western north carolina

Photo courtesy of Southwestern Community College

  There isn't just a lack of hospitals in rural Western North Carolina. There is also a need for more trained medical professionals to care for the population from doctors and nurses to CNAs.

 

This summer, Southwestern Community College secured over $20 million dollars from the federal, state and county governments for a new health sciences building.

 

Cory Vaillancourt

Since Democratic Governor Roy Cooper took office in 2017, he’s faced veto-proof supermajorities in both legislative chambers. Democrats’ best chance to break that is with a pickup of four seats in the House this November, and two Western North Carolina races will prove pivotal in that effort.

McDowell County EMS

(Thursday 1:45 p.m.) - Heavy rainfall overnight caused isolated flooding in various parts of Western North Carolina, and a tropical storm warning remains in effect for at least the rest of Thursday in Asheville and Weaverville. 

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper asked state legislators Wednesday for $750 million toward a proposed long-term $1.5 billion Hurricane Florence recovery effort, with an early focus on housing, farms, business and schools.

The Democratic governor unveiled his request while providing new estimates for the scope of last month's storm, which dumped more than 30 inches (76 centimeters) of rain in some areas of southeastern North Carolina and contributed to 40 deaths in the state.

National Hurricane Center

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — In the storm-weary Carolinas, Hurricane Michael's approach is stoking fresh fears among homeowners who still have tarps on their roofs or industrial dehumidifiers drying their floors from destruction left by Hurricane Florence.

Blue Ridge Public Radio and its media partners will hold two candidate forums next week.  Both forums will be broadcast live as Facebook Live videos that can be watched on the BPR Facebook page.

Matt Bush BPR

The hotel construction boom in Asheville is showing no signs of slowing down.  Once of the city's most iconic buildings appears to the be the next that will transform into a hotel.  Jason Sandford of AshVegas stopped by the BPR studios to talk with Matt Bush about the future of the Flatiron Building - as well as the latest of the other parts of Asheville's hotel boom.

Excerpts of the interview - 

UNC Asheville

A study that will research the perceptions of racism and health among African Americans in Western North Carolina has received a $350-thousand grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  The study is being conducted by UNC Asheville, the Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement (ABIPA), and the Mountain Area Health Education Center, commonly known as MAHEC.  

When Kathryn Edin was studying poverty in the U.S., she and Luke Schaefer made a startling discovery - the number of households in the U.S.

Our VOICE Facebook page

Buncombe County’s rape crisis and prevention center says it has seen a surge in calls before, during, and after last Thursday's hearing featuring Dr. Christine Ford.  She testified to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee allegations that supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers. 

Matt Bush BPR

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A lawsuit challenging the replacement for North Carolina's "bathroom bill" is moving forward, with a judge finding evidence that transgender plaintiffs are being harmed by a prohibition on new local antidiscrimination laws.

Federal Judge Thomas Schroeder, however, rejected another key argument: that uncertainty created by the current law effectively discriminates against transgender people.

James Doyle NPR

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him of sexually assaulting her in high school, Christine Blasey Ford, are testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.  You can watch the proceeding live starting at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.  Blue Ridge Public Radio will also broadcast the proceedings live on both BPR Classic and BPR News Thursday.

The latest report from Buncombe County tourism officials shows just how much short-term rentals have completely transformed lodging in the area.  Short-term rentals, booked through sites like AirBnB, have seen rapid growth in the past two years.  The report compiled the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority shows in 2015, just under 92-thousand room nights were booked with short-term rentals.  Just two years later, that number was over 392-thousand.  Tha

ncleg.net

Marie Colton, a former state representative from Asheville who rose to the number two position in the North Carolina House becoming the first woman to hold the position, died Tuesday at the age of 95.  Her daughter Liz confirmed her mother's death to BPR.

Marie Colton was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1978 and served in office for 16 years.  In 1991, she was elected speaker pro tempore - becoming the first woman to hold the prestigious number two position in the chamber.  Her husband Henry served on Asheville city council.  He died in 2011.

Jones County Schools

GEORGETOWN, S.C. (AP) — The Latest on flooding caused by former Hurricane Florence (all times local):

4 p.m.

A North Carolina school superintendent says two of the six schools in his system will have to be demolished because of water damage caused by Hurricane Florence.

