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Doug Turnbull's Traffic Blog

    This originally appeared on wsbradio.com in 2014 and we publish it again today, on the five year anniversary of one of the worst traffic jams in Atlanta history.  February 1, 2014 As I write this, it's the night before the Super Bowl - a time when people will forcibly plant themselves in front of the TV to watch a bunch of brutes brave chilly extremes and fight tooth and nail to a desired outcome. That is exactly what we got tired of doing Tuesday through Thursday of this week, as most of Atlanta's population had a dog in the fight we could call a 'Stupor Bowl.' An unpredictable, wintry side of Mother Nature pantsed Metro Atlanta's infrastructure, grinding the city to a stranded halt on iced, clogged roads in dangerous cold. The blame game started as soon as the chaos began unfolding midday Tuesday, with public officials becoming the rightful focus of angst. Weren't we prepared this time? This kind of thing happened in 2011 and paralyzed Atlanta again? People wanted answers and the next few weeks will continue to bring more - which will likely bring more questions. Mayor Kasim Reed faced the most criticism he ever has in his four-plus years at Atlanta's helm. Governor Nathan Deal had to track and back track more than a tractor trailer trying to climb the icy hill on I-75 near Mt. Paran, as he finally took the blame for the state of Georgia's ineptitude in preparing for the emergency. GEMA, GA-DOT, the City of Atlanta, the State of Georgia, and the various school districts all deserve their rightful blame. But we as the private sector also need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what we could have done to make our own situations better in this civil emergency. And that is where this becomes a traffic blog post and not a political editorial.  Traffic was the key difference between this winter storm being a fun, rare Atlanta snow event and a life-threatening, patience-trying struggle. A big reason that most of the city got cryogenically frozen for a day is the sheer timing of the unpredictable storm. We planned for Tuesday, based on what we thought we knew Monday night: it would probably hit after lunch at the earliest and the worst hit would be south of Atlanta. As Tuesday dawned, WSB meteorologist Kirk Melhuish's (how it's really spelled - you probably know it as 'Mellish') forecast broadened the time of 'the hit' to as early as late morning and, even with more snow south of the city expected, at least 1-2 inches in Atlanta - which is more than enough to throw Atlanta into a tizzy. He and I exchanged emails about this several times and he said it on-air - at the time most people got caught, there was only a 1/2 inch or so of snow on the ground, so the fact that more than two inches fell in total was kind of moot. And, even if the storm had hit later, people still would have sat in the same gridlock - it just would have started later. Melhuish wonderfully outlines the system's unpredictability and some stats from past Atlanta snowfall in his latest weather blog post.  So we all planned as if this winter storm would unfold in the best of circumstances, which is never how Atlanta should handle anything - especially winter. Schools opened and figured they would just send kids home early in a worst case scenario (you know, because that isn't complicated or anything). The private and public sectors went to work like normal, with pregnant anticipation of having the next day off (even though conservative forecasts said the storm could hit while people were still at work and school). There may have been a rush on milk and bread at stores...but I didn't hear of a rush on snow chains or see one car on the news with any chains secured on the tires. Why? Because, who uses snow chains here? Where would you even buy them? This is Atlanta! That's the attitude that leaves us on the wrong end of these winter traffic disasters every time.  That same attitude has to be what stunted preparation by the public sector. The DOT did not treat the roads based on the updated forecasts saying the storm could hit earlier and harder in Atlanta. GEMA's emergency command center was not in place until the middle of the day, which was the biggest mistake of the entire event. Governor Deal and Mayor Reed were, of all things, at an awards ceremony as the storm closed in northwest of town. With a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service in place since just after 3:30 a.m., all properties should have been preparing for the worst, instead of hoping for the best. And even after people became stranded, the urgency of emergency seemed lax. People sat, for example, on I-285 stranded for nearly a day before anyone came to their aide. There were cars with babies in them and the parents were running out food and diapers. If any had died, heads would have rolled. The fact that people were in potentially deadly situations means that heads still should roll and maybe some will. Some public services seemed to wait too long to truly rise to the pitch of what was actually happening.  And that's how we all got stuck. Expecting the city to have the same know how and equipment to deal with what is considered a small weather event to northerners may be a pipe dream. So that means we need to accept what we know and have and always prepare for the worst with our five loaves and two fish. Next time snow threatens anywhere close to town, we all - public and private - can do a few things: plan for the worst and cancel work and school before arriving at said destinations; have road crews and emergency managers in place to act before the earliest estimate of the storm's arrival; keep overnight bags and emergency supplies in our vehicles (non-perishable foods, water, changes of clothes, blankets, hygiene supplies, etc.); not trying to venture out in these unfamiliar elements to us, as we almost certainly will wreck or get stuck (which would have both made our lives easier and made the jobs of road crews, emergency responders, and traffic reporters easier, too); public officials sending out traveler's advisories (like we at WSB do on-air and online) to surrounding states and trucking companies, so they know that travel through Georgia will be impossible and their getting stuck will only make it worse.  