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Hazards of Holiday: Too Much Turkey-and Family?

Holiday family gatherings can be fun for some, but for others they can be stressful and unpleasant. Mental health experts say it's okay to pace yourself and even say "no" to some situations you know will be sources of conflict. Photo credit: Steel Wool/Flickr.

Holiday family gatherings can be fun for some, but for others they can be stressful and unpleasant. Mental health experts say it’s okay to pace yourself and even say “no” to some situations you know will be sources of conflict. Photo credit: Steel Wool/Flickr.

Holiday family gatherings can be fun for some, but for others they can be stressful and unpleasant. Mental health experts say it’s okay to pace yourself and even say “no” to some situations you know will be sources of conflict. Photo credit: Steel Wool/Flickr.[/caption]While the holidays are a happy time for many, the stress associated with family obligations and dynamics can be the “lump of coal” in some people’s Christmas stockings. According to the American Psychological Association, fatigue and stress are the top sources of negative feelings during this time of year.

Clinical social worker and psychotherapist Lisa Ferentz says sometimes the best thing to do is simply not participate in a potentially stressful situation, “Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to avoid family interactions that you know are going to be too painful, or that will set you up to be ‘triggered’ in some way.”

Ferentz says if you do feel compelled to see family or friends who can be a source of conflict, limit time you spend, bring a friend to act as a buffer, and use your cell phone as an excuse for a break.

Ferentz says sometimes, the best relief is to break away from habits from the past by beginning a new tradition, or doing something for others, “I encourage people to volunteer during this time of year. I think when you do things that kind of help you step outside of yourself and your own emotional upset, it gives you perspective about life. It also helps you to kind of reclaim a feeling of gratitude.”

Ferentz says it’s also important to avoid self-destructive behaviors such as over-eating or drinking too much – and replace them with exercise or meditation.

Meeting Upcoming for Cullowhee Community Planning Advisory Committee

As a result of comments received at the community meetings held in October and subsequent meetings and conversations with Cullowhee property owners, the Cullowhee Community Planning Advisory Committee has recommended changes to the proposed Cullowhee development standards and map.

The proposed designations of some properties have changed and the following properties have been removed from the proposed planning area:
• The NCCAT property and adjacent properties located on the west side of NC 107;
• The property occupied by the WCU staff apartments located behind Catamount Travel Center off Little Savannah Road;
• The Rogers family property and the adjacent WCU-owned property located on Monteith Gap Road.

Significant changes to the development standards include:
• A threshold has been established for requiring single family residential development to provide sidewalks. The threshold is 12 homes or lots; smaller developments will not have to provide sidewalks. In addition, trails may be provided in lieu of sidewalks with the approval of the Planning Council.
• Single wide manufactured homes are permitted on individual lots in the single family residential areas. Previously they were permitted only in manufactured home parks.

Cullowhee community will be Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 6:00 PM in the Hospitality Room at the Ramsey Center on the WCU campus.

Enough is Enough: NC Chicken Farmer Fights Perdue Farms

It’s a real life case of David versus Goliath. A North Carolina chicken farmer is speaking out against the practices of one of the country’s largest poultry producers – Perdue Farms.

Earlier this month a video was released by farmer Craig Watts of Fairmont, shot with the help of the group Compassion in World Farming. The video shows chickens living in cramped, dark quarters, many of them with raw bellies – unable to walk. Watts says the animal suffering comes as a result of the guidelines he’s asked to follow by Perdue, “What I was seeing was all I knew. What we started seeing was chicks coming in just in awful conditions. Bacteria, weak chicks, you name it. I don’t care who you are it gets to you after a while. ”

In a statement on Watts’ allegations, Perdue says the “conditions shown in this farmer’s poultry house do not reflect Perdue’s standards for how our chickens are raised.” On December 5th, the same day Watts’ video was released, Perdue conducted an inspection of his farm – the first one in more than 20 years.