Jones County School Superintendent Michael Bracy said Jones Middle and Trenton Elementary schools received at least 3 feet (0.9 meters) of water in portions of the respective buildings. Bracy said by the time workers could get into the schools, mold and mildew had already formed.

Matt Bush BPR

A group that holds a weekly needle exchange program - and the West Asheville bookstore that hosts it - will both appeal violation notices issued by the city of Asheville.

NASA

If you're looking to help following the devastation in North Carolina from Hurricane Florence, here are some organizations helping victims of the storm -

A Just Florence Recovery - Resources and support for frontline-to-frontline relief and mobilization in Eastern NC

North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund - Operated through the office of the governor

Matt Bush BPR

Around a dozen students and staff from UNC-Wilmington are beginning their second week living on the campus of UNC-Asheville because of Hurricane Florence and its aftermath.

Walker Golder

The greatest effect of Hurricane Florence will be felt along the coast from Bald Head Island to Topsail Beach says Director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines Robert Young.

Young, who heads the Western Carolina University program in partnership with Duke, has been studying the coast on many front including helping coastal communities plan for sea level rise and hurricanes.

The Latest: WNC Escapes Any Major Damage From Florence

Sep 12, 2018
Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

(Monday 5 p.m)  The National Park Service says portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway  are now open. Click here for the latest.  The entire Parkway and most  of its facilities, visitor centers and campgrounds, were shutdown on Friday in anticipation of storm damage from Florence.  A stretch of the road to the south and east of Asheville - from the Tanbark Ridge Overlook to the French Broad Overlook - is now open, as well as the far western end of the Parkway from the Pisgah Inn to its terminus in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The U.S. Forest Service on Monday said all roads and recreation facilities in the Nantahala National Forest were scheduled to re-open on Tuesday, while nearly all similar sites in the Pisgah National Forest would do the same on Wednesday.

(Monday 12:00 p.m.) A flash flood watch is no longer in effect for the BPR listening area, as damage appears to be minimal throughout Western North Carolina after Florence blanketed the area with rain Sunday as a tropical depression. 

Expected flooding of the Swannanoa River in Biltmore Village did not occur, as the river only crested at 7.68 feet at 7:15 last night.  It's flood stage is 10 feet, and the U.S. Geological Survey was predicting the river would crest at 12 feet early Monday.  In Black Mountain along Flat Creek flooding caused the evacuation of three mobile home parks Sunday afternoon with a shelter set up nearby at the Swannanoa First Baptist Church.  The shelter in McDowell County at the YMCA in Marion was closed late Sunday evening.

The majority of road closures in the region this morning were in Yancey County, but many have been cleared according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.  The lone closure still active as of noon Monday is on Whittington Road near US 19 near Burnsville.  The road there is closed in both directions.  

(Sunday 10:15 p.m.) A flash flood watch remains in effect through Monday evening for Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, Yancey, and eastern Polk and McDowell Counties as the final remnants of Florence pass through Western North Carolina. 

Minor flooding overnight remains possible among streams and rivers, but it appears the region avoided widespread damage from the storm.  There are several road closures in rural parts of Yancey County, and two roads closed in Transylvania County due to flooding.  To get the latest road closures from the North Carolina Department of Transportation, head here. 

(Sunday 5:30 p.m.) As a flash flood warning expired late Sunday evening for parts of Buncombe, Henderson, and Polk Counties, Buncombe County opened its first emergency shelter.  It’s at the Swannanoa First Baptist Church, and that opening comes in response to voluntary evacuations at three mobile home parks in Black Mountain.  Information from the U.S. Geological Survey shows the Swannanoa River will crest above flood stage in the coming hours and cause minor flooding overnight.  At the USGS monitoring point in Biltmore Village, the Swannanoa is expected to crest at 12 feet overnight, which is two feet above flood stage.  That would cause minor flooding in that area before the river recedes back beneath flood stage by noon tomorrow.  To put the 12 foot number in perspective, the river was at just over 14 feet in late May of this year when Biltmore Village flooded, doing minor damage to several businesses.  When the area saw its worst flooding in 2004, the river was at over 18 feet.