As the blame game started Tuesday, I posed this question on Facebook and Twitter: who was surprised by the storm? I think anyone that answered honestly would have said they were. We live in a culture of complacency and Georgians are as complacent as ever in winter weather and traffic situations. Believe it or not, our public officials are also Georgians. They weren't the only buffoons in this icy cluster-fornication - we were in this together. That is actually good news, because the next time it happens, we actually don't have to rely on just the government to make the experience better for us. They have their large responsibilities and we have our own. Knowing what we have again been reminded of this week, Atlanta will be paralyzed the next time significant winter weather makes a direct hit - just as it was in '82, '93, '00, and '11 and other times. Hopefully we have learned to prepare and to not 'bravely' go out in the mess and drive.  Atlanta's dysfunctional reputation took another hit nationally this week, but that's okay - if we learn from it. We learned some from the 2011 storm, which made only some difference this time around. If we don't learn from this, Atlanta will lose billions in the long run. Hollywood will leave town. And no new dome will ever attract another Super Bowl (which got a direct hit in the 2000 ice storm - the last time Atlanta hosted it). Let's show the nation together that we can work through this much better the next time, instead of living in the clouds and hoping the snow won’t hit us again..  A time capsule of what actually happened on the roads during the storm:  Let me step down from my soap box (or is it an icebox) to list a few of the more extraordinary traffic travesties from this storm, which serve as our top traffic stories of the week.  - The earlier Metro Atlanta snow and ice accumulation took place in the northwestern suburbs. Officials in Bartow, Cherokee, and Cobb Counties began dispatching crashes left and right around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. By noon, Cobb already told motorists they would only respond to injury crashes, because of the large volume of single-vehicle spinouts and ditch landings. Cherokee authorities had over a dozen crashes on I-575 alone. Dispatchers in each county told me they had too many crashes to even bother listing them. This became the chorus of most counties as the day wore on, so we stopped keeping track of wecks.  - The worst interstate in the storm was I-285, which held drivers for over a day on the southwest side. Motorists between I-20 and I-85 near the Airport sat on a road virtually shut down most of a 24-hour period between Tuesday and Wednesday night. Nearby Hwy. 166 became a sheet of ice and motorists sat in place there for a similar amount of time. There were jackknifed tractor trailers up and down both I-285 and Hwy. 166 in this area. The most desperate calls we received were from people stuck on I-285, as they waited not just the longest to get moving, but also the longest to receive any kind of help or relief. - I-75/85 in both directions was awful near Hwy. 166, not only because of Hwy. 166 itself, but because there were so many stuck trucks on the Downtown Connector there. Only one lane or so was open to zigzag through each direction for most of Tuesday night and Wednesday. People spent the night here, too.  - With the rush of everyone to get home in full effect, some of the worst surface street jams we heard of were in Downtown/Midtown, Buckhead, Sandy Springs, and Dunwoody. Not only were people moving inches in hours, the traffic just getting out of parking decks was hours-long. By this point, we were recommending people just spend the night at work. Cars got stuck at the busy River bridge at Johnson Ferry Rd. and Riverside Dr. WSB's Steve Winslow took 10.5 hours to drive in to work at our Traffic Center - his drive was via Hwy. 41 and I-75, from Kennesaw to Midtown. WSB's Kim McCarthy said that her drive just from Sandy Springs to WSB was one of the worst and scariest of her life. Our Chris Schiavone took hours to drive from Woodstock and Roswell to WSB. And we heard countless other accounts of day-plus commutes from, say, Sandy Springs to Kennesaw. But both businesses and residences opened their doors and housed these cold, tired people. Good Samaritans brought food and supplies to those they could. Hospitality was one of the few pluses in this storm. - The icy I-75 hill near W. Paces Ferry was all or mostly blocked for about a day. Truck after truck after car kept getting stuck and other cars just had to tiptoe through. The same happened on I-75 in both directions near the South and North 120 Loops. Dozens got stuck on the I-75/nb ramp to Cumberland Blvd. alone - they couldn't make the hill and just abandoned their vehicles. GSP and the National Guard used four-wheelers to help people not only recover abandoned vehicles from the interstates, but also give them some gas and battery charge. The government's response in the aftermath of the storm was much better than before and during.  - I-285 on the northside was especially bad. The gridlock, mostly caused by difficulty in crossing the Chattahoochee River bridge and the constant blockages in the I-285/I-75 Cobb Cloverleaf stranded people for hours and hours. The gridlock and ice set in simultaneously, meaning treatment of the roads was near impossible until after traffic cleared, which took forever, because the temperatures didn't even crack freezing until Wednesday afternoon and then still plunged afterwards.  - DeKalb County was not the focal point of the storm, but Hwy. 78 took a beating - this biggest punch being the 20 or so-car wreck Hwy. 78/eb near Stone Mountain Park that essentially blocked the Stone Mountain Freeway from Tuesday night to Wednesday afternoon. The shade on Hwy. 78 made the Tucker-Stone Mountain thaw a long process.  - The last interstates to return to normal were I-20 on the west side and I-75 between Lake Allatoona and Kennesaw. Part of the reason for this is because, like Hwy. 78, there are several areas on those roads that stay shaded and didn't thaw well. The high volume of big rigs that take these routes meant these big trucks had to baby there way through the barely melted and treated lanes. And the right lanes along these routes, the lanes generally covered the most in shade, stayed impassable until Thursday. The Thursday gridlock on I-75/sb stretched from Allatoona to Acworth (and there was an overturned big rig on I-75/nb at Red Top Mountain Rd. Thursday afternoon that blocked most of the freeway and caused delays) and I-20/eb was a cold mess near Hwy. 92, Lee Rd., and Hwy. 6. Earlier in the storm, cars got stuck on I-20 trying to climb Six Flags Hill, but as the Wednesday thaw progressed, that situation cleared up faster than the other parts of I-20. Surface streets in this corridor were particularly bad: Hwy. 6/Thornton Rd./Camp Creek Pkwy. in Douglas and Fulton was littered with abandoned cars and gridlocked between the River and Lithia Springs. Other south Fulton main highways (Camp Creek closer to the Airport, Fulton Industrial Blvd., Hwy. 154, Hwy. 166 outside I-285, and Hwy. 92) stayed jammed through Wednesday and into Thursday as well. The thaw was also slow in Cherokee County, as officials there complained of heavy icing even into Thursday. The DOT could have done a better job treating roads post-snow storm in these areas, for sure.  - This last development from the storm is completely mind-blowing. As the gridlock continued on Roswell Rd./Hwy. 9 in Sandy Springs Tuesday night, some people thought that turning that road into a one-way, wrong-way, ice train from hell would be a wonderful idea. The WSB Traffic Center received multiple reports that impatient motorists decided to skirt the northbound backups and drive in the southbound lanes - on ice - with traffic heading toward them. There were also instances of this reported on Hwy. 92 in Cherokee Co. and some other roads. No words describe how utterly dangerous and ignorant these things are, but this situation perfectly shows how some responsibility of this entire debacle lies on our shoulders and not just the government’s.  There were plenty more instances of gridlock, despair, and insanity on Atlanta’s roads. Tell us your stories in the comments section below. To perfectly sum up the intensity and insanity of Atlanta’s SnowJam ‘14, here is a detailed blog post on one WSB listener's intense drive home and their lessons in preparedness. And, finally, a YouTube video of the Tuesday evening-Wednesday morning drive, documented by another WSB listener. (Warning: there is strong language).  http://youtu.be/jorNiTo7naw
  • As Super Bowl 53 rapidly approaches, the lifestyle changes for Downtown Atlanta commuters begin. Below is the list of the static street closures for the February 3rd Super Bowl and the related array of events.  Remember that the biggest effect on Atlanta traffic will be the push to and from this week long fest on the roads that remain open. This is why MARTA is extending its hours and running extra trains. Georgia Commute Options is beefing up its benefits to people who enroll in their carpooling program. And the real key to minimizing the effect on your life is simple: don’t head to the heart of Downtown Atlanta, if you don’t have to go. The closer the game gets, the more roads shut down, and the bigger the crowds will be. At least the city has posted detours for these long-planned shut downs.  And if you are partaking in the big game, the concerts, or anything else, try to ride share or take public transit. Parking will be ridiculous.  Remember to stay with News 95.5/AM750 WSB 24/7 for live Triple Team Traffic updates and tune in each morning to Channel 2 Action News before your commute. Stay up to date on the closures and the delays on the @wsbtraffic Twitter page and wsbradio.com/traffic. And, of course, leave the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App open while you drive and our automatic audio alerts will play in the background on your device. That is especially helpful when conditions change as you drive. Check the planned closures below:  Monday, Jan. 21 - Friday, Feb. 8:  Baker Street Northwest will be closed between Centennial Olympic Park Drive Northwest and Luckie Street Northwest. Monday, Jan. 21 - Thurs., February 7:  Mitchell Street Southwest will be closed between MLK Jr. Drive Southwest (southbound) to Elliot Street Southwest. Mangum Street will be closed between Markham Street to Foundry Street. MLK Jr. Drive Southwest (southbound) will be closed between Northside Drive Northwest to Centennial Olympic Park Drive Northwest. Wednesday, Jan. 23 -Thurs., February 7 Andrew Young International Boulevard Northwest will be closed between Marietta Street Northwest and Centennial Olympic Park Drive Northwest Friday, Feb. 1 - Sunday, Feb. 3 Peachtree Street between Ponce De Leon Avenue and Third Street will be closed for the NFL Honors award show at the Fox Theater  There will be a full closure of Ponce De Leon Avenue and Third Street between West Peachtree Street and Peachtree Street. Saturday, Feb. 2 - Mon., February 4 Northside Drive Northwest will be closed between Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard Northwest and MLK Jr. Drive Southwest (southbound). 
