Will Michaels

Producer, "The State of Things"

Will Michaels is a fan of news, sound and story. He started as an intern at WUNC when he was a student at the University of North Carolina. As a part of his internship, he worked for a semester on the daily national show, The Story with Dick Gordon. Will concentrated on radio while at college, studying under veteran NPR reporter Adam Hochberg. He began as a reporter for Carolina Connection, UNC's radio news magazine, and then became an anchor and managing editor for the program in 2009, when it was named the best college radio news program in the country by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Will came back to WUNC in 2010 as the producer for Morning Edition for a couple of years, rising before the sun to help morning host Eric Hodge gather and present the news. In 2014, he produced WUNC's My Teacher series, part of the North Carolina Teacher Project. He is now a producer for The State of Things.

Ways to Connect

Hurricane Irene is moving across the Outer Banks this morning. Will Michaels reports the storm was downgraded to a category 1 hurricane, but residents are still seeing high winds and surf up and down the coast.

Irene is cutting a path along the coast between the Outer Banks and the mainland. Meteorologist John Cole is taking cover at the National Weather Service in Morehead City.

The outer bands of Hurricane Irene are making their way across eastern North Carolina. The National Weather Service reports steady rainfall in the Wilmington area and swells of six to nine feet along the Outer Banks. Tommy Hutcherson owns the Ocracoke Variety Store. He says he's making some last-minute preparations before conditions get worse.

State officials are once again urging residents of eastern North Carolina to prepare for Hurricane Irene. Forecasters say the storm is likely to pass directly over the Outer Banks Saturday evening as a Category 3 hurricane. Governor Bev Perdue declared a state of emergency for all counties east of I-95 this morning. Perdue says federal agencies are now ready to respond to potential storm damage.

State officials say residents in eastern North Carolina should prepare for the worst if Hurricane Irene brings high winds to the area. Visitors began leaving Ocracoke Island this morning and local officials have issued a mandatory evacuation for residents starting tomorrow. Governor Bev Perdue asked coastal residents this morning to prepare an evacuation plan.

Bev Perdue: "We want folks there to take this storm seriously and to get prepared. We do this regularly in North Carolina. We know how to do it. We are preparing for the worst. Get that plan together today... please."

Hurricane Irene
nasa.gov

North Carolina forecasters are keeping an eye on Hurricane Irene as it makes its way toward the southeast. The storm became a Category 2 hurricane late last night and is expected to strengthen to Category 3 later today. Meteorologist Katie Roussy says the latest forecast has North Carolina in the path of the storm.

Marketing professionals are helping launch a program at Wake Forest University designed to explore new ways to appeal to consumers. The school says it's partnering with marketing companies to teach students how the retail industry is changing. The project's executive director Roger Beahm says online purchases are increasing, which changes the way manufacturers have to present their products.

The state Department of Transportation says it's considering ways to improve activity at North Carolina's ports. The agency is conducting a study it says is designed to explore options for expansion. The Ports Authority proposed building an international port near Southport in 2006. Opponents citing environmental concerns fear the state will use the study to justify building the mega-port. DOT spokeswoman Greer Beaty says the agency will consider every proposal.

The Veterans Affairs office in Fayetteville is looking for ways to help homeless veterans there. The VA says the number of homeless female veterans is rising as more women serve in the military. Stephanie Felder is the homeless program coordinator at the VA in Fayetteville. She says the meeting attracted nonprofit groups and employment agencies to help put male and female veterans back to work.

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council has voted to place annual catch limits on some fish. The council is charged with preventing over-fishing off the coast of North Carolina and other south Atlantic states. The panel voted this week to limit catch totals on species like mackerel, grouper, and dolphin fish. Mike Leonard of the American Sportfishing Association says recreational fishermen are worried the decision could lead to stricter rules for more popular fish.

A team of researchers at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke have taken a step forward in targeting diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's. Scientists studied parts of human cells called mitochondria, which produce a cell's energy. The study found a protein linked to cancer causes mitochondria to divide. Duke Medicine doctor David Kashatus says that division can cause cancer cells to form under the right conditions.

The Army is looking to hire more substance abuse counselors at Fort Bragg.

The head of the Army's substance abuse program says the number of troops abusing alcohol has doubled in the last five years. About 11,000 soldiers were treated for alcohol abuse in 2010. 2,000 more were using drugs like marijuana and cocaine. Military doctors say some soldiers resort to substance abuse after going through the stressful cycle of training, fighting overseas and readjusting to life at home. The Army is calling for 130 more counselors at major bases, including 10 at Fort Bragg.

Triangle Transit Authority
Triangle Transit Authority

The Raleigh City Council has approved a proposal for a downtown light rail line.

City council members voted last night to support a route that goes through the west side of downtown along Harrington Avenue. It's a segment of the light rail proposal from Triangle Transit Authority that would eventually run from Chapel Hill to Garner. The council's plan breaks from a recommendation by the city's Passenger Rail Task Force. That route would have brought tracks into the heart of downtown on both sides of the Capitol building.