Two other emergency shelters are open in Western North Carolina Sunday evening.  The first is at the YMCA in Marion, while the other is at the Polk County Middle School in Mill Spring.  There are no widespread mandatory evacuation orders at this time in the BPR listening area.

Duke Energy is reporting just under 23-hundred outages in Buncombe County at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.  No other county in the BPR listening area is above 600.  Asheville City and Buncombe and Henderson County schools have all announced they will operate on a 2-hour delay Monday morning. 

(Sunday 1 p.m.) A flash flood warning is in effect until 5:15 p.m. for parts of Western North Carolina as rainfall from Tropical Depression Florence picks up in the region.

 

The official alert from the National Weather Service - 

The National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg has issued a Flash Flood Warning for Southwestern McDowell County, Northwestern Rutherford County, Eastern Henderson County in western North Carolina, Western Polk County in western North Carolina, and Eastern Buncombe County in western North Carolina until 515 PM EDT.

* At 1213 PM EDT, Doppler radar and automated rain gauges indicated that locally as much as 3 or 4 inches of rain has fallen today across the warned area. As periods of occasionally heavy tropical rainfall redevelops across the eastern slopes this afternoon, developing areas of high water and flooded streams are expected. * Some locations that will experience flooding include - Black Mountain, Swannanoa, Tryon, Lake Lure, Old Fort, Saluda, Chimney Rock Village, Chimney Rock State Park, Bat Cave and B.R. Parkway-Craggy To Little Switzerland.

Becca Scott of the Southwestern Commission

  It’s no secret that there is a housing problem in Western North Carolina. Prices are booming as the demand for mountain homes outweighs the supply in all price brackets.

Representatives from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee, U.S. Department of Agriculture, local nonprofits, county commissioners and many more came together to talk about how to bring more affordable housing to the area at a housing and economic development summit in Sylva, NC.

 

The city of Asheville on Monday announced it was opening up the bidding for the naming rights to the U.S. Cellular Center.  Opened as the Asheville Civic Center Complex in 1974, the naming rights were sold to U.S. Cellular in 2011 for $1.35-million.  The contract with the firm expires at the end of 2019.

September 9 marks the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week, but how many of us really know what to do when we see or hear things that could be construed as “red flags?”

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

  Some locations shine in summer or winter but arguably the mountains are the best when there is a chill in the air and bright colors are on the trees.  

 

Now that summer is winding down, we can expect the leaves to start changing says Beverly Collins, a biology professor and the proclaimed autumnal soothsayer of Western Carolina University.

 

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Federal investigators in North Carolina are seeking an enormous number of voting records from dozens of election offices weeks before the midterm elections, demands that may signal their expanded efforts to prosecute illegal voting by people who are not U.S. citizens.

The U.S. attorney's office in Raleigh issued subpoenas in recent days on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to the North Carolina elections board and more than 40 county boards in the eastern third of the state, according to the subpoenas and the state board.

Matt Bush BPR

The number of visitors at Dupont State Forest more than doubled this decade.  It’s just one of the many outdoor destinations that has helped form Asheville and Western North Carolina’s national profile.  Something else is now getting national attention – the region’s industry that builds the products those outdoor visitors use.

Pisgah - Tuscola High School Football Rivalry Rolls On

Sep 4, 2018
Bill Killillay/Killillay.com

With fall fast approaching, high school football is already underway, and in Western North Carolina there’s no bigger rivalry than the one between two Haywood County high schools.

The board of directors for Mission Health say a deal has been signed to sell Western North Carolina's major health system to a for-profit company, HCA Healthcare for $1.5 billion.  The deal will now be sent to the North Carolina Attorney General for final review.  According to a press release sent out Friday morning by Mission Health, the attorney general's office "will evaluate any effect the transaction could have on market competition, whether HCA Healthcare is paying a fair price for the acquisition and how proceeds resulting from the sale will continue to benefit Western North Carolina

Canton Steelworkers Union Celebrates Labor Day

Aug 29, 2018
Cory Vaillancourt

The South’s oldest Labor Day parade takes place in the Haywood County town of Canton on Monday.  You can’t have a Labor Day parade without labor.  And for more than 50 years, the United Steelworkers Union has represented workers at the century-old paper mill through the ups and downs of global economic trends in a right to work state.  

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