  • Captain Herb Emory loved the giving spirit of Christmas and he loved children. So this may not surprise you to learn that he combined those two energies every Christmas Eve for many years.  Captain Herb and his wife Karen would take time out of their Christmas trip each year to call into WSB and converse with WSB’s youngest listeners.  The Emory’s and Buzzy the Elf would answer kids’ calls and Captain Herb in his best Jolly Old St. Nick voice, would hear their wishes and have them sing songs to everyone. Then he would promise them Christmas cheer, if they went to sleep and were good.  Listen to their last Christmas Eve special from 2013 and hear Captain Herb’s wonderful rendition of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Put it on, pour some hot chocolate, gather the kids around, and enjoy the spirit of Christmas. Captain Herb would want you to do that. Merry Christmas from all of us at WSB!  Listen to 2013 Captain Herb/Santa Claus Christmas Eve Listen to the Captain Herb/Santa Claus reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”
  • Saturday is going to be one of those days in Downtown Atlanta. Rain, Dawgs, Elton, and Santa Claus will complicate travels all day on the Downtown Connector, Peachtree, and the streets around both Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena.  The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Christmas Parade will run on Peachtree Street in Midtown, between 16th Street and 5th Street, starting at 10:30 a.m. The road closures for this usually begin in the 8 a.m. hour and the event goes on rain or shine. Arriving and parking will be a challenge, so take MARTA, if possible. Channel 2 Action News will carry the action live, with hosts Fred Blankenship and Linda Stouffer.  Concurrent with the parade, the Dr. Pepper SEC FanFare will commence at the Georgia World Congress Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., so expect big crowds there, off of Northside Drive. And the SEC Championship game itself will draw a tremendous crowd to MB Stadium for the 4 p.m. kickoff for the hometown Georgia Bulldogs and some team from the state just to our west.  Then as that is wrapping up, Elton John’s second of two “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” Atlanta dates will begin next door at State Farm Arena at 8 p.m. Traffic on Marietta Street, Centennial Olympic Park Drive, and Northside Drive will already be packed with football fans. Mix in the “Tiny Dancers” and the ride in the heart of Downtown will be a zoo.  Both the Dawgs’ and Elton’s events will jam I-75/85/southbound ramping to Williams Street and northbound onto the Peachtree/Pine and Spring Street exits. Stay away, if you can.  Download the WSB Triple Team Traffic App for instant alerts in your car to guide you around traffic trouble. The best bet getting to any of these events is MARTA. Take MARTA to the Midtown or Arts Center Stations to avoid the street closures for the Christmas Parade. And then the best MARTA station for both football and Elton John is the anachronistically-named Dome/GWCC/CNN Center/Philips Arena station. The Five Points MARTA Station is a 10 minute walk from the events and eliminates having to switch train lines. But with about 100,000 people expected at the game and concert combined, plan extra time even on MARTA to make the trip.  And on top of all this is rain and possibly storm activity. WSB Meteorologist Kirk Mellish predicts rain to start around 7 a.m. and continue through most of the day, with temperatures steadily holding in the 50s much of the day. Mellish says that the severe weather threat is minimal and the highest odds are to the south and west, but definitely prepare for precipitation.  The rain will only worsen the ride all over town and create a much higher likelihood for wrecks. So try and avoid Downtown Atlanta by vehicle Saturday and drive with your headlights on. Also be sure and download the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App for hands-free, automatic audio traffic alerts as you drive, produced by our 24-hour traffic team.  News 95.5/AM750 WSB will carry live Georgia Bulldogs coverage with the tailgate show at noon and kickoff at 4 p.m. WSB will also broadcast live from nine to noon at the Walmarts in both Woodstock and Peachtree City for Clark’s Christmas Kids. Come buy some toys for Georgia’s foster children and then curl up and listen to the Dawgs put a whippin’ on Alabama Saturday.
