September 12th, 2011
08:42 PM ET

N.C. House votes to put constitutional same-sex marriage ban on ballot

[Updated at 8:42 p.m. ET] The North Carolina House voted Monday to put on the 2012 ballot a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in the state, a spokesman for the House speaker said.

The bill, which the House approved 76-41, now goes to the Senate. Three-fifths of the House's 120 members - 72 - were required for the bill to pass.

If the measure passes in the entire Legislature and is approved by voters during the primary in May, North Carolina would become the final state in the Southeast to add a constitutional amendment regarding same-sex marriage.

"This amendment pushes the power away from us and pushes the decision to the people of North Carolina," state Rep. Dale Folwell, a Republican from Winston-Salem and the speaker pro tem, said.

Proponents of the measure said they felt it was important that the amendment be added so that it would protect the state's policy on gay marriage. North Carolina currently has a ban on same-sex marriage, but legislators are seeking to protect that ban by chiseling it into their constitution.

The bill came to the House floor Monday after a House committee passed it by a voice vote earlier in the day. Many Democrats who opposed the measure argued that Republicans, who are in the majority in the Legislature for the first time in 140 years, were trying to push the amendment through quickly without allowing for a real debate or public comment. Republicans argued that the content of the proposed amendment has long been known, even if the specific wording was not.

During debate on the House floor, Rep. Susan Fisher, a Democrat from Asheville, questioned why legislators were asking for such swift movement on the issue.

"I think it's somewhat ironic that we would be asked to debate or have this bill in front of us for immediate consideration," she said. "I don't think you ever consider an amendment to the state constitution immediately, yet here we are."

Jordan Shaw, communications director for North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, told CNN that he did not believe there was a requirement to have a public debate on the issue.

"But I would point out the very nature of this measure would be for the people to vote on it," he said. "It is hard to have a more democratic process than to put it up to the voters."

FULL POST

August 31st, 2011
12:35 PM ET

Popular teacher, public servant, rescuer, Holocaust survivor among Irene's dead

One of the first U.S. casualties from Hurricane Irene, which killed 43 people, was a popular Florida teacher who suffered a fatal head injury Saturday when a big wave knocked him down.

Frederick Fernandez, 55, an algebra teacher at New Smyrna Beach High School, was known as a skilled surfer, according to CNN affiliate WESH. Although the brunt of the storm missed Florida by hundreds of miles, it stirred up high surf that brought many, including Fernandez, out to the beach.

Fernandez was standing in shallow water when a large wave bowled him over and slammed his head against the compacted sand, WESH reported.

Principal Jim Tager couldn't bring himself to speak of Fernandez in the past tense.

"He's just well-respected," he told WESH. "The family is well-respected. They are from our community, and it hurts. I hope it brings us all closer together, and he is just a fine man, and I know many of us wish we could be just like him."

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Filed under: Connecticut • Flooding • Hurricane Irene • New Jersey • New York • North Carolina • U.S. • Vermont • Weather
Outer Banks highway faces extensive, costly repairs - again
Hurricane Irene breached North Carolina Highway 12, cutting off road access to Hatteras Island.
August 30th, 2011
11:24 AM ET

Outer Banks highway faces extensive, costly repairs - again

Hurricane Irene severed North Carolina Highway 12, the route that connects the islands of the Outer Banks, in four places, raising questions about how many times taxpayers will have to pony up to fix the roadway.

In 2003, Hurricane Isabel cut a gap in the road that took two months and $5 million to fix, according to a report in the Raleigh News & Observer. This time, the damage to the road is worse, officials said.

(See a North Carolina Department of Transportation map of the breaches.)

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue told CNN affiliate WRAL-TV that two of the breaches are bigger than what has been seen before and that the surf is continuing to erode them.

One of the four breaches presents a particular problem, CNN affiliate WAVY-TV reported. It is a gap about 250 feet wide in which the foundation of the road has been washed away, meaning repairs will be more extensive.

But Perdue says no matter how bad the damage, the road will be repaired.

"There are going to be those from across the country saying, 'Why are (you) investing in that road again?' " she is quoted as saying by CNN affiliate WRAL-TV. "Until we can find a better way to move on and off (the islands), they are North Carolina citizens, they pay taxes and they have got to have a highway, road or bridge to travel on the same as the rest of us."

Then expect to be paying for repairs frequently, East Carolina University geology professor Stanley R. Riggs tells the News & Observer.