Leah Garces with Compassion in World Farming says Watts is simply taking a stand against a system that needs to be changed, “There’s something not right with this system. There is something not right when you cram 30,000 birds into a warehouse that’s dimly lit. There is no fresh air and no natural light. ”

Perdue is now conducting an audit of Watts’ farm. The farmer says he’d like to continue on as a contractor for the company – which has annual sales of $6,000,000 dollars – because it will be easier to instigate change within the system, “If I don’t get axed, then we’re going to do things like they ought to be done. I know what grandma’s chicken coop looks like. Well, that’s that these guys are selling. Well, what the reality is is that basically I’ve got a ammunition shed down there for the chickens.”

North Carolina has a so-called “Ag-Gag” law in place, which offers protection to farm owners from whistleblower activists. Since Watts owns his farm, how the law impacts his case is unclear. In October Perdue announced it would remove stickers from packaging on some of its meat saying it was “humanely raised.”

F.E.M.A. Document Reveals 130 Million Americans Could Suffer Extended Blackouts Due to Intense Solar Storm

In the latest official confirmation about the acute vulnerability of the U.S. electric grid, the Washington Free Beacon has revealed that a Freedom of Information Act request produced a fact sheet describing a 2012 Federal Emergency Management Agency interagency plan for severe space weather. The FEMA document refers to a 2010 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that “an extreme solar storm could leave 130 million people without power for years, and destroy or damage more than 300 hard-to-replace electrical grid transformers.”

According to Dr. William Graham, President Reagan’s Science Advisor and chairman of the congressionally mandated Electromagnetic Pulse Threat Commission, in the wake of widespread and prolonged blackouts, nine out of ten Americans could perish.

Importantly, the level of damage described by FEMA and NOAA could be caused by what is known as a G5 class storm, the last of which hit the earth in 1921. That geomagnetic disturbance (GMD) is estimated to have been roughly one-tenth the power of an 1859 solar storm known as a Carrington Event. Congressional testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee earlier this year established that the likelihood of another Carrington-class solar storm, to say nothing of less powerful ones, striking our planet in the foreseeable future is one-hundred percent.

In fact, on December 5, Robert Rutledge, who directs NOAA’s Space Weather Forecast Office, advised the DuPont Summit – a conference in Washington, D.C. on grid vulnerability and steps needed to mitigate it – that such storms are as certain as earthquakes and hurricanes, and should be planned for accordingly.

NOAA’s 2010 Strategic Plan was performed for the National Research Council and drew upon a study by well-known experts in the field of geo-magnetically induced currents (GIC) and their impact on the grid, Drs. William Radasky and John Kappenman.

FEMA’s fact-sheet notes, however, that unnamed engineers from the electrical industry downplay the severity of predictions in the NOAA Strategic Plan. Unfortunately, the industry has long withheld data on geo-magnetically induced current flows that could shed light on the magnitude of the impact of even normal solar weather on the nation’s bulk power distribution system.

Dr. Kappenman, who is a member of the Secure the Grid Coalition, responded to the Free Beacon report:

The industry itself continues not to make publicly available important information on observations of geo-magnetically-induced current (GIC) and power grid impacts and failures that have occurred for smaller, more frequent storm events that can be used to validate models to examine impacts for rare larger storm events. This is somewhat like airlines withholding critical black box recorder data from the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration.

The Secure the Grid Coalition is concerned that such a lack of transparency is a product of the U.S. electrical industry’s reluctance to harden its infrastructure against such threats. The practical effect of industry non-disclosure and opposition to providing robust protection to its own assets is to cause important planning scenarios to be watered down. That, in turn, has impeded consideration and adoption of standards meant to mitigate such dangers, as regulators rely on assumptions that do not meet modern scientific standards or independent and widely accepted threat assessments.

The Center for Security Policy sponsors the Secure the Grid and its President, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., noted:

The evidence continues to accumulate that our most critical of critical infrastructures – the nation’s electric grid – is exceedingly vulnerable not only to certain naturally occurring phenomena, but to a variety of possible enemy actions. The federal government knows we face, accordingly, potentially nation-ending threats.