  • This is a re-post of my blog post from just after Captain Herb Emory’s death on April 12, 2014. We miss him every day.  “O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;   The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;” WSB’s Erick Erickson Tweeted these opening lines to Walt Whitman’s famous poem just a couple of hours after WSB and Metro Atlanta got punched in the gut Saturday afternoon. As many of you know, Captain Herb Emory died of a heart attack while directing traffic for a serious crash that happened in front of his house. He, the traffic reporter and community servant he was, died at the scene of a crash, trying to help people get around it. And he wasn’t your everyday Good Samaritan.  Where many people would maybe help with something that happened right in front of them, Captain Herb would be the pillar of help certainly for any number of things that he didn’t have to see. He made appearances all over town for different charitable events - runs, rides, festivals, parades, career days, fundraisers, Kiwanis clubs. He had a special place in his heart for veterans, law enforcement, the elderly, and stray animals. He did this all in his free time, in between his demanding, split-shift traffic schedule. His energy was divine and surreal.  That drive to serve the public made Captain Herb a natural for a broadcasting career. Starting as a disc jockey, he eventually became a full-time newsman, winning dozens of awards. He then transitioned to traffic and eventually, fortunately, to WSB in 1991. One thing he taught all of us on the WSB Traffic Team, above and beyond, is to serve the public. That is what this job is all about. He always told us these are the public’s airwaves and we have the privilege of being on them. He took that to heart more than anyone.  The whole idea of Triple Team Traffic was Captain Herb’s. The reason we still use police scanners as much as we do is because he insisted on it. Digging hard and calling police departments to find crashes was his idea. RED ALERTS and many of the crazy or trademark phrases we use are his. During his off hours, he still would sit around his traffic and NASCAR cave at home (named “The Tiny Lund Ballroom”), in a room abuzz with 15 scanners, and send us crashes or other things of interest he was hearing. He insisted on accuracy and never giving up on finding the cause of the delays in a given area. Almost everything this Traffic Team does to get the story right comes from a system and infrastructure that he initiated and helped build.  He was our Captain. He was my Captain. When my mom emailed him in 2004 and said I like NASCAR and broadcasting, he gave her his cell number and told her to have me call him. I was 18. I met him three days after graduating Lakeside High School and he gave me a tour of WSB. We struck up a conversation about NASCAR and how much we both loved it. He then asked if I wanted to be an intern and then took me up in the helicopter. What A-list radio or TV personality does that? Give an 18-year-old with an eyebrow ring (he didn’t know that at first) his cell number? Meet him? Offer him an internship? Really? We hit it off. I’ve been at WSB ever since, trying to live up to his standard, trying to make him proud. If there is any doubt about his generosity, I am one of many pieces of evidence of it. Half of what I own, he gave me. The other half of what I own, I bought with the money from the job he got me.  I am so lucky to have had my radio initiation, my tutelage, under such a legendary, Godly man who never saw himself as being as giant as others did. He taught me to answer every listener’s emails and to handle every call in the Traffic Center with the same care and sincerity as the next. He accepted so many seemingly menial requests for his appearances and in doing so, made every one of those people feel special. Every person he talked to, he made feel big. I looked forward to every time he answered the phone with that guttural “How ya doin, big hossy?” or “Fireball Turnbuuuuuuulllll, he’s a legeeeeeeeennnnnd!” And now I catch myself behaving with the same mannerisms and terminology. If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, then I complimented the heck out of Captain Herb.  Captain Herb Emory’s passing leaves a huge void - but maybe not where you think. As much as traffic reports are never going to be the same on WSB, the systems and ethics he laid in place will be and we will be pulling the plow (another Herb-ism I just inadvertently typed) harder than ever. The biggest hole Captain Herb’s sudden death leaves is in that community service realm. We will be scrambling to try and cover so many of the things he once did without hardly telling people. As much as he did in his life, we are going to try and do even more in honor of him after his death.  Another world that Captain Herb’s influence permeated was the racing community. Captain Herb’s racing show, which ran full-time from 1994 to 2011, used to be the best and main source that many people in Atlanta got their racing info before the internet got big. And racing used to be just as accessible as Captain Herb was and the gigantic growth of NASCAR turned off true salt-of-the-earth treasures like Captain Herb, who used to be able to hang out and pal around with the drivers. One driver who never lost that touch is 28-year-old David Ragan, who was on Captain Herb’s show since he was a kid. Ragan never forgot that and kept in touch with the Captain up until the end and always stopped by our tent on race days at Atlanta Motor Speedway. I doubt it’s a coincidence that Ragan adored the “Andy Griffith Show” and had his own replica Mayberry patrol car - just like Captain Herb. Another driver with the same instinct is Chris Cockrum, who has run handful of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races the past few years with CaptainHerb.net on the truck’s tailgate. He did it without Captain Herb even having to pay him, as a sign of respect for all the exposure he got on the racing show. And those are two of many from the racing world who love the Captain.  