"If we get one or two more of these (storms) in September and October, you're going to have a whole bunch of holes in the Outer Banks out there," the paper quotes him as saying.

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Filed under: Hurricane Irene • Hurricanes • North Carolina • Tropical weather • Weather
Irene death toll in U.S. hits 27
Signs stick out of a submerged neighborhood Monday in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.
August 29th, 2011
10:20 PM ET

Irene death toll in U.S. hits 27

Flooding emerged as a major concern Monday for states hit by Irene, which hit the East Coast as a hurricane and then a tropical storm over three days.

Even as Irene weakened to a tropical storm, authorities warned that its impact was not waning, especially in Vermont.

"Many Americans are still at serious risk of power outages and flooding, which could get worse in coming days as rivers swell past their banks," President Barack Obama said Sunday, adding: "The recovery effort will last for weeks or longer."

Officials said the storm had knocked out power to more than 4 million people and was responsible for at least 27 deaths.

Check out our Open Story, read the full CNN Wire story and follow the latest developments here:

[Updated at 10:20 p.m.] Personnel in a state police helicopter on Monday rescued 21 people who had been stranded by post-Irene floodwaters in a Prattsville, New York, house, a local official said.

The group was stranded at a house that was cut off when all the bridges near it were washed out after torrential rains flooded homes and businesses and left the Catskill Mountains town of Prattsville largely cut off from the outside world.

Emergency workers rescued 87 people from the Prattsville area a day earlier, including 25 people who were stranded at a motel for hours after 70 mph wind gusts grounded aircraft.

[Updated at 7:32 p.m.] Vermont's governor warns that further flooding and loss of life related to Irene are likely for his state. Although small brooks have crested, large rivers have not, he said.

"It's just devastating," Gov. Peter Shumlin said. "Whole communities under water, businesses, homes, obviously roads and bridges, rail transportation infrastructure. We've lost farmers' crops," he said. "We're tough folks up here but Irene ... really hit us hard."

Three people are reported to have died in Vermont as a result of the storm. The nation's death toll from Irene is at 27.

FULL POST

August 27th, 2011
02:45 AM ET

Live blog: Hurricane death toll at 9; New York closes bridge entrance, port

Hurricane Irene continues to crawl north after making landfall Saturday morning in North Carolina. The storm is expected to head up the East Coast from Virginia to Maine, bringing hurricane-force winds, heavy rain, flooding and widespread power outages.

Follow the latest developments here, or read the full CNN Wire story:

[Midnight] Authorities shut down the Port of New York and the Port for Long Island Sound late Saturday as Hurricane Irene closed in on the New York City area. Also, the Palisades Interstate Parkway entrance to the George Washington Bridge in New York City has been closed due to weather conditions, according to a statement from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

[Update 11:40 p.m.] U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.  The declaration frees federal funds to help in the recovery effort, according to the White House.

[Update 11:20 p.m.] The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority closed down late Saturday because of a tornado warning in Philadelphia, according to SEPTA representative Jerri Williams.

[Update 11:05 p.m.] Irene remains a category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 80 mph and gusts to 100 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 11 p.m. ET advisory.

[Update 11 p.m.] Storms in Delaware damaged 30-40 homes Saturday night in the town of Lewes, according to Ed Schaeffer, a fire department spokesman.  Five of them were damaged severely. There were no injuries, he said.

A tornado watch remains in effect until 5 a.m. Sunday.

[Update 10:47 p.m.] The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning until 11 p.m. ET for the city of Philadelphia, including east-central Chester County, northeastern Delaware County, central Philadelphia County and southeastern Montgomery County.

[Update 10:37 p.m.] New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, addressing reporters Saturday night, said residents should prepare to hunker down as Hurricane Irene approached. "The storm is finally hitting New York City," he said.

“The time for evacuation is over. Everyone should go inside and stay inside," Bloomberg  said. "The city has taken exhaustive steps to prepare for whatever comes our way.”

[Update 10:26 p.m.] The National Weather Service has issued tornado watches - extending through 5 a.m. Sunday - for parts of southern Delaware, eastern New Jersey, southeastern New York and Long Island and southwestern Connecticut.

[Update 9:52 p.m.] A tornado touched down in Lewes, Delaware, damaging at least 17 homes, the governor said Saturday night.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, Governor Jack Markell told CNN affiliate KYW. He wouldn't have official damage figures until Sunday morning, he said.

