
But make no mistake, she’s rooting for Alabama and her dad even though he gave her a useful piece of advice that urged the opposite.
“That opportunity happened for Nataly before we knew we were going to playing Michigan State,” Bobby Williams said. “And then found out, of course we’re very excited for her because that’s where she was born and raised so she’s got a very good connection there. We’re excited for the opportunity she has to go back to Michigan State and be a part of the program there.
“She asked me, ‘Dad, who should I root for?’ I said, ‘One thing you’ve got to remember is you have to know who’s signing your check.’ That makes it very clear for you right there.
“She’s here as our guest. But she’s here to mingle with both. She can’t lose.”
It’s been a good year for the Williams family. Nataly’s brother and Bobby’s son, Nick Williams, is currently preparing for a national championship of his own as the wide receivers coach at Jacksonville State.
“Our family could have two national championships this year,” Nataly said.
Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.
32104
December 30th, 2015
Man is accused of smuggling drugs into jail - A Tuscaloosa County jailer arrested Monday admitted that he was paid to smuggle cocaine, cellphones and marijuana into the facility for the last three months, according to court documents.
Darius Bramlett, 24, was charged Monday with second-degree promoting prison contraband and possession of a controlled substance. Sheriff Ron Abernathy announced the arrest in a news release sent shortly after Bramlett was arrested at his home on 48th Street East.
Court documents filed Tuesday indicate that the department's criminal investigations division learned of two cellphones, a charger and a rock of crack cocaine that had been found in the jail. Investigators soon developed Bramlett as the source of the items, according to the court records.
When questioned, Bramlett admitted guilt and signed a written statement, according to the court records.
Bramlett said that he was approached in September by an inmate who is serving time for cocaine and marijuana charges. Bramlett said the inmate asked him to bring marijuana to the jail.
Bramlett agreed, according to the court documents, and met someone he thinks is the inmate's brother at the Piggly Wiggly on Stillman Boulevard.
The man gave him $150 and marijuana that Bramlett delivered to inmates at the jail, according to the records.
Bramlett also said that he was approached by the first inmate and two other inmates about bringing cocaine into the jail.
None of the three inmates listed in the court documents have been charged with a crime related to the contraband or drugs in the jail, according to records.
Bramlett, who worked the 7 p.m.-7 a.m. shift, told the investigators that he took the items into the jail in the cargo pants of his detention officer uniform and distributed the items during his normal rounds.
He has been released from the Tuscaloosa County Jail on $30,000 bond.
32103
December 30th, 2015
UWA student killed in Tuesday morning wreck - A University of West Alabama student was killed in an interstate crash early Tuesday.
Alabama state troopers say Bethany Joyce Harris, 19, was thrown from her vehicle after striking an embankment and tree on the side of Interstate 20/59.
The accident happened around 7:45 a.m., said Trooper Reginal King. Harris' body was found in the woods near the 68 mile marker around 2:30 p.m.
King said she was not wearing a seatbelt.
Harris, from Empire in Walker County, was a cheerleader at UWA.
32102
December 30th, 2015
PARA offers New Year's dance for seniors - The Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority is offering seniors a chance to join in the New Year’s celebrations.
PARA4Life will host a New Year’s Eve dance for seniors at the Leroy McAbee Sr. Activity Center, 3801 Loop Road, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
“This is for the seniors to have somewhere to go and enjoy each other,” said Carole Taylor, dance coordinator.
Doors will open at 6 p.m. for those who want to watch the Alabama vs. Michigan State football game.
Refreshments will be served. No alcohol will be available.
Dress is casual, and Bob Sullivan and the Country Gold Band will perform a variety of music for dancers.
Tickets are available at the door or in advance.
The cost is $9 for an individual at the door and $15 for couples at the door. Advanced tickets for individuals are $7, and advanced tickets for couples are $13.
Advanced tickets can be purchased at one of these locations:
- Belk Activity Center
2101 Bowers Park Drive
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Call 205-562-3200 for New Year’s Eve hours.
- Faucett Brothers Activity Center
13040 Eugenia Faucett Drive
Open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Call 205-331-5600 for New Year’s Eve hours.
- McDonald Hughes Community Center
3101 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Call 205-562-3215 for New Year’s Eve hours.
- Bobby Miller Activity Center
350 Bobby Miller Pkwy.
Open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Call 205-758-0419 for New Year’s Eve hours.
- Mary Ann Phelps Activity Center
2200 Rock Quarry Drive
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Call 205-562-3230 for New Year’s Eve hours.
PARA4Life is a Tuscaloosa PARA program that offers a $99-a-year membership to the McAbee Center for seniors ages 62 and older. The program offers group fitness classes, an indoor pool, a basketball gym and fitness equipment, in addition to senior activities.
PARA4Life will also begin offering weekly dances beginning Jan. 4 at the McAbee Center every Monday night and at the Northport Community Center every Thursday and Friday night.
All dances are from 6:30-9:30 p.m., and the cost will be $5 per person.
The dances, including the New Year’s Eve dance, are open to all, not only members.
32101
December 30th, 2015
Return to the rink: Holidays on the River reopens - Holidays on the River re-opened Tuesday after being closed the past few days because of inclement weather. Plenty of people took advantage of the sunshine and cooler temperatures to go ice skating. Holidays on the River will be open through Jan. 18, with the exception of New Year's Day, at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, 2710 Jack Warner Parkway NE. For ticket information, go to www.holidaysontheriver.com.
32100
December 30th, 2015
Flood levels decline, EMA says - Flood levels for the Black Warrior River have receded, according to emergency management specialists at the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency.
Emergency management specialist Dianna Dollar said the Holt and Bankhead lock and dams have returned to normal water levels, but Oliver Lock and Dam is still in minor flood stage.
Dollar said additional rain expected this week should not cause any more flooding but will slow down the drainage process, so some roads will probably remain closed until later in the week.
Whitfield Road, River Bend Road, Maxwell Loop North, Fosters Loop Road, Commerce Road and South Sandy Road were closed and will remain closed until further notice.
32099
December 30th, 2015
Asphalt repair to affect University Boulevard - The city of Tuscaloosa Department of Transportation said that the eastbound lane of University Boulevard between Lurleen B. Wallace Boulevard South and Greensboro Avenue will be closed from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday for asphalt repair.
32098
December 30th, 2015
Two charged in fatal street race in Greene County - EUTAW -- A street race in Eutaw was a chance for some residents of the rural west Alabama city to gather in an area with little else to do on a Saturday night.
Relatives of Maurice Wedgeworth, 22, said the race was also likely an opportunity for the unemployed father of four to earn some money.
Instead, Wedgeworth was arrested after a crash on a tree lined, two-lane county road killed three bystanders and injured nine others including three children ages 6, 7, and 9.
Rodney Hutton, 30, Jalesa Kiara Merritt, 22, and Jhayden Pippen, 3, died after being hit by the 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass Wedgeworth had been driving, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency officials have said.
Wedgeworth was racing Clyde Lawson, 27, who was driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, but details on the nature of the crash haven’t yet been released and the crash is still under investigation.
Both drivers fled the scene and Wedgeworth surrendered to authorities at a local hospital, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Senior Trooper Reginal King said in an emailed statement.
Lawson was taken into custody about 190 miles away in Huntsville and had been returned to Greene County as of Monday night, King said.
Both men were charged with three counts of manslaughter and a count of fleeing the scene of an accident with injuries, King said. They were being held in the county jail and bond hadn’t been set as of Monday night, King said.
Street races have been going on in the area for years and are typically organized among friends and relatives who grew up around each other, Wedgeworth’s aunt, Kimberly Warren said.
“I know it’s hurt him too because most of them was his friends,” she said. “He got to impress his friends. Then, no job -- so he got to get money some type of way,” Warren said, adding that she’d likely have been cheering Wedgeworth on if she weren’t at work Saturday evening. Warren was unsure of how much money had been bet on the race.
Greene County is in one of Alabama’s poorest regions, known as the Black Belt, and had the fourth highest unemployment rate of 67 Alabama counties at 10.1 percent in November, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
“If I knew how to race a car I’d be trying to sneak and race it too, you know what I’m saying?” Warren said. “Might win some money if you don’t have a job.”
Wedgeworth’s family was familiar with the victims -- each of whom was from the city of roughly 2,800 -- and Merritt had been dating one of his friends, Wedgeworth’s grandmother, Wilma Wedgeworth, said.
“My heart goes out more to those who got killed and their family than my grandbaby,” she said. “I love my grandbaby, now. But you know, they got to prepare funerals for their kids,” she said.
Warren and Wedgeworth said they hope the crash makes people think twice about participating in street races or watching them along the side of the road.
“It could have been every last one of them, because both of the cars could have lost control.” Warren said.
“He got some babies,” Wedgeworth said as Maurice Wedgeworth’s 3-year-old son, also named Maurice, played in the background. “It could have been his babies standing out there.”
32097
December 30th, 2015
More than 300 miners laid off in Brookwood - More than 300 miners on Tuesday were temporarily laid off from their jobs at Jim Walter Resources No. 4 mine in Brookwood.
Walter Energy announced the latest in a series of layoffs at the No. 4 and No. 7 mines, once again citing continuing depressed market conditions within the industry.
The Hoover-based company that owns Walter Energy has made significant reductions to its workforce this year. In July, Walter filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which executives said could be converted to Chapter 7 if they can't find a buyer. Chapter 7 bankruptcy means the company's Alabama assets would be liquidated and work at the mines would cease.
Bankruptcy proceedings are wrapping up after several months of hearings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Birmingham. On Monday, Judge Tamara Mitchell ruled that Walter Energy can terminate its collective bargaining agreement with the United Mineworkers of America and United Steelworkers and cease paying retiree health benefits to facilitate a sale to the company's senior lenders, who have refused in negotiations to take on those obligations.
Financial advisers for the lenders said in court two weeks ago that no entities have shown interest in buying the company's Alabama mines. Walter CEO Walt Scheller said in court that the company will likely run out of cash by January or February.
The judge also ruled that Walter Energy can pay about $2 million in retention bonuses to non-union employees.
Cecil Roberts, UMWA president, issued a statement about the judge's ruling allowing Walter Energy to reject the collective bargaining agreement and freeing the company from paying retiree health and pension benefits, calling the decision "extremely disappointing but not surprising."
“The law is stacked against workers in American bankruptcy courts," he stated. "A lifetime of hard work and dedication means nothing to the courts. The life or death decisions vulnerable senior citizens will now be forced to make mean nothing to the courts. Apparently all that matters is that executives get bonuses and Wall Street raiders get paid."
The union will continue to work toward a new agreement with the lenders.
"I sincerely hope we can reach an agreement," Roberts said. "We will advise our members regarding the progress of those talks as soon as we can.”
32096
December 29th, 2015
Floodwaters expected to recede; cooler weather on the way, too - Floodwaters are expected to recede by the end of the week as much of the state recovers from storms fueled by unusually warm winter weather.

Storms that began in Tuscaloosa County and throughout central Alabama late last week and continued through Monday, brought anywhere from 1 to 6 inches of rain in different areas of the county, causing flooding in some areas, especially along the Black Warrior River.

Areas surrounding the Bankhead, Holt and Oliver lock and dams were issued flood warnings as the National Weather Service monitored river levels.

Bankhead Lock and Dam, which has a flood stage of 189 feet, was observed at a level of about 187 feet on Monday.

Holt Lock and Dam was observed at about 139 feet on Monday. It reaches flood stage at 140 feet.

Oliver Lock and Dam reached the minor flood stage – minimal or no property damage but possibly some public threat – at 133 feet. Its flood stage is 129 feet.

These high levels caused multiple road closings in Tuscaloosa County.

Whitfield Road, River Bend Road, Maxwell Loop North, Fosters Loop Road, Commerce Road and South Sandy Road were closed and will remain closed until further notice.

“Generally, these areas have flooded for decades,” said David Hartin with the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency. “It’s normal. It’s just inconvenient.”

Meteorologist Jason Holmes with the Birmingham National Weather Service said the heaviest storms have moved out of the region, but there is a 100 percent chance of rain beginning tonight ►Tuesday night◄.

“We have one more chance of rain (tonight) into Wednesday. This is a concern for rivers and streams,” Holmes said. “But we’ll start to get things cleared out and dried out on Thursday and the upcoming weekend.”

He said the end of the rain will bring cooler weather.

Temperatures throughout the rest of the week are expected to drop into the high 50s and low 60s during the day and into the 40s at night, he said.

“It’ll feel more like it should this time of year,” Holmes said.

The late December storms have wreaked havoc throughout Alabama.

Birmingham city officials say more than 70 structures sustained some type of damage from a tornado that touched down on Christmas night.

A man and a 5-year-old were killed in Coffee County when their vehicle was swept away by floodwaters on Christmas Day as they tried to cross a bridge.

The National Weather Service on Monday issued a flood watch for multiple counties as additional rainfall on saturated soil increased the potential for flash flooding.

Material from the Associated Press was included in this report.

32095
December 29th, 2015
Judge grants Walter Energy's request to stop paying retiree benefits - A federal bankruptcy judge has honored Walter Energy's request to reject its collective bargaining agreement with union workers. The Monday ruling means Walter Energy can stop paying retiree benefits so the Hoover-based company can move forward with a deal to sell its Alabama operations.

The company's senior lenders have negotiated an asset purchase agreement, but have refused to take on the burdensome financial obligations required by the union contracts and retiree health benefits. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Tamara O. Mitchell wrote in a ruling issued Monday that Walter, which owns Jim Walter Resources in Brookwood, can reject the contracts with the United Mine Workers of America and United Steelworkers and stop paying retiree benefits. The company can pay around $2 million in retention bonuses to 26 non-union employees, she ruled. Union members objected to the bonuses, saying that money could be used for the retiree pension plans.

Despite months of negotiations and concessions from each side, the unions and Walter have been unable to reach a new collective bargaining agreement preceding the sale. Union workers who attended a hearing earlier this month said they could strike if a new bargaining agreement isn't reached.

The judge ruled in the company's favor, adding that the union seemed willing to risk the sale.

"This court finds that maintaining the coal operations as a going concern, keeping the mines open, offering future job opportunities and continuing to be a productive member of the business community all require this court to overrule the UMWA and the UMWA Funds' objections," Mitchell wrote in the order.

The unions could reach a new agreement with new owners.

The lenders, which have formed a company called Coal Acquisitions LLC, offered to forgive $1.25 billion of debt in exchange for its assets, subject to higher bids at a bankruptcy auction. Coal Acquisitions CEO Doug Williams testified that representatives have begun negotiations with the unions to discuss employing union workers and reaching a new agreement.

Investment banking advisers working for the lenders contacted 47 domestic and international coal producers and integrated steel companies and 37 financial sponsors, according to testimony at a hearing held Dec. 15. None indicated interest to purchase Walter's Alabama operations, although there were a few proposals regarding the company's other assets.

The struggling company has $95 million cash on hand, CEO Walt Scheller testified at the Dec. 15 hearing. That's expected to dip below $30 million within a month or two, which executives said would mean closing the mines if they're not sold. The $30 million wouldn't be enough to operate the mines, according to testimony. Scheller testified that if the company can't sell its assets, it would be forced to convert to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, liquidate and cease operations.

The judge wrote that her decision to facilitate the sale to the lenders will benefit all parties, including the workers who objected. She noted several companies that have emerged from bankruptcy but remained in business, including General Motors, Chrysler, Kmart, Kodak, Wall Street Deli and companies owned and operated by Donald Trump.

"The court notes that many large businesses have been through bankruptcy and some are well known and have continued in business," she wrote. "Thus, many employees have retained jobs, local economies have benefited, other businesses have continued to stay in business, and consumers have continued to use and enjoy products and services produced."

32094
December 29th, 2015
Tuscaloosa will recycle Christmas trees - Tuscaloosa residents can dispose of live Christmas trees, wreaths and garlands through Jan. 10.

All items must be stripped of lights and decorations. Artificial trees, wreaths and garlands will not be accepted.

The trees will be taken to Farley Forestry Inc. where they will be mulched and reused in landscaping projects.

For more information about Christmas tree recycling or recycling in Tuscaloosa, visit www.tuscaloosa.com/recycle or call Tuscaloosa 311 at 205-248-5311.

32093
December 29th, 2015
Men charged with smuggling illegal immigrants through Greene County - Two Mexican men face federal charges that they transported five illegal immigrants for financial gain.

Roldan Palacios-Rincon, 31, and Martin Rodriguez-Guadarrama, 33, are accused of transporting five people through Greene County on Nov. 9, according to a release from U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer Jr.

A federal grand jury indicted each defendant on six counts Monday.

The maximum penalty for alien smuggling is 10 years in prison and a fine up to $100,000, according to the release.

32092
December 29th, 2015
Tuscaloosa County Jail officer faces drug charges - A detention officer for the Tuscaloosa County Jail has been accused of trying to sell drugs in the facility.

Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office investigators discovered contraband inside the jail, said Sheriff Ron Abernathy.

The investigation led to the arrest of Darius Bramlett, 24. Deputies arrested Bramlett just after 1 p.m. Monday at his home in Tuscaloosa.

He was charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and second-degree promoting prison contraband and remained in jail Monday afternoon with bond set at $30,000.

32091
December 29th, 2015
Capital projects, zoning comprise strategic plan's largest parts - Tuscaloosa City Schools started with a plan to guide capital projects and zoning, but over 18 months the plan evolved into much more.

Though the total plan focuses on employees, curriculum, capital improvements and zoning, the largest parts of the strategic plan are still its capital projects and zoning changes.

The plan’s capital improvements call for spending $160 million over three years. The money will be used to build two new schools, while other schools will be consolidated, closed or renovated and otherwise improved. Every school in the system will be affected, except the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy, which opened in August 2013.

“The most discussed part of the plan, the capital plan involves several actions that 'right size’ our schools,” Superintendent Paul McKendrick said. “Further, the recommendation includes projects that will improve the efficient use of energy in our schools, and the improvement of athletic fields and playgrounds.”

The two new schools are a 900-student middle school in the Northridge High School zone and a 575-student elementary school in the Paul W. Bryant High School zone.

The new “north middle school” in the Northridge zone will be built at an estimated cost of $30.8 million on unused property owned by the system. The school will serve students who would normally attend Rock Quarry Middle, as well as some students from University Place and Eastwood middle schools. Rock Quarry Middle will close and the building space will be used for Rock Quarry Elementary.

The new “east elementary school” in the Paul W. Bryant zone will be built where Arcadia Elementary is now. Arcadia and Northington elementary schools will close and their students consolidated to populate the new school. The school will cost an estimated $17.2 million to build.

Three system properties -- Northington Elementary, the old Tuscaloosa Center for Technology and the old jail -- will be sold, generating an estimated revenue of between $10.5 and $18.5 million.

All three of the system's high schools will receive science lab renovations, the addition of language labs and auxiliary gymnasiums.

In addition to those improvements, Bryant High will get a performing arts program, with theater, dance, music and other improvements. The estimated total budget for Paul W. Bryant’s renovations is $13 million.

Central High will receive an additional 16 classrooms, and will become home of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme. The total estimated cost of Central’s renovations is $13.5 million.

There are no plans for Northridge to receive capital improvements beyond the gym, science and language lab renovations. The renovations for Northridge will cost an estimated $12 million.

The system’s middle schools will receive no major renovations. There will be some changes, however.

n The Alberta School of Performing Arts will receive some system maintenance upgrades, athletic improvements for an estimated $1.8 million and its student capacity will increase by 580.

- Southview Middle will close and be converted to Southview Elementary, with its students relocated to Eastwood.

- Eastwood Middle will receive athletic improvements and maintenance upgrades for an estimated $5.4 million.

- Tuscaloosa Magnet Schools -– both elementary and middle -– will receive a $5.9 million building renovation and the building will temporarily house Arcadia Elementary students until the new east elementary school is built.

- University Place Middle will close in May 2018 and its students will be relocated to the new north middle school and Westlawn Middle. Parts of its building will be used for an expanded pre-kindergarten program.

- Westlawn Middle will receive athletic improvements and cosmetic upgrades for an estimated $1.9 million.

- Central, Martin Luther King Jr. and Oakdale elementary schools will all receive major renovations that include adding space for pre-kindergarten classes and playground upgrades at an estimated cost of $7.2 million, $8.5 million and $6.4 million respectively.

- Rock Quarry Elementary will receive $3.4 million in playground and system upgrades.

- Skyland Elementary will undergo $9.8 million in major renovations that include replacing a portion of the building, upgrading its student capacity to 400 and building a playground/community park in front of the school.

- Southview Elementary will receive system upgrades, playground upgrades and be used for community partnerships for an estimated $2 million.

- University Place Elementary will be partially converted to pre-K space and receive a playground upgrade for an estimated $3.2 million.

- Verner Elementary will receive an estimated $4.7 million in major renovations and playground upgrades.

- Woodland Forrest Elementary will receive major renovations that include playground upgrades for an estimated $4.4 million.

- Oak Hill School will be relocated to Stillman Heights and receive a therapeutic pool and system upgrades for an estimated $4.4 million.

32090
December 28th, 2015
Zoning changes in strategic plan include school choice - The most significant change the Tuscaloosa City Schools' strategic plan makes to the system’s zoning is school choice for every school. School choice allows students to transfer from the school they are zoned to attend and instead attend schools that are performing better academically.

Superintendent Paul McKendrick said that option won’t be available to students until the 2018-19 school year, but when implemented it will give students at every school the opportunity to attend a limited number of schools within the system that are outside of their school zone.

McKendrick said procedures will be developed and the initiative will be presented to school board for approval in April.

The schools that will experience zone changes in next school year will be Central High, Bryant High, Northridge High, Woodland Forrest Elementary, Eastwood Middle and Southview Middle.

Central High will begin receiving some students from that would normally attend Paul W. Bryant or Northridge High.

“Right now, we have children who live south of Skyland (Boulevard) who go to Northridge,” McKendrick said. “That will change. The majority of them will go to (Paul W.) Bryant and a fewer than 100 will go to Central.

“If a child is a senior in the fall that child has the option of staying at his or her present school. We thought that would be a good thing for seniors that wouldn’t be that disruptive.”

McKendrick said about 500 students will be affected by the high school feeder pattern changes. Northridge’s total student population will be reduced by about 200 students. Paul W. Bryant will gain about 200 students and Central will gain about 100.

Woodland Forrest Elementary will begin accepting Arcadia Elementary students from the El Dorado East, Eastover, Staffords and Willow Ridge subdivisions next school year.

Eastwood Middle will receive students who have been rezoned from Southview Middle, which will close in May.

Students who are in grades 5, 8 and 12 next year will be afforded a grace period and can remain at their current schools and not be rezoned.

The next zoning changes all occur in the 2018-19 school year. The schools affected by the changes are the Alberta School of Performing Arts, Arcadia Elementary, Central Elementary, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Northington Elementary, Skyland Elementary, Southview Elementary, Eastwood Middle, Rock Quarry Middle, University Place Middle and Westlawn Middle.

The Alberta School of Performing Arts will begin receiving students from University Place Elementary who live north of Veterans Memorial Parkway and east of McFarland Boulevard. The school will also receive students from Arcadia Elementary who live east of Crescent Ridge Road and University Boulevard and north of Brockhill Road and Parkhill Road.

Arcadia’s other students will go to the new east elementary school, which will also accept be zoned to accept students from Northington Elementary. Northington’s other students -– those living west of McFarland Boulevard -– will be rezoned to University Place Elementary.

Students at Central and Martin Luther King Jr. elementary schools who live west of 10th Avenue and east of I-359 will be rezoned to University Place Elementary.

Skyland Elementary will accept students from Southview Elementary who live south of Skyland Boulevard, north of Southmont Drive, west of McFarland Boulevard and east of Old Montgomery Highway. The subdivisions included in the rezoning include Dixon Manor, Dogwood Manor and portion of Skyland Park.

University Place Elementary students who live north of Veterans Memorial Parkway and east of McFarland Boulevard will be rezoned to the Alberta School of Performing Arts. Students living north of 15th Street, east of Queen City Avenue and west of McFarland Boulevard who exercise school choice will attend Rock Quarry Elementary.

University Place will accept students from current Northington zone living west of McFarland Boulevard and students from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Central elementary schools who live west of 10th Avenue and east of I-359.

Eastwood Middle will accept rezoned students from Southview Middle.

Students zoned for Rock Quarry Middle will attend the new north middle school.

University Place Middle will close in 2018 and its students living south of 15th Street will be rezoned to Westlawn Middle School. Its students living north of 15th Street will be rezoned to the new north middle school.

Westlawn Middle will accept University Place Middle students living south of 15th Street and current Eastwood Middle students living west of McFarland Boulevard in 2018.

32089
December 28th, 2015
Ears looking at you, coach: Nick Saban and team visit children in Dallas hospital - DALLAS | University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, along with the entire Crimson Tide football team, took some time away from Cotton Bowl preparation to spend Monday afternoon visiting patients at Children's Health/Children's Medical Center Dallas.

The team met with children under the hospital's care inside the Butterfly Atrium, participating in arts and crafts activities that included making pennants, elephant heads and paper chain links with images of a football field.

"We are so appreciative to be invited here today," quarterback Jake Coker said. "It means a lot that we can make a difference to these children, and it is a very special experience for us."

Said defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson, a Fort Worth native, "It's great coming back home and having the opportunity to come here and put a smile on these children's faces. There is nothing better than visiting with them and seeing their smile light up."

Saban matched a $10,000 donation to the hospital from bowl sponsor Goodyear.

32088
December 28th, 2015
Men face charges in fatal crash in Greene County on Saturday - Two men face charges in connection with a fatal crash Saturday night near Eutaw in Greene County, state troopers said.

Maurice Devonte Wedgeworth, 22, of Eutaw and Clyde Lawson, 27, of Harvest each face three charges of manslaughter and one charge of leaving the scene of an accident, troopers said Monday night. Both men are being held in the Greene County Jail, with no bond set yet.

Three people were killed and nine others injured in the two-vehicle accident, which troopers blamed on street racing.

