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Wetumpka
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The city of Wetumpka has declared a state of emergency after heavy rains and flooding around Christmas caused widespread damage.

But officials say the declaration is just a formality to allow the city to work more easily on areas that need the most repairs.

Heavy rain caused the Coosa River in Wetumpka to rise to 45 feet, higher than it’s been in decades. Several roads remain closed; one is affected by a 15-foot-deep sinkhole.

Thousands of workers who lost their retirement benefits after Walter Energy declared bankruptcy will be getting them back. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has more…

The Birmingham Business Journal reports the federal agency Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will be taking over benefit payments for more than 2700 current and future retirees of Walter Energy.

The Hoover-based mining company aims to sell the majority of its assets, and potential buyers have indicated they will not assume the existing pension plan.

Thousands of workers who had lost their retirement benefits in the wake of Walter Energy’s bankruptcy will soon be getting them back.

The Birmingham Business Journal reports that federal agency Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation will be taking over paying benefits for more than 2700 current and future retirees of Hoover-based Walter Energy.

The agency is stepping in as Walter plans to sell the majority of its assets. The company has had a hard time finding buyers, and any potential buyers say they won’t take over the pension plan.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating an outbreak of listeria involving Blue Bell ice cream. The probe has implications here in Alabama. Blue Bell Ice Cream’s plant in Sylacauga was among those shut down due to the presence of listeria. The U.S. Justice Department wants to know when company officials knew the potentially dangerous bacterial outbreak was present and how Blue Bell responded. Records indicated that the company knew one plant was contaminated at least as early as 2013. The ice cream maker shut down all of its factories in April.

Charleston Animal Society [Facebook]

This beautiful chocolate American Stafforddshire Terrier mix survived having her muzzle wrapped with electrical tape, cutting off circulation.  After multiple surgeries to reconstruct her jaw and remove dead tissue from her mouth and tongue, she is now the picture of  health and happiness, a true portrait of victory over adversity.  

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Jefferson County, and specifically the city of Birmingham, saw a steep rise in the number of homicides in 2015. Jefferson County had a 62 percent increase in murder cases overall. The county had one hundred and forty three homicides—that’s up from eighty eight in 2014. Al.com reports there were ninety two homicides in Birmingham. That’s a fifty five percent increase compared to 2014. Birmingham had fifty nine homicides in 2014. The 2015 number represents the most homicides the city has experienced since 2008.

The Cotton Bowl may have been good for the Alabama Crimson Tide and its fans, but advertisers on ESPN might tell a different story. Television ratings for the College Football Playoff semifinals dropped approximately thirty six percent from last season. Bear in mind that 2014 game was played on New Year's Day instead of New Year's Eve for the Tide rout of Michigan State. Some fans reportedly grumbled over having to change to their New Year’s Eve plans to travel to Dallas for the game, or watch on TV. ESPN announced the overnight ratings Friday.

TUSCALOOSA

SATURDAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. HIGHS IN THE UPPER 40S.

SATURDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLEAR. LOWS AROUND 30.

SUNDAY...SUNNY. HIGHS IN THE LOWER 50S.

SUNDAY NIGHT...CLEAR. LOWS IN THE UPPER 20S.

MONDAY...SUNNY. HIGHS IN THE UPPER 40S.

MOBILE

SATURDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY. HIGHS IN THE LOWER 50S.

SATURDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. SLIGHT CHANCE OF RAIN SHOWERS AFTER MIDNIGHT. LOWS IN THE MID 30S. CHANCE OF SHOWERS 20 PERCENT.

Governor Robert Bentley has indicated he’d sign a gas tax increase, if state lawmakers sponsored it. Now, he may get the chance. Alabama lawmakers might soon debate a possible hike in the state's gasoline tax to pay for road and bridge construction. If it passes, it would be the first raise in the state gas tax since 1992. The Alabama Legislature's Joint Transportation Committee will hold five meetings around the state in January to discuss the idea. A bill introduced in the recent special session would have raised the tax by 5 cents per gallon.