[Update 9:42 p.m.] Amtrak said Saturday night it is suspending all service north of Jacksonville, Florida, and east of Toledo, Ohio, and Indianapolis through Sunday because of Hurricane Irene.

[Update 9:27 p.m.] As of 9 p.m. ET Saturday, the storm was centered about 155 miles south of Dover, Delaware, moving northward at 16 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm’s intensity was 80 mph “with the center of the hurricane passing very close to the coasts of Delaware and New Jersey from late tonight into Sunday morning,” according to the weather service.

“The storm will bring damaging winds … torrential rain with dangerous flooding … and coastal flooding,” the weather service said.

[Update 9:17 p.m.] Philadelphia International Airport will close Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET and won’t re-open until 4 p.m. Sunday at the earliest, said spokeswoman Victoria Lupica.

The airport had already cancelled all departures because of Hurricane Irene.

[Update 9:03 p.m.] Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Corey Booker said he’s been going door to door warning residents to flee the storm.

 “We're strongly encouraging residents to leave,” Booker told CNN Saturday night. “I benefited a lot from the surprise factor as the mayor showing up [at their doors],” he said. "I think they got the point, and hopefully they’ll behave appropriately. Booker said ultimately the city would do what it could to save people in distress due to the storm.

FULL POST

August 26th, 2011
02:31 PM ET

Live blog: Hurricane warning issued for New York, surrounding coastal areas

Hurricane Irene will parallel the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina coasts Friday as it approaches a Saturday landfall in North Carolina.

Officials in counties and cities along much of the East Coast ordered evacuations.

Follow the latest developments here, or read the full CNN Wire story:

[Updated 11:00 p.m.] New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said cats and dogs would be welcome at the emergency shelters set up for people fleeing the storm.

“If you have your pet bring them with you. … No one should be staying in their homes in an endangered area because they feel like they can't bring their pets with them," Christie said.

Mark Lavorgna, a mayoral spokesman, confirmed that pets are allowed in the 91 emergency evacuation shelters set up in preparation for Hurricane Irene. But “we strongly, strongly argue against it,” he said. “We urge people to bring their pets to friends or familiy’s houses or shelters outside Zone A, but if people need to bring them they can,” said Lavorgna. “They should come leashed and muzzled.”

[Updated 10:36 p.m.] North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue told CNN's Anderson Cooper that the state was prepared but cautious. "We urge people to just be really aware. It doesn't sound like a huge storm right now - 50 mile-an-hour winds - but we think it's going to stay over our state 10 or 12 hours and that's where the problem becomes," she said.

Perdue then referenced reports of a bowl-shaped part of the low-lying coastline that is especially vulnerable to high waters.

"That bowl that you were talking about earlier full of water, it's going to dump somewhere, and when it dumps there's going to be a surge of water and who knows what'll happen," Perdue said.

Irene targets heavily populated, least prepared urban areas

[Updated 10:23 p.m.] The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island will be closed Saturday through Monday because of Hurricane Irene, according to Jane Ahern, public affairs chief of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island.

All units of the Gateway National Recreation Area, Governor’s Island and all National Park sites in Manhattan will be closed to visitors Saturday and Sunday, with a chance of opening Monday depending on storm damage and a safety assessment.

“The safety of our visitors and employees is our top priority at this time,” said National Parks of New York Harbor Commissioner Maria Burkes. “Our park employees are currently working diligently to protect park resources per our Emergency Response Plans.”

[Updated 10:05 p.m.] Russell Honoré, the general famous for his management of the federal government's military response to Hurricane Katrina, told CNN's Piers Morgan Friday night that local authorities were right in calling for mass evacuations in low-lying areas along the Eastern Seaboard.

“I think we have had a cultural shift in government because, working with hurricanes for about the last 10 to 12 years while I was in uniform, local governments and governors were reluctant to make that decision to evacuate because of the impact [of what would happen] if they evacuated people and the storm didn’t come," he said. "But the options of not evacuating people, with the warnings that we have now and the accuracy of prediction, (it) needs to be done,” Honoré said.

[Updated 9:53 p.m.] Maryland's Martin O'Malley was one of several East Coast governors to declare a state of emergency in advance of the storm. Residents of low-lying areas in the state were told to evacuate ahead of what the governor called "a very dangerous and potentially deadly hurricane."

The governor said Friday that "anybody that thinks that this is a normal hurricane and that they can just stick it out is being both selfish, stupid and also diverting essential public safety assets away from the task at hand, which is safeguarding lives and getting people out of the way."