The House of Representatives recently unanimously approved the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (H.R. 3410) that would require the Department of Homeland Security to develop a plan for protecting the grid against, among other things, the sorts of devastation a massive solar storm could inflict. In light of the latest revelations from FEMA and NOAA, there is simply no excuse for the Senate failing to assign top priority to approve H.R. 3410, ideally in the remaining days of the lame duck session.

Secure the Grid Coalition members are available for comment on the electric grid’s susceptibility to severe solar weather events and other threats and what needs to be done to protect it against all hazards. More information can be found at www.securethegrid.com.

Firefighters Limit Damage From Forest Fire

The fire from a burning debris pile got out of control Friday afternoon causing a fire to burn over about ten acres of mountain land  in the Kitchens Branch area of Jackson County. Fighting the fire in a rugged area also know as Queen Caves was strenuous to the volunteer firefighters and North Carolina Forest Service personnel.  Both eyewitnesses and firefighters confirmed that fire lines were  created along the crest of the mountain which allowed the controlled backfire to safely cause the fire to safely burn itself out with.  Several houses in the area were not in immediate danger but could have been threatened had the wind changed. The weather conditions were favorable for the fire to burn but because the winds were basically calm it was easier to keep the fire under control.  Those planning to burn during this season are reminded of the importance of obtaining a burning permit and following the printed regulations. Permits can be obtained either on line or at several area businesses and at the NC  Forest Service headquarters in the Savannah/Greens Creek area on Highway 441 South.

NC Abortion Debate Looms: Public Asked to Comment on DHHS Rules

Another skirmish in the abortion battle? Some in North Carolina are concerned that the public comment period on new DHHS rules for clinics that perform abortions will fuel the longtime debate on the topic. Photo credit: Larryography/FeaturePics.com

Another skirmish in the abortion battle? Some in North Carolina are concerned that the public comment period on new DHHS rules for clinics that perform abortions will fuel the longtime debate on the topic. Photo credit: Larryography/FeaturePics.com

The future of reproductive health in North Carolina is in the hands of the general public. This month, the NC Department of Health and Human Services proposed new regulations for abortion clinics and now the public has an opportunity to comment. If 10 or more people object to the rules, the General Assembly will have to make the final determination.

Dr. David Grimes – professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UNC fears a possible abortion debate at the state level could be counterproductive to women’s health, “We need to hope that this does not become a political football now in the General Assembly, where politicians with no medical background try to tinker with the very fine product that’s been developed.”

Grimes says the rules proposed by DHHS are reasonable guidelines to ensure that women who want to terminate a pregnancy can do so as safely as possible. The rules require more post-operative care, a 24 hour number to call if complications arise, and a defibrillator on-site in case of cardiac arrest.

The state was required to draft new rules by a bill signed into law last year. As a result, several clinics that had provided abortion services closed, saying they were unable to meet the new law’s requirement that abortion clinics meet some of the same standards as outpatient surgery centers.

Grimes says the current policy is prompting some women to make tough decisions, “It’s getting more and more difficult, and it’s important to know that if women don’t have access to safe, legal abortion, they’ll do what they did before Roe v. Wade. They’ll do dangerous self-abortion attempts, or resort to the back alley.”

Supporters of the changes say it was necessary for the state to update its 20-year-old regulations regarding abortion.

Waynesville Road Improvements

Haywood County officials announced this week a more than $17.7 million plan to improve a section of Russ Avenue in Waynesville.

Paul Benson, director of planning for the town of Waynesville, said in a press release that a 1.1 mile section of Russ Avenue will be improved under adoption of the 2010 Russ Avenue Corridor Plan.

The improvements will include intersection improvements, construction of new access roads, addition of bicycle lanes and landscaped medians in a section beginning at the U.S. 23/74 Bypass going to U.S. 23/ Main Street.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2022 and is part of the State Transportation Improvement Program that was released on Dec. 4. The Board of Transportation is expected to approve the final budget for the program in June 2015.

