Birmingham

Pratt City tornado
Christopher Mardorf / FEMA

Officials in Birmingham, Alabama say three of five planned community storm shelters will be open before the spring tornado season next year.

That's nearly six years after the April 27, 2011 tornadoes that devastated parts of Alabama, including the community of Pratt City. One tornado hit the northwest Birmingham community, killing one person and destroying the library, a fire station, numerous homes, apartment buildings, at least one church and several vehicles.

Birmingham agency wins extension for Zika research

Nov 14, 2016

The Birmingham-based Southern Research is expanding its work on the Zika virus.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded the non-profit organization a contract extension worth $650,000 to expand a screening effort to include testing of the virus.

The goal of the work is to identify compounds that may serve as drug agents to combat Zika, which is transmitted by the bite of a tropical mosquito.

Zika is so mild in people that most who get it don't even know they are sick.

Enjoying cooler and cleaner air in Birmingham could come down to planting more urban trees.

That’s according to a new study from the Nature Conservancy. The organization released a study last week analyzing nearly 250 of the world’s largest cities. They studied the impact trees have on mitigating heat and air pollution within the cities. The report finds planting more trees in cities like Birmingham could reduce temperatures by up to 4 degrees Fahrenheit in summer months. Additional trees could also cut down on air pollution from sources like car exhaust and power plants.

Company begins excavating pipeline after leak

Nov 3, 2016

A company says it is excavating the gasoline pipeline that exploded and erupted in flames in Alabama this week.

A statement from the Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Co. today says "substantial progress" has been made since work began last night at the rural site southwest of Birmingham.

The company says the remaining small fire will be extinguished and draining operations will continue once preparations are finished.

Birmingham inching towards drought record

Nov 2, 2016

Summer-like heat and bone dry conditions continue to stick around Alabama this fall season.

Much of the state has broken records on high temperatures in the past couple of days. Forecasters are predicting a cold front to move in on Thursday that will bring a few storms and near average temperatures.

John De Block is a meteorologist for the national weather service in Birmingham.   He says that Birmingham is closing in on the record for the longest streak of days without significant rainfall…

Wildfires ravaging Alabama

Oct 28, 2016

Officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission say more than 1,000 wildfires have destroyed 11,000 acres across the state.

Governor Robert Bentley is urging citizens to be aware of the seriousness of the situation.  Earlier this month, the governor signed a Drought Emergency Declaration into effect which prohibits all outdoor burning.

46 counties in northern and central Alabama remain under the burn ban.  That means no one can set fire to grass, woods, have campfires or burn trash that could set areas on fire.

Wildfires burning around South as drought worsens

Oct 27, 2016

Wildfires are charring hundreds of acres daily in the South amid a worsening drought, and no rain is in sight.

Wildfires have burned more than 12,000 acres statewide in Alabama in the last 30 days.  Fires have burned acreage in communities around Birmingham.

Forestry officials say rain is the answer, but substantial storms aren't predicted in short-term forecasts.

A federal judge is considering the state of Alabama’s request to dismiss a lawsuit over a new law that blocked a minimum wage increase in Birmingham.

District Judge R. David Proctor held a hearing yesterday afternoon on the motions to dismiss. Last year, the Birmingham City Council voted to raise the city's hourly minimum wage to $10.10. Just before that law took effect, the Alabama Legislature quickly passed legislation requiring a uniform minimum wage throughout the state.

The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama has a new Executive Director as of this week.

Kathryn Strickland is taking over after previously serving at the head of North Alabama’s food bank. During her time in Huntsville, that community’s food bank collected eight million pounds of provisions for the needy each year.

Strickland explains that they have a lot of plans for the Central Alabama food bank such as promoting healthy food choices and working with area farmers.

Alabama coal communities receive money through grant

Aug 26, 2016

New funding is set to help Alabama coal communities. APR Student Reporter Allison Mollenkamp has more…

The Southern Research Institute and the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center are teaming up to fund an entrepreneurship program and a business development plan.

A total of one hundred twenty thousand dollars will be split between the programs. It will target the Appalachian region of Alabama with an aim at spurring small business in the area.

Lyric and Alabama Theaters
Joe de Sciose

The Alabama House of Representatives approved Gov. Robert Bentley's proposed state lottery last night by an extremely tight margin.

Representatives voted 64-35 for the bill late last night, barely clearing the 63 votes required to clear the 105-seat House. The vote came after 10 hours of back-and-forth debate and two vote attempts.

Lottery supporters cheered in the House as newly-elected Speaker Mac McCutcheon announced the bill's eventual success.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says he believes a November lottery referendum is no longer possible, but is seeking an opinion from the attorney general's office.

Merrill believes the law is clear that today is the deadline for Alabama Lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment and addit on the November ballot.  They missed that deadline.

Alabama Senators will be debating how to divvy up the state’s portion of oil spill settlement money amid a looming hole in the Medicaid budget.

The Alabama Senate is expected to take up the settlement bill today. A version of the legislation passed the House last week. Debate on the Senate floor could get contentious, though, as Senators can’t seem to agree on how much money should help Medicaid and how much should go toward road projects on the Alabama coast.

A Senate committee approves dueling lottery bills as lawmakers try to strike a compromise on gambling.

The Senate Tourism and Marketing Committee pushed the bills through this afternoon. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh says the bills were a work in progress and he wanted a vehicle for negotiations on the Senate floor.