[Updated 9:40 p.m.] The Port Authority has announced the closing of five airports - JFK International, Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia, Teterboro and Stewart International - to all arriving passenger flights, international and domestic, starting at noon Saturday.

[Updated 9:15 p.m.] Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the National Hurricane Center, spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper Friday night, stressing the strength and size of the storm heading toward the Northeast.

“For some folks this will be the most significant event perhaps in 20 years from a tropical system,” Rappaport said.

He said unlike typical storms that follow a similar trajectory and curve move toward the sea, Irene"s forecast track comes very close to the shore.

"That means all the weather that's usually, in this case, worst to the east will be much closer to the metropolitan areas this time around," Rappaport said, "and in fact will definitely hit the southern New England area and since there are strong winds, high surge right near the center of the storm, we'll see some of that along the East Coast as well."

[Updated 8:53 p.m.] “The core of the hurricane” was barreling toward the North Carolina coast Friday night, the National Weather Service said in a bulletin. “The hurricane is forecast to move near or over the Mid-Atlantic Coast Saturday night and move over southern New England on Sunday.”

The weather service said maximum sustained winds would remain near 100 mph - a category two hurricane - and wouldn’t weaken until some time Sunday.

“Interests in southeastern Canada should monitor the progress of Irene,” the weather service said.

 [Updated 8:38 p.m.] The Giants-Jets game, originally scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed until Monday, the NFL said in a press release.

"Along with the NFL office and the Jets, we have closely monitored the hurricane and the forecast and its potential impact on our area for the past several days," said Giants President and CEO John Mara. "After conferring with (New Jersey) Governor (Chris) Christie, (Jets owner) Woody Johnson and (NFL) Commissioner (Roger) Goodell, we have determined the best course of action for the safety and well being of all is to move the game to Monday night."

See other events postponed or canceled

[Updated 6:33 p.m.] With public transportation halted due to the incoming storm, all Broadway performances on Saturday and Sunday have been canceled, according to Paul Libin, chairman of the Broadway League.

“The safety and security of theatregoers and employees is everyone's primary concern,” Libin said. “As a result of the suspension of public transportation by government authorities in preparation of Hurricane Irene, all performances will be cancelled on Saturday, August 27th and Sunday, August 28th.”

CNN on the ground: 'Good Night, Irene' and 'Go Away, Irene'

[Updated 6:08 p.m.] The mayor of Annapolis, Maryland, declared an emergency and announced that more police officers will be on patrol in the city.

Police Chief Michael Pristoop warned residents to take police orders seriously. “Everyone needs to be prepared for the worst," he said. "I encourage everyone to evacuate the low-lying areas of Annapolis before Saturday afternoon. Make sure you secure your homes and belongings.  Once we begin to feel the affects of the hurricane, everyone should stay off the streets as wires and trees may come down. Don't put yourself in harm's way and don't put our emergency personnel in a position that could have been avoided."

Obama: Irene likely to be 'historic'

[Updated 5:47 p.m.] President Barack Obama has declared an emergency in New York as the state and surrounding region brace for Hurricane Irene’s impact.

Obama’s order mobilizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and means federal aid will be used to buoy state and local relief efforts in preparation for the storm.

[Updated at 5:00 p.m.] A hurricane warning has been issued from north of Sandy Hook to Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts, including New York, Long Island, Long Island Sound, coastal Connecticut and Rhode Island, Block Island, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

[Updated at 4:34 p.m.] Greyhound said it has delayed or canceled several East Coast routes in preparation for the storm.

Some routes originating in New York; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Richmond, Virginia; Washington, D.C. and Raleigh, North Carolina, have been either pushed back or canceled, the company said on its website.

[Updated at 4:15 p.m.] The Red Cross plans to open shelters and dispatch more than 200 mobile feeding vehicles to the East Coast to aid people in the storm's path, the organization said on its website.

KFOR: Oklahomans help with Hurricane Irene

"The Red Cross is moving volunteers, vehicles and supplies, getting ready for a response effort that spans nearly the entire East Coast," Gail McGovern, president and CEO of the American Red Cross, said in a statement on the site. "We want everyone in the storm's path to get ready as well by getting a disaster kit, making a family emergency plan, and listening to local officials regarding evacuations."

[Updated at 2:31 p.m.] Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said his city, which is under hurricane warning, will not order evacuations but urged residents, especially those in flood-prone areas, to use common sense and evacuate if necessary.

