Thursday, October 13, 2016

A wiring error during an equipment upgrade caused a power outage that affected nearly 100,000 customers and shut down a refinery in Torrance, Southern California

A wiring error during an equipment upgrade caused a power outage that affected nearly 100,000 customers and shut down a refinery in Torrance, Southern California Edison said. (KABC)

By Chelsea Edwards
Thursday, October 13, 2016 02:02PM
TORRANCE, Calif. (KABC) -- A wiring error during an equipment upgrade caused a power outage that affected nearly 100,000 customers and shut down a refinery in Torrance, Southern California Edison said.

The error occurred Tuesday morning at the Torrance electrical substation. Edison has been working for the past four years to increase the capacity of the substation by adding a large power transformer and upgrading circuit-breakers and automated systems.

That included temporarily re-wiring a device that trips a circuit-breaker when it detects an electrical surge or fault, said Paul Grigaux, Edison's vice president of transmission, substations and operations.

On Tuesday, electrical demand rose after a long Columbus Day weekend. Because upgrade work had isolated a section of the substation, the load was shifted to another section where, due to the wiring error, "it gave this protective device the impression that it was a fault... and tripped a circuit-breaker," Grigaux said.

The massive outage left more than 90,000 Southern California Edison customers in the dark and caused flaring at the plant for the third time in about a month.

Nearly 100,000 customers in the South Bay area lost power early Tuesday morning, as a flare-up occurred at a major refinery in Torrance. 

"If there's windstorms and rainstorms, you could almost explain it away. But here, we have almost perfect weather - but maybe that perfect weather, the sun deteriorates their lines," said Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey. "So it's ongoing maintenance, obviously, the rates that they charge, all of that comes into play."

Furey met with Edison reps, hoping to find solutions. The utility company has vowed to improve.

"We're hopeful that they'll get a dedicated line into the PBF refinery, which I think that would release some of the pressure on the rest of the grid to our residential customers," Furey said.

Now, there are some concerns about the opt-in Torrance alerts system.

Torrance resident and clean energy advocate Michelle Kinneman is signed up for both text and voicemail alerts but was already on her way to work Tuesday when the first "shelter in place" text came in - an hour after the flare-up.

"I ended pulling off to the road, checking that message, and heading back home realizing that I didn't want my daughter to have to walk to school if indeed we were supposed to be sheltering in place," Kinneman said.

She said in addition to timely and accurate alerts, she's fighting for what she calls the bigger picture.

"We need to move rapidly to a point where we're not relying on the Torrance refinery or any other refineries to power our lives," Kinneman said.

Furey said improvements on the alert system were underway, adding that in the year or so that it has been up and running, only about 13,000 subscribers have opted in.

Two more people have died in North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew - bringing the total in the state to 22.

Governor: 2 more dead after Hurricane Matthew

The latest on the flooding in hard-hit Eastern NC, including Edgecombe County.

Updated 2 hrs 41 mins ago
RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Governor Pat McCrory said late Thursday that two more people have died after Hurricane Matthew - bringing the total in the state to 22.

The latest deaths are in Lenoir County where the governor said someone drove around a road barrier and into water, where they drowned.

In Lenoir County's largest city, Kinston, a curfew will be in effect starting at 9 p.m. Thursday through 7 a.m. Friday, the Kinston Police Department said. The curfew is in place for the "safety of our residents and our first responders," police said.

A man in Robeson County died after he fell into a hole caused by a fallen tree.

The total death toll in the state now stands at 22, and is expected to rise when water recedes from flooded roads. McCrory said another death is under investigation.

At a morning news conference, McCrory said as he's toured the hardest hit areas, it's clear to him that it's the poorest of the poor in North Carolina who have suffered the most as flood water has inundated neighborhoods, severely damaging homes and ruining cars.

He asked the nation to dig into its pockets to help out.

"These people have nothing. Nothing. And if you want to help, now is the time to help these people," he said. "They are sitting right now in high school gyms. There are whole families."