Russ Avenue has seen an increasing number of accidents in recent years.

State Unemployment Rates Released For October

According to newly released data tracking October’s unemployment rates across the state’s 100 counties, Western North Carolina has a mixed bag.

Jackson County has 4.4% unemployment rate down from 5.9% in 2013.

Graham County the state’s highest unemployment rate for the month — 11.2 percent. It was one of three counties in North Carolina with an unemployment rate above 10 percent, where one out of every 10 workers is jobless.

But in an area located a few counties over in WNC, the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area — made up of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties — showed a much different story for the month of October. The Asheville metro area recorded the lowest unemployment in the state, at 4.1 percent.

Overall, the statewide unemployment rate for the month was 5.5 percent, just below the national rate of 5.8 percent for the month.

Winging It: North Carolina Students Learn About Conservation Through Butterflies

A group of students in one North Carolina community are aflutter about land conservation thanks to a tiny winged species. For the past five years, fifth and sixth graders in Macon County have collected data on butterflies at the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee’s Tessentee Bottomland Preserve.

The children recently completed this year’s study and Jason Love – one of the program coordinators – explains why kids and butterflies make perfect partners, “Butterflies make really great insects to study, particularly for school children because, one, they’re deaf, so kids can be as loud as they want to be and to really get a hands-on look at butterflies. Put an aerial net in a student’s hand and tell them ‘go catch stuff’ and students really respond to that. ”

Over the last five years, students have caught and released almost 700 butterflies, representing 33 species. They’ve also tagged 23 Monarchs as they travel from Canada to Mexico. Organizers of the program say participants gain a greater understanding about migration patterns and the importance of conserving lands to preserve the habitat of butterflies and other species.

Sixth grader Carter Payne participated in the program this year and says she was surprised to learn what butterflies go through to survive, “It changes how I think about them because they have to go through so much more work than I actually thought was being put into what they have to do every year.”

Love says the lessons taught through the program are valuable as land trusts in North Carolina raise the next generation to care for the environment, “So trying to instill that sense of wonder and connect children to the land is one of the goals of the land trust. Because who is going to be the future stewards? Who is going to be the future conservationists, if you don’t have that connection to the land?”

The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee helps conserve the water, forests, farms and heritage of the seven far western counties of North Carolina and northern Rabun County, Georgia.

Illegal Video Gaming Operation Busted Up in Haywood County

Thirty-five gaming machines were seized and two people were arrested Thursday in Haywood County as the result of a cooperative investigative effort between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Officers served search warrants simultaneously on three separate sites shortly after 1 p.m. last Thursday. They discovered and seized video gaming machines involving video poker and video keno games.
Among the evidence seized were seven machines from a building located at 889 Asheville Highway, 12 machines from a building at 1190 Asheville Highway, and 16 machines from a building at 1696 Asheville Highway. In addition to the machines, officers also seized more than $8,000 from two of the locations.
Officers arrested Scott Lee Crosby, 43, of Hendersonville, and Elizabeth Rebecca Moses, 59, of Canton in connection with the video gaming. Each was charged with five felony counts of placing five or more video gaming machines into operation in violation of North Carolina General Statute 14-306.1A (A).
The investigation began in February as a result of several citizen complaints and other reports that illegal video gaming was occurring at the Asheville Highway locations. The investigation was a cooperative effort between the county’s multi-agency Unified Narcotics Investigative Team, Alcohol Law Enforcement, N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security.
The case remains under investigation.

WCU students to present mock trial based on Ron Rash novel ‘Serena’

Western Carolina University business law students will present a mock trial based on the Ron Rash novel “Serena” at a courtroom in the Jackson County Justice and Administration Building on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

The event, which lasts three hours and begins at 5 p.m., is free and open to the public.

