Texas

Texas
9:51 am
Fri September 16, 2011

Texas Execution Put On Hold By Supreme Court

Originally published on Fri September 16, 2011 6:30 am

Duane Buck, "a black man convicted of a double murder in Texas 16 years ago was at least temporarily spared from lethal injection" on Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to "his lawyers' claims that race played an improper role in his sentencing," The Associated Press writes.

As the wire service adds:

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wildfires
11:53 am
Thu September 15, 2011

Last of Bastrop Fire Evacuees Return Home

Evacuated residents listen intently during a meeting last week at the Bastrop Convention Center. The last of the evacuees were allowed to return to their properties this morning.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

The remaining evacuees from the Bastrop Complex wildfire are returning home today, some of them still unsure if their houses were among the more than 1,600 that are now estimated to have been destroyed.

The last evacuation orders were lifted at 10 a.m. this morning in the neighborhoods of Eastern Tahitian Village, Pine Forest, McAllister Road, and the remainder of ColoVista.

Twelve days after the wildfire broke out in Bastrop County, firefighters have contained 75 percent of the fire zone’s 50 mile perimeter. While crews battled numerous flare ups overnight, no additional homes were burned.

 “They’re working day and night, and we think that every day that goes by, we’ll be making it safer and safer and safer for our citizens,” Bastrop County Emergency Operations Coordinator Mike Fisher said during today’s morning briefing. “I feel very comfortable that we’re not going to have a major rekindle of the magnitude that we’ve seen on the Labor Day weekend.”

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nasa
1:17 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

NASA Unveils Next Generation 'Monster' Space Rocket

Artist concept of SLS launching.
NASA

Originally published on Wed September 14, 2011 1:02 pm

If things go without a hitch NASA announced that its new Space Launch System could take its first manned test flight in 2017.

The new design looks a lot like the Apollo era rockets that took American astronauts to the moon, but NASA said the new spacecraft is much more powerful than any other rocket they've made before and could set up astronauts for deep space exploration. The SLS will be NASA's first exploration-calss vehicle since the Saturn V took astronauts to the moon.

At the unveiling of the plans Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) called it a "monster rocket."

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wildfires
11:39 am
Wed September 14, 2011

Bastrop Fire Situation “Getting Stable”

A mail box label notifies letter carriers that a Bastrop fire evacuee has yet to return home.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Firefighters in Bastrop successfully battled about 18 flare-ups yesterday as winds gusted to 20 miles per hour and the relative humidity dropped below 15 percent. The weather outlook is slightly worse for today, but fire officials are optimistic they can contain the stubborn wildfire that has persisted for 11 days.

Most of yesterday’s flare-ups were in areas already blackened by the 34,000-acre wildfire. Fire crews and helicopters moved quickly to extinguish them. About 600 firefighters are still working on the Bastrop Complex blaze.

Meteorologists predict slightly stronger winds and low humidity today, but nothing like the 40 mile per hour gusts that initially fanned the flames on Labor Day weekend when the fire began.

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drought
5:38 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

WilCo Nixes Smoking In Parks, Hays Extends Burn Ban

Southwest Williamson County Regional Park is one the places affected by the smoking ban.
Photo by City of Round Rock http://www.flickr.com/photos/cityofroundrock/

Williamson County followed Austin’s lead today and banned smoking in parks, nature preserves, and along trails. The parched conditions make it ripe for wildfires. Outdoor cooking is still allowed as long as it’s done in an enclosure that contains all flames and sparks.

Austin banned smoking and charcoal grilling in parks back in April. The restriction will remain in effect during the Austin City Limits music festival, which takes place in Austin’s Zilker Park this weekend.

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wildfires
5:18 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

Bastrop State Park To Be Closed Through October

Scorched trees in Bastrop State Park.
Photo by Mose Buchele, KUT News

Don’t make any plans to visit Bastrop State Park at least until November. Texas Parks and Wildlife officials say the area will be closed to public so firefighters can extinguish hot spots and conduct damage assessments after a wildfire tore through most of the 6,500 acre park.

Another big job: cutting and mulching downed trees and left over timber that could serve as fuel for a future fire.

New satellite imagery shows less of the park was damaged than initially estimated.

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Texas
4:02 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

Texas Poverty Grows By 9 Percent In One Year

Photo by The Trucking Tourist http://www.flickr.com/photos/brianlromig/

Almost one in five Texans is living at or below the federal poverty line, according to fresh data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The increase from 4.26 million in 2009 to 4.63 million in 2010 represents an increase of almost 9 percent.