Emergency management officials in Johnston County are launching a local emergency alert system. The county has paired with the company Code Red in an effort to improve response time to natural disasters. Emergency Management coordinator Darrell Alford says the system also warns residents about localized emergencies like boil-water advisories or pipeline bursts.

A brown pelican blown off course nearly a year ago by Hurricane Earl has been released into the wild on the North Carolina coast. The seabird nicknamed "Ralph" was found injured on the roof of a building in Nova Scotia last September. Ralph was transported earlier this year to the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport. The nickname stuck despite the fact that Ralph is a female. Clinic supervisor Maria Rush says Ralph completed the rehabilitation process this weekend.

City Council members in Raleigh are holding a public hearing today to get feedback about a light rail line proposal.

The recommendation from Raleigh's Passenger Rail Task Force takes light rail tracks down Morgan Street to the Capitol building. There, they split in two and run north along Wilmington Street and south on Salisbury Street. It's part of Triangle Transit Authority's plan to build commuter train and light rail tracks from Chapel Hill to Garner by 2025.

Dick Baddour
UNC Athletics

North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour has announced he's leaving his position a day after the university dismissed football coach Butch Davis. Baddour will officially step down after the school's hearing with the NCAA infractions committee in October. Baddour says he asked Chancellor Holden Thorp to hire a new athletic director in time to name a permanent head coach for the football team.

The state Department of Transportation has awarded a contract for what it says is the most cost-effective plan to build a new Bonner Bridge. The existing bridge that connects Hatteras Island to the northern Outer Banks is nearly 50 years old and cost the DOT more than $26 million to repair over the last decade. The contract awarded to PCL Civil Constructors and HDR Engineering is the cheapest of the three proposals at $216 million, but also got the lowest technical score from state officials.

Local officials in Greensboro are considering more than a million dollars in incentives for Honda Aircraft to build a service and support center. Honda's offer asks for about $775,000 from Guilford County and $520,000 more from the city of Greensboro. The company opened a headquarters building at Piedmont Triad International Airport four years ago. That facility has about 600 workers. Honda tells county commissioners the expansion would add more than 400 jobs over the next five years. Commissioner Kirk Perkins supports the incentives. 

North Carolina's U.S. senators say they're on board with a new proposal to decrease the national debt. A bipartisan proposal released Tuesday from a group of six senators would attempt to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next decade. The plan from the so-called "Gang of Six" cuts spending from the defense budget, Medicare and Medicaid. It also increases some tax revenues. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan says she supports the proposal.

A subsidized housing facility for teachers opens on Hatteras Island today in an effort to lure talent to Dare County schools. The Dare Education Foundation held a ribbon-cutting ceremony this afternoon in Buxton for a building with 12 reduced-rent apartments. The island has two public schools with a total of nearly 600 students. Dare Education Foundation executive director Elizabeth Piff says teachers on Hatteras Island have a hard time finding housing they can afford. As a result, a given class can sometimes have four different teachers in the course of one school year.

Members of Congress from North Carolina are weighing in on the talks in Washington about the debt ceiling. The country could default on its debt after August 2nd if a deal isn't reached between Congress and the White House. Much of the impasse centers around taxes. Second district Representative Renee Ellmers says she is with her Republican colleagues who say tax increases are off the table.

The town of Chapel Hill is cracking down on residents who illegally park their cars in their front yards. Town officials say citation officers will start giving out tickets for those who violate the town ordinance at the beginning of next month. The issue came to light after residents reported widespread violations in the Pine Knolls and Northside neighborhoods. Rae Buckley of the Chapel Hill planning department says those areas are popular among UNC students who rent houses. But she says lawn parking causes concern for permanent residents.

Animal Control officials say at least 10 packs of wild dogs are roaming neighborhoods in Cumberland County. Residents have recently reported feral dogs attacking or killing family pets. County Animal Control director John Lauby says more owners are abandoning their pets as they struggle with an economy still coming out of recession. Dogs instinctively join packs after being without food for long periods of time. Lauby says some residents have been feeding the wild dogs, which takes away his ability to trap them.

The FDA has approved a Triangle company's method of treating dry-eye disease. The medical-device company TearScience announced today it will start producing its product called LipiFlow. TearScience president and CEO Tim Willis says it's a treatment that includes a series of procedures to open obstructed oil glands in the eyelids that usually keep eyes moisturized.

The National Park Service is accepting public comment about rules governing off-road vehicles on the Outer Banks. North Carolina environmental groups filed a lawsuit in 2007 that said regulators did not have proper rules in place to protect wildlife from vehicles that might disturb sea turtle nests and other natural habitats. At the same time, some North Carolina lawmakers lobbied for beach access to support local businesses. Mike Murray is the superintendent of Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

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