32087
December 28th, 2015
Traffic light ordinance upheld by Tuscaloosa judge - A Tuscaloosa judge has upheld the city ordinance that allows police to use traffic-light cameras to ticket vehicle owners for running red lights.
Tuscaloosa County Circuit Court Judge John England issued a summary judgment opinion last week that Tuscaloosa's traffic-light camera enforcement law is constitutional.
Northport resident Tim Burch filed a civil suit against the city after he received a ticket in 2014. He can ask the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals to reconsider England's ruling.
Burch's attorneys claimed that the ordinance is unconstitutional because the city isn't required to prove who was driving a vehicle before issuing a ticket.
Stuart Albea, Burch's attorney, argued that the city treats the tickets and the appeal process as a criminal case, meaning they aren't required to produce as much proof of wrongdoing.
The city's ordinance and city attorneys maintained that the tickets are civil in nature. England agreed, noting in his summary judgment that the owners of vehicle are subject only to fines, not arrest. The tickets don't go on the vehicle owner's criminal record, he said, and no negative points are assessed to the owner's driver's license.
Unlike a criminal case, England wrote, the owner can legally seek compensation from the driver who received the ticket. He agreed that the objective of the law is to promote public safety.
England's 14-page order cited 29 previous court decisions issued in Alabama and the rest of the U.S. that addressed traffic-light cameras, burden of proof and criminal versus civil penalties.
The city installed the first of the nine existing cameras in 2012. The process of activating a video monitoring system for intersections where motorists are prone to run red lights began in 2010, when the Alabama Legislature granted Tuscaloosa the authority to install the devices.
32086
December 28th, 2015
Sexual assault reported at Snow Hinton Park - Police are searching for a man who they say sexually preyed on woman who were walking at Snow Hinton Park on Saturday night.
A 17-year-old victim told police that a man approached her near the flag poles at the park at 8:30 p.m., said Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit commander Capt. Gary Hood.
The young man threatened her with a gun and told her to put her phone away before he forced her into the nearby bathroom and sexually assaulted her, he said. She reported that he sexually assaulted her a second time behind the bathroom before walking to here car and stealing $10.
A 41-year-old woman told officers that she was walking along the track at 7:30 p.m. when a young man grabbed her from behind, pointed a gun and demanded sex, Hood said.
He ran when she told him she has a sexually transmitted disease, he said. Both women said that the suspect left the park in a dark colored SUV.
There were were other people at the park, located at the busy intersection of Hargrove Road and McFarland Boulevard at the time. Investigators are asking anyone who may have seen the suspect to contact them at 205-464-8690 or 205-349-2121.
He is a young, black man in his late teens or early 20s. Both victims said he was wearing a dark shirt, jeans and tennis shoes. He may have been wearing a beanie that partially covered his face and was carrying a silver and black handgun.
32085
December 28th, 2015
West Alabama counties under tornado watch - West Alabama counties will remain under a tornado watch until noon today.
Rain and and thunderstorms will remain in the area all day, according to the National Weather Service in Birmingham.
Brief tornados and damaging winds up to 60 miles per hour are possible.
The storms are expected to move through quickly. A half inch to an inch and a half of rain is expected, which could lead to flash flooding in isolated areas where the ground is already very saturated from recent rains.
The University of Alabama has opened three storm shelters that are available to students, faculty and staff. A map is available a http://prepare.ua.edu/?page_id=4319.
Counties that remain under a watch until noon include Tuscaloosa, Hale, Perry, Sumter, Fayette, Marengo, Pickens, Bibb, Greene and Lamar.
32084
December 28th, 2015
Weather Service confirms 9 tornadoes in Texas - The latest developments on the severe storms across the U.S. (all times local):
9:30 p.m.
The National Weather Service says strong weekend storms produced nine tornadoes across North Texas.
The Dallas/Fort Worth forecast office issued a statement Sunday night confirming that nine tornadoes ranging from an EF-0 to an EF-4 touched down a night earlier. Eleven people were killed.
The Weather Service says not all the tornado damage has been examined and additional surveys are planned Monday. It says the number of tornadoes may go up.
———
7:15 p.m.
Authorities surveying damage from tornadoes in North Texas say there may be as many as 600 homes with damage in the Dallas suburb of Rowlett.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement Sunday evening that damage figures could change. He says assessments are ongoing but have been delayed due to rain.
The new figure brings the total estimate of damaged homes in Texas to as many as 1,450.
A 24-hour curfew has been established for Rowlett in the affected areas. Jenkins' statement says only residents and emergency personnel will be allowed access.
Nearby Garland was also hit by a tornado that killed eight people and left 15 injured. Police there said in a Sunday night statement that an initial search of impacted areas had concluded with no additional victims found.
———
7 p.m.
Oklahoma's emergency management officials say hospitals are reporting that eight people have suffered storm-related injuries as severe weather and a blizzard pound the state. The nature of the injuries wasn't immediately known.
The Emergency Management Department says that as snow and high winds hammer western Oklahoma, warming stations have been set up at churches and other locations. The state Corporation Commission says 60,000 homes and businesses have lost electricity.
Travel is discouraged. Roads are slick and plunging temperatures will turn any water remaining on the roads into ice in western Oklahoma.
Officials in Altus, in the southwest corner of the state, have asked people to conserve water because of a power outage at a reservoir.
Counties statewide are reporting flooding from heavy rains.
———
6:30 p.m.
Officials in southern Arkansas say it appears a tornado touched down in Bearden as a severe weather system rolled into the region.
There were no reports of injuries after the storm struck Sunday afternoon. Ouachita (WASH-ih-taw) County Sheriff David Norwood told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper that a twister appeared to touch down in a four-block area along Main Street. He said the storm took roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and shattered storefront windows.
Norwood said streets into the area have been blocked to keep out looters.
Little Rock television station KATV reported that damage was also reported in Nevada County in southern Arkansas, also near Hampton, and television station KTHV reported that emergency workers had to rescue a number of people from water after heavy rains inundated northern Arkansas.
———
6 p.m.
Missouri's governor has declared a state of emergency because of widespread flooding that has led to at least eight fatalities.
Gov. Jay Nixon's office said in a release Sunday that weekend flooding has led to eight deaths, dozens of water rescues and evacuations. More flooding is expected while river levels continue rising around the state.
Several roadways have also been closed because of flooding, including a section of Interstate 70 outside St. Louis.
Nixon says the state's emergency plan has been activated, allowing state agencies to coordinate with local authorities to provide emergency services.
In Pulaski County, authorities said six people died after vehicles they were in were swept away by floodwaters. Greene County authorities also said two fatalities there were associated with the recent flooding.
———
5 p.m.
Nearly all of Interstate 40 in Texas, the main east-west highway through the state's Panhandle, has been shut because of a snowstorm pummeling the area.
The Texas Department of Public Safety says only a small section of the highway within Amarillo remains open. Otherwise, nearly all the 178-mile stretch is shut down.
The section west of Amarillo was closed earlier Sunday. Texas State Trooper Cindy Barkley said Sunday evening that deteriorating conditions have forced authorities to also indefinitely close the highway for about 100 miles east of Amarillo to Oklahoma.
———
4:40 p.m.
Reports from local officials show as many as 1,000 homes in the Dallas area were damaged or destroyed by tornadoes and heavy storms that killed at least 11 people.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state officials on Sunday would not commit to an estimated number of buildings destroyed, families displaced or even casualties. They cautioned that rescue teams are still assessing the damage and sifting through toppled structures.
But numbers reported by local officials suggest a grim tally of destruction. The worst hit was Garland, where meteorologists say a powerful EF-4 tornado tore through the suburb. Wind gusts for tornadoes on that scale exceed 200 mph.
At least 600 homes were damaged in Garland and more than 100 were impacted farther to the south in Ellis County.
———
3:45 p.m.
Garland Mayor Douglas Athas says on his official Facebook page that search teams are still looking through the rubble from an EF-4 tornado.
He said Sunday that search teams would work until they check every building and car. Utility crews were also working to restore power, and about 40 people remained in an emergency shelter.
Athas said he was proud of the city's “preparedness” and its emergency personnel. He also thanked everyone who'd offered to volunteer and donate.
Officials have said 11 people died in the tornado in Garland, a large suburb of Dallas, and 15 people were injured.
———
3:35 p.m.
Authorities in south-central Missouri say at least seven people have died due to flooding.
Pulaski County Sheriff Ronald Long said Sunday that six people died in two separate overnight incidents when two cars drove into flooded roadways.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol told KYTV that authorities recovered the body of a driver from a creek in Greene County in southwest Missouri on Sunday.
Also in the southwest part of the state, Barry County emergency officials say crews rescued people from 29 vehicles stranded by rising waters, and several other people had to be evacuated from homes.
The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings Sunday for much of Missouri, where three to six inches of rain fell during the weekend, and up to four inches more of rain was expected through Monday.
———
3:30 p.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is warning that the number of victims from a deadly outbreak of storms and tornadoes in the Dallas area could still rise.
Abbott made disaster declarations for four counties on Sunday following the severe weather that killed at least 11 people. He said there have been reports of as many as a dozen tornadoes around North Texas, but meteorologists were still working to confirm how many touched down.
Abbott said the state was not yet committing to a total number of casualties because rescue crews were still searching through rubble and destroyed homes.
He declared disasters in Dallas, Collin, Rockwall and Ellis counties and warned that roads across Texas remain in “perilous” condition because of plunging temperatures and continuing rainfall.
———
2:20 p.m.
Oklahoma is seeing a range of precipitation, from blowing and drifting snow in the Panhandle to heavy, flood-inducing rains in the east part of the state.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Kurtz said it's hard to measure how much snow has fallen in the Panhandle because of 40 to 60 mph winds. That's causing 1- to 2-foot snow drifts, even with a couple inches of snow on the ground.
In central Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City, a mixture of rain, sleet and freezing rain tapered off Sunday afternoon. But Kurtz said up to four inches of snow was in the forecast for Monday.
Eastern Oklahoma saw heavy rainfall and flooding. At least 11 counties had roads and bridges that were closed due to flooding. The far northeastern Oklahoma town of Tahlequah had logged more than 9 inches of rainfall.
———
2:15 p.m.
The body of a motorist has been found in a water-swollen creek in southwestern Missouri.
KYTV (http://bit.ly/22tL9Oy ) reports that authorities recovered the body of a driver from a creek in Greene County. Officials haven't released the person's identity or circumstances of the death.
The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings on Sunday for eastern, central and southwest Missouri, where three to six inches of rain fell during the weekend, and up to four inches more of rain was expected through Monday.
The Missouri Department of Transportation reports an eastbound section of I-70 in St. Charles County and several other roadways around the state were closed because of flooding.
———
2:05 p.m.
The Texas Department of Public Safety in Amarillo is strongly discouraging all travel throughout the entire Texas Panhandle because blowing and drifting snow had made the roads impassable. That's a 26-county area covering nearly 26,000 square miles.
Trooper Cindy Barkley said more than 20 motorists have been stranded by 8- to 10-foot-high snow drifts along highways U.S. 60 and U.S. 70 in Parmer County. The county is about 80 miles southwest of Amarillo along the Texas-New Mexico state line.
She said crews are trying to plow the roads but the blowing snow is making the job difficult.
Authorities also say Interstate 40 west of Amarillo for about 50 miles to the New Mexico border will remain closed through the night.
New Mexico's governor declared a state of emergency because of impassable roads. Roswell received between 14 and 18 inches of snow since Saturday afternoon, and 8 more inches were forecast.
———
1:25 p.m.
Authorities in Alabama are attributing a second death in the state to severe weather that struck the Southeast last week.
Coffee County Coroner Robert Preachers says the body of a 22-year-old man was discovered Sunday morning. That man and a 5-year-old boy were in a vehicle that was swept away while attempting to cross a bridge near Jack, Alabama.
Preachers said the body of the boy was found Saturday.
WTVM-TV reports that four individuals from the same vehicle were rescued earlier in the same area.
The discovery raises the death toll in the Southeast from recent storms to 19. Ten people died in Mississippi, and six died in Tennessee. One person was killed in Arkansas.
———
1:15 p.m.
Heavy rain has pushed creeks and rivers out of their banks in Missouri, forcing closures of several roadways, including a portion of Interstate 70.
The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings Sunday for sections of eastern, central and southwest Missouri, where three to six inches of rain fell during the weekend, and up to four inches more of rain was expected through Monday.
The Missouri Department of Transportation reported on its website that an eastbound section of I-70 in St. Charles County was closed Sunday afternoon because of water over the roadway. The department says several county roads were also closed because of flooding.
Earlier in the day on I-70 outside of St. Louis, vehicles were backed up for miles as motorists eased their way through high water.
———
12:35 p.m.
Whiteout conditions and snow drifts have closed some highways in the Texas Panhandle, while historic snowfall totals are expected in nearby New Mexico.
Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Braun tells the Amarillo Globe-News that crews are doing what they can to plow the drifts, but that they “go through and it blows it right back.”
Parts of Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas, and into Santa Rosa, New Mexico, were shut Sunday. Nearly 10,000 Excel Energy customers, most of them Amarillo, have been without power. High winds are blamed for knocking over utility poles and power lines.
Amarillo received only about 3 inches of snow overnight but high winds have caused 3- to 4-foot drifts. Forecasts are calling for another 4 to 8 inches of snow and winds gusting to 50 miles an hour. Albuquerque, New Mexico, has received about 6 inches of snow.
———
12:05 p.m.
Forecasters say two tornadoes that hit the Dallas area had winds up to more than 200 mph.
National Weather Service teams are still surveying damage from Saturday's storms that left at least 11 people dead and injured dozens.
The weather service said the tornado in the suburb of Garland has been rated an EF-4. That's the second-most powerful tornado on the damage scale used by meteorologists and is generally strong enough to level well-constructed homes and toss cars.
Authorities in Garland say at least eight people were killed in 15 injured in storms on Saturday night. About 600 homes were also destroyed.
The weather service also said damage in nearby Rowlett indicated it was likely an EF-3 tornado, which has winds up to 165 mph. City officials said 23 people were injured by the storm.
——
11:25 a.m.
A southern Illinois coroner says three adults and two children have drowned after the vehicle they were riding in was swept away and sank in a rain-swollen creek.
Marion County Coroner Troy Cannon says the swift moving East Fork Creek carried the car off a low-water bridge about 7:30 p.m. Saturday near the town of Patoka, about 60 miles east of St. Louis.
The car became lodged 150 to 200 feet downstream, but shortly after the first firefighter arrived on the scene it was dislodged and sank.
Cannon says dive teams recovered the car from the water several hours later and the bodies of the victims from the car.
The names of the victims were not immediately released. Cannon says the vehicle was traveling from Kentucky to Minnesota.
———
11:20 a.m.
Witnesses say drivers appeared to abandon their cars along a Texas interstate where authorities say a tornado thrashed an area of 2 square miles outside Dallas and left at least three people dead.
Zach Shirley said Sunday that bumper-to-bumper traffic clogged Interstate 30 near an intersection where police say some cars appeared to be thrown from the road.
The 34-year-old said he spent nearly eight hours on the interstate, on which he got on after the tornado, and considered leaving his car and walking to his apartment.
Shirley said he was humbled to find out that where he lived was spared.
At least 11 people died in severe weather that damaged hundreds of homes around Dallas and shut down roads the day after Christmas.
———
10:55 a.m.
Forecasters say the threat of severe weather is likely over for the Dallas area, where at least 11 people were killed from storms that spawned tornadoes and wreaked havoc on roadways.
National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Bishop said Sunday that more rain and plunging temperatures are on the way. A slow-moving cold front could also bring flooding and damaging winds farther east of the overnight destruction that knocked out power to thousands and crumpled hundreds of homes.
Forecasters say the weekend storms put the annual rainfall at DFW International Airport above five feet for the first time in recorded history.
Two survey teams were headed out Sunday to assess the strength and number of tornadoes that socked the area Saturday night.
——
9 a.m.
New Mexico residents are dealing with a snowstorm that has crippled parts of the state and caused traffic accidents and road closures.
In Albuquerque, police say officers responded to 178 weather-related accidents by 9:30 p.m. Saturday. About 58 involved people with injuries.
Officials also shut down a stretch of Interstate 40 leading to the Texas border because of hazardous driving conditions.
Police spokesman Fred Duran says hotels along I-40 were full and had to turn people away.
The National Weather Service says it is expecting historic snowfall totals and that snow drifts more than 7 feet high have been reported.
———
9:30 a.m.
A neighborhood in a community northeast of Dallas where 23 people were injured is cleaning up from an apparent tornado.
Dale Vermurlen lives in a Rowlett neighborhood that sustained heavy damage. His house only had minor damage, but was next to that were flattened.
He said he rode out the storm with his two dogs in the bathroom.
Homes in the neighborhood that had been searched by emergency responders were marked with a black “X.” State troopers had blocked off roads, utility crews were restoring power and people were walking around, hushed and dazed.
Rowlett has a 24-hour curfew in the affected areas, which Thunderberg says took a direct hit from the tornado.
At least 11 people died during the storms, but no deaths were reported in Rowlett.
———
8:55 a.m.
National Weather Service survey teams are heading out to the Dallas suburbs where tornadoes and strong storms that killed at least 11 people left widespread destruction.
Meteorologist Matt Bishop at the weather service's Fort Worth office says he believes there were multiple twisters but the number and strength aren't known yet. Teams have gathered in the continuing thunderstorms and rain.
Bishop says the tornado outbreak at this time of the year for North Texas occurs “from time to time ... but it's certainly not something that happens regularly.”
In far West Texas, up to four inches of snow has fallen overnight in the Alpine area, with foot-deep drifts reported.
———
7:35 a.m.
Garland Police Lt. Pedro Barineau said at least three people who died were found in vehicles.
He also said that some cars appeared to be thrown from Interstate 30 and George Bush Turnpike when the tornado hit about 6:45 p.m. Saturday. It wasn't known whether that was the case for the people found in the vehicles.
Eight people died and 15 were injured in Garland, which is about 20 miles northeast of Dallas. That death toll went up by three since Saturday night.
About 600 structures were damaged, the majority of which were single-family homes. Barineau said that it's “total devastation.”
At least 11 people have died in Texas due to the storms.
———
7:15 a.m.
Eight people have died and 15 people were injured in Garland in a destructive tornado.
Garland Police Lt. Pedro Barineau said in a Sunday morning news conference that the death toll rose by three people since Saturday night, when a tornado struck.
He said about 600 structures were damaged, the majority of which were single-family homes.
He said that they're still addressing the total amount of damage.
Barineau said the tornado's path was 2 square miles.
———
7:05 a.m.
Rowlett City Manager Brian Funderburk says 23 people were injured and “huge amounts of damage” from a tornado is widespread but concentrated in southern part of the city.
Rowlett has a 24-hour curfew in the affected areas, which Thunderberg says took a direct hit from the tornado. It isn't known the strength of the tornado's winds.
The extent of the injuries are not known, and officials said there are no reports of missing people.
Rowlett is about 20 miles northeast of Dallas.
Officials also say there were reports of looting overnight.
———
6:08 a.m.
A fifth person has been confirmed dead in vehicle accidents near the intersection of two major highways in Garland, east of Dallas.
Officer Joe Harn, a Garland police spokesman, said Sunday morning the five were killed in accidents that occurred during a massive storm, but it's unclear if all five were in the same vehicle or how they died.
A tornado is reported to have gone through the suburb east of Dallas, damaging several homes.
———
11:15 p.m.
Three more people are confirmed dead from the storms near Dallas, the latest fatalities located in Collin County.
Sheriff's Deputy Chris Havey gave no other details of the deaths.
Collin County is about 45 miles northeast of Dallas.
The fatalities in Collin County bring to seven the number of confirmed deaths from a series of storms that spawned tornadoes after dark on Saturday evening.
———
9:30 p.m.
Four people are confirmed killed in vehicle accidents near the intersection of two major highways in Garland, east of Dallas.
Officer Joe Harn, a Garland police spokesman, said Saturday night the four were killed in accidents that occurred during a massive storm, but it's unclear if all four were in the same vehicle or how they died.
A tornado is reported to have gone through the suburb east of Dallas, damaging several homes.
Harn says there are no active rescues underway, though first responders continue to search houses for anyone trapped after the storms passed.
———
8:30 p.m.
An official with the Dallas County Sheriff's office says deputies are responding to damages caused by a tornado east of Dallas, including a trailer park ablaze.
Spokeswoman Melinda Urbina said while several emergency teams had been dispatched to Sunnyvale, just east of the Dallas city limits, following reports of trailers on fire and possible injuries in a mobile home park.
Urbina said the extent of the damage was still uncertain but that nearby roads had been shut due to debris and that the damage to the homes was likely extensive enough to render some “inhabitable.” The Red Cross was also responding to the scene, she said, and trees were down.
———
7:05 p.m.
The emergency manager for a county south of Dallas says some homes have been destroyed and damaged during a fierce storm that spawned tornadoes in the area.
Stephanie Parker is the emergency manager for Ellis County, which is about 30 miles south of Dallas. She posted on twitter: “We have destroyed and damaged homes. Please do not get out on the roads if you do not have to.”
The National Weather Service in Fort Worth confirmed that a tornado touched down south of Dallas earlier this evening. No other details of damage were immediately available.
———
6:30 p.m.
The National Weather Service says a tornado was on the ground south of Dallas.
There were no immediate reports of damage, but National Weather Service Meteorologist Anthony Bain in Fort Worth says that the tornado was confirmed by numerous people on the ground and with video. It was located near the town of Duncanville around Interstate 20.
The tornado's trajectory was headed toward downtown Dallas but WFAA television said that it appeared to have lifted off the ground at it moved north.
———
6:10 p.m.
The National Weather Service says the Dallas area is under a tornado warning until 6:45 p.m.
An Associated Press reporter says warning sirens went off in the downtown area of Dallas.
At Love Field, a major airport in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the public address system warned people to move away from windows in the concourse area.
———
4:30 p.m.
Inmates from an Alabama correctional facility were evacuated as a precaution to potential flooding caused by the recent heavy rainfall.
Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Horton says 336 inmates were evacuated from the Red Eagle Community Work Center around 12:30 a.m. Saturday. Horton says the inmates were cooperative and moved to three state correctional facilities in Elmore County.
Red Eagle is a minimum security correctional facility and is located three miles north of Montgomery near the Tallapoosa River.
The National Weather Service says the river had exceeded a flood stage of 25 feet to 33.5 feet by 8 a.m. Saturday. The NWS has extended the flood warning for the area until Monday afternoon.
———
4 p.m.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley praised efforts to restore and improve the levee system while touring the town of Elba, which was affected by flooding.
Bentley visited the town in southern Alabama on Saturday and stopped in at Elba Elementary, where people had taken shelter from the flood waters. He says the levees are expected to withstand the river crest.
The tiny, flood-prone Alabama town was underwater in 1929, which led to the constructions of levees for protection. The city flooded again in 1990 when rising waters overwhelmed levees and again in 1998 when a levee failed under pressure from flood waters.
Bentley declared a state of emergency Friday amid widespread flash flooding that follows several days of intense weather throughout the Southeast.
———
1:30 p.m.
Mississippi's death toll from this week's storms has climbed to 10.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn confirms two bodies were found Saturday morning in Benton County. He says the bodies were those of two people authorities had been searching for since tornadoes touched down Wednesday.
Further details on where or how the bodies were discovered were not immediately available.
Unseasonably warm temperatures across the southeastern U.S. this week spawned severe weather blamed for deaths in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. A total of 17 people have been killed.
———
1 p.m.
Volunteers are distributing sandbags in the town of Elba, Alabama, as flooding remained a major concern after severe storms battered the state.
James Brown of the Coffee County Emergency Management Agency says volunteers distributed sandbags in Elba, where the Pea River was projected to crest Saturday at 43 feet, about a foot below the levees that protect the area.
Brown says while that height was much too for much comfort, so far the levees were holding.
Emergency officials issued a voluntary evacuation order for the flood-prone community.
About 17 people took safety in a county shelter. Brown said that, according to estimates, more than 100 structures appear to have water damage.
Gov. Robert Bentley will tour the area later in the day.
———
11:30 a.m.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley will tour areas in his state damaged by floods a day after declaring a state of emergency in all counties affected by excessive rain.
The governor's office said in a statement that nearly 200 roads in the state are closed due to flooding.
Bentley will visit, among other places, Elba Elementary School, where dozens of flood victims took shelter Friday night.
Unseasonably warm temperatures across the southeastern U.S. this week spawned severe weather blamed for deaths in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. A total of 15 people were killed.
———
9:20 a.m.
The Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles are bracing for what National Weather Service forecasters are calling a “historic blizzard.”
Between 6 to 15 inches of snow are in the forecast for the region, which includes Amarillo and Lubbock. High winds will drive wind chills as low as 10 below zero and cause low visibility due to blowing and drifting snow.
The blizzard warning for the region takes effect at 6 p.m. Saturday and runs through noon Monday.
Other parts of Texas and Oklahoma, including El Paso, are under winter storm warnings, while North Texas, central Oklahoma and central Kansas are under a winter storm watch.
Widespread rain has prompted flash flood watches in eastern Texas, eastern Oklahoma, most of Arkansas, central and southern Missouri and Illinois and central Indiana.
———
9:45 a.m.
The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for parts of northern Alabama following days of heavy rain and severe weather.
The NWS says moderate flooding is occurring and major flooding is forecast for Big Nance Creek, which runs through the town of Courtland in northern Alabama. The area is about 40 miles east of Huntsville. The creek is not expected to fall below flood stage until early Monday.
A flood warning was also in effect for the Coosa River, swollen by up to 8 inches of rain over the past week. The biggest town threatened by the rise in the Coosa is Gadsden in northeastern Alabama.
The NWS is warning drivers to stay off roads in areas where flooding is expected.
32083
December 28th, 2015
University of Alabama Honors college to expand program - The University of Alabama Honors College is expanding its education outreach program beginning in 2016.
Education Outreach pairs Honors College mentors with underprivileged students in the Tuscaloosa County and Tuscaloosa City school systems to provide them with guidance and positive influence.
Some 265 Honors College students participate in three mentoring initiatives: a literacy program for elementary students; a character development program for middle school students; and a science, technology, engineering, arts and math program for pre-kindergarten children.
By the start of the spring 2016 semester, the number of student volunteers is expected to increase to more than 400 as the program adds more schools to its scope and doubles the number of shifts during which mentors work with children. The program is estimated to reach some 1,000 children a week next year.
32082
December 28th, 2015
Donald Trump set to campaign Jan. 2 in Biloxi - BILOXI, Miss. — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is scheduled to campaign just after the New Year on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Trump’s website says he will appear at 7 p.m. Jan. 2 at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi. Tickets are available online.
Mississippi’s presidential primaries are March 8.
Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are among the Republican presidential candidates who have already appeared in the state.
32081
December 28th, 2015
Introductory wellness class offered at Tuscaloosa Public Library - A health and wellness coach will offer an introductory class just in time for New Year's resolutions.
The free class will be held at the Tuscaloosa Public Library, 1801 Jack Warner Parkway NE, on at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 8 in the Rotary Room.
Coach Kiersten Ellis said she wants to get people thinking about their health, not only diet and exercise, but spiritual, mental and financial health, too.
The class will introduce participants to what health and wellness coaching, how it works and how they can become a client.
Ellis said people can rely on a health and wellness coach for support and a resource for health information to those seeking a lasting lifestyle change.
Those who participate in the class will be offered a free first session with Ellis.
32080
December 28th, 2015
Outdoor ice rink at Holidays on the River will be closed Monday - Because of the weekend storms and warmer-than-usual temperatures Holidays on the River will remain closed Monday.
The outdoor skating rink at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, 2710 Jack Warner Parkway NE, is scheduled to re-open Tuesday. The rink is scheduled to continue through Jan. 18.
For more information, check the Holidays on the River page on Facebook or follow @TuscaloosaHOTR on Twitter.
32079
December 28th, 2015
Looking Back: December 28 - The St. Francis Apartments building on the northwest corner of Greensboro Avenue and 12th Street awaited the wrecking ball. The building was being razed to make way for a new federal courthouse and office building.
Two Tuscaloosa postal employees with a total of 78 years of service retired: Russell E. Bell, superintendent of the downtown station, and Jesse F. Pugh, a city letter carrier.
Nebraska coach Bob Devaney said his players were sluggish and should eat less and stay out of the water for the next couple of days as they prepared to meet Alabama in the Orange Bowl. Crimson Tide coach Paul “Bear” Bryant allowed his team more contact work than he usually permitted one of his bowl teams.
The first baby born in the New Year at Druid City Hospital was born to Mr. and Mrs. Billy Ray Crain of Peterson.
E.J. Shipp retired from the post office after delivering mail in the rural sections of north Tuscaloosa County for 45 years.
Alabama beat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl 39-28. Alabama’s blazing attack was triggered by quarterback Steve Sloan and flanker Ray Perkins in the first half and the tough running of Steve Bowman and Les Kelly in the second. Sloan had 20 pass completions in 29 tries for 296 yards and two touchdowns for an Orange Bowl record. Perkins caught nine, all in the first half for 159 yards, also an Orange Bowl record. “If anybody’s No. 1 now, I guess we’re it,” said coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
The Alabama Crimson Tide lost linebacker Spencer Hammond for the Fiesta Bowl; Hammond started all 11 games for the Tide this season. He suffered a torn posterior cruciate in his right knee in practice, according to coach Gene Stallings. However, Alabama had “a good week of preparation” for its appearance in the Fiesta Bowl against Louisville, Stallings said. Alabama would become the first SEC team to play in the 20-year-old Fiesta Bowl.
Alabama suffered an embarrassing loss in the Fiesta Bowl 34-7. Sports editor Cecil Hurt said, “What had been bad for Alabama all year – the offense – remained bad. What had been good – the defense, the kicking of Philip Doyle and the indomitable spirit – went bad as well.” It was not the worst bowl loss in Alabama history; Nebraska demolished the Tide 38-6 in the 1971 Orange Bowl.
Stillman College received a renewed accreditation for 10 years from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The largest ongoing project in West Alabama was the new Oliver Lock and Dam on the Warrior River at Tuscaloosa which was started in 1987. Officials expected it to be in use by the summer.
More than a half-million dollars in restitution for bad checks was collected for local merchants during 1990 through the Tuscaloosa County District Attorney’s Worthless Check Unit.
Phase IV of the Riverwalk project was complete.
The City Council formed a Pre-Kindergarten Program Task Force that would examine the system’s current preschool offerings for at-risk students and its funding resources.
A proposal that included the installation and proposed funding for a sprinkler system for Clara Verner Tower offered optimism that the facility could remain open.
In a robbery attempt at the Raceway on McFarland, one of two suspects who allegedly entered and demanded money was fatally shot by the store clerk.
Sister Cities International selected former Mayor Alvin DuPont for the Sister Cities International 50th Anniversary Local Government Leadership Circle. DuPont was nominated as a tribute to his years in office and his role in establishing good and lasting international friendships in Tuscaloosa.
Deaths this week included Tommye Rose, 84, former first lady of UA.
The Crimson Tide took the Cotton Bowl with the game winning kick by Jamie Christensen 13-10. His 45-yard field goal -- the longest of his college career – was kicked as time expired to lift the 13th-ranked Alabama to victory over No. 18 Texas Tech.
A six-month $2.6 million renovation of Northport’s City Hall and Civic Center was almost complete.
A Tuscaloosa County family with pending charges of violence and drug use spent Christmas weekend in jail on methamphetamine-related charges after deputies serving a warrant to one of them for failing to appear in juvenile court saw a backpack being tossed from an upstairs window. The backpack contained items commonly used to manufacture methamphetamine.
Deaths this week included Floyd Rayford Cook, a former Perry County probate judge, at 85, and former Fayette police chief Sam Black at 50.
Nearly a month of promoting the Charmin brand by dressing up like a giant roll of toilet paper paid off for Iris Hill, a 29-year-old Tuscaloosa native. She earned the title of 2010 Queen of Charmin in the finals in New York City. Hill was presented a check for $50,000.
No. 15 Alabama rolled over No. 7 Michigan State 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl.
Deaths this week included Donald ‘Squeaky’ Fuller, 72. Fuller, who was born mentally disabled, was a fixture around the University of Alabama athletics department where his birthday parties were widely attended.
Andy Benton of Fosters was named the 2014 Tuscaloosa Farmer of the year. Benton owns a 240-acre sod farm and has been farming since 1990.
The director of the Tuscaloosa Public Library, Mary Elizabeth Harper, resigned her position following employee complaints that preceded her leave of absence a month before.
In a disappointing end to a great UA football season, the Crimson Tide lost to Ohio State 42-35 in the Sugar Bowl. Ohio State advanced to the national championship game.
Compiled by retired News librarian Betty Slowe.
32078
December 28th, 2015
Street lights set to return to Alberta bridge soon - Street lights along the University Boulevard bridge in Alberta are expected to return next month.
Last week, the Tuscaloosa City Council's public projects committee approved the replacement of the lights that were removed during the bridge's replacement earlier this year.
"It came to my attention about how extremely dark it was and it's very dangerous — especially for pedestrians walking across the bridge," said Councilman Kip Tyner, who represents the area.
Tyner said he inquired about the light replacement about three weeks ago and is pleased to see their approval come so quickly.
Tera Tubbs, the city's director of transportation, said there will be no up-front costs to the city for the replacement of the six street lights on the bridge.
The only costs to the city will be the monthly electric bill associated with their use.
The City Council is expected to grant approval of the light replacement next month. Alabama Power should install them shortly thereafter, Tubbs said.
Work began in December 2014 on the $6.8 million project to replace the bridge, which spans 19th Avenue and links east Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama campus and the downtown area.
Construction was expected to take a year to complete, but Ikaros LLC, the contractor hired by the Alabama Department of Transportation to do the work, opened the bridge to traffic in November.
Despite a lack of a formal ceremony, motorists lined up to be first across the new bridge hours before its scheduled opening. Many honked horns and shouted their appreciation to the contractors who stood watching in amazement at the response.
When the bridge project was originally unveiled in January 2011, ALDOT officials said the construction would be timed to begin and end outside of the college football season.
But the destructive tornado that struck the city on April 27, 2011, affected some areas in the bridge replacement plan and forced several years of delays.
The new bridge has 11- to 12-foot lanes with a 10-foot sidewalk on the north side and a 5-foot sidewalk on the south side. The work also included resurfacing University Boulevard between Seventh Avenue East and 21st Avenue East on both sides of the bridge.
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
32077
December 28th, 2015
Harrison Taylor to be chairman of West Alabama Regional Commission board - For the next year, Tuscaloosa City Council President Harrison Taylor will be thinking about more than just the city.
Taylor has been elected chairman of the board of directors of the West Alabama Regional Commission, which is one of 12 regional councils that serve the state.
According to the group's website, warc.info, the councils serve local governments and residents through the coordination of regional projects and services.
The councils also work to promote cooperation among local governments and oversee state and federal programs on a regional basis.
“I'm honored thankful and blessed for the support, confidence and trust that the executive director, board of directors and the staff of the West Alabama Regional Commission have in me to serve and work as chairman of this organization,” Taylor said. “As council president for 10 years – and three years of serving on the executive board of the Alabama League of Municipalities – I'm confident that the experience of these positions has prepared me for the task and I'm looking forward to the challenge ahead.”
The West Alabama area is designated Planning District 2, or Region 2, and includes seven counties (Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Pickens and Tuscaloosa) with almost 40 towns and cities.
The council is governed by an executive committee and a board of directors and receives its funds from a number of sources, including federal grants and a yearly appropriation from the state, the website said.
The scope of the council's work includes economic and community development, transportation planning, nutrition and assistance programs for the elderly, a part-time employment program for low income seniors and tourism promotion, among others.
It's also charged with providing public information, and the group's website contains updated contact information for the elected and public officials throughout its member towns, cities and counties.
Taylor said he had no specific goals in mind for the following year, but said he wants to assure those in the smaller, more rural areas of the West Alabama region that they are included in the decision-making process for the future of the area.
“We want to make sure we're working with these counties and small towns,” Taylor said. “I hope I can take it to another level, but so far everything is going great.”
Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.
32076
December 28th, 2015
University of Alabama experts offer predictions for 2016 -
For the 35th year, faculty at the University of Alabama offer educated guesses for the upcoming year ranging from politics to restaurant trends.
In the latest installment, the prognosticators offer predictions for the 2016 general election, coal-fired power, Medicaid in Alabama and the future of aerial delivery drones.
Regulations, cheap natural gas mean no return to coal
Electric utility providers will continue using natural gas to replace coal-fired power generation in 2016 as a result of cheap natural gas and government environmental regulations, predicts Jason Bara, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering. “It’s the easiest and most cost-effective way to significantly reduce emissions in the near term while utilizing existing infrastructure,” he said. “Solar, wind, renewables and, perhaps most importantly, energy efficiency will also play increasingly major roles moving forward. ‘Cleaner’ coal, in the form of CCUS (carbon capture, utilization and sequestration) technologies are still actively under development, but until/unless they are proven and deployed at large scales, coal will be in a prolonged hibernation in the U.S.”
Hillary Clinton will be first female president
Richard Fording, chair of the political science department, predicts Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be easily elected in November as the first woman to win the presidency. Donald Trump will make a strong run for the Republican nomination, but eventually the Republican establishment will rally around one candidate, with Marco Rubio being the most likely.
Aerial delivery drones a step closer to landing on your doorstep
Package delivery by drones will become closer to reality as regulations for the small unmanned aircraft are formalized and testing moves to restricted outdoor areas, according to a prediction by Paul Hubner, associate professor of aerospace engineering and mechanics. “Santa’s job security for next year is OK, but, in 2017, he will have some competition in delivering small presents in limited areas,” Hubner said.
States likely to ease restrictions for online fantasy sports
Most states will move toward more gambling-friendly stances -- loosening restrictions rather than tightening them -- regarding sports betting and various types of fantasy sports play by the end of 2016, said professor Andrew Billings, UA’s Ronald Reagan Chair of Broadcasting.
GOP retains control of Congress
Political science professor Stephen Borrelli predicts Republicans will retain control of the House and Senate in the 2016 elections, as national security concerns, continued effects of the 2010 redistricting, and relatively low turnout will thwart chances of a Democratic comeback.
Reports of cyber attacks will increase
Cyber attacks worldwide are likely to increase in 2016 as Internet connectivity rates grow, said assistant professor of criminal justice Diana Dolliver. The increasing rates will likely be a combination of an increase in the number of attackers and an improving rate of the reporting of cybercrimes. The new year will also likely see continued development and discussion of cyber-related legislation.
Push to expand Medicaid in Alabama
Alabama residents will push their state lawmakers to new and critical conversations about expanding Medicaid coverage when their own communities are affected by the loss of local hospitals, health care access and related jobs and industry, predicts Lea Yerby, assistant professor of community and rural medicine in the College of Community Health Sciences. Currently, 139,000 Alabamians are without insurance.
More fast casual, less GMO at restaurants
The fast-food industry will continue its transformation toward a “fast casual” atmosphere with improved food quality and increasing “build your own” combo options, predicts Sheena Quizon Gregg, a registered dietitian and assistant director in the department of health promotion and wellness. Formal restaurants will emphasize more authentic ethnic cuisine, and many restaurants will continue to move toward suppliers of non-genetically modified foods.
In-state jobs to increase by 1 percent
Alabama’s economy will grow and total payrolls will increase by about 1 percent, adding as many as 30,000 jobs, predicts Ahmad Ijaz, director of economic forecasting in the Center for Business and Economic Research. Most new jobs will be in accommodation and food services, administrative support, waste management, health care and social assistance-related services.
32075
December 28th, 2015
High expectations: City schools' strategic plan targets curriculum, training - This is the second of three-part series looking at Tuscaloosa City Schools' new strategic plan.
The curriculum component of the Tuscaloosa City Schools' new integrated curriculum facilities analysis demographic strategic plan calls for a complete academic culture shift in the form of high expectations for both students and educators.
The total budget for the plan’s stated curriculum improvements is an estimated $4.2 million.
“What I really hope we get out of this is a broad overview that we can create a culture where we do a better job in making us a stronger learning organization,” said Superintendent Paul McKendrick. “Selection of staff makes a difference, leadership in the building makes a difference, professional development makes a difference and what our expectations are makes a difference.
“What will make us better is how we follow through on that – high expectations. I’m hoping all these trainings we have get us to the point of having high expectations that we hold people accountable for.”
McKendrick said though they plan on holding principals and teachers more accountable for student performance, it doesn’t mean they plan on firing and reprimanding them more.
“We want to grow our teachers into great teachers and create that process as a system versus improvement being dependent on what I do as a superintendent,” he said.
“We’ll create supportive and positive cultures that can be easily sustained instead of putting programs in place to make up for things that are lacking.”
The process of implementing high expectations in the system will come in the form of a list of non-negotiables that educators will be expected to follow.
McKendrick said this will ensure that every student graduating fifth grade in the system knows the same thing. It will eliminate a fifth-grader at one school knowing more than a fifth-grader at another school.
Teachers will receive professional development to help them meet these expectations. The training will focus on teaching them standards-based instruction, culturally-responsive teaching and project-based instruction to meet system-wide initiatives.
Teacher progress in this area will be measured with a formative and summative teacher evaluation standard.
The plan’s budgeted allocation for this is $420,000.
The number of students proficient in reading in third grade, according to the system’s 2014-2015 ACT Aspire standardized test results, was up from the previous year. But only 33.9 percent of school system's third-graders read at that grade level so much improvement is needed.
