Environment

A new study from Duke University points to tough times ahead for some tree species. Researchers examined data on climate change and the effect rising temperatures are having on tree populations in the eastern U.S. James Clark is a professor of biology and statistics at Duke. He says models that predicted trees would move with the climate were wrong.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is finally getting a management plan. The long-delayed outline for the next twenty years goes to a series of public hearings starting later today. Phil Francis is the park's Superintendent. He says much of the land that forms the backdrop for many of the views along the parkway's 469 miles is privately owned.

Ozone Levels Lower

Oct 31, 2011

State health officials say fewer emissions from cars and industrial buildings cut down on air pollution this year. The annual ozone season officially ends today. There were 26 days in which ozone exceeded healthy levels. That's well below the 10-year average of 41 days. Division of Air Quality spokesman Tom Mather says recent numbers are lower despite back-to-back hot and dry summers.

The state of North Carolina is undergoing an outside review of its oil and gas regulatory programs.  Questions surrounding “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing for natural gas led to the review.

The non-profit reviewing body is called STRONGER – State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations, Inc.  It’s made up of state agencies, the oil and gas industry and environmental groups. Wilma Subra is chairwoman of the STRONGER board.  She says they’ve reviewed several states so far, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Louisiana and now North Carolina.

The debate over hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is heating up in North Carolina.   The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has the task of preparing a study for lawmakers as they consider whether to allow the controversial drilling technique.  A final report is due in less than a year. Critics of “fracking” want the state to slow down. 

Mayberry Solar Farm in Mt. Airy
o2energies.com

Mt. Airy is now the site of a 1.2 megawatt solar farm capable of producing power to the equivalent of about 150 homes per year. John Morrison is Chief Operating Oficer for Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar.

A Durham-based environmental group warns utility companies are trying to add nuclear capacity without significantly reducing their use of coal power. A report from NC WARN focuses on what they call the "Southeast Five." That includes both Duke Energy and Progress Energy. Jim Warren is executive director of NC WARN.

A clean-up is underway along the shoreline of Jordan Lake. Corporate sponsors are picking up propane tanks, bottles and cans near the southern end of the lake where the Haw River brings in debris from storm water runoff. Fran DiGiano is the president of the group Clean Jordan Lake. He says volunteers will try to finish the job this weekend.

The State is considering a request from the City of Greensboro to draw water from the Haw River.

Tonight the Division of Water Quality will listen to citizens at the first of several public hearings. As of now Greensboro takes its water from Lakes Higgins, Brandt and Townsend.  Greensboro's Interim Director of Water Resources Kenny McDowell says the proposal to use the Haw would allow the city greater flexibility.

Officials in Currituck County are trying to restore oyster populations by getting consumers to recycle the shells. The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries has set up receiving areas at the Barco and Moyock Recycling Centers. The agency's Patricia Smith is asking residents and restaurants to take shells to one of those two designated sites:

Experts on solar energy are converging in Raleigh today for a conference designed to help expand the development of new technology. Siemens Industry is partnering with the North Carolina Solar Center for "Solar Exchange East" at North Carolina State University. Stephen Kalland is Executive Director for the North Carolina Solar Center. He says the conference will cover a number of issues.

A proposal under consideration by state officials may help protect Haw River and surrounding areas. The plan involves reclassifying a portion of the river in and around Guilford County. This aims to preserve existing water resources by limiting development. Jason Martin heads planning in nearby Alamance County. He says the river’s status as an emergency water supply led to the push for reclassification.

Stingray at NC Aquarium
ncaquariums.com

This summer saw a big jump in the number of people who were stung by stingrays off the coast of Corolla on the Outer Banks. Ocean Rescue officials say the usual number of stings is between one and five. But this year, there were 70 to 100. Olivia Burrus is the curator at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. She's says the stingrays may have found a lot of food in the area.

Drought conditions are improving across North Carolina after rain from Hurricane Irene and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. Division of Water Resources spokeswoman Sarah Young says some areas of eastern North Carolina were under extreme drought conditions just days before Irene made landfall on the Outer Banks a few weeks ago.

State Agriculture leaders have come up with a “wish list” for the legislature.  They say the measures will help farmers weather future disasters.

Farmers – mainly in eastern North Carolina – are continuing to feel the wrath of Hurricane Irene.  Early estimates put damage to Agriculture at 325-million dollars.  The state Ag Board met at the fairgrounds yesterday to discuss how to help.  Ag department spokesman Brain Long says one idea is for there to be “bridge” loans available for farmers devastated by a disaster.

Electric cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are coming onto the market. And charging stations for them are starting to pop up as well. The state Department of Commerce awarded Raleigh-based Praxis Technologies a 240-thousand dollar grant. Praxis has partnered with Silicon Valley-based Coulomb Technologies to install around 20 electric car charge stations across the state. Praxis CEO Skip Kurz says their goal is to raise awareness about the technology.

