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WNC'S LINVILLE GORGE WILDFIRE DESTROYS OVER 5,500 ACRES; NOW 90% CONTAINED

WNC'S LINVILLE GORGE WILDFIRE DESTROYS OVER 5,500 ACRES; NOW 90% CONTAINED

LIGHTNING DETERMINED TO BE THE CAUSE      

MEANWHILE...WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA'S FOREST FIRE SEASON IS FAR FROM OVER   

Burnout operations were conducted on the south end of the White Creek Fire this afternoon with the objective of securing private property. The fire, which was reported Thursday March 16th, is burning near Shortoff Mountain at the south end of Linville Gorge on the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. The fire is now estimated at 2,750 acres and 50% contained.

The fire continues to burn within the containment lines. Atmospheric conditions this afternoon are causing smoke to lift upward before dispersing, instead of settling at ground level. This causes the smoke plume to be much more visible this evening. Smoke may impact areas close to the fire overnight.

Passing storms yesterday evening provided no measurable rainfall on the fire. The storms did produce lightning else ware in surrounding area, prompting firefighters to respond to multiple new ignitions which were extinguished at small acreages.

Tomorrow, firefighters will patrol and monitor the fire area, as well as work to extinguish any hot spots near fire lines. Minor burnout operations may occur.

154 firefighters are currently on scene. The U.S. Forest Service is leading fire response efforts, with support from the North Carolina Forest Service, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Burke and McDowell County Emergency Management, North Carolina Emergency Management, and local volunteer fire departments.

An area closure is in effect for all U.S. Forest Service lands east of State Road 1238 (Old NC 105 / Kistler Memorial Highway), south of Conley Cove Trail (Tr #229), south of Table Rock Picnic Area, west of Back Irish Creek Forest Service Road #118 (Blue Gravel Road) and Roses Creek Forest Service Road #99, north of Highway 126. In addition, the following trails are closed: Shortoff Trail (Tr #235), Rock Jock Trail (Tr #247), Pinch-In Trail (Tr #228), Linville Gorge Trail (Tr #231) south of Conley Cove Trail (Tr #229), Mountains to Sea Trail (Tr #440) from State Road 1238 at Pinnacles to the Table Rock Picnic Area, and any social trails existing within the closure area. Public entry is prohibited within this area.

Law enforcement officials determined lightning to be the likely cause of the fire. Yesterday's release reported a lightning strike near the area on March 6th. That information has been corrected to March 1st.

ELITE AIRWAYS TO OFFER ASHEVILLE TO VERO BEACH, FLORIDA SERVICE

ELITE AIRWAYS TO OFFER ASHEVILLE TO VERO BEACH, FLORIDA SERVICE

Elite Airways LLC today announced new nonstop flights betweenAsheville Regional Airport (AVL) in and Vero Beach Regional Airport (VRB) in Florida. The new flights, scheduled on Thursdays and Sundays between AVL and VRB will begin on May 25. Early-bird fares start at $179 each way* and tickets are now on sale at 877-393-2510 and EliteAirways.com.

Elite Airways operates a fleet of Bombardier CRJ-200 and CRJ-700 jet airliners known for comfort and efficiency, and maintains an impeccable safety record. Passengers receive free onboard snacks and beverages, first checked bag up to 50lbs, and no ticketing change fees** (see website for details). Asheville is located within North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains and is known for a vibrant arts scene, national parks and hiking trails, and historic architecture. Vero Beach offers luxury beachfront living and resorts, world-class golf, dining, shopping, fine arts and cultural attractions.

"We are pleased to offer nonstop jet service between Asheville and Vero Beach with a Thursday/Sunday schedule that will be ideal for vacationers headed in either direction," said John Pearsall, President of Elite Airways. "We look forward to providing service in Asheville and sincerely thank airport and community leaders for their support."

"Asheville Regional Airport is growing significantly, with more passengers than ever before flying to and from western North Carolina," said Lew Bleiweis, A.A.E., Executive Director. "We are pleased to welcome Elite Airways as the newest airline at AVL, and look forward to welcoming travelers to and from Vero Beach, Florida."