To make those improvements, the plan calls for a system-wide focus on literacy and writing.
All teachers will receive professional development so that they’re more proficient at teaching reading in all grades, not just grade school. The Summer Bridge program – a summer enrichment and remediation program – will also help to meet that goal, McKendrick said.
The budget for the Summer Bridge program is an estimated $150,000.
Another way that the curriculum component of the plan states it will improve students’ academic performance is by identifying priority schools and providing addition support and resources to them.
Priority schools are schools that are low-performing. Schools that qualify as priority will be designated as such through attendance that’s been below 95 percent on consecutive monthly reports, numerous students referred to the system’s behavior improvement programs, low academic performance, high turnover rate for employees and high student poverty rates.
The support and resources priority schools would receive include teachers at the school receiving targeted professional development and exemplary teachers such as National Board Certified teachers being placed there.
Exemplary teachers who agree to work at priority schools will be eligible to take part in the employee incentive program, which will offer them a bonus of $10,000 paid over three years in exchange for a minimum three-year commitment to teach at the priority school they’re assigned to. The bonus would be renewed every three years.
The budget for the priority school initiatives is an estimated $1 million.
McKendrick said the number of English-as-a-second-language students in the system is steadily increasing. To help those students succeed, the school system will provide additional resources such as three additional education specialists who can help students.
The budget for the second-language learners support is an estimated $200,000.
Some other additional curriculum improvements include:
• Auditing Tuscaloosa Career & Technology Academy courses and re-establishing the school’s advisory committee.
• Changing the school calendar to allow time for professional development days, parent conferences, extra time for reading and math instruction at priority schools.
• Providing supplemental instructional materials for teachers such as textbooks, science materials, art supplies, level readers, supplemental materials and novels at a cost of $500,000.
• Completing the system’s digital transformation through professional development and hiring technology instructional staff at a cost of $1,078,000.
• Providing students participating in after-school programs with free meals.
• Providing materials for after-school and enrichment programs such as Leader In Me and garden projects a cost of $75,000.
32074
December 28th, 2015
The Latest: Officials say 600 homes damaged in Dallas suburb - The latest developments on the severe storms across the U.S. (all times local):
7:15 p.m.
Authorities surveying damage from tornadoes in North Texas say there may be as many as 600 homes with damage in the Dallas suburb of Rowlett.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a statement Sunday evening that damage figures could change. He says assessments are ongoing but have been delayed due to rain.
The new figure brings the total estimate of damaged homes in Texas to as many as 1,450.
A 24-hour curfew has been established for Rowlett in the affected areas. Jenkins’ statement says only residents and emergency personnel will be allowed access.
Nearby Garland was also hit by a tornado that killed eight people and left 15 injured. Police there said in a Sunday night statement that an initial search of impacted areas had concluded with no additional victims found.
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7 p.m.
Oklahoma’s emergency management officials say hospitals are reporting that eight people have suffered storm-related injuries as severe weather and a blizzard pound the state. The nature of the injuries wasn’t immediately known.
The Emergency Management Department says that as snow and high winds hammer western Oklahoma, warming stations have been set up at churches and other locations. The state Corporation Commission says 60,000 homes and business have lost electricity.
Travel is discouraged. Roads are slick and plunging temperatures will turn any water remaining on the roads into ice in western Oklahoma.
Officials in Altus, in the southwest corner of the state, have asked people to conserve water because of a power outage at a reservoir.
Counties statewide are reporting flooding from heavy rains.
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6:30 p.m.
Officials in southern Arkansas say it appears a tornado touched down in Bearden as a severe weather system rolled into the region.
There were no reports of injuries after the storm struck Sunday afternoon. Ouachita (WASH-ih-taw) County Sheriff David Norwood told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper that a twister appeared to touch down in a four-block area along Main Street. He said the storm took roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and shattered storefront windows.
Norwood said streets into the area have been blocked to keep out looters.
Little Rock television station KATV reported that damage was also reported in Nevada County in southern Arkansas, also near Hampton, and television station KTHV reported that emergency workers had to rescue a number of people from water after heavy rains inundated northern Arkansas.
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6 p.m.
Missouri’s governor has declared a state of emergency because of widespread flooding that has led to at least eight fatalities.
Gov. Jay Nixon’s office said in a release Sunday that weekend flooding has led to eight deaths, dozens of water rescues and evacuations. More flooding is expected while river levels continue rising around the state.
Several roadways have also been closed because of flooding, including a section of Interstate 70 outside St. Louis.
Nixon says the state’s emergency plan has been activated, allowing state agencies to coordinate with local authorities to provide emergency services.
In Pulaski County, authorities said six people died after vehicles they were in were swept away by floodwaters. Greene County authorities also said two fatalities there were associated with the recent flooding.
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5 p.m.
Nearly all of Interstate 40 in Texas, the main east-west highway through the state’s Panhandle, has been shut because of a snowstorm pummeling the area.
The Texas Department of Public Safety says only a small section of the highway within Amarillo remains open. Otherwise, nearly all the 178-mile stretch is shut down.
The section west of Amarillo was closed earlier Sunday. Texas State Trooper Cindy Barkley said Sunday evening that deteriorating conditions have forced authorities to also indefinitely close the highway for about 100 miles east of Amarillo to Oklahoma.
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4:40 p.m.
Reports from local officials show as many as 1,000 homes in the Dallas area were damaged or destroyed by tornadoes and heavy storms that killed at least 11 people.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state officials on Sunday would not commit to an estimated number of buildings destroyed, families displaced or even casualties. They cautioned that rescue teams are still assessing the damage and sifting through toppled structures.
But numbers reported by local officials suggest a grim tally of destruction. The worst hit was Garland, where meteorologists say a powerful EF-4 tornado tore through the suburb. Wind gusts for tornadoes on that scale exceed 200 mph.
At least 600 homes were damaged in Garland and more than 100 were impacted farther to the south in Ellis County.
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3:45 p.m.
Garland Mayor Douglas Athas says on his official Facebook page that search teams are still looking through the rubble from an EF-4 tornado.
He said Sunday that search teams would work until they check every building and car. Utility crews were also working to restore power, and about 40 people remained in an emergency shelter.
Athas said he was proud of the city’s “preparedness” and its emergency personnel. He also thanked everyone who’d offered to volunteer and donate.
Officials have said 11 people died in the tornado in Garland, a large suburb of Dallas, and 15 people were injured.
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3:35 p.m.
Authorities in south-central Missouri say at least seven people have died due to flooding.
Pulaski County Sheriff Ronald Long said Sunday that six people died in two separate overnight incidents when two cars drove into flooded roadways.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol told KYTV that authorities recovered the body of a driver from a creek in Greene County in southwest Missouri on Sunday.
Also in the southwest part of the state, Barry County emergency officials say crews rescued people from 29 vehicles stranded by rising waters, and several other people had to be evacuated from homes.
The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings Sunday for much of Missouri, where three to six inches of rain fell during the weekend, and up to four inches more of rain was expected through Monday.
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3:30 p.m.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is warning that the number of victims from a deadly outbreak of storms and tornadoes in the Dallas area could still rise.
Abbott made disaster declarations for four counties on Sunday following the severe weather that killed at least 11 people. He said there have been reports of as many as a dozen tornadoes around North Texas, but meteorologists were still working to confirm how many touched down.
Abbott said the state was not yet committing to a total number of casualties because rescue crews were still searching through rubble and destroyed homes.
He declared disasters in Dallas, Collin, Rockwall and Ellis counties and warned that roads across Texas remain in “perilous” condition because of plunging temperatures and continuing rainfall.
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2:20 p.m.
Oklahoma is seeing a range of precipitation, from blowing and drifting snow in the Panhandle to heavy, flood-inducing rains in the east part of the state.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Kurtz said it’s hard to measure how much snow has fallen in the Panhandle because of 40 to 60 mph winds. That’s causing 1- to 2-foot snow drifts, even with a couple inches of snow on the ground.
In central Oklahoma, including Oklahoma City, a mixture of rain, sleet and freezing rain tapered off Sunday afternoon. But Kurtz said up to four inches of snow was in the forecast for Monday.
Eastern Oklahoma saw heavy rainfall and flooding. At least 11 counties had roads and bridges that were closed due to flooding. The far northeastern Oklahoma town of Tahlequah had logged more than 9 inches of rainfall.
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2:15 p.m.
The body of a motorist has been found in a water-swollen creek in southwestern Missouri.
KYTV (http://bit.ly/22tL9Oy ) reports that authorities recovered the body of a driver from a creek in Greene County. Officials haven’t released the person’s identity or circumstances of the death.
The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings on Sunday for eastern, central and southwest Missouri, where three to six inches of rain fell during the weekend, and up to four inches more of rain was expected through Monday.
The Missouri Department of Transportation reports an eastbound section of I-70 in St. Charles County and several other roadways around the state were closed because of flooding.
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2:05 p.m.
The Texas Department of Public Safety in Amarillo is strongly discouraging all travel throughout the entire Texas Panhandle because blowing and drifting snow had made the roads impassable. That’s a 26-county area covering nearly 26,000 square miles.
Trooper Cindy Barkley said more than 20 motorists have been stranded by 8- to 10-foot-high snow drifts along highways U.S. 60 and U.S. 70 in Parmer County. The county is about 80 miles southwest of Amarillo along the Texas-New Mexico state line.
She said crews are trying to plow the roads but the blowing snow is making the job difficult.
Authorities also say Interstate 40 west of Amarillo for about 50 miles to the New Mexico border will remain closed through the night.
New Mexico’s governor declared a state of emergency because of impassable roads. Roswell received between 14 and 18 inches of snow since Saturday afternoon, and 8 more inches were forecast.
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1:25 p.m.
Authorities in Alabama are attributing a second death in the state to severe weather that struck the Southeast last week.
Coffee County Coroner Robert Preachers says the body of a 22-year-old man was discovered Sunday morning. That man and a 5-year-old boy were in a vehicle that was swept away while attempting to cross a bridge near Jack, Alabama.
Preachers said the body of the boy was found Saturday.
WTVM-TV reports that four individuals from the same vehicle were rescued earlier in the same area.
The discovery raises the death toll in the Southeast from recent storms to 19. Ten people died in Mississippi, and six died in Tennessee. One person was killed in Arkansas.
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1:15 p.m.
Heavy rain has pushed creeks and rivers out of their banks in Missouri, forcing closures of several roadways, including a portion of Interstate 70.
The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings Sunday for sections of eastern, central and southwest Missouri, where three to six inches of rain fell during the weekend, and up to four inches more of rain was expected through Monday.
The Missouri Department of Transportation reported on its website that an eastbound section of I-70 in St. Charles County was closed Sunday afternoon because of water over the roadway. The department says several county roads were also closed because of flooding.
Earlier in the day on I-70 outside of St. Louis, vehicles were backed up for miles as motorists eased their way through high water.
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12:35 p.m.
Whiteout conditions and snow drifts have closed some highways in the Texas Panhandle, while historic snowfall totals are expected in nearby New Mexico.
Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Paul Braun tells the Amarillo Globe-News that crews are doing what they can to plow the drifts, but that they “go through and it blows it right back.”
Parts of Interstate 40 west of Amarillo, Texas, and into Santa Rosa, New Mexico, were shut Sunday. Nearly 10,000 Excel Energy customers, most of them Amarillo, have been without power. High winds are blamed for knocking over utility poles and power lines.
Amarillo received only about 3 inches of snow overnight but high winds have caused 3- to 4-foot drifts. Forecasts are calling for another 4 to 8 inches of snow and winds gusting to 50 miles an hour. Albuquerque, New Mexico, has received about 6 inches of snow.
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12:05 p.m.
Forecasters say two tornadoes that hit the Dallas area had winds up to more than 200 mph.
National Weather Service teams are still surveying damage from Saturday’s storms that left at least 11 people dead and injured dozens.
The weather service said the tornado in the suburb of Garland has been rated an EF-4. That’s the second-most powerful tornado on the damage scale used by meteorologists and is generally strong enough to level well-constructed homes and toss cars.
Authorities in Garland say at least eight people were killed in 15 injured in storms on Saturday night. About 600 homes were also destroyed.
The weather service also said damage in nearby Rowlett indicated it was likely an EF-3 tornado, which has winds up to 165 mph. City officials said 23 people were injured by the storm.
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11:25 a.m.
A southern Illinois coroner says three adults and two children have drowned after the vehicle they were riding in was swept away and sank in a rain-swollen creek.
Marion County Coroner Troy Cannon says the swift moving East Fork Creek carried the car off a low-water bridge about 7:30 p.m. Saturday near the town of Patoka, about 60 miles east of St. Louis.
The car became lodged 150 to 200 feet downstream, but shortly after the first firefighter arrived on the scene it was dislodged and sank.
Cannon says dive teams recovered the car from the water several hours later and the bodies of the victims from the car.
The names of the victims were not immediately released. Cannon says the vehicle was traveling from Kentucky to Minnesota.
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11:20 a.m.
Witnesses say drivers appeared to abandon their cars along a Texas interstate where authorities say a tornado thrashed an area of 2 square miles outside Dallas and left at least three people dead.
Zach Shirley said Sunday that bumper-to-bumper traffic clogged Interstate 30 near an intersection where police say some cars appeared to be thrown from the road.
The 34-year-old said he spent nearly eight hours on the interstate, on which he got on after the tornado, and considered leaving his car and walking to his apartment.
Shirley said he was humbled to find out that where he lived was spared.
At least 11 people died in severe weather that damaged hundreds of homes around Dallas and shut down roads the day after Christmas.
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10:55 a.m.
Forecasters say the threat of severe weather is likely over for the Dallas area, where at least 11 people were killed from storms that spawned tornadoes and wreaked havoc on roadways.
National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Bishop said Sunday that more rain and plunging temperatures are on the way. A slow-moving cold front could also bring flooding and damaging winds farther east of the overnight destruction that knocked out power to thousands and crumpled hundreds of homes.
Forecasters say the weekend storms put the annual rainfall at DFW International Airport above five feet for the first time in recorded history.
Two survey teams were headed out Sunday to assess the strength and number of tornadoes that socked the area Saturday night.
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9 a.m.
New Mexico residents are dealing with a snowstorm that has crippled parts of the state and caused traffic accidents and road closures.
In Albuquerque, police say officers responded to 178 weather-related accidents by 9:30 p.m. Saturday. About 58 involved people with injuries.
Officials also shut down a stretch of Interstate 40 leading to the Texas border because of hazardous driving conditions.
Police spokesman Fred Duran says hotels along I-40 were full and had to turn people away.
The National Weather Service says it is expecting historic snowfall totals and that snow drifts more than 7 feet high have been reported.
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9:30 a.m.
A neighborhood in a community northeast of Dallas where 23 people were injured is cleaning up from an apparent tornado.
Dale Vermurlen lives in a Rowlett neighborhood that sustained heavy damage. His house only had minor damage, but was next to that were flattened.
He said he rode out the storm with his two dogs in the bathroom.
Homes in the neighborhood that had been searched by emergency responders were marked with a black “X.” State troopers had blocked off roads, utility crews were restoring power and people were walking around, hushed and dazed.
Rowlett has a 24-hour curfew in the affected areas, which Thunderberg says took a direct hit from the tornado.
At least 11 people died during the storms, but no deaths were reported in Rowlett.
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8:55 a.m.
National Weather Service survey teams are heading out to the Dallas suburbs where tornadoes and strong storms that killed at least 11 people left widespread destruction.
Meteorologist Matt Bishop at the weather service’s Fort Worth office says he believes there were multiple twisters but the number and strength aren’t known yet. Teams have gathered in the continuing thunderstorms and rain.
Bishop says the tornado outbreak at this time of the year for North Texas occurs “from time to time ... but it’s certainly not something that happens regularly.”
In far West Texas, up to four inches of snow has fallen overnight in the Alpine area, with foot-deep drifts reported.
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7:35 a.m.
Garland Police Lt. Pedro Barineau said at least three people who died were found in vehicles.
He also said that some cars appeared to be thrown from Interstate 30 and George Bush Turnpike when the tornado hit about 6:45 p.m. Saturday. It wasn’t known whether that was the case for the people found in the vehicles.
Eight people died and 15 were injured in Garland, which is about 20 miles northeast of Dallas. That death toll went up by three since Saturday night.
About 600 structures were damaged, the majority of which were single-family homes. Barineau said that it’s “total devastation.”
At least 11 people have died in Texas due to the storms.
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7:15 a.m.
Eight people have died and 15 people were injured in Garland in a destructive tornado.
Garland Police Lt. Pedro Barineau said in a Sunday morning news conference that the death toll rose by three people since Saturday night, when a tornado struck.
He said about 600 structures were damaged, the majority of which were single-family homes.
He said that they’re still addressing the total amount of damage.
Barineau said the tornado’s path was 2 square miles.
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7:05 a.m.
Rowlett City Manager Brian Funderburk says 23 people were injured and “huge amounts of damage” from a tornado is widespread but concentrated in southern part of the city.
Rowlett has a 24-hour curfew in the affected areas, which Thunderberg says took a direct hit from the tornado. It isn’t known the strength of the tornado’s winds.
The extent of the injuries are not known, and officials said there are no reports of missing people.
Rowlett is about 20 miles northeast of Dallas.
Officials also say there were reports of looting overnight.
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6:08 a.m.
A fifth person has been confirmed dead in vehicle accidents near the intersection of two major highways in Garland, east of Dallas.
Officer Joe Harn, a Garland police spokesman, said Sunday morning the five were killed in accidents that occurred during a massive storm, but it’s unclear if all five were in the same vehicle or how they died.
A tornado is reported to have gone through the suburb east of Dallas, damaging several homes.
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11:15 p.m.
Three more people are confirmed dead from the storms near Dallas, the latest fatalities located in Collin County.
Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Havey gave no other details of the deaths.
Collin County is about 45 miles northeast of Dallas.
The fatalities in Collin County bring to seven the number of confirmed deaths from a series of storms that spawned tornadoes after dark on Saturday evening.
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9:30 p.m.
Four people are confirmed killed in vehicle accidents near the intersection of two major highways in Garland, east of Dallas.
Officer Joe Harn, a Garland police spokesman, said Saturday night the four were killed in accidents that occurred during a massive storm, but it’s unclear if all four were in the same vehicle or how they died.
A tornado is reported to have gone through the suburb east of Dallas, damaging several homes.
Harn says there are no active rescues underway, though first responders continue to search houses for anyone trapped after the storms passed.
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8:30 p.m.
An official with the Dallas County Sheriff’s office says deputies are responding to damages caused by a tornado east of Dallas, including a trailer park ablaze.
Spokeswoman Melinda Urbina said while several emergency teams had been dispatched to Sunnyvale, just east of the Dallas city limits, following reports of trailers on fire and possible injuries in a mobile home park.
Urbina said the extent of the damage was still uncertain but that nearby roads had been shut due to debris and that the damage to the homes was likely extensive enough to render some “inhabitable.” The Red Cross was also responding to the scene, she said, and trees were down.
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7:05 p.m.
The emergency manager for a county south of Dallas says some homes have been destroyed and damaged during a fierce storm that spawned tornadoes in the area.
Stephanie Parker is the emergency manager for Ellis County, which is about 30 miles south of Dallas. She posted on twitter: “We have destroyed and damaged homes. Please do not get out on the roads if you do not have to.”
The National Weather Service in Fort Worth confirmed that a tornado touched down south of Dallas earlier this evening. No other details of damage were immediately available.
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6:30 p.m.
The National Weather Service says a tornado was on the ground south of Dallas.
There were no immediate reports of damage, but National Weather Service Meteorologist Anthony Bain in Fort Worth says that the tornado was confirmed by numerous people on the ground and with video. It was located near the town of Duncanville around Interstate 20.
The tornado’s trajectory was headed toward downtown Dallas but WFAA television said that it appeared to have lifted off the ground at it moved north.
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6:10 p.m.
The National Weather Service says the Dallas area is under a tornado warning until 6:45 p.m.
An Associated Press reporter says warning sirens went off in the downtown area of Dallas.
At Love Field, a major airport in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the public address system warned people to move away from windows in the concourse area.
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4:30 p.m.
Inmates from an Alabama correctional facility were evacuated as a precaution to potential flooding caused by the recent heavy rainfall.
Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Horton says 336 inmates were evacuated from the Red Eagle Community Work Center around 12:30 a.m. Saturday. Horton says the inmates were cooperative and moved to three state correctional facilities in Elmore County.
Red Eagle is a minimum security correctional facility and is located three miles north of Montgomery near the Tallapoosa River.
The National Weather Service says the river had exceeded a flood stage of 25 feet to 33.5 feet by 8 a.m. Saturday. The NWS has extended the flood warning for the area until Monday afternoon.
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4 p.m.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley praised efforts to restore and improve the levee system while touring the town of Elba, which was affected by flooding.
Bentley visited the town in southern Alabama on Saturday and stopped in at Elba Elementary, where people had taken shelter from the flood waters. He says the levees are expected to withstand the river crest.
The tiny, flood-prone Alabama town was underwater in 1929, which led to the constructions of levees for protection. The city flooded again in 1990 when rising waters overwhelmed levees and again in 1998 when a levee failed under pressure from flood waters.
Bentley declared a state of emergency Friday amid widespread flash flooding that follows several days of intense weather throughout the Southeast.
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1:30 p.m.
Mississippi’s death toll from this week’s storms has climbed to 10.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn confirms two bodies were found Saturday morning in Benton County. He says the bodies were those of two people authorities had been searching for since tornadoes touched down Wednesday.
Further details on where or how the bodies were discovered were not immediately available.
Unseasonably warm temperatures across the southeastern U.S. this week spawned severe weather blamed for deaths in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. A total of 17 people have been killed.
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1 p.m.
Volunteers are distributing sandbags in the town of Elba, Alabama, as flooding remained a major concern after severe storms battered the state.
James Brown of the Coffee County Emergency Management Agency says volunteers distributed sandbags in Elba, where the Pea River was projected to crest Saturday at 43 feet, about a foot below the levees that protect the area.
Brown says while that height was much too for much comfort, so far the levees were holding.
Emergency officials issued a voluntary evacuation order for the flood-prone community.
About 17 people took safety in a county shelter. Brown said that, according to estimates, more than 100 structures appear to have water damage.
Gov. Robert Bentley will tour the area later in the day.
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11:30 a.m.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley will tour areas in his state damaged by floods a day after declaring a state of emergency in all counties affected by excessive rain.
The governor’s office said in a statement that nearly 200 roads in the state are closed due to flooding.
Bentley will visit, among other places, Elba Elementary School, where dozens of flood victims took shelter Friday night.
Unseasonably warm temperatures across the southeastern U.S. this week spawned severe weather blamed for deaths in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. A total of 15 people were killed.
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9:20 a.m.
The Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles are bracing for what National Weather Service forecasters are calling a “historic blizzard.”
Between 6 to 15 inches of snow are in the forecast for the region, which includes Amarillo and Lubbock. High winds will drive wind chills as low as 10 below zero and cause low visibility due to blowing and drifting snow.
The blizzard warning for the region takes effect at 6 p.m. Saturday and runs through noon Monday.
Other parts of Texas and Oklahoma, including El Paso, are under winter storm warnings, while North Texas, central Oklahoma and central Kansas are under a winter storm watch.
Widespread rain has prompted flash flood watches in eastern Texas, eastern Oklahoma, most of Arkansas, central and southern Missouri and Illinois and central Indiana.
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9:45 a.m.
The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for parts of northern Alabama following days of heavy rain and severe weather.
The NWS says moderate flooding is occurring and major flooding is forecast for Big Nance Creek, which runs through the town of Courtland in northern Alabama. The area is about 40 miles east of Huntsville. The creek is not expected to fall below flood stage until early Monday.
A flood warning was also in effect for the Coosa River, swollen by up to 8 inches of rain over the past week. The biggest town threatened by the rise in the Coosa is Gadsden in northeastern Alabama.
The NWS is warning drivers to stay off roads in areas where flooding is expected.
32073
December 27th, 2015
Three killed in Greene County street race - State troopers said a street race killed three people, including a 3-year-old child, and injured nine others Saturday in Greene County.
A news release from Trooper Reginal King of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency states that 30-year-old Rodney Hutton, 22-year-old Jalesa Kiara Merritt and 3-year-old Jhayden Pippen, all of Eutaw, died as a result of the crash. In addition, nine people, including children ages 6, 7 and 9, involved in the crash received medical treatment from area hospitals.
King said it appears that the crash happened at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in a race between a 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass and a Chevrolet Monte Carlo on Greene County Highway 231, about two miles north of Eutaw.
The Oldsmobile Cutlass, which King said was being driven by 22-year-old Maurice Devonte Wedgeworth of Eutaw, struck the Monte Carlo. Both drivers fled the scene, King said.
Wedgeworth was taken into custody shortly before midnight Saturday, after he turned himself in to state troopers at a local hospital, King said. Wedgeworth is being held at the Greene County Jail, pending further investigation. Troopers also have taken the driver of the Chevrolet into custody in Huntsville, and he will be returned to Greene County. No information was available about possible charges against the drivers.
Hutton and Jhayden were taken to Greene County Hospital, where they were pronounced dead. Merritt was airlifted to DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, where she was pronounced dead.
The nine others injured received treatment at area hospitals.
King said the investigation into the crash is in its early stages, but more information will be released soon.
32072
December 27th, 2015
Tornado in Coaling was EF0; tornadoes, floods claim 18 lives in Southeast - The National Weather Service confirmed Saturday that a tornado touched down in the Coaling area of Tuscaloosa County on Christmas Day.
Meteorologist Joey Aaron said a crew from the weather service surveyed the Coaling area Saturday and determined an EF0 tornado formed over Tuscaloosa County and then touched down around 3.7 miles south of Coaling around 3:30 p.m. Friday
An EF0 is the classification for the weakest type of a tornado -- a tornado that has winds of up to 75 mph. Even so, such tornadoes can cause damage and even deaths and injuries. No one was reported injured in the Coaling tornado.
"It mainly snapped the tops of trees," Aaron said, noting the damage was spotty.
The tornado did not remain on the ground constantly. It followed a path of about five miles and at its widest, it was around 150 yards, according to the weather service.
The area of rotation of the funnel cloud weakened as it crossed Interstate 20-59 in Tuscaloosa County before entering Jefferson County. The storm then intensified near the Birmingham suburb of Lipscomb before a tornado touched down in the neighboring city Midfield. The tornado in Midfield also was classified as EF0, Aaron said.
A separate tornado spawned by the massive storm system that swept across much of the state Friday later hit in a neighborhood in southwest Birmingham. That tornado destroyed several homes and damaged several more. That tornado was classified Saturday as an EF2, which has winds of 117 to 135 mph. The Birmingham tornado reportedly injured several people. No deaths were reported.
Torrential rains that were part of the storms caused flooding, including in Tuscaloosa County. Most roads in Tuscaloosa County had reopened by late Saturday morning, but the weather service noted that more rain is expected on Monday and more flooding across the state is possible.
Meanwhile the death toll in the Southeast from a holiday week of storms climbed to 18 on Saturday after less than a week of tumultuous weather — unusual warmth, tornadoes and torrential downpours — wreaked havoc across the region during the Christmas holiday.
Two deaths attributable to weather were reported Saturday in Mississippi: two people who have been missing since Wednesday, bringing that state’s death toll to 10. Late Saturday, one death was reported in Alabama.
In Texas, meanwhile, residents hunkered down for what the National Weather Service was calling a “historic blizzard.” Some parts of the Panhandle could see as many as 14 inches of snow, with sub-zero wind chills and accumulating ice. Residents in Lubbock and Amarillo prepared for a storm expected to begin Saturday night.
Jason Strunk, the football coach at Lubbock High School, said he was checking his home’s pipes and laying out cat litter for traction on his sidewalk and driveway, just as he learned growing up and living in colder climates further north. Strunk’s major concern was unprepared drivers going out on wet, icy roads.
“When we get an inch or two, people panic,” he said. “They really don’t know how to drive in this kind of stuff.”
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said 56 injuries were reported. In a statement, Flynn said preliminary damage estimates show 241 homes were destroyed or severely damaged.
More than 400 homes in total were affected, he said. Severe storms are forecast for Sunday night through Monday as a strong cold front pushes through. Tornadoes are possible, and residents are asked to remain alert.
The flooding is the result of heavy downpours that have thrashed the southeastern U.S. since Wednesday, bringing record rainfalls in some areas. Four inches of rain walloped the city of Mobile, Alabama, on Wednesday — smashing the previous record of 2.2 inches set in 1990.
Six people were killed in Tennessee, including three who were found in a car submerged in a creek, according to the Columbia Police Department. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Saturday that authorities were monitoring areas for possible flooding.
One person died in Arkansas, and dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed.
In Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley on Saturday visited weather-damaged areas in Coffee County. A statement from the governor’s office said that about 190 roads across Alabama were closed due to flooding.
Authorities on Saturday recovered the body of a 5-year-old boy who drowned after the car he was riding in was submerged by floodwaters on Friday, said Coffee County Coroner Robert Preachers. The search is ongoing for a 22-year-old man who was also in the car.
The National Weather Service in Huntsville warned residents to avoid driving in areas where flooding was expected.
A flood warning was in effect late Saturday afternoon for parts of northern Alabama. The weather service said that flooding would be experienced in southern Huntsville, Decatur, Madison, Hartselle, Muscle Shoals, Russellville, Sheffield, Tuscumbia, Moulton and Red Bay.
Peak tornado season in the South is in the spring, but such storms can happen at any time. Exactly a year ago, tornadoes hit Mississippi, killing five people and injuring dozens.
Patrick Rupinski of The Tuscaloosa News and Kim Chandler and Phillip Lucas contributed to this report.
32071
December 27th, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Schools' strategic plan calls for $4.9 million in staff investment - First of a three-part series looking at Tuscaloosa City Schools' new strategic plan.
The final version of the integrated curriculum facilities demographic strategic plan that the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education passed on Dec. 15 focuses on three areas that Superintendent Paul McKendrick believes will completely change the Tuscaloosa City Schools.
Those areas are investing in staff, improving curriculum and renovating and building schools as part of the capital plan.
Of the $161 million budgeted for the plan, an estimated $4.9 million will be used for staff investment.
By investing in staff, McKendrick believes that the system will improve employee recruitment and retention. In the past five years, the system has had a 39 percent turnover rate for teachers and administrators.
One of the primary strategies that the plan calls for to improve recruitment and retention is providing higher compensation for all employees. This includes an investment of $4 million in higher-paying salary schedules – charts that show how the wage of employees in certain positions increase over time based on education level and years of experience.
“It's a way of us trying to get competitive in this area we're in, especially in the Birmingham area because that's what we compete against,” McKendrick said. “The plan looks at over a three-year period giving all employees a 7 percent raise.”
In addition to new salary schedules, support staff workers such as custodians, bus drivers, nurses and child nutrition program employees, will be given a raise that brings their salaries up to the region's average market value. The total increase for support staff will total about $182,000.
“We end up losing some really good staff because we're below market,” McKendrick said. “We want to keep them first, and then attract other good people.”
Additional compensation-related teacher and administrative staff investments along with the budgeted allocation for each include:
• Assisting with relocation costs for principals and executive staff: $75,000
• Providing teachers with signing bonuses for difficult to fill positions like mathematics, science and special education: $35,000
• Extending contracts for certain subjects and duties such as career tech instructional staff and site-based support personnel beginning in 2016-2017: $150,000
• Providing supplemental compensation to high school department chairs and athletic coaches: $270,000 for academic supplement compensation and $135,000 for athletic supplement compensation
Outside of compensation, the plan calls for system administrators to create a more positive work environment for teachers and staff to work in, for additional training and guidance to be given to new teachers and to increase the number of Nationally Board Certified teachers – teachers who voluntarily go through a process of becoming certified to teach according to national academic standards and not just state standards.
“We also want to give support to new teachers,” he said. “That will come in the form of providing mentors to them. I want to get some lead teachers into some of our schools. We'd like some really good Nationally Board Certified teachers and other exemplary teachers who can go into the schools and serve as curriculum coaches and help teachers with planning.
“All of that will make a huge difference in what we do. It will make a huge difference in those first-year teachers' professional lives. The first two years are the toughest for teachers, and we don't give them a lot of support. When you look at compensation, mentoring, professional development and standards based instruction, it will make us stronger. It will make those teachers stronger.”
The system now has 35 National Board Certified teachers out of about 800 teachers, McKendrick said.
He said he would like to increase the number of National Board Certified teachers by providing the system's teachers with opportunities and resources to undergo the certification process. The plan's estimated allocation for that is $50,000.
“We want to provide these experiences so that our teachers are stronger, more gifted and have a wealth of experience.”
32070
December 27th, 2015
University of North Alabama student shot in Florida moving to rehab facility - PENSACOLA, Fla. — An Alabama student shot while visiting the Florida Panhandle over the Halloween weekend is being moved to an Atlanta rehabilitation facility.
Nelson Rivers Starkey of Florence, Alabama, was shot Oct. 30 in Navarre. Relatives tell the Northwest Florida Daily News (http://bit.ly/1IvIiyb ) that the 22-year-old University of North Alabama senior suffered traumatic brain injuries.
Starkey has been hospitalized in Pensacola. His mother says $27,000 raised by friends and family will help cover costs at the rehab facility. It’s not known how long Starkey will need to remain there.
John Marshall Fitzgerald, 59, is being held without bond at the Santa Rosa County jail in connecting with the shooting. He is charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. Jail records don’t show whether he has an attorney.
32069
December 27th, 2015
SCHOOL NEWS: Dec. 27 - Zachary Smith of Holy Spirit Catholic High School qualified for A finals in the butterfly and back stroke events at the Alabama High School Athletic Association State Swimming Meet. He placed second in the 100 butterfly with a time of 49.15, earning him All American honors and he swam the 100 back stroke with a PR time of 51.54, coming in fourth overall in the individual events. Holy Spirit ranked fifth in the boys team 1A-5A division.
Northside FBLA kicked off the school year with Taylor Rodgers and Anna Barrentine attending FBLA District II Officer Training at Samford University. Anna Barrentine, Brinkley Freeman, Halee Hudson, John Ellis Kuykendall, Samuel Newcomb, Taylor Rodgers, Katelyn Sanford, and Vivi Trull participated in the Alabama Joint Leadership Development Conference in Birmingham.
32068
December 26th, 2015
Tornadoes sweep through Dallas area; significant damage - SAN ANTONIO — Tornadoes swept through the Dallas area after dark on Saturday evening causing significant damage while a blizzard was blanketing parts of New Mexico and West Texas with snow, the latest in the nation's freakish winter weather pattern that sent temperatures plunging to near zero wind chill in the western Plains even as numerous record highs are forecast for the eastern U.S.
The Texas tornadoes shifted the national focus away from the Southeast where days of tumultuous weather including tornadoes left 18 people dead over the Christmas holiday period.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Anthony Bain in Fort Worth said two or possibly three tornadoes touched down in the Dallas area although the full extent of damage would not be known until daylight Sunday.
WFAA television in Dallas showed video of damage to homes, a church and vehicles stretching from Garland, about 20 miles northeast of Dallas to Glenn Heights, 20 miles south of the city.
The emergency manager of Ellis county south of Dallas, Stephanie Parker, posted on twitter: “We have destroyed and damaged homes. Please do not get out on the roads if you do not have to.”
The twisters — accompanied by torrential rain, wind and some hail — were part of a weather system that could produce major flooding from north Texas through eastern Oklahoma, eastern Kansas, western Arkansas and parts of Missouri.
The severe weather snarled air traffic in the Dallas area. The Dallas Mavericks NBA game was delayed by 30 minutes because of the storm.
On the other side of Texas and including much of New Mexico, a snowstorm accompanied by plunging temperatures was expected to leave up to 16 inches of snow through Sunday evening, according to NWS meteorologist Brendon Rubin-Oster in College Park, Maryland.
“It's going to be quite dangerous for anyone exposed to these elements,” Rubin-Oster said.
Snow fell as the Sun Bowl college football game between Miami and Washington State Saturday afternoon and El Paso was forecast to get 6 to 8 inches of snow overnight.
Meanwhile, two more deaths linked to weather were reported Saturday in Mississippi, bringing that state's death toll from severe weather over Christmas to 10. Late Saturday, one death was reported in Alabama.
Flash flooding closed roads across Alabama and trapped motorists in rapidly rising waters.
Ranager Tyler and his son waded into flood water Christmas night and used rope to pull an 11-year-old boy out after his family's car was swept away near Pinson, about 15 miles northeast of Birmingham.
“The little boy was hanging on to the back of the car,” Tyler said Saturday.
The family's car was overcome with flood water and ended up in a ditch near Tyler's Pinson home. The rushing water separated the family as they got out of the car, he said. The boy was later reunited with his family.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn said 56 injuries were reported. In a statement, Flynn said preliminary damage estimates show 241 homes were destroyed or severely damaged.
More than 400 homes in total were affected, he said. Severe storms are forecast for Sunday night through Monday as a strong cold front pushes through. Tornadoes are possible, and residents are asked to remain alert.
The flooding is the result of heavy downpours that have thrashed the southeastern U.S. since Wednesday, bringing record rainfalls in some areas. Four inches of rain walloped the city of Mobile, Alabama, on Wednesday — smashing the previous record of 2.2 inches set in 1990.
Six people were killed in Tennessee, including three who were found in a car submerged in a creek, according to the Columbia Police Department. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Saturday that authorities were monitoring areas for possible flooding.
One person died in Arkansas, and dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed.
One bit of good news for the battered Southeast was a forecast for calmer weather on Sunday. Temperatures in the eastern third of the country could set numerous records Sunday, Rubin-Oster said. Washington, D.C. could see a record daily temperature of 73 degrees Sunday, New York City 65 —which would break a record of more than 50 years —and Orlando, Florida could tie a record of 86 set in 1921.
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Contributing to this report are Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Dallas, Chevel Johnson in New Orleans, Jonathan Landrum in Atlanta, and Dylan Lovan in Louisville. Chandler reported from Montgomery.
32067
December 26th, 2015
Alabama all business for Cotton Bowl - DALLAS | Friday's inclement weather had a few Alabama players scrambling to get back to Tuscaloosa for the team chartered flight to Texas on Saturday morning and some even took buses to make it in time.
It was a scheduling nightmare for Alabama's director of football operations but everything worked out in the end as the team arrived in the Lone Star state in the early afternoon, welcomed by the Townview High School (Dallas) marching band as the team strolled into its hotel.
The Christmas-day storms made it difficult for a few players, but there were no complications as the team practiced for the first time in Dallas.
“It certainly was, you know, a difficult circumstance last night. But we didn't have an issue at least with the group that came with us, which was probably 90 percent of the guys,” UA head coach Nick Saban said. “Some of the guys from this part of the country and out West are meeting us here. I have not heard of any issues that we have with any of those guys to this point.”
The team held a closed practice in the afternoon as it continues preparation for the College Football Playoff semifinal in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Eve.
But misadventures in travel wasn't on the team's mind, as an unusually stoic Reggie Ragland and typically short-on-words Derrick Henry met with reporters. The only thing on their minds was the Michigan State Spartans.
“It's time to get it now. All the play time (is) over,” Ragland said. “It's all about being focused on Michigan State and coming out practicing hard and playing the right way. So that's what it's all about now getting it done.”
It's been more than three weeks since the Crimson Tide defeated Florida in the SEC Championship Game. In between then and now some players graduated and most traveled home for the holidays.
Saban reiterated that now is the time for the players to get their minds right.
“It's all about mindset. Putting the Christmas holiday behind you, refocusing on what we need to do to invest our time in the preparation that we have, the opportunity each day in practice and in meetings to focus on that,” Saban said. “And it's all about how bad you want something, because it's certainly going to be a difficult game, a tough game. And I think you have to prepare for that and have the right mindset in terms of what your expectation is when the game starts, what kind of game it's going to be.
“When you're in the playoff game with the four best teams in the country, I think getting back in the mindset investing your time in preparation, investing your time in the way you practice to get the most out of practice so that you can go play a complete game -- and I'm sure it will take a 60-minute game against any of the teams that you would play at this point in the season in this, you know, playoff format.”