A utility based in Chicago is proposing an 80-megawatt wind farm in eastern North Carolina. The company Invenergy sent an application to state officials last week for a facility with 49 turbines at a site in Beaufort County. Jay Lucas is an engineer with the state Utilities Commission. He says an 80-megawatt farm could power 20,000 homes, depending on wind capacity.

Residents of Hatteras Island will be allowed to return home today.

North Carolina's electric cooperatives want you to get rid of that old refrigerator or freezer that's in your basement or garage. The Fridge and Freezer Farewell Program is meant to get secondary, older and inefficient models out of circulation. Valerie Woods works for GreenCo Solutions which helps the electric coops reach their energy efficiency and renewable energy goals. She says nothing goes to waste.

Valerie Woods: "They break out the insulating foam, they recycle the refrigerants, all the plastics and metals are recycled as well as the capacitors."

AAA Carolinas expects more drivers on the road this holiday weekend despite damage from Hurricane Irene. The agency says about 870,000 motorists will be traveling in North Carolina over the Labor Day weekend. That's about 1 percent more than this time last year. And AAA Carolinas spokesman Tom Crosby says that includes areas with storm damage.

Bean plataspid
ncsu.edu

An insect that feeds on invasive kudzu is making its way into North Carolina. The so-called kudzu bug was first discovered in Georgia several years ago. Jack Bacheler is an entymologist with N.C. State University. He says the problem is the beetle, called the bean plataspid, also likes crops like soybeans.

US Senator Kay Hagan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and Governor Bev Perdue
hagan.senate.gov

Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands remain cut off from the mainland after Hurricane Irene dumped water and sand on several parts of Highway 12. There are several breaches in the highway just north of Rodanthe. Governor Bev Perdue says officials are doing all they can.

Dare County officials are asking residents to conserve power as utilities set up emergency generators on Hatteras Island. Parts of the main highway on the Outer Banks were washed away in four spots near Rodanthe. That left residents who waited out the storm stranded on Hatteras Island. Dare County spokeswoman Cathryn Bryan says emergency crews are taking bare essentials to the hardest hit areas.

Hurricane Irene's flood waters caused some waste water treatment plants to overflow in the eastern part of the state while cutting off power to others. State officials are warning people in flooded areas to avoid contact with contaminated water as they begin the arduous task of clean up. Susan Massengale works for the North Carolina Division of Water Quality.

Hurricane Irene is gone but its effects linger on. The storm couldn't have come at a worse time for an area that relies on its tourism industry. Irene completely washed out a section of Highway 12 just north of Rodanthe. That means the only way to reach Hatteras Island as the important Labor Day Weekend approaches is by boat. Michael Gardener is manager of the Sea Side Inn in Hatteras Village.

A state panel is close to finishing a report for the governor on whether oil and natural gas drilling should be permitted off the North Carolina coast. The governor established the Scientific Advisory Panel on Offshore Energy nearly two years ago. Attorney Willis Whichard chairs the panel.

Willis Whichard: "The idea is not for us to solve the policy or political problems regarding these difficult and contentious issues, but to give her and other policymakers the information they need to process and come to decisions."

The state Department of Transportation says storm surge from Hurricane Irene has completely washed away segments of Highway 12 on Hatteras Island. The storm cut several channels through the road just north of Rodanthe. Highway 12 connects the island to the rest of the Outer Banks and the mainland. DOT spokeswoman Greer Beaty says much of the road is still impassible.

Cleaning Up After Irene

Aug 29, 2011
Powerlines down in Pamlico County
Dave DeWitt

People all across eastern North Carolina are cleaning up and drying out after Hurricane Irene. Damage ranged from a new inlet on Highway 12 on the Outer Banks to downed trees across the coastal plain. Among the hardest hit areas were Carteret, Craven, and Pamlico Counties, near New Bern and Morehead City. Irene made its initial landfall there as a furious category one hurricane and left a trail of destruction.

Total rainfall amounts from Irene
National Weather Service Raleigh

Hurricane Irene unloaded more than a foot of rain on top of storm surge in eastern North Carolina. Flood waters swept into towns near the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds as ocean water spilled into narrow inlets, and then into neighborhoods. Meteorologist Brandan Dunstan says the massive storm spread hurricane-force wind gusts and rain from the coast to the Piedmont.

Maximum wind gusts during Hurricane Irene
National Weather Service Raleigh

Summary:

NC Emergency Management - news and emergency information

State Emergency Hotline:  1-888-835-9966

National Hurricane Center - latest forecast information

Federal Emergency Management Agency

American Red Cross

American Red Cross Safe and Well - List yourself as OK and search for loved ones

NCDOT - Road information

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