Significant localized flooding is expected, he said, as are power outages that could last for several hours or even days. He said the city will open three shelters Saturday evening with a maximum capacity to accommodate 6,000 people.

[Updated at 2:26 p.m.] The first family will accompany President Barack Obama when he departs Martha's Vineyard to return to Washington on Friday evening, a White House spokesman said.

[Updated at 2:21 p.m.] American Airlines has tentatively canceled all flights in the Washington area from noon Saturday to noon Sunday, said spokesman Ed Martelle. The airline has also canceled all flights at Raleigh-Durham International Airport scheduled for Saturday.

JetBlue has canceled almost 900 flights in the Northeast ahead of the storm. Most of those are Sunday and Monday flights out of the New York metro area and Boston, said spokesman Mateo Lleras.

[Updated at 2:10 p.m.] Hurricane Irene's winds have dropped to 100 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

As of 2 p.m., the service reported, the hurricane was about 300 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, moving north at 14 mph.

[Updated at 2:01 p.m.] New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said low-lying sections of the city, mostly along the city's waterfront, are under mandatory evacuation orders. The mandatory evacuations, which affect all five boroughs, are the first in New York's history, he said.

Click here to see the areas being evacuated.

[Updated at 1:50 p.m.] Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said 30 agencies are coordinating ahead of Hurricane Irene’s weekend arrival. The state is taking several precautions, he said, including drawing down state reservoirs to provide additional capacity in the event of torrential rains.

Residents should make certain they have supplies and enough food, water, batteries and necessary medications to last for a couple of days.

The worst of the storm is expected Saturday night into Sunday, Patrick said, and downed trees and power lines are expected. He urged residents to stay off the roads. If travel is a must, try to complete it Friday before the storm arrives, he said.

As for air travel, the governor said, as of now, Logan International Airport will remain open, but there will “undoubtedly” be service interruptions.

Patrick said he was aware that this is one of the last summer weekends and said boaters and swimmers should be cautious about riptides and strong currents.

FULL POST

August 26th, 2011
11:07 AM ET

Hurricane Irene forces cancellations, changes to East coast weekend plans

Hurricane Irene has put all sorts of end-of-summer festivities on hold. Here's a rundown of some plans that have had to be reworked ahead of this weekend's hurricane:

The dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington has been postponed until September or October.

Amtrak canceled service in parts of the Northeast for the weekend.

Several colleges have had to make scheduling changes. New York University pushed back the beginning of move-in week for incoming freshmen to Monday, and Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, moved its day to Tuesday. Rutgers University has changed its move-in date for residence halls on the New Brunswick/Piscataway campus to Saturday.

The New York Jets will start a pre-season game against the Giants earlier Saturday due to the approaching storm. Kickoff has been changed from 7 p.m. ET to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The Hampton Classic announced on its website that the event, which was supposed to start Sunday, will be postponed since horses cannot be transported and stabled this weekend. The show will begin on Wednesday instead.

B.B. King was supposed to play at Jones Beach on Saturday. The event has been canceled.

The U.S. Open, which is scheduled to begin Monday, is thus far going ahead with those plans. The hurricane is forecast to have passed Flushing Meadows, New York at that point.

Airlines are waiving cancellation and change fees because of the hurricane.

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Filed under: District of Columbia • Maryland • New York • North Carolina • South Carolina • U.S. • Virginia
August 25th, 2011
05:32 PM ET

Hurricane warning issued for coastal North Carolina

[Updated at 5:32 p.m. ET] A hurricane warning has been issued for coastal North Carolina from Little River Inlet north to the Virginia border, including the Pamlico, Albemarle and Currituck sounds, the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 p.m. ET advisory.

The warning is for Hurricane Irene, which on Thursday was pounding the Bahamas as a Category 3 storm.

A hurricane watch also has been issued for the U.S. East Coast from the Virginia-North Carolina border northward to Sandy Hook, New Jersey, including Delaware Bay and the Chesapeake Bay south of Smith Point, the hurricane center said.

Five governors those of New York, Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland and North Carolina have declared a state of emergency for at least parts of their states. The emergency declarations allow states to free funds and prepare resources that may be needed.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Hurricanes • North Carolina • Tropical weather • Weather
August 23rd, 2011
10:52 AM ET

Irene intensifies as it roars toward Carolina coast

An intensifying Hurricane Irene churned northwestward over the tropical waters of the Caribbean Tuesday and is projected to make landfall in the United States this weekend.