If you love the Captain as they do and as we do, you can show your love in one way - serve and serve to the fullest. Two of Captain Herb’s charities that the family is asking receive donations in lieu of flowers are A Gift of Love and the Douglas County Humane Society. But find a cause of your own and put your force behind it. Do this at your job, too, as most of us have jobs that directly or indirectly serve the public. Ring that order up a little faster; dig that hole a little deeper; answer a few more calls an hour; process those requests as quick as you can; put an extra little in each scoop of ice cream. That’s what Captain Herb would have done if he had your job and that’s what he did at his. I’ve gotten this question a few times - Captain Herb was a believer. He loved Jesus and while he was not a churchgoer, he did more acts of Christ than 99% of those that sit in the pews each week. Many in church tithe the minimum of 10% of what they have - he gave darn near all he had. He was an angel on earth and now he is an angel in Heaven, flying higher, much higher, than the WSB Skycopter ever could take him. And this eternal ride won’t out of fuel.  We didn’t actually lose our captain Saturday, he just moved. And now he can see and approve of us, while from afar, but actually much closer and all at the same time.  “O’ CAPTAIN! my Captain!” from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” “O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;   The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;   The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,   While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:   But O heart! heart! heart!   O the bleeding drops of red,   Where on the deck my Captain lies,   Fallen cold and dead.     O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;   Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;   For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;   For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;   Here Captain! dear father!   This arm beneath your head;   It is some dream that on the deck,   You’ve fallen cold and dead.     My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;   My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;   The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;   From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;   Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!   But I, with mournful tread,   Walk the deck my Captain lies,   Fallen cold and dead.”
  • The Northwest Metro Express Lanes are opening this weekend. GDOT officials confirmed exclusively to WSB that the reversible toll lanes along I-75 and I-575 are set to open by mid-morning on Saturday, September 8th and will be free for the first two weeks. Any driver with a registered Peach Pass on their vehicle will be able to drive in them cost-free during that time.   A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for Wednesday, September 12th. Governor Nathan Deal will be on hand then to christen the lanes, along with GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry and State Road and Tollway Authority Executive Director Chris Tomlinson. GDOT built the lanes and will deploy teams of HERO units to keep lanes open and then reverse them at the given times each day.    Toll-collecting and toll-setting fall under SRTA’s domain, just as they have for the similarly reversible I-75 South Metro Express Lanes in Henry County and the I-85 HOT lanes in Gwinnett and DeKalb. Enforcement of those driving in the lanes illegally without Peach Passes is largely upon the Georgia State Patrol and automated systems SRTA controls.    The new lanes on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties will operate with a dynamic tolling system, just as they have on the aforementioned existing lanes on I-75 and I-85. They will cost a minimum of $.10 per mile, with no cost ceiling during high-demand hours and a maximum of $.50 for an entire trip during times of low demand. This is the same standardized system that SRTA implemented for all Georgia toll lanes on August 20th. I-85 HOT lanes have seen record high prices since the cap lifted. The price increases when volume in the lanes increase; the goal is to keep the lanes moving 35-45 mph. This method keeps the toll lanes moving faster than the original lanes.    GDOT began work on the Northwest Metro Express Lanes in 2015 and targeted their completion for this summer. Sources say the lanes were set to open by late August. But a partial wall collapse onto the nearly finished lanes in June exposed a design flaw that prompted more inspections and repairs on other parts of the system. With two weeks still left in the summer, the lanes may not have opened as early as officials wanted, but they still are opening at the predicted deadline.    The lanes run from Acworth and Holly Springs on I-75 and I-575, respectively, with specific access points and some at completely different and new interchanges. Hickory Grove Road, Big Shanty Road, Roswell Road, Terrell Mill Road, and Akers Mill Road will all now tie in to I-75. The new lanes have limited entry and exit points, so as to eliminate the merging and exiting traffic that slows down roads. Drivers will need to plan ahead of time where they plan to exit and enter the new lanes.    Northwest commuters with Peach Passes will be able to use the lanes in the southbound direction through the weekend and into the following Monday morning rush hour. The lanes will close midday Monday and then re-open in the northbound direction for Monday PM drive. Motorists can learn more about how the lanes work and get what is needed to use them at PeachPass.com.        Stay with Triple Team Traffic on News 95.5/AM750 WSB for live coverage of the new Northwest Metro Express Lanes from the WSB Skycopter and our team of reporters on the ground and with Channel 2 Action News and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