"Nonstop jet service to Asheville is a unique addition at VRB, and one that has been highly sought after by passengers who would rather take a nonstop flight versus a ten hour drive. The airport is pleased to see new markets and travel opportunities open up to the area, and we thank Elite Airways for expanding its service at Vero Beach Regional Airport," said Airport Executive Director, Eric Menger.

About Elite Airways
Elite Airways LLC was founded in 2006 by airline veterans with the goal to provide passengers a better travel experience with nonstop flights, competitive prices and exceptional service. Elite Airways is a U.S. Part 121 Air Carrier and provides charter and scheduled service throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, and South America. The airline's routes connect underserved communities with popular destinations that include New York City/Newark, Portland ME, Asheville NC, Orlando-Melbourne, Sarasota-Bradenton, and Vero Beach FL, and the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. Headquartered in Portland Maine, Elite Airways' maintenance operations center is located in Melbourne on Florida's Space Coast. All scheduled flights are sold and operated by Elite Airways LLC, and available for purchase at www.eliteairways.com or by calling 877-393-2510.

EARLY VARIETIES OF LOCAL APPLES SERIOUSLY HURT BY LAST WEEK'S COLD SNAP

EARLY VARIETIES OF LOCAL APPLES SERIOUSLY HURT BY LAST WEEK'S COLD SNAP

Henderson County Agri-Business Director Mark Williams conformed for WHKP News this week what some local apple growers have been saying…that it’s the earliest varieties of apples that suffered the most damage in last week’s bitter cold overnight temperatures.  Those early varieties include favorites like Granny Smiths and Fujis.

Temperatures fell into the mid teens in the early morning hours two nights in a row…and stayed in the teens for several hours….and that posed a real threat for the earliest buds on local apple trees that are as much as three weeks early this year due to the unseasonably warm temperatures over the winter and early this spring.

Like moist growers, Williams says it’s too early to tell the full extent of damage to the young apples. But he points out the cold last week may have actually slowed down the process for some of the later varieties and as he outs it, may be a blessing in disguise.

In many cases, Williams says it may even be harvest time before the full extent oif the damage is known.

Henderson County peaches though were in full bloom…those in South Carolina and Georgia were even farther along…and this year’s crop may well have been wiped out by last week’s cold.

Berries, particularly blueberries in South Carolina and Georgia also suffered extensively from last week’s cold.

Local growers know only too well…that’s still more wintry weather likely to come for western North Carolina. The long term average date for the last killing frost in Henderson County is still three weeks away on April 22nd.

And most local growers and gardeners follow the old “rule of thumb”…never plant anything in the ground until after the dogwoods bloom

By Larry Freeman

PARDEE'S CORNHOLE CHARITY TOURNAMENT SET FOR APRIL 8

PARDEE'S CORNHOLE CHARITY TOURNAMENT SET FOR APRIL 8

Pardee Hospital Foundation will host its fourth annual Charity Cornhole Tournament on Saturday, April 8 at 1 p.m. on the tennis courts of the Hendersonville Country Club. Registration begins at 12 p.m. The entry fee is $50 per team of two or $25 for individuals and $5 for spectators. Individual players will be matched up by tournament staff to form a team of two. Children 16 and under can attend for free. The money raised from the event will benefit cardiology patients at Pardee UNC Health Care. Cornhole enthusiasts, families and friends are encouraged to come out and enjoy the fun. This year's event will feature music, kids’ activities, food, beer, wine and soft drinks. Lead sponsors include Hendersonville Country Club, Carolina Village, Boyd Chevrolet Cadillac Buick, and Horizon Heating & Air Conditioning, LLC.

The money raised from the event will go towards the purchase of a MUSE Cardiology Information System to benefit cardiology patients at Pardee UNC Health Care. MUSE is an electronic cardiology testing system that takes cardiac stress results; EKGs and other cardiology based tests and transforms the results into an electronic format. The MUSE system helps create a clinical medical history for all cardiology based testing that will follow the patient around for a lifetime.