The five-day forecast map puts the storm on the Carolina coast by Saturday evening, although the National Hurricane Center said predictions this far out can be hundreds of miles off, meaning most of the southeast is potentially at risk.

"The Southeast coast of the U.S. will feel some impacts from this storm," meteorologist Wallace Hogsett said. "It's difficult to say whether that will be in terms of big waves or whether it's a more direct impact."

Emergency officials in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas stepped up operations in preparation for the first dangerous storm to threaten the United States in three years.

Irene became a Category 2 hurricane Monday evening, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph. The storm could strengthen to a Category 3, which would make it a major hurricane, forecasters said.

"The storm was already stronger than we were forecasting," said John Cangialosi, a specialist with the Miami-based hurricane center.

He said Irene, the first hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic season, could even approach Category 4 status as it gathers steam over tropical waters.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Florida • Georgia • Hurricanes • North Carolina • South Carolina • Virginia • Weather
Nobody runs for office in small N.C. town
In the town of Tar Heel, North Carolina, no one has stepped up to run for mayor.
July 18th, 2011
04:41 PM ET

Nobody runs for office in small N.C. town

In the North Carolina town of Tar Heel, residents won’t have to worry about Big Government. It’s looking like No Government.

Nobody’s on the ballot for November elections, a county elections official told CNN Monday.

“The town had two weeks to file and no one stepped up to the plate,” said Cynthia Shaw, director of the Bladen County board of elections.

How did this happen?

FULL POST

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Filed under: North Carolina • Politics • U.S.
Hikers climb five mountain summits in one day
Mission complete: Hike five mountains, in five states, in one day
July 12th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

Hikers climb five mountain summits in one day

Hikers from the Atlanta area completed a climb to the summit of the five highest peaks in five Southeastern states in one day.

The leader of the trip, Charlie Cottingham, said the group has applied to GuinnessWorldRecords.com to have the feat recorded as a hiking world record.

The 21 hikers are part of the Atlanta Outdoor Club. They climbed South Carolina's highest peak, Sassafras Mountain at 3,564 feet, Mount Mitchell in North Carolina at 6,684 feet, Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet in Tennessee, Brasstown Bald in Georgia at 4,784 feet and Cheaha Mountain in Alabama at 2,413 feet.

"It was a perfect day because it was in the 70s in all five places," Cottingham said.

Cottingham said the idea for the trip dates back to 1992 when a group from the Atlanta Ski Club climbed four summits in four states. He was part of that trip and always believed it was possible to hike a fifth summit between sunrise and sunset on the same day.

The group used private vehicles on Sunday to travel between the mountains and "obeyed all traffic laws" during their journey. Cottingham said the five summits are near trailheads, which saved time.

"I'm proud of our achievement and it offers proof of what the spirit of friendly cooperation can do," Cottingham said.

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Filed under: Georgia • Hikers • Mountain climbing • North Carolina • On CNN.com today • South Carolina • Sports • Tennessee • Travel • U.S.
Emergency declared in North Carolina as wildfires rage
More than 300 fire departments have been deployed against wildfires that have burned 70,000 acres in North Carolina.
June 25th, 2011
05:38 PM ET

Emergency declared in North Carolina as wildfires rage

North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue declared a state of emergency Saturday for 29 counties as crews battled wildfires that have consumed more than 70,000 acres.

“I want to assure residents of North Carolina that the state Division of Forest Resources and its partnering agencies are working hard to contain the fires in Eastern North Carolina,” Perdue said in a statement on her website.

The emergency order means North Carolina can receive aid from federal authorities as well as other states.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Fire • North Carolina
June 22nd, 2011
07:51 PM ET

North Carolina hearing explores forced sterilization history

"A social worker convinced my mom to sign for me to undergo an operation that would prevent me from getting pregnant, not knowing all the while that I was being set up to be sterilized like I was some kind of animal."

Deborah Chesson spoke through tears Wednesday as she addressed a North Carolina task force on behalf of her mother.

Dozens of North Carolina citizens spoke at the public hearing against the state's five-decade forced sterilization program.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: North Carolina
Walter Jones' war: Why lawmaker is challenging Obama on Libya
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, regrets voting to authorize the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
June 21st, 2011
03:50 PM ET

Walter Jones' war: Why lawmaker is challenging Obama on Libya

U.S. lawmakers are split over President Barack Obama's decision to take military action in Libya without getting congressional approval. Some of them are threatening to cut off funding for America's participation in NATO's bombing campaign.