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  • Thin Mints and Samoas are two of the flavors buyers of Girl Scout cookies find irresistible. However, police officials in Oregon said one consumer went a little too far to satisfy his cravings. Police said Camden Ducharme, 36, of Salem, is accused of buying cookies from a Girl Scout booth outside a Walmart using counterfeit money, The Oregonian reported. Ducharme was charged with theft and forgery for passing along counterfeit U.S. currency, according to the Salem Police Department. He was later released from the Marion County Correctional Facility, the Statesman Journal of Salem reported. Tiffany Brown said earlier this month, a man visited the booth she was running with her two daughters, the newspaper reported. Brown said the man asked a lot of questions and seemed “fidgety.' The man paid for a $5 box of Tagalongs with a $20 bill and received $15 in change, the Oregonian reported. Brown’s 13-year-old daughter, Ava, thought the bill looked odd, KPTV reported. “The bill didn’t look right, it was smaller, bluish tint and it just wasn’t the same as the rest of the bills,” Brown told the television station. Brown shared a photograph of the bill next to a legitimate one on Facebook, noting, “The troop takes the loss.” Salem police spokeswoman Lt. Debbie Aguilar said officers were able to use video surveillance to identify Ducharme, the Statesman Journal reported. When Ducharme returned Sunday to Walmart, store loss prevention officers contacted police and he was taken into custody. Police said they responded to one other incident in which Ducharme used counterfeit money to buy Girl Scout cookies., the Oregonian reported. “It’s not nice, it is not kind to other people and it is not fair,” Ava Brown told KPTV. “Us Girl Scouts work really hard and I am proud to say I am a Girl Scout.”
  • Airline travel is stressful enough when flying solo. It’s even tougher for families, who sometimes have to split up in order to get the cheapest airfares. According to the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, charging fees to keep families together is unacceptable. The nonprofit organization posted an online petition, “demanding airlines put safety over profits.” “Children 13 or under should sit with their families while flying, and should not be charged extra fees to do so,” according to the petition, which has a goal of 75,000 signatures and was approaching 60,000 early Tuesday. According to a Consumer Reports review of more than 130 complaints submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines have separated or suggested separating children as young as 2 years old from their parents, USA Today reported. “Children need a responsible adult around and whether it’s just so they can go to the bathroom in the middle of the flight or if there’s an emergency, it’s not safe to have a child without somebody there to take care of them,” Anna Laitin, director of financial policy for Consumer Reports’ advocacy arm, told CNN. “And no business traveler or solo traveler wants to be put in charge of a 3-year-old they don’t know, and no parent wants to be seated, strapped in unable to move, that far from their child.' According to the petition, splitting up families “is a security hazard for the child and a safety threat to all passengers during emergencies.” The petition further claimed that separation “puts an inappropriate burden on customers who sit next to an unaccompanied child.” The petition specifically singles out American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. In 2016, Congress passed a bill that called upon airlines to seat children 13 and younger next to a family member at no extra cost, CNN reported. However, the bill left some room for the airlines to bypass the law, calling for a policy “if appropriate.” Consumer Reports created a site last fall where consumers can lodge complaints at the same time with the organization and the Department of Transportation, USA Today reported. The organization said it has collected more than 400 complaints since the site went online, the newspaper reported. Representatives for American, United and Delta, the initial targets of the petition because they received the most complaints, said they have taken steps to ensure families booked together, sit together. American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein told USA Today the airline has spent a 'considerable amount of time'' on the issue and has developed a system of seating children younger than 15 with an adult family member. In a statement, Delta spokeswoman Maria Moraitakis said, “Regardless of the type of ticket purchased, Delta works with customers on a case-by-case basis to ensure their travel needs are met. When customers have seating questions, we encourage them to reach out to us as soon as possible to allow for the opportunity to address their concerns.” United Airlines spokesman Charlie Hobart told CNN the airline has adjusted its family seating procedures and policies. “We’ve essentially rolled out automatically seating families together. So we automatically scan for families who do not have seats assigned next to each other and we work to seat them together,” Hobart told CNN.
  • With the coronavirus impacting countries around the world, the word pandemic has been used more and more often. But what is a pandemic and how does that differ from an outbreak? Outbreaks vs pandemic Outbreaks turn into pandemics when an illness becomes global, the World Health Organization said. There are actually four levels to qualify how severe and widespread an illness is, Health.com reported. They are, according to Health.com: Sporadic, or infrequently occurring disease. Endemic or usual prevalence of an illness. Epidemic or sudden increase of an illness or higher numbers of sick patients than expected. Pandemic or an epidemic that has spread to other countries. The WHO will declare the illness as a pandemic using various models. But there is no one number that changes an epidemic or outbreak into a pandemic, The Guardian reported. Why does it spread so far? Most people don’t have immunity when an outbreak spreads worldwide. They also have different epidemiological patterns. For example, while the normal flu hits during the winter months, the H1N1 pandemic happened in the summer, the WHO said. How fast can a pandemic spread? A virus can travel from a remote village to cities on all continents in 36 hours, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. How can you stop a pandemic? CDC global health security experts work with other countries to help stop the spread by detecting and reporting cases, identifying the cause of illnesses, containing outbreaks and coordinating a response.