McCory said the state has activated the NC Disaster Relief Fund in partnership with the United Way.

If you have items to donate like water or clothes, dial 211 and someone will direct you on where to go

Governor Pat McCrory Thursday morning briefing Here's what you need to know:

Evacuations in Moore County, Lumberton, Princeville, Kinston, Lenoir County, Vass and Goldsboro

A boil water advisory has been issued for Sanford, Lee County and parts of Wayne County.

A boil water advisory has been lifted for Johnston County, with the following exceptions: Mulberry Road, Parkertown Road, Adams Road, 678-1723 Five Points Road, Shadowwood Road, Three Sisters Drive, 640-1535 Castleberry Road, Riverbend Drive and Point Lane

22 people in North Carolina have died.

3 parts of I-95 remain closed in Fayetteville/Lumberton area due to flooding, 1 part of I-40 near Newton Grove also closed

Eastern towns could experience flooding throughout the week.

About 55,000 Duke Energy customers remain without power across the state

Federal disaster declaration received for 34 counties. Declaration also approved 17 counties for individual assistance.

Officials are assessing dam overtopping, breaches and failures throughout the state, particularly in Hoke, Moore, and Bladen counties.

While some areas are beginning to recover from the flooding, other areas are about to be hit. The Neuse River at Kinston is forecast to crest at record level on Friday night.

The Tar River crested late Wednesday night in the Tarboro/Princeville area. The floodwaters are now moving toward Greenville, which should see the Tar River crest Friday.

ABC11 Eyewitness photo - Athens Drive

Governor McCrory said dozens of roads across the state remain damaged and closed. I-40 is blocked near Newton Grove and I-95 is blocked between Lumberton and Fayetteville.

He cautioned that even after the water recedes, it will take time to do engineering assessments on roads and bridges to make sure they're safe to reopen. The federal government has released $5 million in emergency funds for road repair.

For people stuck in shelters, Governor McCrory said the state is working with Walmart to get long-term prescriptions to people who need their medicine.

The goal is to get people in shelters into hotels and rental property while their homes are flooded or remain too damaged to live in. Some will be moved to long-term FEMA housing when it becomes available.

McCrory said pumps have been brought in to help draw down the water in Lake Surf so that people who live below the Woodlake Dam now under an emergency evacuation in Moore County can return to their homes. He didn't have a time frame for how long that might take.

36-year-old Steven Bourgoin who drove the wrong way on I-89 in VT and caused a fiery crash that killed five teenagers was charged on Thursday with five counts of murder.

Man charged with murder in crash that killed 5 teens

Thursday, October 13, 2016 05:51PM
BURLINGTON, Vt. -- A man suspected of driving the wrong way on an interstate and causing a fiery crash that killed five teenagers was charged on Thursday with five counts of murder.

Police say 36-year-old Steven Bourgoin crashed into the teens' car in Williston and then stole a police cruiser before crashing it into at least seven other vehicles late Saturday night. Chittenden County state's attorney TJ Donovan has said he "would not classify what occurred on Interstate 89 as an accident."

Police on Tuesday served an arrest warrant on the hospitalized Bourgoin for use of the cruiser. On Thursday, the state filed the murder counts against him in the teens' deaths. Public defenders working on the case did not immediately return phone calls or emails seeking comment.

Bourgoin, who would face 20 years to life in prison on each murder count if convicted, is to be arraigned Friday in a conference room of the hospital, where his condition has been upgraded from critical to good.

Four Harwood Union High School juniors and a girl who attended Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire, died in the crash.

Police say Bourgoin had visited a hospital emergency room on Saturday hours before the crashes. A police affidavit said he was seen by a physician assistant and was referred to the Howard Center, which provides crisis and counseling services, but he was not screened there.

The police officer who responded to the first crash told a state police investigator that Bourgoin has post-traumatic stress disorder but did not elaborate. Bourgoin served in the U.S. Army at Fort Benning in Georgia between August 1999 and November 1999, the Army says.