That prospect has lit a fire of its own.

"The president did a lousy job of communicating and managing our involvement in Libya, but I will be no part of an effort to defund Libya or to try to cut off our efforts to bring (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi down," U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

You can question the motivation of some lawmakers who are attacking Obama for the U.S. bombing of Libya.

For instance, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in 1995 voted to repeal the 1973 War Powers Resolution, the law that requires the president to get congressional approval for sending U.S. forces to war.  In 1999, Boehner called the resolution "constitutionally suspect." Now, Boehner is arguing Obama violated it with his actions in Libya.

But it's not so easy to question the motivations of U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina.

Well, you can: It's a free country, and he'd probably welcome it. But you're better off spending your time some other way.

He's a Republican, yes. He's a conservative, yes. But mostly, he's driven - not to go after a Democratic president, but to pursue the beliefs that got burned into him with the war in Iraq.


Click the audio player to hear this story from CNN Radio's Libby Lewis:


CNN spoke with him at his office recently on Capitol Hill.

"I take war very seriously. I've not been to war," Jones said.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Libya • Military • North Carolina • Politics • Walter Jones
Monday's live video events
June 13th, 2011
07:53 AM ET

Monday's live video events

Seven people who have declared or are considering a run for president next year will gather at a New Hampshire college tonight to debate the issue.  CNN.com Live will be there for all the action.

Today's programming highlights...

9:00 am ET - Casey Anthony trial - Testimony continues in the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida woman accused of killing her young daughter.

FULL POST


Filed under: Barack Obama • Casey Anthony • Courts • Crime • District of Columbia • Economy • Elections • Florida • Jobs • Joe Biden • Justice • New Hampshire • Newt Gingrich • North Carolina • On CNN.com today • Politics • Republican Party • Tim Pawlenty • U.S.
On the Radar: Miracle plane to Charlotte, salt-seeking satellite, Arab-American meet
The plane's wings and tail were removed for the trip to North Carolina.
June 10th, 2011
06:46 AM ET

On the Radar: Miracle plane to Charlotte, salt-seeking satellite, Arab-American meet

Three things you need to know today.

"Miracle on the Hudson" plane: The US Airways Airbus 320 that Capt. Chesley Sullenberger safely put down in the Hudson River in January 2009 arrives at its new home in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday.

The jetliner, minus its wings and tail section, was at a weigh station in Surry County, North Carolina, overnight before beginning the final leg of its journey from a warehouse in Harrison, New Jersey. It is expected to reach its new home at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte between 11 a.m. and noon Friday, according to a museum Twitter posting.

Among those who got a chance to see the aircraft Thursday were two of the 155 passengers and crew aboard when Sullenberger set the Airbus down in the Hudson after its struck birds and lost power upon departing LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, on a flight to Charlotte.

"Seeing the plane, I think it's overwhelming. Full circle. You think about all the emotions. You think about how fortunate you are," survivor Denise Lockie told CNN affiliate WFMY.

"This airplane crashing in the river and staying afloat for 23 or 24 minutes, long enough for us all to get off, is an amazing miracle." survivor Beth McHugh told the Greensboro TV station.

Sea salt satellite: NASA is set to launch a satellite Friday, starting a three-year mission to help better understand climate change.

NASA says it will launch the Aquarius/SAC-D Sea Surface Salinity satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

For the next three years, the Aquarius satellite will look back at Earth and generate monthly maps of sea salt movement, data that are crucial to the understanding of global climate change and ocean currents.

The project will give scientists the information they need to better predict El Nino and La Nina tropical climate patterns in the Pacific. Until now, such research has been limited to ship and buoy instrumentation.

Arab-American conference: The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, which bills itself as the largest Arab-American grassroots organization in the U.S., begins at three-day conference in Washington on Friday.

The conference, with the theme “Defining Our Role in a Changing World,” features speakers including consumer advocate Ralph Nader, comedians Dean Obeidallah and Ahmed Ahmed, political and academic figures and a performance by the New York Arab Orchestra.

Topics up for discussion include the current "Arab Spring" uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. foreign policy and Arab-American identity.

The organization says the conference is the country's largest gathering of Arab-Americans.

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Filed under: Air travel • Aviation • Civil Rights • Earth • New York • North Carolina • Space • World
South gets a major buzz on every 13 years
The 13-year periodical cicada has big red bug-eyes to go with its orange legs and wing parts.
May 24th, 2011
12:01 PM ET

South gets a major buzz on every 13 years

The brood is back, and it's gonna be noisy.