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.
32066
December 26th, 2015
UA trustees approve partnership, will host more international students - The University of Alabama at Birmingham plans to bring its first group of international students recruited through a new partnership with a private global education company to campus this summer as part of starting a joint venture to boost international recruitment.
“We are incredibly pleased to announce this partnership,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts in a statement released by the university. “It is a key step in growing our economic impact in the region and a step forward in our initiative to bring the world to UAB. We are proud to be one of the most diverse college campuses in the U.S.”
The executive committee of the University of Alabama System board of trustees approved resolutions on Dec. 3 authorizing UAB to enter into a 30-year service agreement with INTO University Partnerships, IUP 2, and a related project to renovate space on the second floor of the Mervyn H. Sterne Library for use as the INTO International Student Center, the hub on campus for the operations of the partnership.
As part of the partnership, UAB plans to bring a small group to campus this summer for English language courses before a larger group of about 150 students arrives in the fall, said UAB Senior Vice Provost Suzanne Austin. By the fifth year of the partnership, UAB predicts more than 700 international students will have come to campus through the program.
IUP 2 would help recruit international students and manage administration of the new international student center. The company would develop marketing materials, process applications, and provide additional financial, student services and managerial services in the student center, said Amy McGowan, vice president of operations for INTO North America.
The company will be the exclusive provider of marketing and student recruitment services in connection with the new student center and associated programs.
UAB will continue its own recruitment of international students, which has historically been limited in scope, Austin said.
“I think it is a great opportunity for the UAB side to benefit from the expertise and resource that INTO brings,” Austin said.
The company has seven partnerships with other U.S. universities and works with 22 universities worldwide.
UAB will provide the educational services, the “Into UAB Programs,” including preparatory courses and English language programs for international students. The university will retain sole control of the admission standards and academic programs and instructional staff.
“We looked very carefully at the curriculum and courses that can meet core for undergrads and one of two courses in the discipline or major they expect to matriculate into,” Austin said, using the examples of introductory business or engineering classes. “These students will be taking regular classes with regular students so they begin to have that full academic experience.”
As part of the partnership, the existing English Language institute will be absorbed into the new operations.
“We have brought the folks from the (institute) in on the conversation from the beginning,” Austin said. “They are very excited (and) fully on board.”
Students recruited to UAB would enter into a program designed to help them acclimate to life and education in the U.S. while working on core course work. The pathway programs provide a foundation for the international students, Austin said.
“The more we can prepare them early on when they first get on campus -- we know they will be successful academically and socially as they more on to the next stages of their lives,” Austin said.
In the program on campus, the international students are surrounded by services, McGowan said.
There will be an accelerated semester pathway program and a two-year pathway program for students who need more time, Austin said.
Undergraduate pathway students would be required to live on campus. Graduate students would be given the option of choosing on- or off-campus housing, Austin said.
The undergraduate and graduate students would be able to matriculate at UAB or at other universities and institutions with which UAB has articulation agreements once the programs are complete.
The students in the program would be classified as out-of-state students. Undergraduates would pay about $23,000 annually and graduate students would pay $24,000, Austin estimated.
The university will be paid for the program delivery and IUP will be paid for the recruitment services. In November, UAB, through the UAB Education Foundation, and IUP formed INTO UAB, a limited liability company in Alabama, as a for-profit venture. As the joint company begins to generate revenue above expenses, the university would receive a 50 percent share of the profits generated by the company.
McGowan predicted the company would likely hire at least 20 employees on the administration side by the fifth year of the partnership based on the needs created by enrollment growth.
UAB, in addition to hiring an academic director for the academic programs, could also add more staff to accommodate the growth, Austin said.
“I think what we have found is there is growth around campus all over because you need to support these students in every aspect,” McGowan said.
UAB plans to renovate about 23,100 square feet of the second floor of the Mervyn Sterne Library for use as classrooms and study and administrative space for the partnership between UAB and IUP 2. The $5-million INTO International Student Center project will be funded with UAB funds.
The university hopes to complete the renovations by next fall, Austin said.
As UAB begins planning for the rollout of the pathway programs as part of the new partnership, the possibility of expanding the initiative in the system has also been discussed. UA System Chancellor Robert Witt and his successor, Executive Vice Chancellor Ray Hayes, discussed the partnership with the presidents of the three campuses in mid November. The agreement between UAB and IUP 2 was originally on the agenda for the November board meeting before being pulled.
The presidents and system leadership discussed the possibility of agreements for “certain qualified” international students coming to the Tuscaloosa and Huntsville campuses through the UAB program.
“There is certainly a lot of interest, and it is definitely under review at both UA and UAH,” system spokeswoman Kellee Reinhart said.
32065
December 26th, 2015
WWII veteran, Tuscaloosa native gets French Legion of Honor medal - Horace Appleby heard a man screaming for help after his platoon had moved on. He went back.
Appleby ran through open fire to guide a medic who had been separated from the platoon to safety.
In the coming weeks, Appleby is expecting a package from France to arrive in the mail with his French Legion of Honor medal that he will receive for risking his life to save another while on French soil.
“It’s one of France’s highest honors,” said Appleby’s niece, Elaine Appleby.
Appleby, a veteran who served as an U.S. Army private in Company E, 180th Infantry Regiment, during World War II, said he is excited and surprised to receive the medal because he was just doing his job.
“I was surprised to get it. I don’t think anything about (receiving the awards),” Appleby said. “I just did what I had to. You don’t think about nothing. You just do it. You do what you have to do to save your life. I was proud I did what I did and got out alive. I didn’t get wounded, either.”
Appleby, who is one of the oldest surviving World War I veterans, was drafted in July 1941 at the age of 27 and served in North Africa, France and Germany before returning home to Tuscaloosa in November 1945 after the war was over.
He later moved to Ohio where he now lives with his great-neice, Renée Hahn, in Perrysburg. Hahn took Appleby to dinner Tuesday night to celebrate his 102nd birthday.
Hahn said for her 102-years-old uncle still has a sharp mind and is like a walking history book.
“He’s kind of a local hero around here. He is truly a rarity,” she said. “He really, really is the family treasure, but I believe he’s a national treasure.”
Appleby’s niece, Denise Phillips, agreed he is a treasure, but not only because of his age and military service. She said he served his country well, but he is a treasure in that he doesn’t boast about his military accomplishments, like saving the medic’s life and helping to free prisoners of the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany.
“This man is a legacy,” she said, and his multitude of military decorations is proof.
Appleby also received a Silver Star in July for saving the medic’s life.
Other medals include the Bronze Star, Good Conduct, American Defense Service, American Campaign and World War II Victory medals, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one silver service star with arrowhead, the Combat Infantryman badge 1st Award, the Honorable Service lapel button WWII and the Marksman badge with Rifle Bar.
The French Legion of Honor is an order of distinction first established by Napoleon Bonaparte in May of 1802. It is the highest decoration bestowed in France.
32064
December 26th, 2015
Tuscaloosa County had at least 15 overdose deaths in 2015 - Fatal overdoses caused by prescription pain killers and heroin hit record levels in 2014, according to information published by the Centers for Disease Control last week.
Alabama was one of 14 states that showed a significant increase, with 19.7 percent more overdoses in 2014 than 2013. There were 598 confirmed overdoses in Alabama in 2013, which jumped to 723 in 2014.
Opioid overdose deaths, including opioid pain relievers and heroin increased by 14 percent nationally between 2013 and 2014, according to the CDC.
Increases in prescription pain killer and heroin overdoses increased by 9 percent nationally between 2013 and 2014, with 813 more deaths reported.
In Tuscaloosa County, there have been 15 confirmed accidental overdoses this year. There also are 35 pending death investigations, which could drive that number up, said Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit assistant commander Lt. Kip Hart.
There were 22 confirmed accidental overdoses in 2014, with one investigation still pending.
A death is ruled an accidental overdose when drugs, alcohol or a combination are the cause.
"The majority, if not all, of 2014 cases had drugs as the prevalent factor," Hart said.
Drug overdose deaths are up in both men and women, in non-Hispanic whites and blacks, and in adults of nearly all ages, according to the CDC. Rates of drug overdose deaths were highest in five states: West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio.
“The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden.“The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities. To curb these trends and save lives, we must help prevent addiction and provide support and treatment to those who suffer from opioid use disorders. This report also shows how important it is that law enforcement intensify efforts to reduce the availability of heroin, illegal fentanyl and other illegal opioids.”
The CDC has pinpointed ways to prevent deaths from opiate overdoses, including expanding access to treatment, providing health care professionals with guidelines to avoid overprescribing of the drugs and expanding access of a drug that can reverse symptoms of an overdose.
32063
December 26th, 2015
Coaling tornado confirmed; Alabama warned to be alert for flooding - The National Weather Service confirmed to The Tuscaloosa News that a tornado touched down in Coaling on Saturday, with winds up to 75 mph. The storm's path was 5 miles long, but the tornado was not always on the ground.
Meanwhile Saturday, residents in northern Alabama were warned to be alert for moderate to severe flooding, a day after a tornado briefly touched down in Birmingham, the state’s most populous city, but caused only a hint of damage.
The flooding is the result of heavy downpours that have been thrashing the southeastern U.S. since Wednesday, bringing record rainfalls in some areas. The city of Mobile, for example, was walloped with 4 inches of rain Wednesday, smashing the previous record of 2.2 inches set in 1990.
Unseasonably warm weather this week helped stimulate the high winds, tornadoes and torrential precipitation that by Saturday had left at least 17 people dead and dozens of families homeless.
The bodies of two people missing since Wednesday have been found, said Mississippi Emergency Management Agency spokesman Greg Flynn, bringing the state’s storm death toll to 10. Among the victims was a 7-year-old boy who perished while riding in a car that was swept up and tossed by storm winds.
Six people were killed in Tennessee, including three who were found in a car submerged in a creek, according to the Columbia Police Department. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said the victims were a 19-year-old female and two 22-year-old males.
One person died in Arkansas, and dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced Saturday that he would visit weather-damaged areas in Coffee County. A statement from the governor’s office said that about 190 roads across Alabama were closed due to flooding.
The National Weather Service warned residents to avoid driving in areas where flooding was expected. Major flooding is forecast for Big Nance Creek, which runs through the town of Courtland in northern Alabama. The area is about 40 miles east of Huntsville. The creek is not expected to fall below flood stage until early Monday.
A flood warning was also in effect for the Coosa River, swollen by up to 8 inches of rain over the past week, and threatening the city of Gadsden.
The Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles are bracing for what NWService forecasters are calling a “historic blizzard,” but the areas under threat are lightly populated.
Between 6 to 15 inches of snow are in the forecast for the region, which includes Amarillo and Lubbock. High winds will drive wind chills as low as 10 below zero and cause low visibility due to blowing and drifting snow.
The blizzard warning for the region takes effect at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Peak tornado season in the South is in the spring, but such storms can happen at any time. Exactly a year ago, tornadoes hit Mississippi, killing five people and injuring dozens.
A tornado touched down in Birmingham on Friday evening, but damage was limited. The funnel was spotted by witnesses outside the city about 5 p.m. An hour later the National Weather service confirmed that first responders were on the scene along Jefferson Avenue, a working class neighborhood less than 10 miles from downtown Birmingham.
Lt. Sean Edwards, a Birmingham police spokesman, said trees are down and people were trapped inside damaged houses, adding that several people were taken to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries, but further details were not immediately available.
Ruthie Green went door-to-door in a coat and a bicycle helmet to check on neighbors after the storm and swept debris from her front porch as more emergency responders arrived in the neighborhood.
“I been listening to the news all day so I was kind of preparing,” Green said. When the tornado warning came up on her iPad, Green said she ran to a closet.
“Then I heard the big roaring, it didn’t last more than three minutes,” Green said. “I just laid down and just kept praying.”
32062
December 26th, 2015
The Latest: Search and rescue efforts ongoing in Alabama - The latest developments on the severe storms across the U.S. (all times local):
6 p.m.
The National Weather Service says search and rescue efforts are ongoing in Birmingham, Alabama, where a tornado moved through in the past hour. The service confirms a tornado touched down in southwest Jefferson County about 5 p.m. Friday, moving northeast toward the city of Birmingham.
Meteorologist Jason Holmes said eyewitnesses spotted the funnel and the agency has confirmed its presence. It’s part of the same cell that warranted an earlier tornado warning in Tuscaloosa County, southwest of the Jefferson.
———
5 p.m.
The National Weather Service confirms a tornado touched down in southwest Jefferson County in Alabama at about 5 p.m. Friday, moving northeast toward the city of Birmingham.
Meteorologist Jason Holmes said eyewitnesses spotted the funnel and the agency has confirmed its presence. It’s part of the same cell that warranted an earlier tornado warning in Tuscaloosa County, southwest of the Jefferson.
Details are still sketchy, Holmes said, and nightfall is making it hard for storm spotters to identify tornado activity.
But he said any reports of tornado-like damage in the region will be treated as if it is a tornado.
Holmes said reports of tornado activity in Bibb County, also southwest of Birmingham, have not been confirmed. But the agency is warning resident there and in neighboring Chilton County to take cover.
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3:20 p.m.
Some Mississippi residents spent their Christmas giving rather than receiving this year.
The American Red Cross of North Mississippi’s disaster program manager, Nicholas Garbacz (GAR-bach), says members of the Marine Corps helped turn the Eddie Smith Multi-Purpose Center in Holly Springs into a substitute Santa’s Workshop.
The marines donated bundles of toys for those who lost everything — including presents under their Christmas trees — during this week’s killer storms
Garbacz says dozens of children and their families showed up Friday morning to pick up a toy or two and other items they might need to help on their path to recovery. He says it was a wonderful experience for those giving and for those getting.
Steve Swann, the agency’s logistic head, told WMC-TV (http://bit.ly/1kjOSMr) that he and his wife, Audrey, helped with the giveaway.
Van Rayford, who’s now in a hotel with his kids and six of his grandchildren, says he’s thankful the Swanns and others sacrificed their Christmas so that his family could have one.
———
2:10 p.m.
A flash flood watch has been issued for parts of Tennessee following storms that have pounded the Southeast this week.
Meteorologist Krissy Hurley with the National Weather Service in Nashville says a flash flood watch is in effect for parts of southeastern, central and eastern Tennessee until Saturday morning.
In neighboring Kentucky, the National Weather Service in Louisville says a flash flood watch has been issued for central and eastern parts of the state through midafternoon.
The unseasonably warm weather that spawned deadly tornadoes on Wednesday killed six people in Tennessee. Seven people died in Mississippi and one person was killed in Arkansas.
———
1:20 p.m.
Parts of central and north Alabama and northwest Georgia are spending Christmas on the lookout for more heavy rain and flooding.
Heavy rain already is falling in areas stretching across Alabama, from the Mississippi state line west of Tuscaloosa to the Georgia state line east of Anniston.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for three counties.
Tornadoes are possible in parts of Alabama north of the I-20 corridor, with other damaging winds of up to 60 mph possible.
Northwest Georgia also continues to receive heavy rain, with flash flood warnings issued.
Residents are advised to stay off the roads. Drivers who do encounter flooded roads are warned to turn around, as authorities say most flood deaths occur in vehicles.
———
12:25 p.m.
Authorities say three of the six people killed in storms that rolled across Tennessee were found in a submerged car.
The Columbia Police Department said in a news release that the bodies of three people were found in a car submerged in a Maury County creek Thursday afternoon.
The names of the victims have not been released, but the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said the deceased are a 19-year-old female and two 22-year-old males. The agency says the deaths were weather-related.
The unseasonably warm, severe weather also was responsible for seven deaths in Mississippi and one in Arkansas.
———
4:20 a.m.
Some survivors of deadly storms across the Southeast lost their homes and belongings, but say they’re thankful to see another Christmas.
Residents of the hardest-hit communities were forced to take stock of their losses Thursday after unseasonably severe weather spawned tornadoes and killed at least 14 people in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Barbara Perkins and her husband hunkered in a closet of their home in Falkner, Mississippi, when powerful winds peeled the roof off and sucked up a heavy air conditioning unit. An insurance agent told the couple Thursday their home was a total loss.
Perkins’ neighbors weren’t as fortunate. Two died in a home nearby.
Despite being newly homeless, Perkins said the tragedy helped her “stop and realize what Christmas is all about.”
32061
December 26th, 2015
Pea River approaching record level near flood-prone Elba - The torrential rain in southeast Alabama is over. Now comes a familiar wait, as the tiny town of Elba watches to see how high Pea River and nearby waterways will rise in this region that has flooded so many times before.
As of early Christmas afternoon, the river stood at 39 feet, about nine feet above flood level. It is forecast to reach 43.5 feet sometime around Saturday at noon, eclipsing the crest of the 1929 flood, according to local officials.
The levee that shields part — but not all — of the city, offers protection up to 44 feet, maybe 45 in some spots.
“Now we’re just dealing with runoff,” says Larry Walker, the local emergency management chief. “It all depends on how the water flows.”
He continued, “So far, so good,” before adding the cautionary conclusion: “We think.”
The rising waters in Elba are part of an unusually warm, wet storm system that has spanned much of the southeastern U.S. this week, spawning tornadoes that left at least 14 people and left dozens of families homeless by Christmas Eve.
Flash flooding continued Christmas Day across swaths of Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, with multiple governors in the region, Alabama’s Robert Bentley included, declaring formal states of emergency.
In Elba, Walker began Christmas morning with a meeting of city and county authorities. State emergency management officials and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers participated, as well.
A shelter opened at Elba Elementary School, part of the standard protocol that makes up the region’s emergency management plan. By mid-afternoon, Walker said about two dozen people had checked in. Altogether, about 30 residences had been evacuated in areas that fall outside the levee’s protection.
By midnight, he added, “it might be double that number” of households.
Two state highways into Elba already were closed, with the river almost reaching the base of the Alabama 87 bridge into town. A third could be closed by tomorrow, Walker said, leaving Elba accessible only from the west.
“We would not be completely encircled or isolated,” he said, “but it would be the long way around.”
The Christmastime storm hasn’t yet brought the kind of devastation seen in the communities wrecked by tornadoes, but in Elba it’s still a powerful reminder of past destruction.
The town was completely flooded in 1865 and again in 1929, the previous record Pea River crest. The 1929 flood led to the levee construction. But major flooding occurred again in 1990, when nearby Whitewater Creek overwhelmed levees, in 1994 and again in 1998, when another levee failed under the pressured from Pea River.
The benefit of that history, Walker agreed, is preparation: “I believe we’ve got all the bases covered.”
32060
December 26th, 2015
The Latest: No known injuries after Birmingham tornado, police say - The latest developments on the severe storms across the U.S. (all times local):
7 p.m.
Police in Birmingham, Alabama, say people are trapped in houses along Jefferson Avenue Southwest, where a tornado touched down earlier Friday evening.
According to Lt. Sean Edwards, a Birmingham police spokesman, there are no known injuries at this point.
Weather radar Friday evening showed an intense system along the Interstate 20/59 corridor west of Birmingham, with the storm moving eastward. Flooding was reported in counties throughout the region, as heavy rain continued to fall.
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6 p.m.
The National Weather Service says search and rescue efforts are ongoing in Birmingham, Alabama, where a tornado moved through in the past hour. The service confirms a tornado touched down in southwest Jefferson County about 5 p.m. Friday, moving northeast toward the city of Birmingham.
Meteorologist Jason Holmes said eyewitnesses spotted the funnel and the agency has confirmed its presence. It's part of the same cell that warranted an earlier tornado warning in Tuscaloosa County, southwest of the Jefferson.
———
5 p.m.
The National Weather Service confirms a tornado touched down in southwest Jefferson County in Alabama at about 5 p.m. Friday, moving northeast toward the city of Birmingham.
Meteorologist Jason Holmes said eyewitnesses spotted the funnel and the agency has confirmed its presence. It's part of the same cell that warranted an earlier tornado warning in Tuscaloosa County, southwest of the Jefferson.
Details are still sketchy, Holmes said, and nightfall is making it hard for storm spotters to identify tornado activity.
But he said any reports of tornado-like damage in the region will be treated as if it is a tornado.
Holmes said reports of tornado activity in Bibb County, also southwest of Birmingham, have not been confirmed. But the agency is warning resident there and in neighboring Chilton County to take cover.
———
3:20 p.m.
Some Mississippi residents spent their Christmas giving rather than receiving this year.
The American Red Cross of North Mississippi's disaster program manager, Nicholas Garbacz (GAR-bach), says members of the Marine Corps helped turn the Eddie Smith Multi-Purpose Center in Holly Springs into a substitute Santa's Workshop.
The marines donated bundles of toys for those who lost everything — including presents under their Christmas trees — during this week's killer storms
Garbacz says dozens of children and their families showed up Friday morning to pick up a toy or two and other items they might need to help on their path to recovery. He says it was a wonderful experience for those giving and for those getting.
Steve Swann, the agency's logistic head, told WMC-TV (http://bit.ly/1kjOSMr) that he and his wife, Audrey, helped with the giveaway.
Van Rayford, who's now in a hotel with his kids and six of his grandchildren, says he's thankful the Swanns and others sacrificed their Christmas so that his family could have one.
———
2:10 p.m.
A flash flood watch has been issued for parts of Tennessee following storms that have pounded the Southeast this week.
Meteorologist Krissy Hurley with the National Weather Service in Nashville says a flash flood watch is in effect for parts of southeastern, central and eastern Tennessee until Saturday morning.
In neighboring Kentucky, the National Weather Service in Louisville says a flash flood watch has been issued for central and eastern parts of the state through midafternoon.
The unseasonably warm weather that spawned deadly tornadoes on Wednesday killed six people in Tennessee. Seven people died in Mississippi and one person was killed in Arkansas.
———
1:20 p.m.
Parts of central and north Alabama and northwest Georgia are spending Christmas on the lookout for more heavy rain and flooding.
Heavy rain already is falling in areas stretching across Alabama, from the Mississippi state line west of Tuscaloosa to the Georgia state line east of Anniston.
The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for three counties.
Tornadoes are possible in parts of Alabama north of the I-20 corridor, with other damaging winds of up to 60 mph possible.
Northwest Georgia also continues to receive heavy rain, with flash flood warnings issued.
Residents are advised to stay off the roads. Drivers who do encounter flooded roads are warned to turn around, as authorities say most flood deaths occur in vehicles.
———
12:25 p.m.
Authorities say three of the six people killed in storms that rolled across Tennessee were found in a submerged car.
The Columbia Police Department said in a news release that the bodies of three people were found in a car submerged in a Maury County creek Thursday afternoon.
The names of the victims have not been released, but the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said the deceased are a 19-year-old female and two 22-year-old males. The agency says the deaths were weather-related.
The unseasonably warm, severe weather also was responsible for seven deaths in Mississippi and one in Arkansas.
———
4:20 a.m.
Some survivors of deadly storms across the Southeast lost their homes and belongings, but say they're thankful to see another Christmas.
Residents of the hardest-hit communities were forced to take stock of their losses Thursday after unseasonably severe weather spawned tornadoes and killed at least 14 people in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Barbara Perkins and her husband hunkered in a closet of their home in Falkner, Mississippi, when powerful winds peeled the roof off and sucked up a heavy air conditioning unit. An insurance agent told the couple Thursday their home was a total loss.
Perkins' neighbors weren't as fortunate. Two died in a home nearby.
Despite being newly homeless, Perkins said the tragedy helped her “stop and realize what Christmas is all about.”
32059
December 26th, 2015
Coaling area hit by possible tornado; several parts of Tuscaloosa under water - A Christmastime wave of severe weather continued Friday with a possible tornado touching down in the Coaling area.
The Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency said numerous trees and power lines were down in Coaling as strong winds and heavy rains swept across much of Alabama on Christmas Day. The EMA said the National Weather Service will have to determine whether a tornado touched down in Coaling or if the damage was caused by straight-line winds.
Tuscaloosa County was under a flash flood warning through much of Friday evening. Tuscaloosa Police reported several areas of the city were under water as heavy rains passed over the city in the evening. EMA said Rock Creek Road off Highway 216 had to be closed in the evening due to flooding.
Meanwhile the storm that passed through Tuscaloosa County late Friday afternoon, picked up force as it moved into heavily populated Jefferson County.
A tornado touched down in Jefferson County late in the afternoon causing heavy damage including the destruction of several homes through the southwest portion of Birmingham.
Witnesses spotted the funnel outside the city about 5 p.m. An hour later, the National Weather Service confirmed that first responders were on the scene along Birmingham's Jefferson Avenue in a working class neighborhood about eight miles from downtown Birmingham.
Lt. Sean Edwards, a Birmingham police spokesman, said trees are down and people were trapped inside damaged houses, adding that several people were taken to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries, but further details were not immediately available.
Ruthie Green went door-to-door in a coat and a bicycle helmet to check on neighbors after the storm and swept debris from her front porch as more emergency responders arrived in the neighborhood.
“I been listening to the news all day so I was kind of preparing,” Green said. When the tornado warning came up on her iPad, Green said she ran to a closet.
“Then I heard the big roaring, it didn’t last more than three minutes,” Green said. “I just laid down and just kept praying.”
Green said she was unsure of whether any neighbors had been injured or killed down the block where several homes were destroyed.
“We probably won’t know anything until daylight comes,” she said. “I’m hoping that everybody got out all right.”
“Details are still sketchy,” said Jason Holmes, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Weather radar Friday evening showed an intense system along the Interstate 20/59 corridor west of Birmingham, with the storm moving eastward. Flooding was reported in counties throughout the region, as heavy rain continued to fall.
Pastor Melvin Howard of the Mount Olive Full Gospel Church said he came rushing to the area of Jefferson Avenue and 50th Street in Birmingham when he heard the storm hit.
Howard said his church’s building had collapsed but no one was inside at the time.
“We’re just there to salvage what we can salvage,” he said.
Alabama Power Co. reported about 10,000 customers were without power late Friday night. Most of them are in the Birmingham area, the utility said.
The Alabama tornado is the latest development in an ongoing series of storms that has hammered the South during Christmas week.
Elsewhere in the region, where the weather had calmed, dozens of people faced Christmas having lost their homes and possessions. But many they said they were thankful to see another Christmas.
Tony Goodwin ducked into a storm shelter with seven others as a storm pounded Tennessee and other states in the southeastern U.S. He emerged to find his house in Linden had been knocked off its foundation and hurled down a hill by high winds.
Goodwin’s neighbors weren’t so fortunate. Two people in one home were killed.
“It makes you thankful to be alive with your family,” he said.
Unseasonably warm weather on Wednesday helped spawn torrential rain and deadly tornadoes that left at least 14 people and left dozens of families homeless by Christmas Eve.
On Friday, parts of Mississippi remained under a flood warning. Weather forecasters from the National Weather Service warned that a strong storm crossing the central part of the state could produce hail and winds of more than 40 mph. The storm was bringing with it the risk of falling trees, downed power lines and flash flooding, officials said.
But that didn’t stop some from spending their Christmas giving rather than receiving.
Nicholas Garbacz, disaster program manager for the American Red Cross of North Mississippi, said members of the Marine Corps brought donated toys to a center in Holly Springs for children whose families were hit hard by the storms. Two of the seven people killed in Mississippi were from the Holly Springs area.
Dozens of children and their families showed up Friday morning to pick up a toy or other items they might need to recover from the storm, Garbacz said.
More severe weather was also in store for parts of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee that were again being pounded with rain. Residents were warned to brace for flash flooding and possible tornadoes.
Among the dead were seven people from Mississippi, including a 7-year-old boy who perished while riding in a car that was swept up and tossed by storm winds.
Six people were killed in Tennessee, including three who were found in a car submerged in a creek, according to the Columbia Police Department. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said the victims were a 19-year-old female and two 22-year-old males.
One person died in Arkansas, and dozens of homes were damaged or destroyed.
As the rain continued to fall, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on Friday issued an emergency declaration that covers any part of the state experiencing flash flooding. Officials in southeast Alabama are particularly concerned, as Pea River is approaching record-levels near the town of Elba, which has a history of severe flooding.
Dozens of people were injured in earlier storms, some seriously, said Greg Flynn, spokesman for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
The agency said in a statement Friday night that there were reports of another death and another person missing.
“This increases the number of deaths to eight, and the number of missing persons to two,” according to the statement.
Search teams combed damaged homes and businesses for people still missing, a hunt made complicated because so many had left for the holidays.
“Until they know for sure where those folks are, they’re going to keep looking, because we’ve had in some cases houses leveled, and they’re just not there anymore,” Flynn said.
In Benton County, Miss., relatives helped Daisy and Charles Johnson clean up after the storm flattened their house. They carried some of the couple’s belongings past a Santa Claus figure on a table.
Daisy Johnson, 68, said she and her husband rushed along with other relatives to their storm shelter across the street after they heard a tornado was headed their way.
“We looked straight west of us, and there it was. It was yellow and it was roaring, lightning just continually, and it was making a terrible noise,” she said. “I never want to hear that again for as long as I live.”
Mona Ables, 43, was driving home when the storm hit. She abandoned her car, ran to a house and banged on a window, seeking shelter.
The startled man inside couldn’t open the door, Ables said. She huddled next to the house as another stranger pulled up, also looking for shelter.
“He and I just huddled together and saw trees fly past us, and a shipping container flip over,” Ables said. “And as the debris started hitting us, he just covered me, and within a minute it was all over and there was destruction all around us and we were fine.”
Peak tornado season in the South is in the spring, but such storms can happen at any time. Exactly a year ago, tornadoes hit Mississippi, killing five people and injuring dozens.
Barbara Perkins was told Thursday by an insurance agent that her storm-damaged home in Falkner, Mississippi, was a complete loss. But Perkins — who survived the storm hunkered down inside a closet with her husband — said she was happy just to be alive. Two neighbors had died in the storm that swept across the southeastern U.S. earlier this week.
“You kind of stop and realize what Christmas is all about,” Perkins said.
Tuscaloosa News writer Patrick Rupinski contributed to this report.
AP writers contributing to this report were Erik Schelzig from Linden, Tennessee; Phillip Lucas from Falkner, Mississippi; Jay Reeves in Atlanta; Lucas Johnson in Nashville; and Chevel Johnson in New Orleans.
32058
December 26th, 2015
List of areas in Tuscaloosa County with flooding and trees down - List of flooding and trees down in Tuscaloosa County from Tuscaloosa County Roads and Bridges Department.
Lowery Drive off Highway 171 . Barricades on way to close road flooding
Cherokee Drive in Cherokee Shores: water is back down. Road open
Holt Peterson Rd. near Crescent Ridge: flooding and Trees down.
Old Country Drive: Flooding Off of Hwy 69 N.
Holly Springs Rd. off of HWY 43 N: Barricades on way to close Rd, Flooding
Rock Creek Drive; Brookwood: Flooding.
Hannah Creek Rd. 1 mile past Milldale Rd: Flooding.
Deacon Street; Cottondale. Road Crew responding.
Also, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Locust Fork at Sayre from late Friday night until Monday morning, or until the warning is canceled. Water rising on the Locust Fork River affects Tuscaloosa, Jefferson and Walker counties.
At 10 p.m. Friday, the stage was 22.3 feet. Flood stage is 25 feet. NWS forecasts a rise above flood stage by early Saturday.
32057
December 26th, 2015
Alabama set for Dallas - With Christmas in its rearview mirror, the University of Alabama football team came back together in Tuscaloosa and piled on a chartered airplane bound for Dallas for its second consecutive College Football Playoff appearance.
The Crimson Tide square off against the Michigan State Spartans on New Year’s Eve at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
During his final press conference before breaking for Christmas UA head coach Nick Saban said the team is healthy and every player that was available for the SEC Championship Game will be ready to begin practicing once the team arrives in Dallas.
“We don't really have anybody that's injured or not able to work,” Saban said. “A couple of guys missed a day here and a day there but I think everybody's going to be able to go, for sure, when we're back on the 26th.”
It’s the second time this season Alabama will play in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington after opening the year with a 35-17 win over Wisconsin in September.
“It’s a great venue to play in,” senior center Ryan Kelly said. “It’s an unbelievable place. You walk in there and it’s a huge screen. It was our first true test as a team this year playing there against a good Wisconsin game. I know all of the guys are excited to go back.”
“Yeah, it's exciting because that stadium's cool,” junior tight end O.J. Howard said. “The scoreboard, just the environment, playoff game, playing against a really good team. I think it sticks out. The stakes are really high also so it's a fun environment overall.”
Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.
32056
December 26th, 2015
Senate leader wants to raise teacher pay, with conditions - MONTGOMERY — The Republican leader of the state Senate says he will push legislation to raise Alabama teacher pay to the highest in the Southeast, but such raises could come with changes to tenure and using student test scores to evaluate teacher performance.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said the education bill will be a top priority for him in the upcoming session.
“We want to find a way to bring our starting teacher salaries to the highest in the Southeast. I think to do that, you are going to have to bring in certain accountability that the taxpayers are going to require if you are going to pay them the most,” Marsh said in an interview about the upcoming session.
Marsh said details are still under discussion.
He said one option could be offering teachers a choice between a tenure track — that includes the old pay scale and traditional job protections — and a non-tenure track with a higher pay scale.
One early draft of the legislation, circulated to get input from education groups, would make “growth in student achievement” during the school year — measured by standardized test scores —eventually count for 45 percent of a teacher’s performance evaluation. The state Department of Education will develop the evaluation model to determine if teachers meet, exceed or fall below expectations, according to the bill draft.
Marsh emphasized the legislation was still being formed and he was trying to get input from various groups.
“The tricky part is coming up with a formula that gives proper weight to different aspects — whether it is off of test scores, what is the actual student achievement levels. ... We think we can come up with a formula that’s fair that we can use,” Marsh said.
Teacher groups have traditionally expressed concern over attempts to tie pay to test scores, arguing that gauging what is going on in a classroom is a complex undertaking.
Sheila Remington, president of the Alabama Education Association, said the group was monitoring the proposal. She said she would be cautious about any evaluation or pay structure that put too much emphasis on test scores.
“There are some students that are fantastic but that freeze up on a test,” she said.
Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, a former high school principal, said he was likewise concerned about a system that put more emphasis on “teaching to the test.”
“That’s just a portion of what is taking place inside a school. ... Education is about dealing with the whole child,” Ross said.
Marsh said he hoped to have a bill finalized by the first week of the session that begins Feb. 2.
The minimum starting salary for a new teacher, with less than three years of experience, was $36,867 for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and $42,395 for a teacher with a master’s degree, according to numbers from the Alabama Department of Education.
“It’s going to be a big commitment for this state going forward, but I think it is one worth pursuing,” Marsh said.
32055
December 26th, 2015
Christmas tree, garbage drop-off location open Saturday in Tuscaloosa - The city of Tuscaloosa on Saturday is offering a garbage and Christmas tree drop-off location to help residents get rid of unwanted holiday-related items and waste.
This year, the location will be at the Environmental Services Department at 3440 Kauloosa Ave. and will last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There is no charge to use the service and there will be no other garbage drop-off locations, officials said.
While there is no fee, anyone choosing to use the service will be required to check in and complete a participation form.
And in addition to bags of garbage, residents also can drop off recyclable materials in the appropriate containers on-site. These include cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, plastic containers and bottles (marked No. 1 or No. 2), plastic bags, aluminum and steel cans, newspapers and magazines.
The Christmas tree recycling will last from Saturday through Jan. 10.
Also at the Environmental Services Department, residents and business owners can drop off live Christmas trees, live wreaths and live garlands in a designated area.
However, all items must be stripped of lights and decorations and artificial trees, wreaths and garlands will not be accepted.
The delivered trees will be taken to Farley Forestry Inc. where they will be mulched and reused in landscaping projects.
For more information about Christmas tree recycling, the holiday garbage drop-off or other environmental events in Tuscaloosa, visit www.tuscaloosa.com/recycle or call Tuscaloosa 311 at 205-248-5311.
32054
December 26th, 2015
Beulah Baptist Church distributes fruit baskets to patients for Christmas - Otis Tubbs and Michael Wells were among volunteers who loaded fruit baskets on Thursday at Beulah Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa for distribution to patients at DCH Regional Medical Center, Northport Medical Center and Hospice of West Alabama.
This is the second year church members have taken part of their Christmas Day to brighten the day for others. Pastor David Gay said the project was the idea of a member who had a child in the burn unit at UAB Hospital in Birmingham several years ago. A Birmingham church brought her a fruit basket, helping her through a difficult Christmas.
32053
December 26th, 2015
Officials warn Alabama residents of phone scams - State officials are warning Alabama residents to be wary of telephone scams.
A rash of telephone scams, some old and and some new, have callers posing as representatives of state and federal agencies to intimidate Alabamians into sending money or providing private information to criminal callers, according to a news release from state Attorney General Luther Strange and Joseph Borg, director of the Alabama Securities Commission.
Borg offered some common-sense tips to help people avoid being scammed.
“When someone calls you, never, give out your Social Security number, an account number or your age," he said. "The only time you give out personal information over the phone is when you have a valid agency number, and you make the phone call.”
Strange said that a typical scam involves the caller telling the call recipient that Office of the Attorney General has a warrant for the recipient's arrest. The caller might cite a number of reasons for the warrant, including failure to pay state income taxes or criminal activity uncovered during an investigation. The caller will ask to verify that they are talking to the right person by asking the call recipient to provide personal information, such as a Social Security number or a birth date. Some scammers will say that the warrant will be removed if the call recipient sends money to a certain account by wire.
“This is a particularly disgusting ploy to misrepresent the Office of the Attorney General, and harass and intimidate innocent citizens into sending money or providing personal information that may enable scammers to access their bank accounts,” Strange said.
The attorney general’s office does not notify residents about legal action by telephone, Strange said.
Another prevalent scam involves jury duty. Strange said the scam has been around for at least five years and it's a method for scammers to commit identity theft.
The scammer calls claiming to work for the local court and states that the call recipient has failed to report for jury duty. The scammer says that a warrant has been issued for the call recipient's arrest. When the victim says he or she never received the jury duty notification, the scammer then asks the victim for confidential information for verification.
Then, the scammer will ask for the victim's Social Security number, birth date and sometimes even for credit card numbers and other private information. Strange said this information is exactly what the scammer needs to commit identity theft.
Strange said the scam depends on the victims becoming upset about the prospect of being arrested, making them much less likely to be vigilant about protecting their confidential information.
Court representatives will never call to ask for Social Security numbers and other private information, Strange said. Most courts follow up via regular mail and rarely, if ever, call prospective jurors, he said.
Another prevalent phone scam involves someone who claims to be from the Internal Revenue Service. The caller may even have enough personal information to make the victim believe it's a legitimate call. The callers identify themselves as an agent of the IRS and say that call recipient owes the agency money. The caller threatens garnishment, liens against the recipient and possible arrest if the victim doesn't wire a certain amount of money immediately using a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer to the address the callers provided.
Strange and Borg said residents can be assured that such a caller is not from the IRS, and that the address or the account given for you to wire the IRS is the caller’s personal account.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what the IRS says you should do:
- If you know or think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
- If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
- You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
Scammers will often use labels, such as certified public accountant, senior specialist or chartered life underwriter, but that doesn't mean that they have legitimate credentials, the state officials warned. Many professionals validly identify themselves as certified and licensed experts in their fields, such as those in insurance, real estate, and doctors, as well as trades like contractors or vendors. However, not everyone is telling the truth, Borg and Strange said. One rule of thumb is to check out a professional designation with the organization that awards the designation.
The Alabama Securities Commission warns seniors to carefully check the credentials of people representing themselves out as “senior specialists,” especially if they offer investment opportunities or advice. People may call themselves a “senior specialist” to create a false level of comfort among seniors by implying a certain level of training on issues important to the elderly. But the training they receive is often nothing more than marketing and selling techniques targeting the elderly.
“Senior specialists” commonly target senior citizen investors through phone calls that offer investment opportunities or seminars in which the specialist reviews seniors’ assets, including securities portfolios. They typically recommend liquidating securities positions and using the proceeds to purchase indexed or variable annuities products or other investments the specialist offers.
Borg said, “Before doing business with any investment professional, all investors, especially senior citizen investors, should check with the Alabama Securities Commission to determine whether the individual is properly licensed and if there have been any complaints or disciplinary problems involving the individual or his or her firm. Also, you may request a free background check of any financial professional selling investments. Call 1-800-222-1253 and ask for registration to check it out.”
32052
December 26th, 2015
Alan Harper to introduce lottery bill - MONTGOMERY — In 1999, Alabama voted down the idea of creating a state lottery. Sixteen years later, some Alabama legislators say it’s time reconsider the idea.
Rep. Alan Harper, R-Northport, said he will introduce a lottery bill in the upcoming legislative session to put the idea to a public vote again.
“People have constantly asked us, ‘When are you going to let us vote on a lottery?” Harper said. “I think it’s time the people had their say.”
Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman proposed a Georgia-style lottery to fund college scholarships and prekindergarten programs. Voters rejected the referendum.
Republican legislators in 1999 brought some of the staunchest opposition to Siegelman’s lottery bill during the debate. Republicans now hold majorities in both chambers of the Alabama Legislature and have never embraced gambling as a caucus. However, some Republicans appear to be warming to the idea, particularly after GOP legislators have faced difficulties putting together a state general fund budget without tax increases.
House Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said he favors the idea, if the money goes to the general fund.
“If you are going to do it, this is the year to do it — and let people vote on it in November,” Clouse said.
Harper said his bill would just put the question of creating a state lottery before voters. He said that where the money went could be decided later.
Forty-four states have lotteries. Only, Alabama, Mississippi, Utah, Nevada, Hawaii and Alaska do not.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley won’t put a lottery on his legislative agenda, but said that it could provide a solution to the state’s perpetual general fund woes.
“I think that a lottery, certainly if it were a clean lottery, all designated for the general fund is something that hopefully the legislature will consider. That could be a long-term funding source for the general fund,” Bentley said this month.
Not all lawmakers are convinced.
Sen. Trip Pittman, chairman of the Senate general fund budget committee, said he was doubtful the idea would get serious consideration.
“I’m not sure gambling is the way we go in Alabama,” said Senate Rules Chairman Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said he will no longer sponsor legislation that would have called for a public vote on a lottery and full-blown casinos.
“There are probably a higher percentage of people that were open to the lottery than full-blown gambling. But it was never really tested so I don’t know if there is even really support for that. But we’ll see,” Marsh, R-Anniston, said.
Chip Hill, executive director of the Alabama Jobs Foundation, a group formed to support Marsh’s bill, said lawmakers should consider both.
“The Alabama Jobs Foundation will not support a standalone lottery referendum because a lottery alone will not create the jobs or economic impact we need to fix our long-term budget problems,” Hill said.
32051
December 24th, 2015
"All Things Acoustic" mixes songs, sound effect, commentary for holiday - As traditions evolve, sometimes they twist backward to turn new soil from the roots.
Jeremy Butler’s “All Things Acoustic” holiday show airs at 8 tonight on Alabama Public Radio, with almost three dozen seasonal selections "from the edge of technology." As it has since the show’s debut in 1993, the holiday "ATA" opens with its own version of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” best known by its first line: “ ‘Twas the night before Christmas.”
Butler’s narration stays true to C. Clement Moore’s poem, but the “All Things Acoustic Repertory Players,” consisting of fellow radio professionals and other pals, layer in goofy sound effects and commentary. Santa’s pipe-puffing elicits a cough; reindeer crash and careen. A mother and daughter share this exchange: “What’s that dancing in my head, mama?” “Those are sugarplums, dear. It’s a 19th-century thing.”
Growing up in Phoenix, Ariz., Butler and family read Moore’s poem each Christmas Eve. Over the years, they sought alternate versions, some parodies, some sprinkling in cultural, spiritual or regional flavor.
“I was inspired both by my renewed love for radio, and from the family tradition, to write a new version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,’” in 1993, Butler said.
Butler has DJ-ed radio since undergrad days at Brown in the early ‘70s. After moving here to join the University of Alabama Department of Telecommunication and Film, he helped George Hadjidakis on campus station WVUA with “Progressions,” which introduced many Tuscaloosans to underground sounds of the late ‘70s and ‘80s.
“But I got kind of burned out on punk and new wave music as the ‘80s progressed,” Butler said. He turned back to acoustic, old-time music and singer-songwriter sounds, discovering artists such as Ani DiFranco, John Gorka, Bill Morrissey and Shawn Colvin. “I’d been off the air four or five years when I pitched the idea to Roger (Duvall, then general manager of APR). I came at it with a renewed enthusiasm for this music.”
Butler improvises live most weeks. He’ll hit WUAL’s music library 30 or 45 minutes before air, pull a stack of CDs, roll them into the studio on a cart, and start mixing and matching.
“DJs are a dying breed,” he said; stations increasingly relying algorithm-based song lists. “DJs have the notion of curating the music, making sometimes quirky choices, taking you in in ways you don’t expect. It’s kind of an instinctual thing.
“I like being there,” he said.
But for his family’s sake, he records the holiday show. Taylor Watson returns as co-host tonight. Watson, curator at the Paul W. Bryant Museum, runs www.mcsanta.com, which hosts holiday songs, sights, videos and other curiosities.
“Almost the entire two hours is from his collection,” Butler said. “It’s more fun to do a show with a co-host, generally speaking, and with someone who’s so into Christmas music and knows so much about it. He can provide a lot of the history and backgrounds."
Tonight's show stretches from broad Spike Lee comedy to sweet folkie tunes to romping New Orleans-style second-line.
“We tend to emphasize the more upbeat, humorous, light-hearted Christmas music over super-serious stuff,” Butler said. They seek non-standard versions of standards, such as The Roches' a cappella “Sleigh Ride.”
“That version is just killer. ... We have a version of ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town’ by Joseph Spence, who’s from the Bahamas, and his vocal is just unintelligible; it’s really great,” Butler said, laughing.
A cappella singing group Straight No Chaser performs Brian Wilson’s “Little Saint Nick," and Poi Dog Pondering, with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, turns “Mele Kalikimaka” into a swinging sensation. There’s sacred harp singing, Hawaiian variations and Jim Croce’s “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way," Watson's mother's favorite. The party ends sweetly, with Vince Guaraldi’s instrumental “Skating” from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
“ATA” airs on APR at 8 tonight, locally on WUAL 91.5 FM. Find playlists and more at www.allthingsacoustic.org.
32050
December 24th, 2015
Tuscaloosa woman celebrates 105th birthday today - The birth of Jesus isn’t the only one Ivie Farley's family celebrates on Christmas.
“Born Christmas Day,” said Farley. She turned 105 years old today.
“I got old,” Farley said.
Farley was born on Dec. 25, 1910 in Fosters.
She left Tuscaloosa County in 1953 to move to Buffalo, N.Y., where she married her second husband, Henry Farley, who died in 1974, said Farley’s daughter, Flora Farley.
Flora Farley said her mother returned to Tuscaloosa in 2007, and if she is able, she will travel to Buffalo next year for a family reunion with five generations.
She said her mother has seven children, 25 grandchildren, 48 great-grandchildren, 67 great-great-grandchildren and 38 great-great-great-grandchildren.
Those who live nearby will join Farley at her home in West End today to give her birthday and Christmas gifts and watch her blow out the candles on her vanilla cake.
“She’ll get two cakes. She’ll have one for the 26th and one for the 25th,” Flora Farley said.
Farley will be celebrating twice this year with one party today, including Christmas festivities, and one party on Saturday when family and friends will come together again for barbecue and more cake.
“We mostly do all of it on her birthday, but I felt like 105 was a milestone,” Flora Farley said.
At 105 years old, Farley still gets around. Flora Farley said her mother dresses herself and walks around without assistance, but she does complain of arthritis.
“My mother can do anything she wants to do when she wants to do it,” she said.
She said her mother has outlived four children, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, but they don’t worry about this being her last Christmas with the family.
“We don’t think about (losing her). We know that she’s old, and we know one day she’s going to leave us. We take it day by day and don’t even think about it,” she said. “We’re grateful to have her. We hope we have many more (years).”
32049
December 24th, 2015
TOP 50 RECRUITS - Rankings by Andrew Bone, Tidesports.com Recruiting Analyst
1. Ben Davis
High school: Gordo
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 236 Pos: LB
Rivals.com rating: 5 stars
What you need to know: Davis is the son of the University of Alabama's all-time leading tackler, Wayne Davis. He is the No.1 inside linebacker in the country by Rivals.com.
Considering: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame
Bone says: Davis is a physical specimen at his position. He has a terrific frame, is extremely athletic and can fly to the football. He is long and covers well in space.
2. Marlon Davidson
High school: Greenville
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 280 Pos: DE
Rivals.com rating:: 5 stars
What you need to know: His older brother, Kenneth Carter, played football at Auburn. Carter is also on the football staff at Auburn in an off-the-field position.
Considering: Auburn commitment
Bone says: Davidson comes from a football family. He is a smart player. He does a great job using his hands and has a great rip move. He is explosive off the ball.
3. Lyndell Wilson
High school: Carver (Montgomery)
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 235 Pos: LB
Rivals.com rating: 5 stars
What you need to know: Wilson has been recruited since his freshman year. He was a starter on Carver's defense alongside current Alabama linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton when he was a sophomore.
Considering: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Southern Cal
Bone says: Wilson is one of the best cover linebackers in the country. He's been coached well throughout his career and has all the physical tools to compete early at the next level.
4. Quinnen Williams
High school: Wenonah (Birmingham)
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 265 Pos: DE
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Williams decommitted from Auburn in the summer after participating in Alabama's camp. He committed to Alabama a few weeks later. He has been one of Alabama's bigger recruiters.
Considering: Alabama commitment
Bone says: Williams does not carry much bad weight on his impressive frame. He is explosive coming off the ball and has speed and power. He has the skills to become an elite pass rusher.
5. Deonte Brown
High school: Austin (Decatur)
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 350 Pos: OL
Rivals.com rating: 4 stars
What you need to know: Brown is also a standout basketball player. He will compete in the Under Armour All-America Game in January.
Considering: Alabama commitment
Bone says: Brown has many great attributes, such as size, footwork and strength. He will need to hit the weight room and lose weight to become an All-SEC caliber lineman.
6. T.J. Simmons
High school: Clay-Chalkville
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 190 Pos: WR
Rivals.com rating: 4 stars
What you need to know: Simmons helped his team win the Class 6A state championship in 2014. The Cougars were undefeated in 2015 before losing to Spanish Fort in the state title game. Simmons will enroll at Alabama in January.
Considering: Alabama commitment
Bone says: Simmons gets better every time he steps on the field. He is always trying to improve his game. He runs great routes and is a reliable pass-catcher. He also has great blocking skills.
7. LaMical Perine
High school: Theodore
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 211 Pos: RB
Rivals.com rating: 4 stars
What you need to know: Perine rushed for more than 1,400 yards during his senior season. His cousin, Samaje Perine, is the starting running back at Oklahoma. LaMical is considering an official visit to Alabama in January.
Considering: Florida commitment
Bone says: Perine is a patient runner who does a great job following his blockers and doesn't go down on initial contact. He is strong, runs with power and has a great burst.
8. Velus Jones
High school: Saraland
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 180 Pos: WR
Rivals.com rating: 4 stars
What you need to know: Jones has been committed to Southern Cal for several months but is still considering many options, including Tennessee, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. He is also waiting to see if Alabama or Auburn will offer.
Considering: Southern Cal commitment
Bone says: Jones had a brilliant high school career. He is a smooth athlete who is quick and very elusive. He is a great receiver who also has the potential to become a lockdown corner.
9. Tre Threat
High school: Spanish Fort
Rivals.com rating: 4 stars
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 230 Pos: LB
What you need to know: Threat helped lead the Toros to the Class 6A state championship in 2015. He had three tackles in the game. He will play in the Under Armour All-America Game in January.
Considering: Auburn commitment
Bone says: A great leader, Threat does a good job of finishing plays. He is a physical, downhill linebacker. He is a coach on the field and has great vision.
10. Jeremiah Moon
High school: Hoover
Ht:6-4 Wt: 210 Pos: LB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Moon has been a regular contributor in Hoover's defense since his sophomore year. He recorded 10 tackles in the state championship game as a junior.
Considering: Florida commitment
Bone says: Moon has great instincts and is always around the football. He is very long and still lean. He will need to add weight and build muscle once he reaches next level. He is a low-risk, high-reward type of player.
11. Jamal Couch
High school: Central-Phenix City
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 215 Pos: LB
Rivals.com rating: 4 stars
What you need to know: Couch recently decommitted from Florida State. He is recruited as a tight end and linebacker.
Considering: Florida State, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisville
Bone says: Couch is a versatile prospect who can play on either side of the ball.
12. Malik Miller
High school: Madison Academy
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 220 Pos: RB
Rivals.com rating: 4 stars
What you need to know: Miller was a four-year starter who rushed for more than 4,000 yards in his career. He sustained a minor knee injury toward the end of the season.
Considering: Auburn commitment
Bone says: Miller is a punishing running back who can carry a heavy workload. He is strong, powerful and patient. He can play several positions at the next level.
13. Jeawon Taylor
High school: Park Crossing (Montgomery)
Ht: 6-2 Wt: 192 Pos: Safety
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Taylor played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic. He is close friends with five-star linebacker Lyndell Wilson.
Considering: Florida commitment
Bone says: Taylor is excellent in coverage and does a great job patrolling the middle of the field. He has range and speed, and does a good job in run support.
14. Shawn Jennings
High school: Dadeville
Ht: 6-1 1/2 Wt: 215 Pos: Safety
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Jennings was having a fantastic senior season before sustaining a fractured kneecap. He will enroll at Alabama in January. His older brother, Anfernee Jennings, is a redshirt freshman at Alabama.
Considering: Alabama commitment
Bone says: Jennings is a great athlete who started at quarterback and linebacker. He will likely play safety or linebacker at Alabama.
15. Darius Whitfield
High school: St. Paul's (Mobile)
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 268 Pos: Defensive end
Rivals.com rating: 4 stars
What you need to know: Whitfield is the younger brother of Alabama offensive lineman Josh Casher. He played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic.
Considering: South Carolina commitment
Bone says: Whitfield has good speed and quickness off the ball. He has great hands and is a hard worker.
16. P.J. Blue
High school: Park Crossing (Montgomery)
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 205 Pos: LB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Blue originally committed to South Carolina. He had 67 tackles as a senior with six pass break-ups and two interceptions.
Considering: Louisville commitment
Bone says: Blue is a great athlete who can play several positions. He is best suited for safety at the next level. He has excellent speed and tackling ability. He does a great job closing on the ball.
17. Erroll Thompson
High school: Florence
Ht: 6-1 1/2 Wt: 255 Pos: LB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Thompson had 110 tackles as a senior, 20 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Considering: Mississippi State commitment
Bone says: Thompson can play several positions, including linebacker, defensive end, fullback and H-back. He is very versatile and athletic. He moves really well for his size and does a great job in pursuit.
18. John Broussard
High school: Central-Phenix City
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 165 Pos: CB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Broussard was invited to the Rivals Five-Star Challenge as a junior. He will participate in the 2016 Under Armour All-America Game.
Considering: Auburn commitment
Bone says: Broussard likes to play press-man coverage and does a good job jamming players on the line. He has long arms, which helps in covering bigger receivers on the outside.
19. Jakori Savage
High school: Baldwin County (Bay Minette)
Ht: 6-5 Wt: 275 Pos: OT
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Savage was a relatively unknown prospect before participating in LSU's camp this summer, where he earned an offer and committed.
Considering: LSU commitment
Bone says: Savage is a raw prospect with a high ceiling. He has great footwork and can get to the second and third level. He does a great job finishing blocks.
20. Xavier Lane
High school: Caver (Montgomery)
Ht: 6-3 Wt:190 Pos: WR
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Lane had a breakout senior season. He hauled in 44 receptions for 795 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Considering: Cincinnati, Jacksonville State, Toledo
Bone says: Lane made a strong statement during his senior season as one of the top pass-catchers in the state. He is a big, physical target. He has fantastic hands and will go up to get the ball.
21. Jarrion Street
High school: Hewitt-Trussville
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 203 Pos: RB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Street played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic. He had 1,425 yards rushing on 212 carries and 18 touchdowns as a senior.
Considering: Ole Miss commitment
Bone says: Street is a tall running back who is somewhat similar to former Daphne star T.J. Yeldon. He is an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield.
22. Kelvin Lucky
High school: Edgewood Academy (Elmore)
Ht: 6-6 Wt: 228 Pos: ATH
Rivals.com rating: Not ranked
What you need to know: Lucky is a Nigerian transfer student who started playing football a year ago. He is also a basketball star.
Considering: Florida, Texas, Vanderbilt
Bone says: Lucky is an infant in regards to his football knowledge, but has all the tools needed to become an elite player. He will need time to develop, but has freakish athleticism, size and speed.
23. Riley Cole
High school: Oneonta
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 217 Pos: LB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Cole had 103 tackles, nine tackles for loss and a sack during his senior season. He missed three games because of an injury.
Considering: Alabama commitment
Bone says: Cole earned an offer from the Crimson Tide with a strong performance at Alabama's camp in June. He is a smart player, runs really well side-to-side and has great instincts.
24. Jacorey Morris
Hight school: Clarke County (Grove Hill)
Ht: 6-2 Wt: 225 Pos: LB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Morris has been very quiet since his commitment. He gave his verbal pledge to the Gamecocks prior to the start of his junior season.
Considering: South Carolina commitment
Bone says: Morris might become the sleeper of the class. He moves extremely well for his size. He does a great job of attacking the ballcarrier and takes good angles.
25. TaDarryl Marshall
High school: Leeds
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 190 Pos: ATH
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Marshall helped Leeds win two consecutive state championships. He recently decommitted from Tennessee. He served as a replacement in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic as a receiver.
Considering: Kentucky, Illinois, Samford, South Carolina, South Florida, Virginia Tech
Bone says: Marshall is a star on the offensive side of the ball. He is athletic, quick and makes great decisions. He will move from quarterback to receiver at the next level. He is dangerous in the open field.
26. Kingston Davis
High school: Prattville
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 242 Pos: RB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Davis had a great senior season, rushing for 1,656 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Considering: Michigan commitment
Bone says: Davis is a big, bruising back who might end up playing fullback for the Wolverines. He has good speed to go along with his impressive size.
27. Ty Pigrome
High school: Clay-Chalkville
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 180 Pos: ATH
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Pigrome was runner-up for Mr. Football in 2014. He won a state championship in 2014, and his team was runner-up in 2015. He passed for 3,080 yards with 44 touchdowns and only four interceptions as a senior with 1,349 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground.
Considering: Arkansas State, Indiana, Missouri, Purdue, New Mexico
Bone says: Pigrome is an extremely dangerous player on the offensive side of the ball who makes plays with his arm and legs. He is very quick and elusive, and his future college position remains in the air.
28. Bailey McElwain
High school: Hewitt-Trussville
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 227 Pos: FB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: McElwain was a star on both sides of the ball. He had 71 tackles this season with four sacks and 13 tackles for loss. He started at fullback in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic.
Considering: Stanford commitment
Bone says: McElwain is a devastating blocker. He is very physical and will open up plenty of holes.
29. Antonio Nelson
High school: Carver (Montgomery)
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 190 Pos: Safety
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Nelson received an offer from Florida in November and committed almost immediately. He is a teammate with five-star linebacker Lyndell Wilson, who is also very high on Florida's wish list.
Considering: Florida commitment
Bone says: Nelson has excellent range in the secondary. He has long arms and reacts quickly to the ball. He is still somewhat new to the sport since he has always been a basketball player.
30. Griffin Gentry
High school: Homewood
Ht: 6-2 1/2 Wt: 260 Pos: DE
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Gentry originally committed to Troy before earning his first SEC offer from South Carolina.
Considering: South Carolina commitment
Bone says: Gentry has great hands, great quickness off the ball and strength. He really knows how to use his hands against linemen.
31. Daniel Thomas
High school: Robert E. Lee (Montgomery)
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 192 Pos: Safety
Rivals.com rating: 2 stars
What you need to know: Thomas had 87 tackles, seven interceptions and five tackles for loss. He returned two interceptions and two punt returns for touchdowns.
Considering: Maryland, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Troy, UAB
Bone says: Thomas is a ball hawk in the secondary. He does a great job reading the quarterback and can take it the distance from anywhere on the field.
32. Perry Young
High school: Spain Park
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 192 Pos: OLB
Rivals.com rating: 2 stars
What you need to know: Young was a three-year starter for the Jaguars who helped the team reach the Class 7A state finals as a senior. He had 11 tackles in the state title game.
Considering: Cincinnati commitment
Bone says: Young is possibly the best pound-for-pound football player in the state. He is instinctive, has great speed and Is always around the football.
33. Tyler Pritchett
High school: Auburn
Ht: 6-2 Wt: 290 Pos: OL
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Pritchett started at Calera High School his sophomore year before transferring to Auburn High.
Considering: North Carolina commitment
Bone says: Pritchett has excellent footwork and plays with a lot of aggression. He does a great job of using his hands and can play multiple positions on the line.
34. P.J. Hall
High school: Hoover
Ht: 5-10 Wt: 182 Pos: CB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Hall was a three-year starter and helped the Bucs win two state championships. He had an interception in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic.
Considering: Georgia Southern, Memphis, Minnesota, Mississippi State
Bone says: Hall is a lockdown cornerback and does a very good job in press coverage. He has quick reaction speed and can change direction.
35. Jay Jones
High school: McAdory (McCalla)
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 180 Pos: ATH
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Jones is possibly better suited as a receiver or defensive back on the next level. Georgia Tech offered him this fall as a quarterback.
Considering: Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Mississippi State, South Alabama, Southern Miss
Bone says: Jones is an excellent dual-threat quarterback. He is a very smart player and has tremendous quickness and speed.
36. Tyreic Martin
High school: Valley
Ht: 6-2 Wt: 265 Pos: DE
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Martin had 57 tackles in 2015 with seven sacks, eight tackles for loss, three pass break-ups and seven quarterback hurries.
Considering: Missouri commitment
Bone says: Martin is an aggressive pass rusher. He plays with great leverage and has very good size and quickness.
37. Dytarious Johnson
High school: Prattville
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 215 Pos: LB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Johnson had 64 tackles as a senior and four tackles for loss.
Considering: Michigan commitment
Bone says: Johnson was an unknown prospect until he attended Michigan's satellite camp at Prattville, where he earned an offer. He's a physical 'backer and flies to the football. He also has good speed.
38. Tre Nation
High school: Leeds
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 220 Pos: RB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Nation helped lead his team to back-to-back state championships. He had 186 yards rushing and five touchdowns in this year's state title game.
Considering: Cincinnati, Louisville, Ole Miss, Mississippi State
Bone says: Nation is a downhill runner who is tough between the tackles. He has a powerful lower body and is hard to bring down. He has quick feet and can catch the ball out of the backfield.
39. Caleb Tillman
High school: Northview (Dothan)
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 275 Pos: DE
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Tillman registered 52 tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks and seven quarterback hurries in 2015.
Considering: Louisville commitment
Bone says: He is smart, instinctive and aggressive. Tillman has been well-coached, and plays with great leverage.
40. Kurtis Beamon
High school: Huffman (Birmingham)
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 280 Pos: DT
Rivals.com rating: 2 stars
What you need to know: Beamon had 16 sacks, 65 tackles and 12 quarterback hurries this season.
Considering: Arkansas State, Memphis, Ole Miss, North Carolina, Western Kentucky
Bone says: Beamon impressed throughout the week at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic. He is strong and very powerful. He has impressive quickness for his size.
41. Tyler Johnston
High school: Spanish Fort
Ht: 6-2 Wt: 205 Pos: QB
Rivals.com rating: 2 stars
What you need to know: Johnston led the Toros to the Class 7A state title and an undefeated season. He passed for 3,619 yards with 44 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He added 750 yards rushing with 13 touchdowns.
Considering: UAB commitment
Bone says: Winner. That's the first thought that comes to mind. Johnston hasn't lost a start in two years. He can beat you with his arm and legs. He will redshirt at UAB and be ready to lead the program into the future.
42. Ja'Quize Cross
High school: Buckhorn (New Market)
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 305 Pos: DT
Rivals.com rating: 2 stars
What you need to know: Cross had 84 tackles, eight sacks, four forced fumbles and 14 quarterback hurries during his senior season.
Considering: Kentucky commitment
Bone says: Cross is a disruptive force on the defensive front. He has a high motor, plays with a lot of aggression and is quick off the ball.
43. Joshua Johnson
High school: Opelika
Ht: 5-9 Wt: 215 Pos: RB
Rivals.com rating: 2 stars
What you need to know: Johnson rushed for 1,340 yards with 24 touchdowns in 2015. He also had 15 receptions for 257 yards and four touchdowns.
Considering: Cincinnati, Colorado State, Georgia Southern, Nevada, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Troy, Western Kentucky
Bone says: Johnson has a great blend of power and speed. He reads his blocks and has a great first cut.
44. Zo Bridges
High school: Opelika
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 210 Pos: LB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Bridges had 85 tackles, 15 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in 2015.
Considering: Troy commitment
Bone says: Bridges has a lot of speed, great instincts and plays fast. He has excellent quickness off the ball and can rush the quarterback.
45. B.J. Edmonds
High school: St. Paul's (Mobile)
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 190 Pos: ATH
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Edmonds helped lead St. Paul's to back-to-back state championships. He had a touchdown run and interception return for a touchdown in the 2015 state title game.
Considering: Arkansas State, Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Louisiana Tech, South Alabama, Troy, Western Kentucky
Bone says: Edmonds is one of the best two-way athletes in the state. His future college position is possibly best as a safety. He is very athletic with good speed and quickness.
46. Jay Woods
High school: Pinson Valley (Pinson)
Ht: 5-11 Wt: 180 Pos: CB
Rivals.com rating: 3 star
What you need to know: Woods had 58 tackles, three tackles for loss, 12 pass break-ups and three interceptions in 2015. He also had four punt returns and one kickoff return for touchdowns.
Considering: South Alabama commitment
Bone says: Woods is very physical and good at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. He breaks quickly on the ball and is a good tackler.
47. Brandon Simmons
High school: Pleasant Grove
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 220 Pos: RB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Simmons rushed for 1,964 and 28 touchdowns during the 2015 season.
Considering: Jacksonville State, Nebraska, Purdue, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Wake Forest
Bone says: Simmons is a wide load and very tough to bring down. He might move to fullback on the next level. He is a strong bruiser who runs with power.
48. Miles Strickland
High school: Bob Jones (Madison)
Ht: 5-10 Wt: 180 Pos: RB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Strickland rushed for 1,042 yards with 15 touchdowns in 2015. He also had 454 yards receiving with four touchdowns.
Considering: Troy, South Alabama, Arkansas State, Marshall, Duke
Bone says: Strickland is very explosive. He has home-run speed and lightning quickness. He is dangerous in the open field and also breaks tackles.
49. Terrence Harris
High school: Huffman (Birmingham)
Ht: 6-3 Wt: 220 Pos: LB
Rivals.com rating: 3 stars
What you need to know: Harris had 72 tackles, two sacks and an interception in 2015.
Considering: Cincinnati, Indiana, Louisiana Tech, Memphis
Bone says: Harris is a very athletic linebacker who can run sideline to sideline. He is a great tackler, very physical.
50. Kyle Fourtenbary
High School: Opelika
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 235 Pos: TE
Rivals.com rating: 2 stars
What you need to know: Fourtenbary had 28 receptions for 472 yards and six touchdowns in 2015.
Considering: Western Kentucky commitment
Bone says: Fourtenbary can wear many hats in an offense, such as tight end, H-back or fullback. He is a very good blocker and a sure-handed receiver. He runs crisp routes.
32048
December 24th, 2015
Coordinator chosen for UA program - The University of Alabama’s Office of the Provost has selected Shannon Hubbard to be the new coordinator of Alabama REACH, a program that assists foster-care and other disadvantaged children in attending and succeeding at the university.
Hubbard, formerly the senior social work supervisor at the Tuscaloosa County Department of Human Resources, has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from UA. Her work for Tuscaloosa County has involved working with foster-care children as well as supervising foster-care resource workers.
Alabama REACH is a comprehensive support program designed to empower current and former foster youth, orphans, emancipated minors and wards of the state of Alabama to pursue higher education and graduate from college.
“The programmatic goal of REACH is to support students who come from alternative living arrangements before pursuing and graduating from college, which can increase the likelihood of their personal and professional success,” Hubbard said.
“As REACH scholars continue graduating from college, the hope is that they find stable employment and/or continue their education as well as develop stability and permanency by retaining sufficient income, adequate housing and productive relationships.”
The program consists of three components: are REACH Back (future students), REACH Up (current students) and REACH Out (community members), bridging high school to post secondary to community.
For more information, go to http://www.reach.ua.edu.
32047
December 24th, 2015
Tuscaloosa boy has role in Dolly Parton movie, was extra in 'Mockingjay, Part 2' - Forrest Deal, a 12-year-old from Fayette, isn’t the only local actor to take on a role in “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors.”
Taylor Thomas, 10, from Tuscaloosa, landed a role in the film that tells the story of Parton’s childhood – how she grew up poor and her run-ins with bullies at school.
Taylor, who didn't have any lines, portrayed 9-year-old Dolly’s classmate alongside Forrest’s character, bully Rudy Sanders.
"I was little dolly’s classmate so I had to play the part of a student. I was also one of the kids that made fun of Dolly’s coat. I was in a lot of the church scenes as a church member," said Taylor, who is student at Rock Quarry Elementary School.
Viewers can look for Taylor in the movie when it airs for a second showing at 8 p.m. on Christmas on NBC.
The family-oriented, faith-based film is set in the Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains in 1955. Indoor scenes were filmed in a warehouse in Conyers, Ga., and outdoor scenes were filmed on the Gaither Plantation in Covington, Ga.
Earning 15.6 million viewers during its original airing, it is the first of three films about Parton’s life, according to www.tasteofcountry.com. The next film will be based on her song “Jolene.”
Thomas said Taylor has caught the acting bug after his role in the first film of the series and as an extra in the movie “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2,” and he wants to continue acting.
Taylor's mother, Kandra Thomas, said Taylor acted in eight to 10 scenes in the film.
She said the filming was a small, intimate project, and the cast members became close friends.
“He loved being with all the kids that were in this movie,” Thomas said.
32046
December 23rd, 2015
2 suspects arrested in burglary in Hillcrest area - Two men have been charged with burglary following a Tuesday afternoon break-in at a home in the Hillcrest area.
Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy said deputies responded to a report of a burglary in progress on Browning Drive in the Remington subdivision off of Patriot Parkway around 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“Deputies arrived on scene shortly after the call was dispatched and cleared the residence," Abernathy said. "The suspects fled the scene before the deputies' arrival."
The suspect's abandoned their vehicle at the scene, which Tuscaloosa police later discovered was stolen.
Meanwhile deputies, the sheriff's K-9 unit and criminal investigations division and Tuscaloosa Police Department patrol units conduct a search of the area that resulted in the arrest of two suspects, Abernathy said. A third suspect managed to escape.
Arrested were: Carlton Demond Bates, 17, who is charged with first degree burglary and first degree robbery, and Lamarcus Antwan Green, 19, who is charged with first degree robbery, first degree burglary and attempting to elude police. The robbery charges were brought by the Tuscaloosa Police Department in separate case they were investigating.
Bates' bail was set at $120,000, and Green's bail was set at $151,000. Green's bail was higher because he faces additional charges on unrelated cases, according to the sheriff's department.
The investigation continues, and Abernathy said authorities are trying to identify the third suspect.
Anyone with information regarding the crimes is asked to contact the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office at 205-464-8672, the Tuscaloosa Police Department at 205-349-2121 or to leave an anonymous tip at sheriff's department website -- www.tcsoal.org.
32045
December 23rd, 2015
A doggone great litter: Great Dane gives birth to 19 puppies in south Alabama - NEWVILLE — Got milk? One prolific Great Dane mother needs all the help she can get.
Velma, a 4-year-old Great Dane belonging to Josh and Terri Luther, is doing her best to nurse 19 puppies born Dec. 5. As far as anyone can tell, it ties the largest known Great Dane litter.
“They just kept coming,” Josh Luther said, adding that the entire birthing process took about 19 hours. All the pups appear healthy.
The Luthers breed Great Danes. The latest bunch of puppies is Velma’s second litter. She had 10 the first time.
“Ten is about what we were expecting this time,” Terri Luther said.
Despite her best efforts, Velma cannot adequately nurse all of the puppies. When Velma tries to nurse, it resembles a combination of survival of the fittest and musical chairs.
The Luthers supplement Velma’s supply with goat milk combined with Esbilac formula from Jeffers Pet Supply. Terri Luther said each dog currently gets about 180 ml of food per day, half coming from Velma and half from the formula. Great Danes, however, grow rapidly and so do their food needs.
No, they have not been named. Josh Luther said he made that mistake before.
“Once you name them, you get attached to them,” he said. “I already have a hard time letting them go.”
Great Dane litters of eight to 10 puppies are normal. A litter of 19, however, is almost unprecedented.
According to multiple reports, a Pennsylvania Great Dane birthed a litter of 19 puppies last year. At the time, it was the largest known Great Dane litter.
The largest known dog litter is 24, born to a Neapolitan mastiff in England in 2004. Four died shortly after birth.
32044
December 23rd, 2015
More budget cuts likely, Alabama lawmakers say - The chairmen of Alabama's general fund budget committees said additional cuts are likely when lawmakers convene in February.
After spending most of 2015 fighting over how to fill a shortfall in the state's general fund budget, legislative leaders say they expect another difficult year in 2016 with little appetite for additional tax increases.
House Ways and Means General Fund Committee Chairman Steve Clouse said he thought level funding was the best-case scenario for most agencies in the upcoming session.
He said the situation won't be as dire as the recent budget fight because lawmakers did approve some new revenue, including a cigarette tax. But he said lawmakers have likely done all they are willing to do on tax increases.
“I don't anticipate we are going to raise any money,” Clouse said.
Senate budget chairman Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, said he expects legislators will manage their way through the budget situation.
And Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said it seems unlikely that lawmakers will be convinced that last year's bare-bones budget was a bad thing.
“There was all this talk from the governor's office that if we did that there would be screaming and crying on the streets. No one is seeing that,” Marsh said.
Lawmakers will begin budget hearings in January. The 2016 session begins Feb. 2.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley pushed lawmakers to raise taxes but got only a few of his ideas approved over three legislative sessions.
The governor said the state's Medicaid program will likely need an increase of more than $100 million to continue the shift to managed care, a system that state policy makers expect to control costs once up and running. But he also said it will be difficult to raise taxes.
32043
December 23rd, 2015
Bonuses paid to pension fund employees - Alabama’s state pension fund is paying a total of $370,000 in incentive bonuses to 14 employees.
The bonuses were approved this month by board directors for the 2015 fiscal year and range from $3,371 to $51,199.
The head of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, David Bronner, said the bonuses will help him keep strong employees in a competitive profession.
“I think we’ve got probably our best staff we’ve ever had,” Bronner said.
The pension system earned a 1 percent return on its $32 billion in investments for the year that ended Sept. 30. That’s below its long-range target of 8 percent. But Bronner says the bonuses are based on performance relative to the markets, not the overall target.
“Each person is graded totally in their area on numbers,” Bronner said. “Numbers only, no personality, no nothing else.”
The incentive program is “fair and reasonable,” said state Treasurer Young Boozer.
“Incentive compensation is an essential component of overall compensation for the investment staff,” Boozer said in an email. “It allows RSA to attract and to retain personnel with the expertise required to manage its portfolios.”
A legislative committee is studying the state pension system and might recommend changes in 2016.
Rep. Jim Patterson, R-Meridianville, said incentive pay sounds like a good policy, but he questions the long term sustainability of the RSA’s earnings over the past 20 years.
The Pew Charitable Trusts is gathering information for the legislative committee and reported that the RSA’s liabilities have grown faster than its assets since 2001.
32042
December 23rd, 2015
Nick Saban says he's staying put in Tuscaloosa - Nine years into his coaching journey in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban is the longest-tenured football coach at the University of Alabama since Paul W. "Bear" Bryant spent 25 years roaming the sideline inside the stadium that came to share his name – now known as Bryant-Denny – and Birmingham's Legion Field.
And in those nine years, it's become an almost annual tradition this time of year for Saban's name to be linked to other coaching opportunities, be it collegiately or professionally.
Two years ago it was Texas. This year it's the Indianapolis Colts, for which Saban's named has been bandied about.
The 64-year-old makes in excess of $7 million per season to coach Alabama, a school he has led to three national championships and four SEC titles. Saban's team is in its second College Football Playoff, facing off against his former team, Michigan State, New Year's Eve in the Cotton Bowl.
He recently told ESPN.com that he can't see an opportunity on the horizon that would make him leave his current situation.
"No, I really don't. I don't see it ever happening, and I know every year somebody has me going somewhere else," Saban said in an exclusive interview with the sports television network's website. "I think a lot of it isn't just about the coaching part. What people don't understand is they forget you're a person. They forget you have a wife and two kids and a grandbaby, and they all live in Birmingham.
"They all work here. My wife goes to Birmingham five times a week. My mom lives in Birmingham now after moving from Myrtle Beach. It's not just the job. A lot of people don't get that. My life is here."
Losing his long-time defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart – who agreed to stay on through the playoffs before assuming full-time duties as head coach at Georgia – is something to note. He hired Jeremy Pruitt, a former assistant with whom he is comfortable in to lead his defense.
His retaining head strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran was also a boon to the program.
Saban said there will come a day when sustaining the program he built will not be possible.
"You cannot keep that up," Saban told ESPN.com. "There's going to be some period of time ... where you're not at that level. If you look at every coach's record, it's just not possible to sustain that level of success all the time."

