WNC News Roundup

Here’s a look at what’s happening around Western North Carolina:

When it rains, it pours: The remnants of Tropical Storm Fay dropped varying amounts of rain across Western North Carolina early in the week — from 2 or 3 inches to as much as 10 inches. The downpour triggered some flooding and power outages.

• The body of a missing kayaker was found on the west prong of the Little Pigeon River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after the storm. In Haywood County, rescuers found a “wet, bruised and scared” woman who had reportedly been swept down the raging Pigeon River.

• The rain caused a mudslide in Lake Lure and Chimney Rock. The Beach Grill, a local restaurant, sustained most of the damage caused by rain and dirt cascading down a mountain.

• The Macon News put the rainfall in perspective: “Almost eight inches of much needed rain soaked the county over the last three days, but did little to ease the serious shortage of rainfall. …  The county is still looking at finishing the year with close to a 40-inch three year deficit — that is if the county receives average rainfall over the next four months.”

Apples, apples apples: Henderson County plays host this weekend to the annual North Carolina Apple Festival, and the county’s apple farmers say this year’s harvest will be a good one, reports the Hendersonville Times-News. “It should be a festival everyone can love, with a better-than-average apple harvest predicted. Drought and high temperatures had threatened apple crops throughout the region, but growers say the trees produced a hardy number of blooms, and they have reported having a massive harvest early in the season. It will be an improvement over last year, when an Easter freeze, high winds, drought and extreme heat all pounded the Henderson County crop, leaving behind the worst damage seen in 50 years.”

Don’t forget — the King Apple Parade starts at 2:30 on Labor Day and runs through downtown Hendersonville.

Survivor: Up in Caldwell County, folks can’t stop talking about the miracle survival of Amber Pennell, who held on without food or water for five days after she was pinned under a Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck on Aug. 20. Pennell crashed off U.S. 321 north of Lenoir. It’s unclear why she crashed.  Her husband, Mitchell Pennell, and Caldwell County Emergency Services Director Tommy Courtner appeared on Good Morning America and The Today Show to talk about Pennell’s experience, reports the Caldwell County News-Topic. “I’ve been asking myself how she survived,” said Courtner, who spotted the truck in a kudzu-covered ravine. “I think the girl’s survival was based on her will to live, and that was based on her getting home to be with her children. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but there’s got to be a strong will there for her to survive.”

Hospital on the rebound: Haywood Regional Medical Center has reached a financial break-even point after five straight months of massive financial losses, the Smoky Mountain News reports. The hospital has been trying to regain its footing after it lost its Medicare and Medicaid status in February. “The hospital has remade itself since the crisis, regaining its Medicare and Medicaid status and winning back private insurers after passing two top-to-bottom inspections. There has been a house-cleaning of upper-level management, an overhaul of patient care protocols, new standards and training for nurses, and a commitment to making the workplace friendly.”

Land-transfer tax vote: Folks in Clay County will vote Friday on whether to install a land-transfer tax there. The Clay County Progress has lots of opinion pieces on the topic. The tax on real-estate sales would be used to build a new primary school in the county.

Firefighter dies: The N.C. Division of Forest Resources late last week mourned the death of a firefighter killed while fighting a fire in Polk County. Curtis Jessen, the division’s assistant district forester in Asheville, suffered critical injuries after falling from the Big Bradley Falls near Saluda.

Window inspection stickers to disappear: Starting Oct. 1, automobile inspections will be done electronically, eliminating the need for window stickers, reports the Watauga Democrat. “The inspection process will not change. A certified mechanic will inspect and test a vehicle for safety and emissions standards. The customer will receive a receipt and inspection report, but not a windshield sticker,” the newspaper reports. “Instead, the inspection will be entered electronically into the DMV vehicle registration database. The inspection will then be next due during the same month of the registration renewal. Registration cards will reflect both renewal dates.”

Airport flying high:The Asheville Regional Airport is flying high after announcing two additional flights and the near-completion of $7 million in improvements, including an additional baggage carousel and a guest-services center, reports the Pisgah Mountain News.

College students recovering: An Asheville woman and a Weaverville woman, both 21 and seniors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are still recovering from injuries they sustained after being hit by an SUV recently, Raleigh television station WRAL reports. “Family members of the victims, Carolyn Anne Kubitschek, 21, of Asheville, and Casey Marie LeSawyer, 21, of Weaverville, say they are expected to miss at least the first semester of their senior year. Both were severely hurt and suffered many broken bones.”

School board member faces child-abuse charge: The Sylva Herald reports that 37-year-old Mark Brooks, a member of the Jackson County Board of Education, is facing misdemeanor child abuse charges in connection with an incident involving his daughter. “The warrant alleges that Brooks inflicted physical injury on the child that caused ‘numerous lasting marks and bruises on both legs.’ Brooks’ estranged wife, Christa Brooks of Canton, is listed on the warrant as the complainant.”

It’s in the water: The drought has had an odd effect on the water in the town of Franklin — it has affected the taste of the town’s water. Ray McCall, a water-treatment consultant with the Asheville Regional Office of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Public Water Supply Section, recently check out complaints about taste and odor, according to the Franklin Press. “The water the town draws out of Cartoogechaye Creek and treats is ‘very, very warm,’ about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, according to McCall. When that surface water is then treated with chlorine and distributed into the system, it can have a ‘flat, musty or earthy taste,’ McCall said. ‘There’s nothing you can do about it,’ he said, adding that there is ‘nothing wrong with the water.’”

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor


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