Trees, posts, walls and other vertical surfaces throughout the American South are being covered this spring with billions of periodical cicadas: red-eyed insects that emerge, like Chicago Cubs fans' pennant hopes, for a few weeks just once every 13 years.

The bugs are perfectly harmless to humans, unless you count annoyance caused by the remarkable amount of noise the love-starved little critters make. The male cicada's mating call has been compared to a circular saw, only more shrill - and that's just the way the lady cicadas like it. FULL POST

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Filed under: Alabama • Animals • Arkansas • Georgia • Illinois • Indiana • Insects • Louisiana • Maryland • Mississippi • Missouri • Music • Nature • North Carolina • Oklahoma • Science • South Carolina • Tennessee • U.S. • Virginia
N.C. divers to search Blackbeard's ship for artifacts
In addition to being known for his dark, twisted facial hair, Blackbeard was said to have lit fuses under his hat.
May 21st, 2011
05:19 PM ET

N.C. divers to search Blackbeard's ship for artifacts

In a bid to recover sunken artifacts – and as an excuse just to say “Aarrrgh” to each other – divers plan an expedition next week off North Carolina to the flagship of famed 18th century pirate Blackbeard.

Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, is believed to have run aground in the shallow waters off Beaufort, North Carolina, in 1718. The ship was discovered by excavators in 1996, with piecemeal recovery of artifacts intensifying only a few years ago.

Staff from the North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Branch will enter the waters Monday for a two-week mission focused on “conducting a detailed assessment of the main mound to determine strategies for disassembly and recovery,” according to the Queen Anne’s Revenge website.

Mark Wilde-Ramsing, project director for the Queen Anne’s Revenge dive, told WUNC 91.5 the expedition hopes to score a trove of 18th century goods, which then can be used to educate the public and raise awareness of underwater preservation efforts.

He said divers could  "hopefully recover a large anchor that is on the main ballast pile. There's a lot of these rock, stones and these anchors, two of them, plus a lot of cannon underneath,” he told 91.5.

Blackbeard, known for his dark, braided facial hair, evidently used a lot of cannons.

An article published in March on the Smithsonian website said the Queen Anne’s Revenge was found to have about 225,000 pieces of lead shot and at least 25 cannons, many of them still loaded.

Romanticized in history books as a notorious ruffian, Blackbeard, born in Britain as Edward Teach, terrorized Atlantic seafarers from the shores of the American colonies to the Caribbean.

The Queen Anne dive is part of a conservation project that has been years in the making. Wilde-Ramsing said divers will try  anti-corrosion agents and devices to stop or even reverse years of saltwater decay, according to 91.5.

For more information, see the Queen Anne's Revenge website.

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Filed under: History • North Carolina • Pirates • U.S.
Body of honor student missing since December found, father says
April 21st, 2011
04:56 PM ET

Body of honor student missing since December found, father says

The body of a 17-year-old honor student from North Carolina - missing since December - has been found in a Maryland river, her father said Thursday.

Russel Barnes said that a female body found Wednesday in the Susquehanna River in Maryland is that of his daughter, Phylicia Barnes (pictured). The father said he'd learned as much after talking with authorities.

The teenage girl said she was going out to get something to eat and maybe a haircut when she left a residence in Baltimore where she'd been staying with her half-sister, according to that city's police.

Later, authorities said they feared that Barnes - who is from Charlotte - had been abducted or otherwise harmed. She'd left her debit card where she was staying, and hadn't answered her cell phone since her disappearance, her mother, Janice Sallis, told HLN's "Nancy Grace."

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Crime • Maryland • Missing Children • North Carolina • TV-Nancy Grace
April 19th, 2011
06:36 PM ET

Tornado cuts college's semester short

Damage from a tornado last weekend has forced Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, to cancel the rest of the semester, the school announced.

No one on campus was seriously injured, but dormitory rooms and the Willie E. Gary Student Center, where meals are served, were devastated. Windows and roofs were damaged in other buildings, and trees were toppled and lines were down all over campus, the school said in a press release.

"While we exist to educate these young men and women, our first priority is their safety and well-being," Shaw President Dr. Irma McClaurin said in a written statement aired by CNN affiliate WNCN. "With this widespread damage, we could not resume operations in time to continue classes over the next two weeks."

FULL POST

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Filed under: Natural Disasters • North Carolina • Tornadoes • Weather
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