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.
32041
December 23rd, 2015
Storm system threatens South - ATLANTA | A storm system packing strong winds and heavy rain as it slammed the nation’s mid-section on Wednesday, and officials worried about Christmas yard decorations becoming projectiles in what forecasters called a threat of “multiple tornadic supercells.”
A tree blew over onto a house in Arkansas, killing an 18-year-old woman and trapping her 1-year-old child inside, authorities said. Rescuers pulled the toddler safely from the home.
The biggest threat for tornadoes was in a region of 3.7 million people in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas and parts of Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky, according to the national Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma. Twisters were possible from midday Wednesday through the evening.
Elsewhere, the Northeast enjoyed spring-like temperatures as people rushed to finish last-minute shopping. Those on the slopes out West got their fair share of fresh powder.
In a reversal of a typical Christmas, forecasters expected New York to be in the mid-60s on Christmas Eve — about the same temperatures as Los Angeles. Only about half of the nation should expect the possibility of a white Christmas.
In Alabama, heavy rains overnight left some downtown Mobile streets flooded during the morning rush hour.
Across Mobile Bay in the small town of Loxley, Mandy Wilson watched the angry gray sky and told drivers to be careful as she worked a cash register at Love’s Travel Stop.
“It’s very ugly; it’s very scary,” Wilson said. “There’s an 18-wheeler turned over on I-10. There’s water standing really bad. It’s a really interesting way to spend Christmas Eve eve.”
In parts of Georgia, including Atlanta, a flood watch was posted through Friday evening as more than 4 inches of rain could fall, the National Weather Service said.
The threat of severe weather just before Christmas is unusual, but not unprecedented, said Greg Carbin, a meteorologist at the national Storm Prediction Center. On Christmas Day in 2012, a storm system spawned several tornadoes, damaging homes from Texas to Alabama.
In Tennessee, emergency officials worried that powerful winds could turn holiday yard decorations into projectiles, the same way gusts can fling patio furniture in springtime storms, said Marty Clements, director of the Madison County Emergency Management Agency in Jackson, the state’s largest city between Memphis and Nashville.
“If you go through these neighborhoods, there are a lot of people very proud of what they’ve put out and they’ve got stuff everywhere - all these ornaments and deer and everything else,” Clements said. “They’re not manufactured to withstand that kind of wind speed, so they become almost like little missiles.”
In Arkansas, where the woman died, five people were in the home when the tree fell shortly before 8 a.m. Wednesday, Pope County sheriff’s officials said. Three people escaped unharmed.
Emergency responders pulled the child from the home about 65 miles northwest of Little Rock. The tree left a gaping hole in the roof, authorities said. The toddler was taken to a hospital, and no condition was immediately available.
Brandi Holland, a convenience store clerk in Tupelo, Mississippi, said people were nervous because of a tornado that damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 homes and businesses in April 2014.
“They’re opening all our tornado shelters because they say there’s an 80 percent chance of a tornado today,” Holland said.
Forecasters said that by Wednesday night, the severe weather threat could shift east into the southern Appalachian Mountain region.
Once the strong storms clear out, forecasters say, the high temperature in Atlanta on Christmas Eve is expected to be in the mid-70s. That could break the record for Dec. 24, which is 72 degrees set in 1984, according to weather service records.
———
Associated Press writer Claudia Lauer in Little Rock, Arkansas and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, contributed to this report.
32040
December 23rd, 2015
Bessemer man sought in shooting - Authorities are looking for a 24-year-old Bessemer man in connection with a shooting early Wednesday morning in west Tuscaloosa that left one injured.
Investigators are searching for Olando Tashad Waller, 24, of Bessemer in connection with the shooting of a 27-year-old man , who sustained non-life threatening injuries.
No warrants have been issued at this time, and investigators are still determining what charges are appropriate, said Lt. Kip Hart, assistant commander of the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit.
Investigators responded to a report of a shooting at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday in the 2800 block of Herman Avenue. The 27-year-old was accompanying a female friend who went to a Herman Avenue residence to return some items to Waller, who was identified as an ex-boyfriend, according Hart. The residence is home to an acquaintance of Waller.
The victim was shot in an arm and a leg after he exited the vehicle in the driveway by someone on the porch whom investigators believe to be Waller, Hart said. The victim was taken to DCH Regional Medical Center for treatment. The female was not injured, though she was sitting in the car when it was struck by several rounds.
Waller has an active arrest warrant out of Jefferson County following the revocation of his probation. Waller pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in March and was sentenced to a 15-year suspended sentence with five years of probation, according to court records. His probation was revoked in late November because of probation violations.