Rash, an award-winning writer and WCU’s Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Culture, authored “Serena,” and the novel set in Western North Carolina is this year’s selection for the WCU Office of First Year Experience’s One Book program. The program is designed to encourage students to have common intellectual conversation about one book. Freshmen were provided with copies of the novel, which was incorporated into transition courses as well as multiple upper-level courses in a range of disciplines.

Jayne Zanglein, professor of business law, assigned her students to develop a trial based on the characters and a legal issue in “Serena.” They crafted a case set in 1930 titled “Susan Harrill, as spouse ‘ad litem’ on behalf of William Harrill, deceased, Plaintiff v. The Pemberton Lumber Company, Defendant.”

In the lawsuit, Harrill alleges that an agent of the lumber company intentionally cut a cable wire in an attempt to injure or kill her husband.

The mock trial will involve a range of witnesses including the book’s title character, Serena Pemberton, as the wife of the lumber company manager. Exhibits include historical images, detailed information and diagrams of log loaders and equipment, and statistics regarding workplace injuries in the southern United States from pulpwood logging.

For more information, contact Zanglein at 828-227-7191.

Nifty Needles Make Warm Items in Jackson County

: Sarah Thompson, left, and Anne Jones continue knitting for the group project. Shown in the forefront are hats which will be given away.

: Sarah Thompson, left, and Anne Jones continue knitting for the group project. Shown in the forefront are hats which will be given away.

For eight years the Nifty Needles group has been knitting and crocheting warm, useful items for those in need. They knit year round in preparation for the cold weather. This group which meets at First United Methodist Church, Sylva has a mission to share God’s love and make winters warm and comfortable.

Nifty Needles distributes these items to those in Jackson County who are less fortunate. This season they will distribute over 300 such items. At one point, they gave to overseas missions, but now focus on the local community. Several years ago, over a two year period, they gave over 1,000 items to people in Bosnia.

When asked what type of items they knit, Anne Rhyne, the group leader, replied, “We make hats, scarves, gloves, stoles, and lap blankets and knee warmers for wheel chair bound patients in nursing homes. We love giving children matching hats, sweaters and turtle necks.” Many of the items are sold through the Christmas Store and others are distributed through referrals from school personnel and agencies. Items can also be picked up at the church office.

These dedicated knitters do take requests from people and try to accommodate the request. Once they got a request to send a warm shrug and a lap robe to an elderly person in Alaska.

As a special Christmas gift, the knitters have made dish cloths which they will wrap with ribbons to give to the Meals on Wheels recipients.

Vivian Wisdom, a longtime member, also leads a group of people called Crafty Needle Time at the Department of Aging.

The group would welcome new people who want to help accomplish their mission. They already have supplies such as yarn and needles. If someone wants to learn the craft, they will be more than happy to give lessons.

Anne Rhyne said, “We really enjoy being able to serve, and the Lord calls us to do this mission. We are just here for Him. We serve Him.”

Marine Sargent Major David Plaster (R) Selected for Jackson County Veterans Service Officer Position

With the recent departure of long time Jackson County Veterans Service Officer (VSO) Brenda DeBose the county selected a committee comprised of three veterans and two non-veterans to locate a person to fill the position of assisting veterans with their benefits from the Department Of Veterans Affairs. Retired Marine Sargent Major David Plaster has accepted the offer to fill the vacant position.  Plaster was one of over two dozen applicants for the position. During the final months of his enlistment Plaster was a Family Support Officer and remained in the position as a civilian contractor for several months after his retirement before relocating to Jackson County of which he is a native. Plaster is expected to assume the duties by the middle of December and will be working closely with the North Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs for training and certification.

Sheila Setzer Wood will continue as the Associate Veterans Service Officer for the County. Wood has been an employee in the office for two years and recently completed the requirements for full state and national certification. She was commended by the Search Committee and will move into a higher pay grade as a result of her certification. “Jackson County is fortunate to have two extremely capable individuals to staff this office,” said County Manager Chuck Wooten.