"This charity event, packed with activities, food and music, is fun for the whole family whether you are an experienced cornhole player or novice,” said Kim Hinkelman, executive director of Pardee Hospital Foundation. “Monies raised by the event will directly benefit cardiology patients at Pardee. We hope to see you there."

Players can register in teams of two for the charity event. The competition will feature a double elimination style tournament and prizes will be awarded to the top teams. Teams can register for the tournament by visiting pardeehospitalfoundation.org or by calling the Foundation office at (828) 233-2700.

Cornhole has become a favorite tailgate and recreational game nationwide. ESPN now airs the American Cornhole Organization championship each year.

Pardee Memorial Hospital Foundation was approved as a nonprofit Foundation in January 1996. The Foundation exists to educate and inspire the community to support Pardee UNC Health Care. Since its inception, the Foundation has generated more than $30 million in pledges and cash gifts for Pardee services. For more information, visit www.pardeehospitalfoundation.org or call (828) 233-2700.

SOUTH CAROLINA'S PEACH CROP DEVASTATED BY LAST WEEK'S SUB-FREEZING OVERNIGHT TEMPERATURES

SOUTH CAROLINA'S PEACH CROP DEVASTATED BY LAST WEEK'S SUB-FREEZING OVERNIGHT TEMPERATURES

LOCAL GROWERS SAY 95 PER CENT OF HENDERSON COUNTY'S PEACHES MAY HAVE BEEN DESTROYED IN THE FREEZE...

Last week's deep freeze in the Southeast appears to have nearly wiped out Georgia's blueberries and South Carolina's peaches.

The South Carolina Department of Agriculture said 85 percent of the state's peaches were damaged by two days of temperatures dipping into the 20s Wednesday and Thursday.

South Carolina is the second biggest producer of peaches in the U.S.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black says up to 80 percent of the blueberry crop in the southern part of the state was destroyed.

Georgia grows early season blueberries and the crop is worth more than peaches.

Apples also suffered freeze damage in North Carolina.

While mid-March freezes aren't unusual in much of the Southeast, many crops were blooming up to three weeks early because of the unusually mild winter.

From The Associated Press

 

 

 

DOWNTOWN HENDERSONVILLE AGAIN RECEIVES AN "AWARD OF MERIT"

DOWNTOWN HENDERSONVILLE AGAIN RECEIVES AN "AWARD OF MERIT"

Historic Downtown Hendersonville is excited to announce that the local Main Street Program was once again, for the fourth year in a row, recognized with an “Award of Merit” during the annual NC Main Street Awards Ceremony. We were recognized for our efforts in 2016 in the area of “Best Volunteer Recruitment, Training & Recognition” program. The “Friends of Downtown Hendersonville” volunteer program is a reflection of the wonderful dedication and support that we receive from our community for downtown.

“We were grateful to receive this recognition and happy to bring attention to the nearly all volunteer crew that keeps the downtown program and the events we put on powering forward,” noted Lew Holloway Downtown Economic Development Director. In addition to the program award, the NC Main Street Conference provides programs with an opportunity to recognize their “Champions.” This year the program took advantage of that opportunity to recognize the chief “show up early and stay late” volunteer energy of Walt Slagel.

Walt has been working with the Friends of Downtown Hendersonville for a little over a year and half, but has used that time to make a big splash. Dalleen Jackson, Downtown Promotions Coordinator shares that, “Whether it is tearing down at R&B in a late evening rain storm or showing up on a cold morning to hang Christmas lights, Walt has found a lot of ways to make our lives easier!”

We couldn’t do the work of downtown without the energy and enthusiasm we get from our volunteers and Walt is an example of a much broader trend. At the conclusion of 2016 we recognized our volunteers for a contribution of over 1,800 hours of volunteer time, a number that reflects a doubling of contributed time since 2014. We want to thank all of our Friends for helping us achieve this program award!