32039
December 23rd, 2015
Birmingham airport to offer passengers free gift wrapping - BIRMINGHAM | Passengers travelling through Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport will have the opportunity to get their holiday gifts wrapped at no charge.
In a statement, airport officials say that complimentary gift wrapping will be available to passengers beginning Monday until Dec. 24. It will be available daily from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., noon to 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the rotunda next to Jim N. Nicks past the security checkpoint.
Birmingham Airport Authority spokeswoman Toni Herrera-Bast says they hope the complimentary service will help passengers check one more item off their to-do list this holiday season.
The Transportation Security Administration encourages passengers to travel with unwrapped gifts for screening.
32038
December 23rd, 2015
Authorities identify 3 killed in Jefferson County DUI crash - BIRMINGHAM — Authorities have identified three people who were killed in a crash in Jefferson County.
Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates says Jakobe Johnson and Cardell Coachman, both 8 years old, and 47-year-old Diane McGlown were killed Saturday at the intersection of Highway 79 and Jefferson State Parkway.
Authorities say Lawrence Jason Bewley’s van hit the driver’s side of the Mitsubishi the victims were in. Investigators say McGlown and one of the boys were ejected from the vehicle and two other passengers were hospitalized.
Sheriff’s officials say 45-year-old Bewley of Birmingham is charged with three counts of murder and is being held on $187,500 bond.
Sheriff’s spokesman Randy Christian says Bewley’s blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit when he was tested after the crash.
It’s unclear if Bewley has an attorney.
32037
December 23rd, 2015
Deontay Wilder ready for the big stage - NORTHPORT | With the world watching, Deontay Wilder went to Beijing, China and brought home a bronze medal from the Olympic games.