Cassius Cash Named Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

National Park Service Southeast Regional Director Stan Austin named Cassius Cash, a native of Memphis, Tenn., as the new superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cash, currently superintendent for Boston National Historical Park and Boston African American National Historic Site, will assume his new post in February.

“We are excited to have Cassius joining our Southeast Region leadership team,” Austin said. “He has a great reputation as a leader and has proven his ability to effectively work with partners, stakeholders and local communities. We know that he will be an excellent steward of the Smokies, one of the crown jewels of the Southeast Region.”

“Cash is an outstanding addition to the senior executive leadership at the National Park Service,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “He brings a depth of land management experience with the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, and his commitment to engaging local communities will support the great work that is happening at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

“I wholeheartedly look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with and learning from a group of dedicated employees at the park who have the privilege of and responsibility for preserving and protecting some of the most precious natural and cultural resources in the country,” Cash said. “I also look forward to working with local communities, friends groups, and tribal communities on how the National Park Service can build on innovative ideas to create the next generation of stewards and supporters for this park. The timing for this is excellent because the park service will enter its second century of service to the nation when it observes its Centennial in 2016.”

Cash has served as superintendent at the Boston parks since 2010. While there, he worked with the City of Boston to open a new visitor center in historic Faneuil Hall. That facility now welcomes more than 5 million visitors a year. Cash also worked with several park partners to secure $4 million to reopen the African Meeting House, the oldest black church still in its original location in the country.

Cash began his federal career in 1991with the U.S. Forest Service as a wildlife biologist at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington State. He went on to work with that agency for 18 years in various leadership positions.

He served as an administrative officer in Nebraska, district ranger in Georgia, and a civil rights officer in Mississippi. Cash was the deputy forest supervisor at the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in southern Oregon before transferring to Boston. Earlier this year, Cash served as the deputy regional director and chief of staff in the Northeast Regional Office.

Cash holds a bachelor of science degree in biology from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and later attended Oregon State University to study wildlife management.

Cash, his wife, Vonda and their youngest daughter plan to reside in the Gatlinburg area. Their oldest daughter is attending school in Colorado.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected land areas east of the Rocky Mountains, with more than 500,000 acres of forests and more than 2,000 miles of streams. It spans eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina along the high peaks of the Appalachian Mountains. It is the nation’s most visited national park, with more than nine million visitors a year.

WCU Wrapping Up 125th Anniversary Celebration Today

Paws_RunningWestern Carolina University will wrap up the yearlong celebration of the 125th anniversary of its founding with the It’s a Wrap Party at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, at the Ramsey Center in Cullowhee.

The event will be highlighted by a cross-campus parade led by WCU’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band, which will have just returned from participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Members of the campus and surrounding communities are encouraged to wear their purple-and-gold apparel and join the band in the on-campus march. The It’s a Wrap parade is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at Scott Residence Hall and end at the Liston B. Ramsey Regional Activity Center.

JCDPH to Hold a Public Meeting on Increased Mercury Levels in Fish at Lake Glenville

The Jackson County Department of Public Health is holding a public meeting to discuss and answer questions about the increased mercury levels in Walleye Fish as well as Large Mouth Bass Fish at Lake Glenville. The meeting will be held at the Albert Carlton-Cashiers Library on Monday, December 15, 2014 from 6:00 pm. The physical address for the library is 249 Frank Allen Road, Cashiers, NC 28717

Dr. Kenneth Rudo, NC Division of Public Health’s Toxicologist will be present to share the findings and answer any questions.

Report: The “Other” List Santa Should Check

Before filling the stockings of little loved ones this holiday season, gift givers might want to check out a new annual report that lists potential toy dangers to watch out for on store shelves.

Pam Clough with the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) says they’ve released their “Trouble in Toyland” report for 29 years now, and as a result, more than 150 toys have either been recalled or taken out of retail stores, “It is great to see that progress is being made, but it’s evident that there are still dangerous toys on the shelves.”