Bourgoin also faces trial on an unrelated domestic assault charge, prosecutors said.

A police affidavit says Bourgoin hit his girlfriend in the head and threatened to throw her down the stairs in May. Police say when she tried to leave with their 2-year-old child, Bourgoin got into a vehicle, drove them around and threatened to kill them. Last month a court awarded custody of the child to Bourgoin's now-ex-girlfriend, prosecutors said.

His public defender in that case has not returned a phone call seeking comment.

The ex-girlfriend told a state police investigator after the crash that her relationship with Bourgoin changed after they had a child in February 2015, according to court papers. She described Bourgoin as being angry and having mood swings, the affidavit said.

ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER IN THE MAKING? Millions of chicken and pigs have already drowned in their barns in North Carolina, animal waste could flow into rivers, streams, lakes

North Carolina's Floods Threaten to Unleash Lagoons of Pig Poop

Floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew are still rising, and the worst is yet to come.
An animal farm in North Carolina flooded after Hurricane Matthew. Rick Dove, Waterkeeper Alliance

Where there is pig, there is poop. In North Carolina, the country’s second biggest pork-producing state, feces from industrial pig farms lie in open-pit lagoons. On a normal day, the lagoons stink and emit toxic fumes. On days like today, as floodwaters from Hurricane Matthew continue to rise, the lagoons pose an even bigger danger: If the flood breaches the lagoons, all the feces would come gushing out.

It’s happened before. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd dumped 19 inches of rain on North Carolina. The lagoons overflowed. “Feces and urine soaked the terrain and flowed into rivers from the overburdened waste pits,” wrote the New York Times back in 1999. “The storm killed more than two million turkeys, chickens and livestock in the region, and waste from the farms is expected to keep leaching into the water supply until next spring.” The same thing happened in 1998 (Hurricane Bonnie) and 1996 (Hurricane Fran). 

Pigs struggling to survive in Trenton, North
Carolina after Hurricane Floyd. (Reuters)

Matthew could do just as much damage; the worst is still to come. Flooding after a hurricane can be a slow-moving, if predictable, affair. Rainwater collects into streams that feed into tributaries that feed into rivers, and several days later, all the rainfall over hundreds of square miles is flowing down one swollen river. Post-Matthew, rivers in North Carolina are not expected to crest until as late as Friday or Saturday.

Thousands of chicken and pigs have already drowned in their barns in North Carolina. So far, Travis Graves of Sound Rivers, an environmental nonprofit in North Carolina, says he has seen a couple lagoons breached on aerial flights near the Neuse River. After Hurricane Floyd, the state bought out some farms in flood-prone places—to close their lagoons and prevent fecal floods in the event of future hurricanes—but plenty of lagoons remain in the area. “We’ve literally got hundreds of lagoons on the eastern coastal plan,” says Graves. The southeastern corner of North Carolina, where pig farms are concentrated, is unfortunately also the area hit hardest in the latest hurricane.

Big industrial pig farms use the lagoon system to save money. “It’s the cheapest method of so-called ‘treating’ the waste,” says Michael Mallin, an ecologist at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. After solids settle out of the manure slurry and bacteria decompose the organic matter, farmers spray the remaining liquid onto fields as fertilizer. The stuff is rich in nitrogen and phosphorous—which works for fertilizer—but that also makes it disastrous when it gets into rivers after a flood.

That’s because the extra nutrients cause blooms of bacteria such as algae. “The natural bacteria multiply like crazy in the water, and they’re sucking out dissolved oxygen in the water,” says Mallin. Without oxygen, fish die. After Hurricane Fran, Mallin recalls, “You could go out to one of the boat landings and stand there. Literally it was just covered with dead and dying fish on the surface of the river.”

The lagoons, full of fecal pig bacteria, aren’t so great for humans either. One study found increased hospital visits due to gastrointestinal illnesses in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Floyd.