That was a big stage.

He'll be on a bigger one in January when the Tuscaloosa heavyweight champion defends his WBC title in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

With a high-profile undercard that features fighters from around the world, it's the highest visibility fight Wilder has been apart of in his 36 career bouts.

“I'm looking forward to it. It's my (New York) debut,” Wilder said during a media workout session Tuesday afternoon. “New York has a lot of history, especially with heavyweights. I'm looking forward to putting my name there.

“Barclays Center needs a face. I want my face to be a part of that place. There's been many times they've invited us to come and have fights at the Barclay Center, but it wasn't the right time. This is the right moment and time.”

Wilder has previously fought in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Atlantic City, United Kingdom and Puerto Rico among many other locales, but the bright lights and media contingency in New York combined with an undercard that is sure to receive a lot of boxing press makes this his highest profile to date.

“I think it's a big step. It's great that Deontay will be in New York,” Wilder co-manager Jay Deas said. “This is going to be good for him. The world's media because of the strength of the undercard combined with the strength of Deontay's fight makes it must see for any media representative. The boxing media of the world will be there. And we're headlining, so that's going to be great.

“The (Bermane) Stiverne fight was a visible fight, but I think this is the biggest one yet. This is what we want, we want the biggest fights. Deontay's been on the big state before the Olympics, but for a professional this is as big a stage as we've been on.”

Wilder's camp brought in four left-handed fighters to spar with Wilder last week, and next week another four will travel to the Skyy Boxing for training. The week after that another three come to help prepare Wilder for Artur Szpilka, a southpaw.

