Environment

Shaw University's historic marker propped on the ground after storm.
Leoneda Inge

  Clean-up crews and emergency management teams are working over-time in a 20 county area of the state.  This is where most of the damage occurred after those deadly and destructive tornadoes over the weekend.

In Wake County – officials are already beginning to put a price tag on the cost of the damage. 

 State and federal officials are assessing the extent of the damage caused by tornadoes in North Carolina on Saturday. Jessica Jones reports from Raleigh.

Downed trees and power lines have turned downtown Raleigh into a ghost town. Cleanup crews could be seen this afternoon clearing away branches and other debris. Raleigh's mayor, Charles Meeker, says even though tornadoes cut a small swath through the city, they were very destructive. 

Wake County Emergency Management workers continue disaster relief efforts this morning. Saturday's tornadoes and severe thunderstorms left many homeless. Emergency Operations Center manager Steve Newton says his first priority is helping those residents start the recovery process.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources is evaluating a number of sites around the state deemed hazardous because of spilled dry-cleaning solvent. There's a spill in Carrboro that originated from a dry-cleaner in the 70s that's no longer there. John Powers is the director of DENR's Dry Cleaning Solvent Clean Up Act team. He says the first thing they do when a site is volunteered for clean-up is to evaluate water to find out the extent of the contamination.

Environmental groups are urging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reconsider approval of a new design for nuclear power plants in North and South Carolina. The AP-1000 Oversight Group filed a petition with the NRC. The group argues that the AP-1000 reactor design is flawed and should not be used at Shearon-Harris and other sites. John Runkle is the attorney for the group. 

Red Wolf Pups Possible

Apr 6, 2011
Red Wolf, animal,
Museum of Life and Science

Animal keepers at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham are keeping their fingers crossed that one of their red wolves is pregnant. The red wolf is extremely rare. There’re only about 300 estimated to be alive today. 2 of them are at the museum. And keepers have been excited the past few weeks because the female wolf has changed her behavior and and is looking a bit chubbie.

North Carolina's first Invasive Plants Awareness Week begins today. State officials are encouraging residents to keep aggressive vines like kudzu and wisteria out of their gardens. Experts say invasive plants can wipe out large areas of vegetation native to North Carolina.  Debbie Crane of the North Carolina Nature Conservancy says they can also deal a blow to the state's tourism industry.

Progress Energy will shut down a coal-fired plant near Lumberton six years ahead of schedule.

Progress Energy spokesman Drew Elliot says the plant has provided more than a half century of reliable service:

Bald Eagle, bird, animal,
West Hills Veterinary Center, Henderson, NC

The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission are investigating the shooting of a mature bald eagle in Warren County near the Virginia border. They're offering a $2,500 reward for anyone with information that leads to a conviction.

Harp seal on Harkers Island Feb 23
NC Dept of Cultural Resources

Several adult harp seals have been spotted along the North Carolina coast. Harp seals normally live in icy regions in the Arctic and Canada. Small populations have been moving down the East Coast in recent years, but this is the furthest south the seals have been spotted.

UNC Research Points To New Ozone Standard

Mar 18, 2011

On warm days like today, pollution in the air can produce excess ozone near the ground. And air quality officials often issue ozone alerts - warning people with breathing problems to reduce activity or stay indoors.  But new research from UNC indicates the current acceptable ozone levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency might actually be too high. 

Duke Energy

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers says his company will continue to pursue building new nuclear plants in the Carolinas. Rogers spoke yesterday during a hearing of the North Carolina Utilities commission. Rogers was discussing the development of the Lee Nuclear Station in South Carolina. Duke is asking to spend $285 million to continue to develop the plant. Some of the money will likely come from a rate increase on North Carolina customers.

A controversial beach renourishment project is closer to getting underway in Nags Head on the Outer Banks. Town officials are lining up financing and preparing a contract for a company to perform the work. They say pumping dredged sand onto beaches suffering from erosion is a good way to protect the area's valuable shoreline. Nags Head Town Manager Cliff Ogburn says if it goes forward, the additional sand could preserve the beach front for up to a decade:

Fix A Leak Week

Mar 14, 2011
The EPA's Fix a Leak Week
epa.gov

Local utilities officials in the Triangle are encouraging residents to check for plumbing leaks in their homes this week. Durham and Cary have partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency in the "Fix a Leak Week" campaign. It works to inform utilities customers about how to check for leaks and step up efforts to conserve water. Cary's director of public works and utilities Steve Brown says toilet leaks are the most common:

A brown pelican that ended up in Canada after after being blown off course by Hurricane Earl has arrived in North Carolina. A wildlife organization in Nova Scotia nursed the injured seabird after it was found there last September. The species' natural habitat generally extends from the coast of northern Virginia to Peru. The pelican, nicknamed Ralph, arrived at the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport this morning after he was deemed healthy enough to travel. 