Clough says the findings highlight the need for consumers to be proactive and do their research before buying, and also examine items that already have been purchased for possible dangers.

Among the 24 toys on the list this year, Clough says they uncovered four main hazards – toxins, choking risks, magnets and excessively noisy toys, “We found toys that contained phthalates that are well over the legal limits. For example, a Dora backpack was 20 percent phthalates, which is ridiculous.”

Clough says the toxic chemicals found in toys can have adverse health effects on a child’s development, and the list includes lead and chromium, among others.

Clough says toy-safety standards have improved with passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. She says one of those “improvements” is a ban that goes into effect next year on small magnetic sets that pose a dangerous threat to children if swallowed, “The magnets have the power to bind through tissue, and so that can really disrupt the digestive system. And it actually can lead to severe injury that has been seen in pediatric emergency hospitals.”

The Toy Industry Association claims PIRG’s past unsafe-toy reports were based on improper testing methods that aren’t approved by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Park Receives Annual Poinsettia for Rescue 40 Years Ago

120314_Poinsettia_MediaForty years ago, on December 3, 1974, park rangers from Great Smoky Mountains National Park rescued 15-year old Eric Johnson and a companion who had been trapped deep in the park’s backcountry by a chest-deep snow storm. Today Eric’s mother traveled from Johnson City to park headquarters in Gatlinburg to thank the park rangers for saving her son’s life. A trip she has made every December 3rd since 1974.

Each December Mrs. Wanneta Johnson selects the biggest, finest poinsettia she can find in Johnson City and delivers it to park headquarters and thanks everyone she meets. This year Eric joined his mother as she met with Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan and several members of the park staff including current members of the park’s search and rescue team, none of whom were working at the Smokies in 1974. Over the past four decades hundreds of park rangers have come and gone, but Mrs. Johnson treats each one as if he or she had a hand in saving Eric’s life.

When asked why Mrs. Johnson comes back to the park every year, she responded, “How could I not!” In 1974, several rangers spent hours attempting to search for the boys on foot and by ATV, but made little progress because of conditions. They were finally able to locate the boys at Tricorner Knob Shelter from a helicopter.

Once the boys were found, a larger U.S. Army helicopter was brought in to hoist the boys out of the backcountry. Eric Johnson and his friend, Randy Laws, had been held up at the backcountry shelter for three days without adequate food, water or equipment. Both young men suffered from dehydration and exposure and Eric had some frostbite, but otherwise they were in good condition.

Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan, the seventh superintendent to accept Mrs. Johnson’s gift said, “It is humbling for us on the park staff to be honored every year by Mrs. Johnson’s visit back to the Smokies. Her recognition means a great deal to our rangers who are sometimes tasked with going out in rough weather to come to the aid of visitors like Eric and his family.”

Tennessee Bans Trucks On The Dragon

14504226781_7b9074378f_nTennessee is banning trucks longer than 30 feet from using a twisty stretch of U.S. Route 129 that is known as The Dragon.

The truck ban is welcome news to motorcyclists and sports car enthusiasts who flock to the mountain road famous for its 318 curves in 11 miles running along the western edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Tractor-trailers pulling through tight turns can block both lanes of traffic and force cars and motorcycles off the road.

While trucks have been banned from the North Carolina side of the road for a few years, Tennessee until now only posted a warning to truckers

Newly Elected Sheriff Sworn In Jackson County Monday

There is a new Sheriff in town. Chip Hall is officially on the job as Jackson County’s new sheriff after 26 years of service.He was elected Nov. 4 to replace Jimmy Ashe who retired after a dozen years.

Hall, former chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Office, won by an overwhelming number of votes over former Sylva Police Officer Curtis Lambert. Hall received 6,921 votes while Lambert got 3,838 votes.

Now that Sheriff Hall has been sworn in, he’s named a new chief deputy Kim Hooper and is looking to build positive relationships throughout the county.

Sheriff Hall says he’ll be meeting with commissioners soon to discuss finances and improving security at the courthouse.