Environment

Near the Tennessee border, firefighters monitor a burnout operation along the Cheoah River
North Carolina Forest Service

Authorities have ordered more evacuations near Lake Lure as a nearby wildfire continues to spread. 

The state Forest Service says more than 1,000 people have now been asked to leave their homes.  The fire is one of more than a dozen that have burned 47,000 acres in western North Carolina. 

A heavy air tanker drops fire retardant over the Boteler Fire in western North Carolina
Courtesy of North Carolina Forest Service

The state Department of Environmental Quality has again issued warnings of dangerous air quality in western North Carolina as a result of more than a dozen wildfires in the region. Four counties in the west were under a "code purple" air quality alert on Tuesday, the highest warning the state can give.

Dream Jobs: Becoming A World-Renowned Worm Expert

Nov 15, 2016
a handful of worms in a person's hand
Courtesy of Rhonda Sherman

This story is part of an occasional series called Dream Jobs profiling North Carolinians with jobs that may be unique, distinctive or even a little unusual.

Rhonda Sherman likes to say she became an internationally-renowned worm expert largely by accident.

Gov. Pat McCrory first visited the fire near Lake Lure on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016
North Carolina Forest Service

Firefighters are entering a third week of battling more than a dozen wildfires in western North Carolina. 

The fires have been fueled by weeks of mostly sunny and dry conditions. 

Ryan Lubbers / North Carolina Forest Service

More than 5,000 firefighters have been dispatched to battle wildfires in the Southeast, including more than a dozen blazes burning in western North Carolina.  

Image of Flags Outside Climate Conference
AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy

World leaders and climate change negotiators gathered in Marrakech, Morocco yesterday for the first day of a United Nations climate talks conference. Leaders are following up on last year’s historic meeting in Paris where they developed a blueprint for reducing carbon emissions and voluntarily pledged to do their part to limit the rise in global temperatures.

A study shows potentially dangerous levels of Chromium-6 in wells across the state.
Kelly Stemcosky / Flickr Creative Commons

Researchers at Duke University have found widespread contamination of North Carolina well-water with hexavalent chromium. Researchers initially believed the cancer-causing toxin was coming from coal ash ponds. But Duke professor Avner Vengosh said his new study shows the dangerous compound is naturally occurring across the state.

flooding in the Fayetteville area after Hurricane Matthew
Photo courtesy of Kareen White

As floodwaters finally recede away from eastern North Carolina, families have returned to their homes to survey the damage and pick up the pieces.

What they are finding is that this could end up as one of the costliest storms in U.S. history.

view of flooded I-95 after Hurricane Matthew
Jay Price / WUNC

Although there hasn’t been a drop of rain to fall from the sky since the weekend, the worst flooding could still be ahead for areas in southeastern North Carolina.

That's because rain from Hurricane Matthew that fell on areas inland – like the Triangle – will continue to flow toward the coast, collecting in ever-growing rivers that will surge through areas like Goldsboro, Kinston and Lumberton along the way.

view of flooded I-95 after Hurricane Matthew
Jay Price / WUNC

Update: As of Tuesday afternoon, portions of Interstate 95 have been reopened. I-95 South is now closed betwwen Exit 56 (US-301) and Exit 13 (I-74), in Robeson and Cumberland County. I-95 North is closed between Exit 13 (I-74) and Exit 22 (US-301), in Robeson County.

North Carolina transportation officials closed 60 miles of Interstate 95 on Monday as flood waters from Hurricane Matthew continued to wreak havoc on motorists.

Flooding along NC 211 near Lumberton make roads impassable on Monday, October 10, 2016.
Jay Price / WUNC

Record amounts of rainfall from Hurricane Matthew inundated roads and homes across the state over the weekend. It brought down trees, knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of customers and killed eight people, as of Sunday night.

But the worst, may still be yet to come, at least for some.

Pat McCrory
UNC-TV

 Updated 5:06 p.m. Sunday, October 9, 2016

Many sections of U.S. 158 have deep standing water, and U.S. 64 in Manns Harbor is inaccessible due to downed trees - both main routes to the Outer Banks.

Richard Neal

Hurricane Matthew continues to roar up the eastern seaboard. It will come closest to North Carolina sometime overnight Saturday and into Sunday.

ADCIRC
UNC Institute of Marine Sciences / UNC IMS

The latest update from the National Hurricane Center forecasts that Hurricane Matthew will track more eastwardly than initially thought. If that holds, the storm will still bring wind and rain to the coast, but it would dramatically reduce the storm surge in the sounds that frequently causes the most damage.

Several different people from inside and outside N.C. State campus came to see the corpse flower blossom over the weekend of September 24, 2016.
Brian Batista / WUNC

The rare titan arum, also known as the corpse flower, began to bloom on Thursday, December 22 at a greenhouse at NC State University in Raleigh.