The federal poverty threshold for a two parent family of two is $22,314 per year.

“That’s a pretty meager existence for families to be able to make ends meet and provide all the basic things we need have a healthy, productive lifestyle,” Center for Public Policy Priorities senior researcher Frances Deviney told KUT News.

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wildfires
2:58 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

Pictures of Bastrop State Park Fire Damage

All but 100 of the 6,000 acre Bastrop State Park was burned by a wildfire that tore across the county last week. The fire is now 70 percent contained, and the total burn zone is 34,000 acres. KUT's Mose Buchele toured the Bastrop State Park today and captured these pictures of the damage. Click on the image to read the caption.

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wildfires
11:51 am
Tue September 13, 2011

Weather Could Complicate Bastrop Firefighting Efforts

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

The Bastrop wildfire is now 70 percent contained, but incoming winds and hot temperatures could bedevil a marathon firefighting effort that has dragged on for ten days.

Critical fire weather is forecast for today, with winds rising to 15 miles per hour. Red Flag fire weather is forecast for tomorrow, with wind gusts of up to 20 miles per hour predicted.

“Red Flag on Labor Day Weekend helped drive this fire to the monstrous extent that it is now,” Bastrop County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike Fisher said in today’s morning press briefing. “The weather today and tomorrow is very serious.”

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wildfires
3:21 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Brush Fire in Lake Travis Quickly Extinguished

Firefighters from Lake Travis, Austin, Oak Hill and elsewhere swooped down on a wildfire that erupted this afternoon near the Falconhead Apartments on Ranch Road 620.

The apartments were evacuated and about a dozen firefighting units quickly squelched the blaze, containing it to about an acre. No one was injured and no buildings were damaged.

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wildfires
2:57 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

What Are The Health Risks of Sifting Through Ash?

People sifting through the rubble today at Word of Life Church off US 21 in Bastrop. One health experts says there's no immediate risk from ash exposure for healthy individuals.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

An estimated 1,554 houses in Bastrop have been reduced to rubble. People are now returning back to their homes and sifting through the ash to salvage anything they can. The Red Cross urges people to wear dust masks and coveralls, so we were wondering just how dangerous sifting through the ash could be.

“If you have no underlying lung disease, it’s not all bad by itself,” Dr. Grant Fowler with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School told KUT News. “If you have underlying asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, COPD, then it can be a very serious problem with inhalation because you are already living on restricted airways.”

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wildfires
12:07 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Safety Tips For Sifting Through The Rubble

Youth pastor Robert Anderson sifts through the ashes today at Word of Life Church off US 21 in Bastrop.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Imagine returning to your home after a wildfire and finding it reduced to ash. Your first inclination might be to dive into the debris and salvage whatever precious possessions are left. But wait! There are some safety precautions you should take first.

Here’s some useful advice from the American Red Cross of Central Texas:

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wildfires
11:33 am
Mon September 12, 2011

Bastrop Residents to Return by Thursday

Donated supplies for firefighters and Bastrop fire victims
Photo by Teresa Vieira for KUT News

Public safety officials hope to allow all people evacuated by the Bastrop wildfire to return to their property by Thursday. The re-entry plan may be moved up if conditions are favorable. People in Tahitian Village who were not to return home until Thursday, will be allowed back in Wednesday at 10 a.m.

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wildfires
10:24 pm
Sun September 11, 2011

Bastrop Fire 50 Percent Contained, 1,554 Homes Destroyed

The remnants of a home in Tahitian Village neighborhood of Bastrop
Photo by Teresa Vieira for KUT News

Update at 4:47 p.m.

Bastrop County has published its re-entry plan online. The map shows when people will be sent back to their homes through Thursday. You can view the PDF here

The county has also released the list of 17 people they say did not register with emergency shelters. Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering emphasized that just because these people are unaccounted for, they are not being treated as missing persons. 

Here is the list of names:

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wildfires
2:25 pm
Fri September 9, 2011

Learn More About Wildfires With These Videos

The developments over the past few days have us a lot more interested in wildfire videos. The Discovery Channel video above explains the three different types of wildfires. Apparently, the most dangerous wildfires are in Australia’s eucalyptus forests, mainly because of that tree’s flammable oils.

This HowStuffWorks video explains some of the science behind wildfires.

It can be a little dry at times, but this 2007 Congressional hearing on the interplay between wildfires and global warming is pretty informative. Lawmakers heard testimony to examine how climate change may be increasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

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