Clinic supervisor Maria Rush says the first step in Ralph's rehabilitation is reintroducing him to his own kind.

Section of off-road Greenway in North Carolina
Dave Connelly, greenway.org

The East Coast Greenway Alliance is moving its national offices to Durham this spring to work on trails in the South. The Greenway is a network of biking, jogging, and walking trails that run from Maine to the Florida Keys. More than 80 percent of trails in North Carolina follow roadways.

Emergency officials are meeting today in Raleigh to plan for a possible energy disaster. The two-day event is being sponsored by the Department of Energy and includes representatives from 12 states across the southeast as well as Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands. James Mercer of the Raleigh Emergency Management Office is coordinating the event.

Pisgah National Forest
usda.gov

A forestry law pushed by civic and business leaders in Asheville one hundred years ago is being celebrated today. The Weeks Act allowed the federal government to purchase private land for the establishment of National Forests. sg

James Lewis is a historian at The Forest History Society. He says what started in Asheville has grown to almost 20 million acres nationwide. 

weather
noaa.gov

North Carolina's Severe Weather Awareness week is underway. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Raleigh say it's the time of year when the threat of thunderstorms and other severe weather returns to the area. Among this week's events is a statewide tornado drill Wednesday morning. Meteorologist Darin Figurskey says seasonal weather changes can cause twisters to develop during the spring and summer months.

A wildfire in Cumberland County has destroyed about 1,000 acres of woods since Monday afternoon. The blaze continues to burn about five miles south of the Cedar Creek community in Fayetteville. State officials say firefighters are successfully controlling the fire. But Brian Haines of the North Carolina Forest Service says it's too early to tell exactly when crews will have the fire fully contained.

Wake Technical Community College is holding a two-day bio-diesel workshop this week. Students will learn how to convert waste vegetable oil into bio-diesel using the college’s new 40-gallon processor. Rich Cregar, an instructor in Automotive Systems Technology, started the course four years ago as part of a state-wide project to incorporate sustainable technologies into the curriculum of North Carolina’s community colleges.

The Division of Forest Resources is working to put out with a number of fires across the state. Windy, dry conditions have contributed to 211 fires over the past several days. Forest Resources spokesman Brian Haines says crews have had trouble containing the 582-acre Lumber Plant Fire in Surry County in western North Carolina.

Village leaders on Bald Head Island say their deer population is near the limit the island can support. One solution they're considering is shooting female deer with contraceptive-laced darts. But biologist Robbie Norville of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission says most wildlife contraceptives simply aren't effective.

Little Brown Bat with white-nose syndrome in Greeley Mine, VT, March 2009.
Marvin Moriarty/USFWS

White nose syndrome has arrived in North Carolina. The syndrome is a fungus that's been killing bats up and down the East Coast. In New York state, about 90 percent of some species of bat have died. Biologists have closed caves to spelunkers and hikers in an effort to control the spread.

Opposition is mounting against reopening Greensboro’s only landfill to solid household waste. The proposal upsets nearby residents who say it could harm their health and future development. A previous city council voted to close the landfill, which is located in a residential area. Former Councilwoman Goldie Wells is part of the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro.

"It shouldn’t have been brought up again because we had fought the battle once before. It’s not good for the community, not good for economic growth in this area, and really for the city of Greensboro."

One of the biggest solar farms on the east coast is now generating power for customers of Duke Energy. The joint project with Sun Edison is located in Davidson County. Jason Walls works for Duke Energy. He says the facility will generate enough electricity to power 26-hundred homes.

Economic growth and protecting the environment were at the heart of the Green Future for Economic Development Summit held in Raleigh Wednesday. Urban planners along with business, government and non-profit leaders met at the McKimmon Center on the N-C State campus. Sig Hutchinson chaired the event. He says business leaders are drawn to the Triangle in-part, by clean water and air.

Snow and ice this winter is proving costly for the state Department of Transportation. DOT spokesman Steve Abbott says the Department spent more than 31 million dollars through January 18th, already surpassing what was set aside for road clearing. He says that's because of the high number of storms we've seen this winter.

Today marks the first day new pollution rules go into effect for Falls Lake. The State Division of Water Quality found Falls Lake to be impaired in 2008.

Falls Lake is the source of drinking water for half a million Wake County residents, but most of the watershed lies in Durham and Granville Counties. That has put local officials at odds for the last 18 months as they hammered out the new rules.

Snow falling in many parts of central North Carolina is expected to turn to freezing rain tonight. A layer of at least a tenth of an inch of ice is likely to form. Brandon Vincent is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. He says the roads will be dangerous.

"We'll see freezing rain and freezing drizzle persisting perhaps all the way through Tuesday morning even into early Tuesday afternoon, so the road situation's going to get pretty bad later this evening and overnight."

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