Training will take a break for Christmas beginning Thursday and will crank back up next week.

“He's a really tough guy,” Deas said. “He's a puncher. You really have to do everything well against him. He's going to be motivated.

“It's his shot at the heavyweight championship of the world. He's a highly ranked guy in every organization for a reason.”

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0229.

32036
December 23rd, 2015
Teen pleads guilty in death of sister, who was hanged from tree in their yard - BIRMINGHAM — An Alabama teenager pleaded guilty Tuesday in the death of his 9-year-old half-sister, who was hanged from a tree in their yard.

Court documents show John Dillon Salers, 18, pleaded guilty to murder in St. Clair County, about 30 miles east of Birmingham, and a judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

Salers could be released earlier since he got credit for jail time served and will be eligible for parole. Using uneven print, Salers signed a court document in which he stated no one had coerced him or promised him anything to plead guilty in the death of Katelynn Arnold in May 2012.

Media photos taken outside court showed an unsmiling Salers with closely cropped, dark hair and wearing a striped jail uniform.

Salers was only 14 when the girl was found hanging in a tall hardwood outside the rural home they shared with relatives in Ragland.

Authorities at the time said the girl was outside playing when her aunt realized she was missing. She went outside to find the child hanging from a tree by a cotton rope that once held a tire swing.

Salers went to bed afterward, and police awoke the youth to question him and place him under arrest. He was initially charged as an adult with capital murder but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge.

Court documents do not indicate a motive for the killing, and neither prosecutors nor a defense attorney immediately returned messages seeking comment.

32035
December 23rd, 2015
Tuscaloosa City Council Action from December 22 - The Tuscaloosa City Council took the following action at its Tuesday meeting:

Set Jan. 5 as the date for a hearing to fix the cost of demolishing the building at 3263 18th St.; total $2,453.62.

Awarded competitive bid(s) to Technical Innovation for the purchase, etc. of interactive wall hardware for the Gateway (Alberta Technology Center); total $305,576.93.

Awarded competitive bid(s) to Avery Dennison Corp. for the purchase, etc., of a digital print system for traffic signs; total $22,044.

Approved request and agreement for water service to Tuscaloosa Hyundai at Hargrove Road water main extension; total $35,490.51.

Granted permit for WAR Construction Inc. to construct water lines for Hyundai at Hargrove Road water main extension.

Set Jan. 5 as the date for a hearing to consider approval of Maison Du Lac, a planned unit development.

Authorized the filing of a lien at 6129 Woodland Forrest Drive pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total $380.60.

Authorized the filing of a lien at 3011 Third Place E. pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total $204.50.

Authorized the filing of a lien at 2145 Idlewood Drive pursuant to Section 13-69(b), Code of Tuscaloosa and Section 11-47-140, Code of Alabama, 1975; total: $204.50.

Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing to consider the adoption of an amended electrical code for the city of Tuscaloosa.

Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing to consider the adoption of an amended mechanical code for the city of Tuscaloosa.

Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing to consider the adoption of an amended residential code for the city of Tuscaloosa.

Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing to consider the adoption of a swimming pool and spa code for the city of Tuscaloosa.

Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing to consider the adoption of a wildland-urban interface code for the city of Tuscaloosa.

Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing to consider the adoption of an amended fire code for the city of Tuscaloosa.

Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing to consider the adoption of an amended fuel and gas code for the city of Tuscaloosa.

Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing to consider the adoption of an amended plumbing code for the city of Tuscaloosa.

Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing to consider the adoption of an amended property maintenance code for the city of Tuscaloosa.

Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing to consider the adoption of an amended building code for the city of Tuscaloosa.

Set Jan. 19 as the date for a public hearing to consider the adoption of an international existing building code for the city of Tuscaloosa.

Authorized change order No. 1 for Video Industrial Services Inc. for the 2015 assessment and cleaning project; time extension, 10 calendar days.

Authorized change order No. 1 for J. T. Harrison Construction Co. Inc. for the Alberta Technology Center Construction; total $64,261.07.

Declared a sole source and authorizing a contract with Physio-Control Inc.; total $74,124.79.

Adopted zoning amendment No. 1337 to rezone 1.54 acres at Lot 1 and 2 of the Kyle Sellers Subdivision from R-1 to RMF-1. (Introduced Nov. 24)

Authorized the mayor to execute an exclusive dealings agreement with Pritchett-Moore Inc. regarding the proposed development of the downtown parking lot at 2205 Fourth St.

Authorized the finance director to draw drafts for the First Street East sanitary sewer project easement acquisitions; total $1,000.

Selected Varnon Engineering as in-house consulting engineer.

Authorized the mayor to execute an agreement with Grandview Preserve LLC for the donation of 9.467 acres of land for recreational use and future construction of the North Bank River Walk.

Authorized the Office of Resilience and Innovation to amend and advertise the amendment to the 2013 CDBG-DR action plan of the city of Tuscaloosa.

Adopted the 38th amendment to the fiscal 2013 water and sewer reserve for future improvements fund.

Authorized a refund to Klynn Gray; total $262.

Authorized a contract with Varnon Engineering for in-house consulting engineering services; total not to exceed $119,600.

Authorized the mayor and city clerk to execute certificates for the issuance of bonds pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code.

Tentatively awarded a public works contract to Cornerstone Civil Contractors LLC for the Prince Avenue Improvements Project; total: $1,565,440.50.

Amended the resolution that established a budget for rebuilding city facilities.

Adopted the fifth amendment to the fiscal 2016 general fund budget.

Amended Section 21-82(b) of the Code of Tuscaloosa.

Adopted annexation No. 644 to annex 1.54 acres at Lot 1 and 2 of the Kyle Sellers Subdivision into the corporate limits of the city of Tuscaloosa.

Amended various sections of Chapter 7 of the Code of Tuscaloosa.

Added Section 19-67 relating to longevity pay to the Code of Tuscaloosa.

Amended Section 19-65 of the Code of Tuscaloosa pertaining to assignment pay for firefighters and police officers.

Adopted a severe weather preparedness sales tax holiday for certain covered items for 2016.

Introduced zoning amendment No. 1338 to rezone 0.72 acres at 5401 Jaybird Road and 5335 Skyland Blvd. E. from R-1 to BN.

Set Jan. 19 as the day for public hearing to consider adoption of zoning amendment No. 1338.

Authorized the payment of bills, total $6,208.35.

32034
December 23rd, 2015
Tuscaloosa on standby for severe storms - Officials with Tuscaloosa County and the cities of Northport and Tuscaloosa are monitoring the threat of severe weather predicted for this afternoon, but had no plans on Tuesday to pre-emptively close municipal offices because of the forecast.

By late Wednesday, the threat of severe weather will extend from Louisiana through Mississippi and Alabama and into Georgia, according to the National Weather Service.

The city of Tuscaloosa's staff, like counterparts in Northport and the county, is monitoring the weather, according to Deidre Stalnaker, media relations coordinator for Tuscaloosa.

“Everyone is kind of on standby. First responders are monitoring everything,” Stalnaker said.

The city did announce on Tuesday that Holidays on the River will be closed because of the threat of severe weather. Holidays on the River will resume operations on Saturday, with 90-minute skating sessions available from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Northport had no plans for closures. City Administrator Scott Collins said the city staff planned to meet at 9 a.m. today about the weather and any updates on closures would be announced by midday.

In the event severe weather struck the city, the Northport Civic Center would be opened as an emergency relief shelter for those left without shelter, Collins said.

Tuscaloosa County has no plans to close pre-emptively, according to County Administrator Melvin Vines on Tuesday afternoon. However, offices could close if there is an immediate severe weather threat approaching the county, Vines said.

The University of Alabama will suspend normal operations beginning at noon because of the forecast. UA was originally scheduled to close for its holiday break on Thursday.

In the event of an emergency, shelters on campus will remain open, according to the university. UA housing will also remain open for students residing on campus for the holidays.

The threat of severe weather, which may also fuel tornadoes, hail and damaging winds, is the byproduct of a heat wave that could deliver the warmest Christmas ever recorded to cities across the South, forecasters said.

“It's still unfolding, and there's still uncertainty as to when the greatest threat will exist,” said Greg Carbin, a meteorologist at the national Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

The area of enhanced risk — the bull's eye for the storms — covers the western half of Tennessee; northern Mississippi; much of northern Alabama; eastern Arkansas; parts of northern Louisiana; western Kentucky; southeast Missouri, and the southern tip of Illinois, according to the Storm Prediction Center's outlook for today.

Huntsville, Ala., Memphis and Nashville, Tenn., and Little Rock, Ark.; are among the largest cities in the enhanced risk zone, an area which includes a total population of more than 9 million people.

In Alabama, the Weather Service predicts the greatest risk to be across the northwest corner of the state. The regions under a significant threat advisory extends as far south as Tuscaloosa and Pickens counties.

Forecasters warn of possible strong tornadoes, winds as strong as 70 mph, and golf-ball sized hail. An area from Demopolis extending northeast to Gadsen is under a elevated threat advisory. The forecast for central and southeast Alabama is for a limited threat.

The potential worst weather is forecast for a period between 3 p.m. to midnight today with the possibility of severe weather continuing into Thursday.

Severe weather potential during the overnight hours heading into Thursday represents a particularly dangerous time since many people would be asleep when severe weather strikes, Carbin said.

“These types of severe weather events are unusual for this time of year, but certainly not unprecedented,” he said.

On Christmas Day in 2012, a storm system spawned several tornadoes across the South and damaged homes from Texas to Alabama. Among the hardest-hit communities was Mobile, where storms damaged a high school and church, and knocked down power lines and large tree limbs in an area just west of downtown around nightfall.

“Part of the problem is that some of this will occur overnight, so it's not just a daytime event,” Carbin said of this week's threat. “This is not a one-shot, late afternoon Wednesday, boom, you're done. The threat right now will be kind of this extended period of time.”

A slight risk of severe storms will extend into Louisiana, Georgia, the rest of Alabama and Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle, data from the Storm Prediction Center shows. That area includes the cities of New Orleans, Atlanta and the Alabama cities of Montgomery and Mobile.

After the storm threat subsides, forecasters say the high temperature in Atlanta on Christmas Eve is expected to be 74. That would break the record for Dec. 24, which is 72 degrees set in 1984, according to weather service records.

In central Georgia, the Weather Service projects a high temperature of around 79 degrees in Macon on Christmas Eve, which would break the record for the date of 77 degrees set in 1964.

Further south, Savannah, Ga., could reach a balmy 80 degrees on Christmas, tying the coastal city's all-time warmest temperature for Dec. 25, the Weather Service said.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.

32033
December 23rd, 2015
Tuscaloosa may reopen talks with Uber on ride-sharing service -

It's been more than two years since ride-sharing service Uber set up shop in Tuscaloosa and then pulled out after City Hall demanded it comply with safety regulations.

Now, thanks to a more cooperative approach by the company and the city, the Tuscaloosa City Council stands poised to welcome Uber and similar services back to town.

The council's public safety committee on Tuesday signed off on an updated version of the city's vehicle-for-hire ordinance that would allow ride-sharing services like Uber to legally operate within the city.

"We certainly want to find a way to get this to the finish line," said Mayor Walter Maddox.

The ordinance will go through a final negotiation with Uber before being brought back to the full City Council for final approval, possibly as early as February.

This overhauled ordinance addresses a number of concerns that city officials had in Fall 2014 when Uber began operating in Tuscaloosa seemingly overnight.

Then, Uber's refusal to comply with existing city laws governing vehicle inspections, background checks, proper insurance and business license purchases for vehicle-for-hire services led to a showdown that culminated with the Tuscaloosa Police Department threatening to arrest any driver operating under the Uber brand.

Uber, a global transportation company that has experience widespread growth and popularity since its 2009 founding, maintained that the service it offers is not that of a traditional taxi cab business. Because of this, Uber officials claimed the city's rules did not apply to Uber.

In recent months, the company's stance appears to have softened.

"It's been a night-and-day difference dealing with Uber and other ride-sharing companies," said Councilman Matt Calderone, who led the renewed discussions with Uber at the request of Maddox.

The draft ordinance approved by the public safety committee addresses all of the prior public safety concerns that the city had and makes compromises to which Uber appears willing to agree.

For example, Uber drivers will be required submit their names and fingerprints to the Tuscaloosa Police Department in order to operate here – much like taxi and limo drivers do now – and vehicles used by the drivers must be inspected.

But instead of those inspections being conducted by the police department, they can be handled by a licensed mechanic, according to the new rules.

In exchange, each driver for Uber will not be required to obtain a business license. Rather, Uber and any other ride-sharing company that wants to operate here will pay an annual fee of $5,000 that will satisfy the business license and chauffeur license requirements no matter how many Uber-based drivers operate here.

"I'm excited about the opportunities ahead of us," Calderone said.

Reach Jason Morton at jason.morton@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0200.

32032
December 23rd, 2015
Police: Woman beaten, then slain - A Maplesville woman endured beatings for several hours before she was tied to a tree, cut in the throat and killed in rural Tuscaloosa County, according to an investigator's court testimony Tuesday morning.

Three people are charged with capital murder in the death of Samantha Payne, 29. The lead investigator in the case testified Tuesday that two of the suspects gave statements that Payne was beaten before she was killed. One told police that Payne had begged her attackers to stop.

"She was just telling them that she loved them and she didn't know why they were trying to hurt her," Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit Investigator Richard Wilkins said on the witness stand Tuesday.

David Michael Belcher, his girlfriend Chylli (pronounced Shy-lee) Bruce and Steven George all appeared at the hearing held at the Tuscaloosa County Jail. Tuscaloosa County District Judge Jim Guin found probable cause to continue prosecution of each defendant.

Wilkins testified about the events leading up to Payne's death, but did not say anything about a possible motive.

Squirrel hunters found Payne's body tied to the tree of South Sandy Road in the Talladega National Forest on Nov. 9. Investigators believe her body had been there for at least a week. Her skull was found a few feet away on the ground.

Susanne Payne said it was difficult to hear the details of how her daughter died, but that she wants to know everything so she can begin to find some peace.

"It was hard," she said after the hearing. "I dreaded going in there and being face-to-face with those people."

Two others face charges for first-degree kidnapping in the case. Police say Alyssa Watson and Marcus George were present during the beatings and when Payne was transported in Belcher's trunk to his home, an abandoned trailer on Haysop Church Road and later South Sandy Road.

Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit Investigator Richard Wilkins said that Bruce, 18, and Steven George, 28, admitted involvement during interviews with investigators. Belcher, 31, said in police interviews that he had been riding dirt roads in the area and couldn't explain the blood in his trunk, Wilkins said. He told investigators that he only knew Payne from working on her vehicle, he said.

Wilkins testified that Payne and the suspects were at Wee Racing in Centreville, where Belcher worked, on the morning of Nov. 2. He said the suspects were using methamphetamine.

He testified that Steven George, Marcus George and Alyssa Watson took Payne's keys and left with her car. The Georges are not related, he said. Payne's burned car was later found in Bibb County.

Bruce told investigators that Payne became angry when she realized her car was missing, Wilkins said. Belcher then threw Payne to the floor and began to kick and punch her, he said.

Investigators believe that Steven George, Belcher and Bruce went to Belcher's home, he said, where they continued to assault Payne. They say that Payne was then transported to Watson's family property on Haysop Church Road, where they found a cut coaxial cable. Payne's hands and feet were bound with a coaxial cable, a shoestring and a belt.

Susanne Payne, her husband Roy Payne, their friends and family wore bright green shirts with an image of a young Samantha Payne.

"We wanted them to see the precious child they took away from us one more time," said longtime family friend Arlene Peters. "I wanted them to have to look at her one more time."

A grand jury will hear information about the cases and determine whether to indict the defendants on capital murder charges.

32031
December 23rd, 2015
Christmas holiday closings - Listings for Thursday; Friday:

Garbage pickup - Tuscaloosa: No; No

Northport: No; No

Waste Mgt: Yes; No, one day behind

Advanced Disposal: Open; Closed, one day behind

Rumsey office: Open; Closed, pick-ups before or after

Alabama Power: Closed; Closed

ABC stores: Closed at 6 p.m.; Closed

City schools: Closed; Closed

County schools: Closed; Closed

U. Alabama: Closed; Closed, select offices open

Stillman College: Closed; Closed

Shelton State: Closed; Closed

University of West Alabama: Closed; Closed

Circuit court: Closed; Closed

County offices: Closed; Closed

Post office: Open; Closed

SSA office: Open; Closed

City bus system: Closed; Closed

Tuscaloosa city: Closed; Closed

Northport city: Closed; Closed

Banks and credit unions closed on Thursday: Alabama One Credit Union

Banks and credit unions closing at noon Thursday: Alabama Credit Union, Bank of Tuscaloosa, Bryant, Capstone, First Federal, FNB of Central Alabama, First State Bank of the South, First U.S. Bank, Regions, Renasant, Robertson, West Alabama Bank.

Banks and credit unions closing at 1 p.m. Thursday: BBVA/Compass.

Banks and credit unions closing at 2 p.m. Thursday: BB&T, Cadence, PNC and Woodforest Bank.

All banks and credit unions: Closed on Friday.

PARA offices, centers and parks: Closed; Closed

Ol’ Colony Golf Complex: Closed at 2 p.m.; Closed

Tennis Center: Closed at noon; Closed

University Mall: Open until 5 p.m.; Closed

Children’s Hands On Museum: Closed; Closed

Libraries: Closed; Closed

Focus on Senior Citizens: Closed; Closed

Nutrition Centers: Closed; Closed

Red Cross: Closed at noon; Closed, emergency calls to the answering service.

Tuscaloosa News: Closed at noon; Closed, No Calls for late or no deliveries taken.

32030
December 23rd, 2015
12-year-old boy from Fayette stars in 'Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors' - Forrest Deal said he is usually the class clown when he is in attendance in his seventh-grade class at Fayette Middle School. But, while on set filming his latest movie, Forrest takes on the character of a bully.
A native of Fayette, Forrest, 12, landed his first major role as Rudy Sanders in “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors.”
The film aired on Dec. 10, and it will air again on at 8 p.m. on Christmas on NBC.
Earning 15.6 million viewers during its original airing, it is the first of three films about Parton’s life, according to www.tasteofcountry.com. The next film will be based on her song “Jolene.”
“It’s about Dolly Parton’s life and how she grew up in the mountains real poor and how they didn’t have much and how she went to school and always got bullied by, well, me,” especially when she wore a coat her mother had made of rags, Forrest said.
The family-oriented, faith-based film is set in the Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains in 1955. Forrest said indoor scenes were filmed in a warehouse in Conyers, Ga., and outdoor scenes were filmed on the Gaither Plantation in Covington, Ga.
Forrest filmed scenes alongside Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles who plays Parton's mother, Ricky Schroder who plays Parton’s father and Gerald McRaney, who plays her grandfather.
Forrest’s character bullies 9-year-old Parton, played by Alyvia Alyn Lind.
“He bullies Dolly. We’re just kind of the mean kids of the mountains,” Forrest said. “I don’t guess I’d say I’m a bully (in real life).”
Because it’s not in his nature to bully, he said he gets into character by reading his character’s description and his lines.
“The confrontation scenes were probably the harder scenes for him in preparing versus the graveyard scenes and stuff like that because he’s not normally a bully,” Forrest’s mother, Kristia Deal said.
Forrest said he has played the role of bully in some other films he has acted in.
His first acting gig was the small feature film, “Us Against the World,” and he is featured in upcoming films “Mr. Right” starring Anna Kendrick and “Daddy’s Home” starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.
Although he kind of stumbled into acting, Forrest said “I’d like to continue it. I’d like to go big.”
32029
December 22nd, 2015
Shelton State Community College partners with chamber on mobile training lab - Shelton State Community College and West Alabama Works hope to have a mobile training lab operational in January.
The mobile training lab outfitted with laptops and audio-visual equipment is envisioned as a way to bring pre-employment training, adult education, industry-specific training, job fairs, recruiting and other applications to students in the West Alabama region.
"We'll be able to roll into a community, unload laptops and provide training right there," said Nicole Dubose, director of training for business and industry for Shelton State.
The equipment would be unloaded from the van for use at a site such as a community room or other training location.
A Mercedes Sprinter van purchased through a state grant is currently being outfitted for the project by Shelton State and West Alabama Works, a workforce development partnership between the state’s Region 3 Workforce Development Council and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.
The partnership’s goal is to train at least 200 people in 2016
"We've got a variety of outreach events scheduled and coordinated throughout West Alabama," Dubose said. "This is a great tool for all of West Alabama, and we're excited to get some students ready to work."
32028
December 22nd, 2015
Severe weather possible before wet Christmas Day - Mild, wet weather is expected in Alabama on Christmas Day, following two days of potentially severe weather.
A cold front moving in from the west is expected to create unstable conditions when it mixes with warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday afternoon and into Thursday morning. Tuscaloosa is included in the area with an elevated risk of potential tornadoes, thunderstorms, damaging winds or hail.
The severe weather threat is expected to move out by Christmas Eve, but the rain and mild temperatures are expected to stick around. The high temperature in Tuscaloosa on Friday is predicted to reach 77 degrees with a 50 percent chance of rain.
"It's certainly warmer than normal, but it's not a record high," said Gerald Satterwhite, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham. "It will remain mild, and rainy over the weekend and into next week."
The forecast could change, he said, and encouraged people to monitor the most recent predictions.
Meteorologist John DeBlock said people should share forecast information with friends and family who may be traveling to the area for the holidays. The National Weather Service will continue to update the forecast on its Facebook page and website.
32027
December 22nd, 2015
Two Tuscaloosa City Schools teachers in running for state Teacher of the Year - Two Tuscaloosa City Schools teachers will represent the city in the Alabama Teacher of the Year competition.
Mikki Powell of Rock Quarry Elementary School was chosen in the elementary division, while Donmonique Morgan of Paul W. Bryant High School was selected in the secondary division.
Also, three city school teachers will represent Tuscaloosa in the Jacksonville State University Teacher Hall of Fame competition.
Jeffery Walker of Verner Elementary School was selected in the elementary division, William Thomas Flowers of University Place Middle School was picked in the middle school division and William Carter Hill of Northridge High School was selected in the high school division.
The nominees were selected by a panel of retired educators and announced earlier this month during the city school system's fourth annual Apple Awards ceremony.
A total of 72 teachers and support personnel were honored at the Dec. 14 ceremony.
"This says that you are one of the best in our profession, and it conveys that your work exemplifies excellence," Superintendent Paul McKendrick said.
Five support employees were named as system-wide winners at the Apple Awards: Kenneth Lee of University Place Elementary School, James Black of Southview Middle School, Jacequeline Harris Watson of Central High School, Deandre Woods of the transportation department and Connie Ikner of the central office.
Tuscaloosa City Schools also honored Yolondia Eubanks, director of field experiences and coordinator for overseas student teaching at the University of Alabama. A news release states that Eubanks placed many TCS teachers in their internships with the school system during her career.
32026
December 22nd, 2015
Nonprofit to distribute Christmas gifts at Capitol Park - A local nonprofit charitable organization will accept donations and distribute gifts to needy children the day before Christmas at the gazebo area in Capitol Park in downtown Tuscaloosa.
The Alverta Hall Hughes Foundation Inc. will accept donations from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday at the park. Children will receive the gifts from noon-2 p.m. There will be music and refreshments served.
The gifts will be given to children in Tuscaloosa city and county schools, Pickens County, Greene County and the neighborhoods of McKenzie Court, Cresent East, Rosedale in Tuscaloosa and Grants Heights in Eutaw.
For more information about the Alverta Hall Hughes Foundation, call 205-792-9997.
32025
December 22nd, 2015
Zoes Kitchen to hold fundraiser for Rossell family - Seven Zoës Kitchen locations in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa -- downtown Birmingham, Soho, Crestline, Vestavia, Summit, Patton Creek, and Tuscaloosa at Merchants Walk -- will donate a portion of sales to benefit a local family from 4-9 p.m. today.
Twenty percent of sales will go to the Miracle for Molly fund to support the Rossell family. Molly Remmert Rossell died on Dec. 12 after a battle with stage 4 melanoma.
Rossell, 32, had three daughters with her husband, Richard Rossell.
32024
December 22nd, 2015
Police say man stole business' cash register - Police are searching for a man who stole a cash register from a business on Hargrove Road last week.
Witnesses told police that a man wearing a black ski mask entered the store in the 4200 block of Hargrove Road East at 10:40 p.m. Thursday, said Lt. Teena Richardson, a Tuscaloosa police spokeswoman. He threatened employees with a silver handgun and demanded money, she said.
The robber tried to get the clerk to open the register, Richardson said, before he took the entire register and ran. The man was around 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighed around 160 pounds. He was wearing tan camouflage pants and a blue Under Armour hoodie jacket. Anyone with information is asked to contact Tuscaloosa County CrimeStoppers at 205-752-STOP (7867).
32023
December 22nd, 2015
Holiday to affect garbage collection - In observance of the Christmas Holiday, the city of Tuscaloosa’s Environmental Services Department will not collect garbage, trash or recycling on Christmas Eve, which is Thursday.
Instead, these routes will be collected on Saturday.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday routes will not be affected and garbage, trash, and recycling collection will resume as normal on Dec. 28.
This year’s New Year’s Day holiday will not affect the city’s garbage, trash or recycling routes.
32022
December 22nd, 2015
Alabama renovates abandoned governor's mansion with BP money - BIRMINGHAM — Alabama is using BP grant money left over from the 2010 Gulf oil spill to finally repair and renovate a beachfront governor’s mansion that has been abandoned for nearly two decades.
Work began earlier this month near Gulf Shores to rehabilitate the two-story, 7,500-square-foot gubernatorial mansion that wasn’t fixed after Hurricane Danny in 1997. The project should be done by late May, a spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley, Jennifer Ardis, said Monday.
Ardis said taxpayer money isn’t going into the project. Instead, she said grant money provided by BP and left over from the 2010 oil spill is being used to cover the cost, estimated at $1.5 million to $1.8 million.
While environmentalists filed suit over the state’s plan to use BP restoration money to construct a hotel on the beachfront, Ardis said the state is “comfortable” using money remaining from a separate BP grant to pay contractor Phil Harris Construction Inc. to fix the mansion.
Baldwin County tax records list the house and property as being worth about $1 million, but the cinder-block building has been gutted for years and has boarded-up windows, peeling paint and a torn tarp covering the roof.
Once work is done in late May, the state will use the house mainly as a tool for economic development, but Bentley may visit on occasion, Ardis said. Industrial recruiters in Baldwin and Mobile counties will use it primarily to lodge and entertain business executives considering the state for projects.
Neighbors have complained about the dilapidated condition of the mansion, which dates back to the 1960s.
“The governor doesn’t want this property to be an embarrassment any longer,” Ardis said.
Located in a subdivision on the Fort Morgan Peninsula, the house was built on property that was donated for a governor’s mansion in 1962. Governors beginning with George C. Wallace used the six-bedroom, four-bath house off and on until Danny.
After the hurricane, governors were unwilling to take on the politically risky task of renovating a mansion that most Alabamians couldn’t afford. Bentley, who owned beach property near the mansion, visited the house and heard complaints from neighbors who wanted the eyesore repaired.
Architects began assessing the abandoned mansion in the spring. The repair work includes installing a new roof and replacing plumbing, electrical, and heating and air conditioning systems as required, Ardis said. Weather-battered exterior wood and stucco will be fixed, and much of the interior will be redone.
Originally, the house had little security aside from a room used by state troopers and a fence that blocked the view from the road, so Ardis said some of the renovation will include adding features to improve security.
“It will have to be brought up to the standard of a governor’s residence,” she said.
32021
December 22nd, 2015
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