Members of Alabama’s House of Representatives have elected Republican Representative Mac McCutcheon of Capshaw, Alabama as the new Speaker of the House.

McCutcheon received 68 votes during yesterday’s election. He promised to be fair to Representatives on both sides of the aisle, and says the days of “imperial speakership are over”.

McCutcheon replaces former House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Hubbard was removed from office after he was convicted of felony ethics violations.

The final living culprit behind the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was denied parole this morning.

The parole board briefly deliberated and denied 78-year-old Thomas Blanton early release.  Blanton was convicted and sentenced to four life sentences in 2001 for his role in the bombing that killed four girls and injured another. 

16th Street Baptist Church bombing
NPR

A former Ku Klux Klan member convicted in a church bombing that killed four black girls is up for parole in Alabama.

The state parole board has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday for 78-year-old Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. Blanton won't attend the hearing, but opponents of his release are expected to address the board.

The Salvation Army has broken ground on a $25 million new headquarters campus in Birmingham.

Al.com reports the headquarters broke ground on the 4.1-acre campus Thursday. The new facilities will house administrative offices plus emergency relief services including overnight accommodations for homeless men, women and children.

Officials say construction on the campus should be complete by September 2017. Two new buildings will be under construction soon in addition to an extensive renovation of a 50,000-square-foot school building.

A federal judge says a pending lawsuit over Alabama's voter identification law will go to trial in the fall of next year.

U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler has set the trial to begin Sept. 11, 2017, in Birmingham federal court. Greater Birmingham Ministries and the NAACP challenged the state’s existing voter ID law as an infringement on voting rights disproportionately affecting black and Latino voters.

Weather forecasters say conditions are going to be downright brutal for the next few days.  Central Alabama is expected to be under the influence of a subtropical ridge.  That could means temperatures approaching triple digits in some parts of the state starting today.

John DeBlock is with the National Weather Service in Birmingham. He says those temperatures don’t even include the heat index, which is how humidity makes it feel outside…

Police in Mobile say they will strictly enforce the city's open-container alcohol ordinance in the downtown entertainment district.

That means consuming alcoholic beverages outside of entertainment venues in downtown Mobile is about to get harder for tourist and local residents.

Mobile police say the outside consumption of alcoholic beverages will still be permitted but will come with conditions.

A federal judge has temporarily blocked the enforcement of new state laws banning abortion clinics near schools and outlawing a commonly used second trimester abortion procedure.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued an order yesterday delaying enforcement of the laws that were set to take effect Aug. 1. Thompson scheduled an Oct. 4 hearing on a request from abortion providers to permanently block the laws.

A large number of dead fish were found at the top of the Black Warrior River this weekend. A-P-R  Student Reporter, Katie Willem has more…

State officials are investigating after dozens of dead fish were found at Mulberry Fork south of Jasper, which is near the William Crawford Gorgas power plant operated by Alabama Power.

Lance LeFleur is the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. He says ADEM is collaborating with other organizations to figure out what happened…

Lawyers for the state of Alabama are asking an appellate court to allow the execution of a death row inmate this week.

Vernon Madison is scheduled to receive a lethal injection Thursday night for the 1985 murder of Mobile police office Julius Schulte.

The state attorney general's office told the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday that a lower court decided correctly that Madison is mentally competent and can be executed.

A state lawmaker says he has enough signatures to re-ignite an impeachment effort against Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.

Republican Rep. Ed Henry says he’s obtained 23 signatures on impeachment articles.

The announcement came after the House passed a rule change requiring 21 votes to start an impeachment investigation. That thwarted Henry's earlier effort with 11 signatures.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley says he is not responding to the state auditor's order to testify before him.

Bentley issued the statement today, a day after State Auditor Jim Zeigler ordered Bentley to appear before him to answer questions about the use of state funds and his relationship with a former staffer.

Bentley says the appropriate legal process was through the Alabama Ethics Commission where Zeigler has already filed a complaint.  The governor said he is cooperating fully with the commission.

Much of Alabama was hit by storms and severe weather last night, and at least two tornadoes touched down in various parts of the state.

Eldridge, Alabama was reportedly hit by a tornado around 8 p.m. last night according to Walker County Emergency Management director Harry Markham. There were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries.

Limestone County Emergency Management director Rita White says a second tornado hit near Ardmore about an hour before. There have been no reports of damage or injuries associated with that tornado either.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is admitting that he made inappropriate remarks to a female staffer two years ago. But, the Governor says he never had a physical relationship with the woman.

Bentley spoke to reporters after the state's former top law enforcement official made a series of accusations.  Former Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier, had been fired on Tuesday. Alabama’s top cop said during a news conference he believed the governor had an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is taking on a new position as chairman of Don Trump's advisory committee on national security.

Trump named the Mobile Republican to the post yesterday. A release from the Trump campaign says he's honored to have Sessions as a member of his team.

The announcement comes a week after Sessions endorsed the New York businessman for the GOP nomination for president.

A Jefferson County judge has ruled Alabama’s method of imposing the death penalty unconstitutional.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tracie Todd sided with defense attorneys who argued that Alabama’s death penalty statute was extremely similar to Florida’s, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s law was unconstitutional in January.

In death penalty cases in Alabama and Florida, juries recommend sentences but judges have the final decision. It’s not uncommon for Alabama judges to overrule a jury suggestion of life in prison and impose the death penalty.

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