The tropical plant produces a big flower – one of the largest in the plant kingdom – and also a big stink often described as the smell of rotting flesh.

A map from NC State show “hot spots” denoting high concentrations of manganese in North Carolina well water.
NC State University

North Carolina State University researchers estimate that thousands of North Carolina residents and more than 1 million residents in the southeast have high levels of manganese  in their well water. Manganese is found naturally in soil, but studies have linked long-term exposure to health problems, including cancer and heart defects.

An image of the book cover for 'Walking Histories, 1800-1914'
Palgrave Macmillan

Walking may seem like a simple everyday act. But the act of walking has evolved over time, and a new book, "Walking Histories, 1800-1914" (Palgrave Macmillan/2016) examines how walking became a recreational activity and how it influenced both protesters and philosophers in the 19th century.

 

red wolf
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Federal wildlife regulators want to scale back the red wolf recovery program in northeastern North Carolina. 

The Fish and Wildlife Service issued a decision Monday on its two-year review of the 30-year-old program. The red wolf was the first endangered species reintroduced to the wild in 1987.

John Rintoul, Beehives, Bees, Honey Bee
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

The BeeCheck mapping system is getting a lot of attention in North Carolina since an aerial pesticide spraying in South Carolina killed millions of honey bees.

Staring Down Fate

Aug 30, 2016
Photo of Chris Lucash
Jeffrey Mittelstadt, WildSides

Chris Lucash spent close to three decades working with the endangered red wolf population in North Carolina. He was present when the first wolves were released back into the wild in the late 1980s and helped support the wild population as it grew to its peak in the 2000s.

In June of 2015, Lucash was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, and he passed away just one year later.

Photo of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Ken Thomas / Wikipedia

For a century the National Park Service has established and preserved parks, seashores and memorials across the country. Sites range from Yellowstone National Park to the César E. Chávez National Monument.

In 2015, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, both partially located in North Carolina, were two of the top three most visited sites in the National Park system.

However, growing concerns about climate change and big maintenance bills threaten preservation efforts.

Jordan Lake, Durham, NC
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill and environmental groups are raising concerns over a new effort on campus created by the General Assembly.

The old well at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.
Tim Schleicher / flickr, Creative Commons

Legislative leaders are at odds with environmentalists over a new policy initiative at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The state budget sets aside $1 million for scientists to conduct environmental research and make public policy recommendations. But some professors worry about potential ties to the legislature that could pressure them to sway their findings for political gain.

Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC's Dave DeWitt about the new program, which has been dubbed the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory.

Family Of Earth

Aug 23, 2016
Photo of Wilma Dykeman
Jim Stokely

Wilma Dykeman published 18 books in her lifetime, including meditations on environmental conservation, race, birth control and chemically-altered food. She addressed many of these issues long before they were hot topics in public discourse.

In her first book, "The French Broad," (Rinehart, 1955) she became one of the first writers to argue that clean water could be an economic development tool.

Megan Davies
NC DHHS

Some of the state’s environmental watchdogs are quitting their jobs, saying it is impossible to achieve their objectives under Governor McCrory’s administration and the Republican-led legislature.

In a recent editorial, Susan Ladd, columnist with the Greensboro News and Record, asserts that lawmakers have taken many actions to hinder environmental protection.

Megan Davies
NC DHHS

State Epidemiologist Megan Davies has resigned her position, effectively immediately. It is the latest twist in an ongoing dispute over coal ash contamination of home water wells and an inter-departmental fight within Governor Pat McCrory's administration. 

ECU Scientists Track Spread Of Zombie Crabs

Aug 4, 2016
Cliff Hollis, ECU News Services

North Carolina's mud crabs are falling victim to an invasive parasite that researchers say turns them into walking zombies.

April Blakeslee is an assistant professor of biology at East Carolina University. She said the parasitic barnacle called Loxothylacus panopaei, or simply Loxo, can commandeer the reproductive systems of the crabs and alter their behavior.

Image of bottled water provided by Duke Energy to families affected by the coal ash spill.
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

State toxicologist Ken Rudo testified that Governor Pat McCrory participated via phone in a meeting to draft letters to well owners downplaying the risk of coal ash contamination in their drinking water.

A map of an arrow pointing from Raleigh, NC to Pharr, TX.
Climate Central / Climate Central

Duke Energy Carolinas customers used a summertime record amount of energy last week. The only time the company saw a higher use was during the polar vortex in February 2015.

Prominent Coastal Geologist Quits Science Advisory Panel

Aug 1, 2016
Stan Riggs
Courtesy of East Carolina University

A prominent member of a science advisory panel of the Coastal Resources Commission has resigned.

Stan Riggs says he's no longer willing to fight what he calls an "uphill battle" against state leaders who are making poor long-term decisions about the coast.

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