Tuesday, April 19, 2005

New Orleans Trip

Wow have I been busy. As most of my frequent visitors are aware I just started a new job a little over a month ago and I have a side business that I started in January. Well this month was tax deadline as well as the end of the first quarter so I have been swamped. I know that I have been neglecting my site but I am going to try and get back up to date.

It has been close to a year since Luke and I have been out of town. We usually try to go about three times a year for a weekend trip at least. Well Luke has been wanting to go to New Orleans before it got really hot so a couple of weeks ago I told him if we were going we had to go now.

I booked a room at the New Orleans Grand Palace hotel and we packed. I had planned to take off half a day on Friday but when I got to work my boss said he needed someone to pick up a check two hours on the other side of New Orleans so off I went. We made it to our hotel about 3:00pm and checked. While we were checking in we found out that the French Quarter Festival was going on that weekend. What a treat. The hotel on the other hand was no treat. When we got to our room it was filthy. We went downstairs and told the people at the desk that our room was not clean and there were no towels and that we were going out for a while could they send someone to clean it. We arrived back at the hotel about four hours later to discover nobody had been to the room. I went back to the desk and they said the maid was gone and they could move us to another room. Well, we moved a floor down and got a suite so that was great.

The hotel was out on Canal street past the interstate but the trolley runs out there now so we bought a day pass every day we were they so we could travel back and forth. The next morning we got up early and began dressing. When I was about half way through drying my hair the power went off. I called the office and they said they would send someone up. Half an hour later I gave up and put my hair in a clip and told Luke let's go get breakfast. On the way out I stopped by the desk and told them we still needed the power turned back on. Later that afternoon we returned and there was still no power. I went to the desk once again and was told that we would have to move again across the hall. This was getting crazy.

To back up a little bit. We were only suppose to stay Friday night and Saturday morning we told them that we were going to stay and extra night.

On Saturday we went and ate breakfast at The Corner Oyster Bar and Grill. It was good but it took a long time to get our food. What was crazy to me was how many people were in there drinking at 9:00 in the morning. After that we went to the French Market to shop. Luke and I both got some great sunglasses. We had lunch at a little place that we had not been to before. I can't remember the name but it was really good. After that we decided to ride the ferry across the river to Old Algiers. There is not really a lot to do over there except the Mardi Gras Museum so we just rode back. The quarter was packed with people in town for the festival. It was a lot of fun. We went to our favorite restaurant for dinner The Gumbo Shop.

That night we went down to Bourbon Street. I am not a big Bourbon Street person but there is one bar way down at the far end that most tourist don't venture to. It is the oldest bar in the United States. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop has the best Hurricane's in the world. We stayed there for a long time and Luke had his picture made with one of the guys that plays there all the time. Come to find out this guy played with Fats domino for over 20 years.

The next morning we slept in as last as we could and then got up and check out of the hotel. The lady at the desk said you are prepaid and I said ok and we left. I was prepaid for the first night but not the second. Normally I would have said something but after all the trouble we had I kept quiet. So we got the second night free. We loaded up the car and left it in the parking garage and headed back to the quarter. We went to get coffee and beignets for breakfast from the world famous Cafe du Monde. We strolled around the French Quarter for a while longer and headed home.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Flooding Rain

I woke up this morning to find that I was trapped at my house. It had been raining since before I left work yesterday and it was very heavy most of the night. I live on a corner and I could not see any yards or sidewalks no matter which way I look. Garbage cans and other debris floated by. The water was up to my stairs. I emailed my boss to let him know that I was trapped and would not be in until the water subsided. Luckily, we have pretty good drains since they did some repairs a few years back so the water was almost gone by 9:00am.


Heavy overnight rains prompt flooding, road closures
Last Update: 4/1/2005 1:31:32 PM
Posted By: Devin Walker

(MOBILE, Ala.) April 1 -- In the last 12 hours, parts of Mobile and Baldwin counties have received as much as 12 inches of rainfall.

-- Alabama Power officials say 1,105 people scattered throughout their service area are without power.

-- Balwin County officials will soon open Foley and Daphne High Schools as shelters to meet the needs of residents who need to leave their homes due to flooding. Fish River is expected to exceed flood stage by later this afternoon.

-- NAS Pensacola is open and operating, however due to the severe weather, the Commanding Officer has implemented liberal leave and liberty policy for civilian employees and military members. NASP personnel with questions should contact their immediate supervisor.