In 2007, North Carolina passed a law banning waste lagoons on new pig farms. Few new farms have opened in the state since then. “The reality is cost,” says Mike Williams, a biologist at North Carolina State University, who has considered alternative methods for dealing pig waste. A more environmentally friendly alternative could be anaerobic digesters, in which bacteria turn the poop into natural gas. But it’s still too expensive for most farmers compared to keeping a lagoon.

The lagoon system is, very slowly, on its way out. But for now, as Hurricane Matthew's floodwaters rise, North Carolina bears the health and environmental cost of cheap pork.

Flooding from Hurricane Matthew has killed up to 5 million poultry birds in North Carolina, most of them chickens

Millions of North Carolina chickens die in Hurricane Matthew floods: state

By Tom Polansek | CHICAGO

Flooding from Hurricane Matthew has killed up to 5 million poultry birds in North Carolina, most of them chickens, the state's top environmental official said on Wednesday, hurting a major contributor to its economy.

Donald van der Vaart, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, also told Reuters that some pits that hold hog waste on farms had been inundated with floodwaters. The waste, mixing with water, may eventually make its way into rivers, streams and the Atlantic Ocean.

Van der Vaart said he did not know how many pits had been inundated but that the environmental damage would be minimal because the hog waste will be "vastly diluted" by floodwaters.

North Carolina officials have been racing to help farmers swamped by Matthew and to assess damages since the storm dumped heavy rains on the state over the weekend. They have wanted to avoid a repeat of Hurricane Floyd, which overwhelmed hog farms and pits in 1999, contaminating waterways with animal carcasses and waste.

"Knock on wood, right now we don't have the kind of catastrophic losses we had in 1999," van der Vaart said. He added that there had been "a tremendous loss of life on the poultry side," however, saying the number of birds killed could total about 5 million.

Floodwaters have covered areas across central and eastern North Carolina this week, killing 19 people and forcing more than 3,800 residents to flee to shelters.

Agriculture is the state's top industry, contributing about $84 billion to the economy, according to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The department has confirmed 1.8 million poultry have died, mostly chickens, spokesman Brian Long said. The total is expected to increase, he added.

Last year, North Carolina produced about 823 million chickens for meat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Sanderson Farms Inc, the third largest U.S. poultry producer, said it lost about 250,000 chickens being raised for meat in the state.

Tyson Foods Inc said its losses were minimal because the company does did not have operations raising chickens for meat in flooded areas.

Privately held Perdue Farms said it was still assessing the number of chickens it lost.

Chicken carcasses will be disposed of primarily through composting inside the houses where the chickens were being raised, North Carolina officials said.

The state's agriculture department said it had asked the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency for about $5 million to help cover composting costs.

The driver who struck and killed a construction worker near Brimley Rd. in Toronto was allegedly fleeing from police

Construction worker killed in hit-and-run near Eglinton Ave. E. and Midland Rd.

Special Investigations Unit and Toronto Police are investigating a hit-and-run Wednesday morning that killed a construction worker and injured a police officer.

The Special Investigations Unit is looking into a fatal hit-and-run at Eglinton Ave. and Midland Ave. A construction worker was killed and a police officer injured. (Victor Biro)
By Brennan DohertyStaff Reporter
Wed., Oct. 12, 2016

The driver who struck and killed a construction worker near Brimley Rd. on Wednesday morning was allegedly fleeing from police, according to the Special Investigations Unit.

Const. Craig Brister said a pedestrian was stuck by a vehicle near Eglinton Ave. E. and Midland Rd., at around 11:15 a.m.

The driver fled the scene in what police believe to be a white BMW.

Shortly before the construction worker was hit, the SIU said in a statement, a Toronto Police officer tried to pull over a white BMW near Lawrence Ave E. and Midland Rd., but it fled.

Paramedics said the construction worker, a man, was pronounced dead at the scene. Neither the victim’s name, nor his exact age, has been confirmed.