If you’re interested in becoming a part of the Friends of Downtown Hendersonville, visit our webpage at downtownhendersonville.org for more information or contact us at 828.233.3205.
Below are the NC State Dept. of Commerce press releases for the Awards and for the Champions, please reference them for additional information

MCGRADY SAYS HE'S LOOKING AT "ALL THE OPTIONS" IN THE HENDERSONVILLE WATER ISSUE

MCGRADY SAYS HE'S LOOKING AT "ALL THE OPTIONS" IN THE HENDERSONVILLE WATER ISSUE

SAYS HE DOES NOT SEE THIS AS A "TAKE OVER"  

THE DEADLINE FOR INTRODUCING THE NECESSARY LEGISLATION COMES EARLY NEXT WEEK   

Henderson County State Representative Chuck McGrady says his mind is not made up yet…and that he’s considering all the options…regarding the Hendersonville water system.

County commissions last week indicated that McGrady is the main one they’ll be turning to to take control of the water system away from the city that owns and operates it…and put control under the North Carolina utilities Commission.

McGrady has shown support for such a move…as he puts it…to keep water rates more equal for city residents and for water customers who live outside the city. On his way back to Raleigh Sunday afternoon, McGrady said the local news media is off bas calling this a “take over”…he said he sees it as “protecting” water customers outside the city.

The whole thing, says McGrady, started with his attempt, along with former State Representative Tim Moffit of Buncombe County, to fix problems and inequities with the Asheville water system…a legislative attempt that was rejected by the state Supreme Court a few days before Christmas last year.,

Any legislation involving Hendersonville’s water system, says McGrady, will be different…and he’s looking at all the options…has really committed to nothing at this point…but he says he does not want to go back to the way it was or is. Hendersonville’s mayor, city council, and city manager have all expressed strong opposition to losing control of the city water system; county commissioners in a 3 to 1 vote adopted a resolution last week in favor of the city losing control…and McGrady says he’s hearing from them all…but still is looking at all possible options.

Time is running out though…the deadline for introducing legislation to do this with Hendersonville’s water system is early next week. If legislation is introduced in the House, it’ll also have to pass in the state Senate and be signed into law by Governor Cooper. And indications are, if all that happens, the city of Hendersonville will likely go to court to keep control of its water system. That failed attempt to take over the Asheville water system, by the way, cost water customers and taxpayers a million dollars in legal fees.

By Larry Freeman 03/19/17 Updated 4 pm

COST CUTTING ON NEW LAW ENFORCEMENT TRAINING CENTER BEGINS;  SHERIFF TO EXPLAIN THE NEED FOR THE NEW FACILITY

COST CUTTING ON NEW LAW ENFORCEMENT TRAINING CENTER BEGINS; SHERIFF TO EXPLAIN THE NEED FOR THE NEW FACILITY

THE $20 MILLION FACILITY WAS APPROVED BY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS LAST YEAR AND WILL BE PAID FOR OVER 20 YEARS WITH A FULL PENNY EACH YEAR OF THE FIVE CENT PROPERTY TAX INCREASE ALSO APPROVED BY COMMISSIONERS LAST YEAR   

As work begins this week to scale back the cost of a planned $20-million law enforcement training center planned for Blue Ridge Community College, Sheriff Charles McDonald says any significant changes could also decrease training opportunities.

A meeting is scheduled for early this week with “architect of record” Clark Nexsen to look at ways to reduce the cost. County Engineer Marcus Jones said that as the project progresses, staff will be able to narrow the budget and eliminate some of the unknowns, which many times can lower the price tag.

The proposed $20 million facility is to be paid for over a 20 year period with a full penny each year of the five-cent property tax increase imposed by county commissioners last year.
Meanwhile, Sheriff McDonald will be explaining the need for the new facility in a public meeting Monday March 27th at 6 pm in the Kaplan Auditorium of the county’s main public library. That presentation will include a “question and answer” period.