  • A Florida man is accused of hitting and killing his girlfriend while driving a vehicle outside a Polk County bar, then returning to the establishment, authorities said. Charles Robert Polen, 40, of Fort Meade, was charged with DUI manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident involving death and driving without a license, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. He remains in jail in lieu of $15,000 bail, according to arrest records. Deborah Jo Hershberger, 40, of Fort Meade, was found dead in a road near the Coop, a bar in eastern Polk County, the Tampa Bay Times reported. According to an arrest report, Polen and Hershberger were drinking at the bar Saturday. They had driven there in Hershberger’s 2002 blue Dodge Neon, the newspaper reported. Police said Polen got into an argument with another man, then quarreled with Hershberger when she asked for the keys to the Neon, the Times reported. Hershberger left on foot, and Polen stayed in the bar to finish his beer, the newspaper reported. Then, Polen got into the Neon and began driving to look for her. Polen told deputies that while driving, he hit something, WTSP reported. Polen said he thought he had hit an animal, but then saw a person lying in the road. A woman called 911, and Polen told deputies drove back to the bar and waited for law enforcement, WFTS reported. After authorities arrived, Polen walked from the bar to the scene. the Times reported. Deputies said Polen was upset and had to be restrained once he realized it was Hershberger’s body on the road, the newspaper reported. Deputies believed Polen was intoxicated; seven hours after the incident, his blood alcohol content was .046, which is below Florida’s legal limit of .08, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
  • Body camera footage shows a Florida girl pleading for help as she is put in handcuffs and taken away from school. WFTV first reported on the story back in September. Orlando police said then that the bodycam footage would not be released. But the family’s attorney has it now, and has shared it. Orlando police were called to the school after Kaia reportedly kicked a staff member during a tantrum at Lucious and Emma Nixon Academy. Charges against her were later dropped. The video shows 6-year-old Kaia, confused and crying for help as she’s led away with her hands zip-tied behind her back with makeshift handcuffs from school grounds. See the arrest and aftermath below: Kaia bawls as one of the officers, Officer Dennis Turner, asks the other officer to zip-tie her and take her to Orange County’s Juvenile Detention Center. As one of the officers tightens the makeshift children’s handcuffs, she cries out “No! No! Don’t put handcuffs on (me). Help me! Help me!” Turner’s bodycam footage shows him follow the other officer as he leads Kaia to the back of the patrol car. Then, since she is unable to step up and into the SUV on her own, he lifts her up. “Please! Please! Please let me go!” Kaia screams in the bodycam footage. “No! Help me! Help me!” One school official asks in the video if the restraints were necessary. “Yes, and if she was bigger, she’d be wearing regular handcuffs,” Turner replies in the video. Turner then tells school officials he’s arrested 6,000 people in his career and the youngest, before Kaia, was 7 years old. “She broke the record,” he says. Turner then arrested another 6-year-old at the same school. He was fired for both arrests for violating department policy requiring a supervisor’s approval to arrest anyone under 12. Kaia’s grandmother is now pushing to change state law concerning arrests of children for misdemeanors.
  • A man who was running for the Arizona 1st Congressional District on the Republican ticket had to suspend his candidacy after he overdosed last week. “Today, I have suspended my campaign for the US House of Representatives and am seeking treatment for substance abuse disorder,” Chris Taylor told NBC News in a statement. “I will fully cooperate with local authorities on any matters arising from my recent relapse and overdose.” A family member found Taylor unresponsive at home Wednesday night, the Gila Herald reported. He was revived with Narcan. The Army veteran who served two combat tours in Afghanistan said he’s had an opioid addiction since high school, The Arizona Republic reported. The newspaper reported Taylor overdosed on heroin. “I’m not going to hide from this. I’m not ashamed of what happened. I wish to sincerely apologize to the amazing people who have supported me. I don’t know what went wrong. I recently relapsed after having so many solid years in sobriety. I have to figure out where I went wrong,” Taylor told the Republic. Taylor is currently a member of Safford, Arizona’s city council and founder of Desert Eagle Addiction Recovery, a nonprofit that helps veterans and others dealing with drug addiction. He has been open about his past drug abuse. During his announcement for his run for congress, Taylor said, “The experiences that I’ve had with opiate addiction and being able to overcome that and inspire and help others to find that recovery as well are a source of strength,” the Herald reported. Taylor was among three Republican candidates vying for a spot on the November ballot to unseat Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran, NBC News reported.