An officer at the scene of the accident suffered minor injuries, police said.

Live TV footage of the scene showed a single heavy, brown boot lying in the closed-off intersection of Eglinton Ave. E. and Midland Rd.

Jamilah Kukobar was walking towards Eglinton and Midland when she began smelling burned tires.

“So I look to the right and [I felt] a lot of wind . . . and there was a car speeding really fast,” she told a reporter at the scene.

“It’s pretty scary.”

The car got “pretty close” to her, Kukobar said. She added that the driver never mounted the sidewalk.

A white BMW, police said, was last seen driving northbound along Gilder Dr., just east of Eglinton and Midland.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the SIU was also investigating the hit-and-run.

The oversight agency is notified when a civilian is seriously injured, killed, or sexually assaulted during an encounter with police.

By law, Toronto Police are forbidden from making any additional public statements about the investigation until it concludes.

Eastbound lanes along Eglinton Ave. have been closed between Kennedy Rd. to Midland Ave. Gilder Dr., from Eglinton to Midland, has also been closed.

No arrests have been made.

23-year-old Jasmine Tirado, Merrillville, IN killed with her SUV the 35-year-old road construction worker Brandon Fiscus, LaPorte, who was working for E&B Paving on I-65

Construction worker killed on I-65 in northwest Indiana. 

He suffered "massive blunt force trauma" and was pronounced dead at the scene.  Holly V. Hays , 6:46 p.m. EDT October 12, 2016

(Photo: Provided by Indiana State Police)

HOBART — Indiana State Police are investigating after a SUV lost control on I-65, striking and killing a construction worker.

Officers responded to a call just after 9:30 a.m. Wednesday one mile south of the Ridge Road exit in Lake County, according to a news release. Investigators believe a GMC driven by 23-year-old Jasmine Tirado, Merrillville, moved from the left lane and into the middle lane behind a semi, then moved right, hitting a construction barrel separating drivers from a construction zone.

The vehicle continued into the construction area, where it struck another barrel before hitting 35-year-old Brandon Fiscus, LaPorte, who was working for E&B Paving out of Anderson.

Fiscus was thrown into the SUV's windshield and then into a pickup truck owned by the construction company. He came to rest about 100 feet in front of the truck.

He suffered "massive blunt force trauma" and was pronounced dead at the scene.

All northbound lanes were closed until 11:50 a.m., when the left and middle lanes were reopened.Construction along this area of the interstate began in May, according to the release.

Unfortunately, the road construction workers are at high risk of death or injury due to reckless drivers like  this one, 23-year-old Jasmine Tirado, Merrillville.


A construction worker from LaPorte was killed Wednesday morning after a woman lost control of her vehicle in a construction zone on northbound Interstate 65.

In a press release, Indiana State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Ann Wojas said a 23-year-old Merrillville woman was driving her 2013 GMC SUV approximately a mile south of the Ride Road exit on northbound I-65 around 9:35 a.m. when she moved from the left lane to middle lane and ended up behind a semitrailer. From behind the semitrailer, the woman moved to the right but ended up hitting a construction barrel separating the traffic from the construction, the release said.

Once she hit the barrel, the woman veered into the construction site and hit a second barrel, the force of which propelled the vehicle into a worker who was using a concrete saw to cut a joint for a pavement patch, Wojas said in the release. The man, identified as Brandon Fiscus, 35, hit the woman's windshield before hitting a parked pickup truck, the release said.

Fiscus landed approximately 100 feet from the pickup truck from the impact, Wojas said in the release. The Lake County Coroner's office pronounced him dead of massive blunt force trauma at the scene.

The woman has not been charged, Wojas said Wednesday afternoon.

The northbound lanes on I-65 were closed until approximately 11:50 a.m., Wojas said in the release.

The Hobart Fire Department, Hoosier Helpers and the Lake County Coroner's Office assisted.