Citizens have raised concerns about the cost and the scope of the proposed new facility. Some see it as a duplication of the state’s western criminal justice training center in Edneyville. And according to media reports, recent attempts to “market” the new facility to other law enforcement agencies in the area have been met with only “lukewarm” response.

After hearing citizen's concerns, county commissioners put the proposed facility "on hold" and instructed that ways be found to cut the cost.

MISSING/ABDUCTED 12-YEAR OLD GIRL FOUND & SAFE; MOTHER IN CUSTORY

MISSING/ABDUCTED 12-YEAR OLD GIRL FOUND & SAFE; MOTHER IN CUSTORY

SATURDAY UPDATE FROM SHERIFF'S OFFICE:

12-year-old Zoee Bishop-Cantrell has been located in Jackson County Georgia.

She is safe and in protective custody awaiting transportation back to North Carolina. Her mother, Selena Bishop, has been taken into custody on felony child abduction

FROM LATE FRIDAY:

The Henderson County Sheriff's Office is requesting the public’s assistance in locating a missing/abducted child.

The child, Zoee Bishop-Cantrell, age 12, was taken from school by a non-custodial parent on Thursday, March 16, 2017. Zoee is believed to be in the company of her biological mother, Salena Bishop, age 28, who is wanted for felony abduction of a child.

They may be in the Athens, GA area. Should anyone have any information concerning the whereabouts of Zoee Bishop-Cantrell or Salena Bishop please contact the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office at 828-697-4911.

JC PENNY TO CLOSE "ANCHOR" STORE IN BLUE RIDGE MALL THIS SUMMER

JC PENNY TO CLOSE "ANCHOR" STORE IN BLUE RIDGE MALL THIS SUMMER

LIQUIDATION SALES WILL START APRIL 17      

LOCAL STORE EXPECTED TO CLOSE IN JUNE  

J.C. Penney has released the list of 138 stores it plans to close in an effort to cut costs and grow sales at its strongest locations.

The release comes a few weeks after Penney's said it would close up to 140 stores this year, following similar decisions from Macy's and Sears. Between the companies' four biggest chains, which include Sears' Kmart brand, more than 300 big-box stores will go dark this year alone.

The closures highlight the pressures on traditional department stores, which are losing market share to off-price competitors and Amazon. They also underscore the deteriorating economics at lower-quality shopping centers, whose risk of failure rises when an anchor tenant exits.

"We believe closing stores will allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers," J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison said in a statement back in February.

The company said at that time that most of its closures would occur in the second quarter. Liquidations will start April 17, it said Friday.

Marvin Ellison, J.C. Penney chairman and CEO JCPenney CEO: Here's why we're expanding into home services

Penney's expects to save roughly $200 million a year by exiting these locations, which contributed less than 5 percent of its annual sales. It plans to invest in its best stores and digital operations while whittling down $4.3 billion in long-term debt.

Roughly 5,000 jobs will be affected by the closures, Penney's said Friday. At the time of its initial announcement, the company said it would provide some 6,000 employees with a "voluntary early retirement program," depending on their age and tenure. Eligible employees have until March 31 to decide whether they will accept the package, a spokeswoman said.

In addition to that offer, Penney's said Friday that it is trying to relocate certain leaders and will provide outplacement support services for eligible workers.

The moves will result in a pretax charge of roughly $225 million in the first half of fiscal 2017.

In addition to its store closures, Penney's is shutting down one supply chain facility in Lakeland, Fla., and relocating another in Buena Park, Calif.

Wall Street is already speculating that more closures could be ahead. At a recent meeting with analysts in New York City, Penney's said it is testing the rollout of Sephora beauty shops and home appliances in its smaller stores. Those categories have been fueling sales growth at the company's bigger locations.

Cowen and Co. analyst Oliver Chen warned if the tests are not successful, Penney's may need to close additional stores in the future.

More closures are already expected at Macy's. The chain has so far announced just 68 of the 100 locations it plans to exit, and said last month that the remainder of those stores will go dark "over the next few years."