Mobile County Road Closures:

Museum at Pat Ryan Drive
Pepper Ridge @ Lloyd's Lane
Museum Dr. at Botanical Gardens
Boykin Blvd at DIP and the majority of the streets along DIP south of I-10
Government St. between Michigan and I-10
Houston St. at Broad St.
Navco Rd. at Morningside Dr.
Three Notch Rd. between Kirkwell at Rosemont
WB at Airport Blvd service rd at Baby's R us and Boats US
Government at Georgia Ave.
Old Shell Rd. at Sage
Clay st at Basil St.
Government st at Breamwood Ave
Hamilton Blvd at Rangeline Rd and Hwy 90
Cody Rd. S at Airport Blvd.
DIP at Driftwood Dr. N
Government St. at Houston St.
Farrell St. at Cotton St.
Douglas at Michigan Ave.
Old Shell Rd at Bay Shore Ave.
Halls Mill Rd at Demetropolis and Lowes Dr.
Girby Rd Between Hillcrest and Knollwood
Halls Mill at Rangeline
Cody at Cedar
Hwy 90 between Kooiman and Plantation Rd.
Clearmont at Houston
Airport at Dauphin from Sage to Florida
Zeigler at Sellers
Bankhead Tunnel at foot of Cochran Bridge
Bellingrath Road at Cold Creek between Highway 90/Fowl River Road - Water Over Road way
Four Mile Road at Highway 188 - Water Over Roadway
Baldwin County Road Closures:

Due to water covering much of the roadway, officials advise motorists to drive Hwy. 59 at their own risk.
County Rd. 32 west of 59
Booth Rd. north of Co. Rd. 44, approximately ten (10) feet of roadway is washed out
County Rd. 27/State Hwy 181 between State hwy 104 and County Rd. 64, under water and impassable
County Rd. 3/South Section St. at Battles Rd. is underwater and partially washed away
Fairhope Ave. between Ingleside Ave. and Fairwood Blvd. is underwater
North Section St. at Rosa Ave. is underwater
Main St./Scenic 98 at Forest Park, guard rail missing and road washed away
Main St./Scenic 98 at Fly Creek under water
State Hwy 104 east of County Rd. 13, water over bridge.
Fairhope Ave. west of Thompson Hall Rd. underwater
Kirkman Lane at South Section St. underwater
South Section St. partially washed away south of Pecan Ave.
County Rd. 1 and areas of Scenic U.S. Hwy 98 in Point Clear under water
Scenic US Hwy 98 at Grand Hotel completely underwater.
County Rd. 32 at Co. Rd. 27/State Hwy 181 under water.

Sick people

I just do not understand how anyone could do this to a child. The man obviously did not like children and had a past of abuse so why would he volunteer to babysit and if the mother knew of his past she should be charged with child endangerment. Sick, sick people. This kind of things makes me so sad.


Brutal beating of child alleged
Detective testifies that father described how he killed daughter
Friday, April 01, 2005
Staff Reporter
Shortly after his infant daughter's death, David Allen Austin told investigators that he caused her injuries when he tripped on a child's safety gate and fell on her, a Mobile District Court judge was told Thursday.

But Austin's story changed, according to sheriff's department detective Paul Burch, when the 23-year-old father was presented with photos from the little girl's autopsy and was assured that her injuries could not have happened the way that Austin had said.

Burch said Austin then told him that he killed his 6-week-old daughter, Ashley, by beating her with his fists and grabbing her by the ankles, swinging her around and bashing her head against a door frame.

Ashley's transgression, Burch quoted Austin as saying during the videotaped interview, was that she would not stop crying.

"The injuries here are probably the worst I have ever seen in a child victim as a prosecutor," Assistant District Attorney John Furman said outside court after the hearing.

Burch's testimony in the preliminary hearing persuaded District Judge Charles McKnight to send Austin's capital murder case to a grand jury for possible indictment.

One autopsy photo showed the baby's skull crisscrossed as if by a torn spider-web in a series of fractures and fissures running in several directions.

According to Burch's testimony and previous reports, the unemployed Austin was with Ashley and his 1-year-old son at the family's home on Spanish Trail Drive in Theodore on the night of Feb. 22.

The older child was not hurt.

About 2 a.m. Feb. 23, Austin called 911 to report his daughter's injuries.

The children's mother was away at work at the time, according to Furman.

Burch told McKnight that an autopsy by Dr. Leroy Riddick of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences showed that the little girl had died from blunt force trauma to her head and further revealed that she had broken and injured ribs, some beginning to heal, others newly made.

According to District Attorney John Tyson Jr., in earlier news accounts, Austin had been arrested in July 2004 and charged with domestic violence. Another child from another marriage, now around 4 years old, was once removed from Austin's care.

The district attorney said that in 2000 that child was taken to a hospital with two broken legs, five broken ribs and a fractured skull.

"We have a tough task ahead of us," Mobile defense attorney Rick Yelverton said later outside court.

More on the Spill


Chemical truck wreck closed I-10 for 30 hours
Friday, April 01, 2005
Staff Reporter
After being closed for 30 hours due to the wreck of a tractor-trailer carrying thousands of gallons of a highly toxic chemical, a 5-mile stretch of Interstate 10 in south Mobile County was reopened to traffic about midday Thursday.

The crash on the off-ramp from I-10 east to Rangeline Road occurred shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday, and the roads were reopened about 1:05 p.m. Thursday.