The Alabama Crimson Tide will face the Clemson Tigers for the College Football Championship in Glendale, Arizona. The Tide defeated Michigan State in a thirty eight to zero shutdown. The last time Alabama kept an opponent scoreless in a bowl game was the 2012 BSC title game against LSU. Alabama’s victory was punctuated by scores by Derrick Henry. The Heisman Trophy winner shared the spotlight with Calvin Ridley who caught two passes for touchdowns, and Cyrus Jones who returned a punt for another score.

Alabama reserve defensive back Tony Brown will miss tonight’s Cotton Bowl game against Michigan State. The player was suspended after a violation of team rules. Coach Nick Saban issued a statement saying an internal decision was made to send Brown home. This isn't the first controversy involving Brown. Tuscaloosa Police arrested him in 2014 for resisting arrest during a loud party.

As if rising flood waters weren’t enough, Alabama public health officials are offering safety tips to people who use septic tanks and wells after recent floods. The Alabama Department of Public Health says residents on septic systems should try using less water following torrential storms in our state. Homeowners are also advised to consider having their tanks pumped to keep their systems working right. The state says slowly draining sinks and toilets and sewage becoming visible outside the home are signs that a septic system isn't functioning properly.

Officials with Triple-A of Alabama are expecting a lot of drivers on the road for New Year’s Eve tomorrow. 

Triple-A of Alabama spokesperson Clay Ingram says with so many people out and about, drivers should give themselves extra time to arrive to your destination safely…

Ride sharing services have officially started operating in Birmingham.

Tom Maguire, general manager of Uber in Alabama told al.com users were able to hail rides from their smartphones beginning yesterday afternoon.

Ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft let people use smartphone apps to book and pay for rides. Birmingham officials had been discussing whether to allow the companies to set up shop for more than a year.

An Alabama death row inmate is once again appealing to have his execution delayed. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has the latest.

Alabama inmate Christopher Brooks is asking the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to halt his execution. His death sentence is currently scheduled to be carried out on January 21.

Brooks’s attorney filed the notice of appeal yesterday. Earlier this month, a federal judge denied an emergency motion for a stay of execution.

An environmental group has asked a judge to hear oral arguments in its lawsuit challenging the state of Alabama's plans to use oil spill settlement funds to build a beachfront hotel.

The Gulf Restoration Network filed the request earlier this month in federal court. The group asked for expedited arguments, citing Alabama's continued work on the project. The state is building a new 350-room beach hotel and conference center at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores.

The National Weather Service in Mobile will be sending out assessment teams tomorrow following a day of rough weather along the gulf coast. 

Forecasters say residents of Baldwin and Escambia counties were among those dealing with seventeen tornado warnings stretching from Mississippi to Florida.

Alabama had the most with ten.

Alabama is drying out and cleaning up from tornadoes that hit Christmas night. Flooding is also a concern as the state heads toward the New Year’s holiday.

The National Weather Service confirmed an EF-0 tornado hit Tuscaloosa County Friday afternoon with winds of seventy five miles per hour. Two hours later, a confirmed EF-2 twister touched down in suburban Birmingham. That storm is confirmed to have damaged more than 70 structures, from minor damage to total destruction.

Two deaths are now attributed to last week’s violent Christmastime weather. The Coffee County Coroner’s office says the body of a missing man, believed swept away in his car, was found Sunday morning. The victim was accompanied by a five year-old boy, whose remains were recovered on Saturday. The two were killed when their vehicle was overtaken by floodwaters while attempting to cross a bridge Friday near the town of Jack, just northwest of Dothan. The deaths brings the number of people killed in severe weather in the Southeast last week to nineteen.

Flooding remains a concern as Alabama approaches the New Year’s holiday. The state is still drying out and cleaning up from tornadoes that hit Tuscaloosa County and Birmingham. The National Weather Service says a warm Christmas week contributed to the instability that generated the twisters. Forecasters expect the unseasonably warm conditions to persist until Thursday. And, with Alabama’s rivers still saturated with water from last week week’s storms, weather watchers say any more rain could create more flooding.

Alabama has arrived in North Texas for the College Football Playoff after some severe weather at home. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban says there were some difficult circumstances with the weather. But the coach says everyone who was supposed to be on the team plane Saturday made it, and there were no issues with the flight. The second-ranked Tide play number three ranked Michigan State on New Year's Eve in the Cotton Bowl, one of the two semifinal games. The winner of that game, will face the winner of the Sugar Bowl, either Clemson or Oklahoma.