No injuries were reported, and about 100 gallons of the chemical did spill.

Mobile Fire-Rescue Department officials ordered the closure of the interstate and several surrounding roads, as well as several businesses in nearby Tillman's Corner, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter and a Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse.

Residents evacuated:

People living in at least 100 homes within a half-mile radius also were told to leave.

"It was dangerous, and we were trying to prevent anybody from getting hurt or any further incident to occur," Mobile Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Steve Huffman said. "If we were negligent and didn't do a proper job, we could be sued for it."

The off-ramp remained closed late Thursday while the damaged truck and its tank trailer were removed. The truck's cargo of epichlorohydrin was transferred to another tank trailer.

Huffman said the damaged truck, from Freeport, Texas, was eastbound on the interstate when it exited at Rangeline Road in Tillman's Corner and overturned. It was hauling about 5,000 gallons of epichlorohydrin, which chemical experts say is highly explosive and toxic.

Bound for Degussa:

The epichlorohydrin was bound for Degussa Corp.'s Mobile plant, which uses the chemical in the manufacture of a filler it sells to the pulp and paper industry.

Keith Jones, a spokesman for Degussa, said the German company regularly uses epichlorohydrin but declined to reveal how much. He cited the need to protect trade secrets in a highly competitive business.

Jones said the amount of the chemical Degussa uses varies throughout the year, depending on fluctuations in orders for its product.

He said the company typically receives epichlorohydrin by rail, but the Texas-based supplier sometimes supplements the railroad shipments with trucks.

"That's how this thing transpired," he said. "Only recently, within the last several months, has the supplier not been able to supply it all by rail."

Degussa manufactures thousands of products, including components used in such common household items as toothpaste, pet food and medicine tablets. Worldwide, the firm has 4,500 employees in 90 countries, including roughly 800 at its Mobile plant.

Jones declined to characterize the risk posed by epichlorohydrin compared with the other chemicals in use.

"All chemicals, you have to respect," he said.

Jones said Degussa spends a great deal of energy training its workers in safety. It sent 11 employees to assist with the containment and cleanup following Wednesday's accident, he said.

Members of the fire department's hazardous materials team worked throughout Wednesday night and late into Thursday transferring the chemical to another truck.

Spill contained:

An earthen dike was constructed around the 100-gallon spill to contain it, and Huffman said none of the chemical got into a drainage ditch alongside the exit ramp and about 30 feet from the overturned truck.

Once the interstate was reopened, workers at businesses and people living within the evacuation area were told they could return.

Alabama State Trooper Capt. Oscar Kyles described the ordeal as "nightmare."

He said seven or eight troopers were brought down from the Evergreen post to help.

Officer Eric Gallichant, a Mobile police spokesman, said Thursday that about 50 of the department's officers took turns working at the crash site and helping control traffic along the detour routes.

"Hundreds of hours were spent by the officers at the scene, with some of those hours being overtime," Gallichant said.

Cost of the spill:

The police department's legal team "may attempt to determine if the trucking company is responsible for paying any of the overtime that was worked by officers," Gallichant said.

Gary Bourg, general manager of the Golden Corral restaurant in Tillman's Corner said the business lost about $20,000 in sales during the evacuation.

"We are just fortunate that nobody got injured, that it was taken care of real quick, and there were no injuries," Bourg said. "Corporately, we lost a lot of money, no doubt about it, but we will recover from that."

Just after police lifted their blockade of the area Thursday afternoon, Ed Sykes, general manager of Fire Mountain Grill on Rangeline Road, wore a slightly soiled apron as he rushed a staff of a half-dozen people to prepare the restaurant for dinner.

"We usually have about 80 people. We'll have a full staff later, but for now it's hectic," Sykes said. The corporate owners of the chain, Ryan's Restaurant Group, wouldn't let him say how much money the restaurant had lost during the nearly two-day closure. "But I can say it's a lot of money," Sykes said. "We're trying to open so we can hopefully make some of it back."

Doug Hartley, manager of Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse on Rangeline Road, said he had a full staff working in the store within 40 minutes of being notified they could reopen.

"That's what we spent our time doing when we were closed, staying in touch with workers, finding out where they were, keeping them up to the minute," Hartley said. Lowe's representatives at the company's North Carolina headquarters would not comment on what the evacuation cost the company.

Long-term effects?:

All of the businesses located in the evacuation area were impacted by the tanker spill but the long-term effect on the closure will depend on the business' particular category, said Mohan Menon, chairman of the Department of Market and E-commerce in the Mitchell College of Business at the University of South Alabama.

"Every business is impacted in the short term," Menon said Thursday. "There is an immediate loss of sales.

Menon said that the smaller, newer businesses may experience the hardest economic impact.

"Those businesses may not be established enough," he said. "They may not have the customer base because people just stop by. That once-in-a-while customer may not show up for a very long time."

(Staff Reporters Russ Hen derson, Brendan Kirby and Rhoda Pickett contributed to this report.)