TUSCALOOSA

SUNDAY...PARTLY CLOUDY WITH A 30 PERCENT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. HIGHS IN THE MID 70S.

SUNDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 50 PERCENT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. LOWS IN THE UPPER 60S.

MONDAY..

THUNDERSTORMS. HIGHS IN THE LOWER 70S. CHANCE OF RAIN 90 PERCENT.

SELMA

SUNDAY...PARTLY CLOUDY WITH A 20 PERCENT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. HIGHS IN THE UPPER 70S.

SUNDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 50 PERCENT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. LOWS IN THE UPPER 60S.

MONDAY...THUNDERSTORMS. HIGHS IN THE MID 70S. CHANCE OF RAIN 80 PERCENT.

NWS

Damage assessment teams from the National Weather Service spent the day investigating violent Christmas night weather in Central Alabama. Their preliminary report is that two tornadoes hit the area, one near Coaling in Tuscaloosa County and the other near downtown Birmingham. Tuscaloosa’s twister was measured as an EF-0, with winds at 75 mph and as wide as the length of one and a half football fields. An EF-0 is considered the weakest type of tornado, but still able to do damage to homes and businesses.

Give a Lot, Get a Lot

Dec 26, 2015
JaseCurtis [Flickr]

In just a few days, this year will come to an end and we'll all be gathering our information for our tax returns.  Making a contribution to a charitable organization now will save you some taxes and help those who make our world a better place!

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National Weather Service

Overnight rescue efforts continued in the Birmingham area following heavy rain, flooding and tornadoes that pounded the South. The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touchdown that hit a Birmingham neighborhood Christmas evening. Search and recovery crews worked through the night looking for people believed trapped inside wrecked houses. Early reports included several injuries, but no fatalities. Alabama Power says some 10,000 customers are without power, mostly in the Birmingham area.

TUSCALOOSA

SATURDAY...PARTLY CLOUDY WITH A 30 PERCENT CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS. LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL POSSIBLE. HIGHS IN THE UPPER 70S.

SATURDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 30 PERCENT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. LOWS IN THE MID 60S.

SUNDAY...PARTLY CLOUDY WITH A 30 PERCENT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. HIGHS IN THE MID 70S. SUNDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 50 PERCENT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. LOWS IN THE UPPER 60S.

SELMA

Rescue teams, as well as and assessment crews from the National Weather Service, spent Christmas night fanning out after forecasters and witnesses confirmed a tornado touchdown near downtown Birmingham, which put violent weather on a path through populated areas like Mountain Brook and Homewood. Preliminary reports are that several structures were damaged, and victims required aid. Calls for first responder help reportedly overwhelmed 9-1-1 operators. Birmingham declared a civil emergency asking motorists to stay off the roads overnight, to ensure public safety.

TUSCALOOSA

THURSDAY...THUNDERSTORMS LIKELY. HIGHS IN THE MID 70S. .THURSDAY NIGHT...CLOUDY WITH CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND SLIGHT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. LOWS IN THE MID 60S. CHANCE OF RAIN 50 PERCENT.

CHRISTMAS DAY...CLOUDY WITH A 50 PERCENT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. HIGHS IN THE UPPER 70S.

FRIDAY NIGHT...CLOUDY WITH CHANCE OF SHOWERS AND SLIGHT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. LOWS IN THE MID 60S. CHANCE OF RAIN 40 PERCENT.

.SATURDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A 30 PERCENT CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS. HIGHS IN THE MID 70S.

SELMA

A grand jury will hear the case of an Alabama man charged with trying to aid terrorists.  However, his attorney and others have raised questions about his mental capacity.

St. Clair County Judge Alan Furr denied a motion to reduce the $1 million bond for 18-year-old Peyton Pruitt of Pell City in a preliminary hearing yesterday.        Court records say Pruitt attempted to provide less than $1,000 in resources to aid terrorists.

A federal judge has denied an Alabama death row inmate's emergency motion for a stay of execution.

Chief U.S. District Judge William Keith Watkins issued an order denying Christopher Brooks' request yesterday.

Brooks is scheduled to be put to death Jan. 21 for the rape and bludgeoning death of Deann Campbell more than 20 years ago. The execution would be Alabama's first in more than two years.

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