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Doug Turnbull's Traffic Blog

    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.

News

  • A Houston-area father is charged with child abandonment after police said he left his children alone in a car for more than an hour as he shopped. Police said Adrian Dreshuan Middleton was in the store for an hour and a half before he came out to the car. His daughter was crying in the back seat. She told police that she and her brother were playing, but she was angry that he didn’t stop crying so she wrapped the seatbelt around the baby, The Associated Press reported. She thought he had fallen asleep. But the baby was strangled by the belt, police said. Middleton said he saw his son unconscious with the belt wrapped around him. He called 911 and performed CPR on his son until first responders arrived, KHOU reported. >> Read more trending news  The baby was taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.  Middleton first told police that the children were in their car seats but then said in a different statement to law enforcement that there were no car seats in the car when the incident took place, KHOU reported. Police charged Middleton Friday in the case that happened in May.  According to police records, Middleton told police he left his 6-year-old daughter and 1-year -old son in the car, parked outside a thrift store. He said he left the air conditioner running, a movie playing and gave them water and a snack when he went in to shop for clothes, The AP reported. Middleton turned himself in to police on Monday, KHOU reported.
  • A Tennessee woman was attacked by her husband because she “took too long” getting ready for church, according to a police affidavit. Kevin Pugues, 25, is accused of hitting and strangling his wife at their home on Durango Road in Memphis on Saturday afternoon, the affidavit said. The victim reportedly told police that the pair got into a verbal argument around 2 p.m. Saturday because she was taking “too long dressing herself for church.” >> Read more trending news  Police said the victim blocked her husband’s path to speak with him as he was gathering his items to leave the home. At that point, Pugues shoved her onto the couch and started slapping her on the face, the affidavit said. As she tried to call police, she said Pugues grabbed her neck with both hands and strangled her.  Pugues admitted to police that he struck his wife on the face and strangled her, the affidavit said. He is being charged with aggravated assault.
  • Handcuffs couldn’t stop Jesse Thedford. From the back of a patrol car, the 32-year-old was able to slide behind the wheel of a Carroll County deputy’s car, according to police.  Ignoring commands to stop, Thedford instead drove toward deputies — the same ones who had arrested him after finding methamphetamine in his pocket. One deputy fired a shot, striking and killing Thedford in one of Georgia’s 79 officer-involved shootings through Nov. 15 this year.  The number of shootings involving Georgia law enforcement officers this year will likely pass the number in 2017, and it has also been a deadlier year, according to the GBI. Law officials say drug use is one reason for the increase. One drug in particular has been a factor in nearly 20 percent of the fatal shootings involving officers since 2012: methamphetamine.  “I believe that many of the bizarre and very violent crimes that occur, the perpetrator is a meth user, and that’s from my experience,” GBI Director Vernon Keenan told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It is a very destructive drug, and it causes violent behavior.”  Previously, investigators only had anecdotal evidence of the amount of meth on the streets and the violence it causes, Keenan said. But the GBI recently analyzed its records to get a more factual estimate of the problem. The agency’s autopsy reports, including toxicology results, for people killed by cops, show that meth is involved in about 1 in 5 officer-involved shootings.  The majority of those killed by Georgia police officers from 2012 until mid-November had drugs in their system, including cocaine, meth and marijuana, according to the GBI. Over that period, 188 people were killed by law enforcement and toxicology tests were performed in 173 of those cases. The tests found 124 were positive for a variety of drugs, and 35 — about 19 percent — were positive for meth. Results are still pending on 5 additional cases, including Thedford’s.  Marijuana was the most common drug used by those in deadly altercations with police, followed by methamphetamine, GBI data showed.  And though illegal drugs are just one factor in officer-involved shootings, the data can be used by law enforcement agencies that train officers to de-escalate situations before the use of force is necessary.  “They could be high on methamphetamine,” Keenan said. “And that alone is not going to justify the officer using force, but it is a factor to be considered.”  Meth in Metro Atlanta  The GBI crime lab, which handles drug testing for most of the state’s police departments, sees more than twice as much meth as other drugs. In 2016 and 2017, meth was the leading cause of drug deaths, passing cocaine from previous years, the GBI said.  In Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods, meth isn’t the typical drug of choice, according to police. But travel a few miles into metro suburbs, and it can be found everywhere.  Methamphetamine isn’t new: it has been around nearly 100 years since it was first developed in Japan. During World War II, it was used to keep troops awake and ready for battle, according to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World. Experts now believe it is more common than ever.  Sgt. Josh Liedke, who runs the Marietta police department’s Crime Interdiction Unit, said heroin previously was among the top illegal drugs seized during investigations, but that has changed.  “We’re seeing less seizures of heroin and we’re seeing more seizures of meth,” he said. “We seem to see heroin trickling off a tad. But as soon as we attack one, the other starts creeping up.”  In 2016, the Gwinnett County police department’s special investigations unit seized approximately 262 pounds of meth, worth an estimated $14 million, and arrested 78 people, according to Lt. Eric Wilkerson. The following year, the unit recovered 344 pounds of meth, leading to 68 arrests, he said. The numbers for 2018 are expected to be similar.  It’s not just suburban areas where meth is widespread. It’s also a problem in rural areas, according to law enforcement agencies.  RELATED: Meth is back and killing more people than ever “Meth is the predominant drug right now in north Georgia,” Phil Price, commander of the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad, said. “It’s readily available and it’s commonly used by those in the drug community.”  The active ingredient in meth is pseudoephedrine, found in many over-the-counter cold medications. When combined and heated with other easy-to-find chemicals — which weren’t intended for human consumption — it doesn’t take a scientist to make meth, according to experts.  But chemicals used to make meth are volatile and toxic, leading to explosions for those without chemistry knowledge, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, the fumes are dangerous for others in the area. Meth can be found in a variety of forms, which can be ingested by swallowing, snorting, smoking, or injecting it.  “There’s so many different ways to make meth, you just don’t know what you’re getting,” Liedke says.  In recent years, meth labs operating in homes and even rolling meth labs in cars frequently made headlines in metro Atlanta.  But more recently, there isn’t a need for users to make their own meth, Keenan said. It’s now being manufactured in Mexico and smuggled into the U.S., and investigators believe that drug cartels are supplying Georgia with meth that’s purer than what is made here — and it’s cheaper.  “It’s like liquor. It’s cheaper to buy it from a Mexican source,” Price said. “At the end of the day, you really don’t have people going out and getting the ingredients to make meth.”    Can officers train for meth?  Keenan, the GBI’s director, said many bizarre and violent crimes that occur involve a meth user. But tracking data, including officer-involved shooting deaths, can help law enforcement agencies better prepare to avoid future violence.  “I think the officer is better prepared to respond when they have an understanding of what they’re up against,” Keenan said.  Like others in the metro area, Marietta officers attend a week of crisis intervention training as part of their ongoing education. The crisis training focuses on both mental health and drugs, including how to identify warning signs that someone is under the influence of drugs. Officers learn de-escalation techniques to calm people: ways to hopefully stop a situation without violence. Whether someone is having a mental health breakdown or has been using alcohol or drugs, the tactics are similar, officers said.  “It may be a different substance, but the way you deal with it is the same across the board,” Price said.  But the effects of a meth on a person’s demeanor is completely unpredictable and creates a particular challenge for officers. Violence and paranoia are common among users.  “These people are physically aggressive and paranoid, and they’ll perceive things that aren’t reality,” Price said.  Meth users also may be desensitized to pain, Price said, so using a Taser may not affect them. If other tactics don’t work, officers may have to use their weapons.  Despite the emphasis of the Trump administration on the opioid crisis, Keenan calls meth an “international assault on the U.S.” And he sees no signs that meth use is slowing down.  “We traded one evil for another,” he said. “Fire and explosions and toxic chemicals for ultra-pure methamphetamine.”  Investigators may not be able to keep the dangerous drug out of their communities. But local, state and federal law enforcement officers aren’t giving up. Every drug bust gets the dangerous drug out of more people’s hands.  In August, after a nearly year-long investigation, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration — along with metro Atlanta agencies and the Georgia State Patrol — busted up a major drug ring. More than $5 million worth of cocaine, and 250 pounds of methamphetamine along with $850,000 in cash was recovered and 15 people were arrested.  DEA Atlanta agent Robert J. Murphy said the drug bust involved one of several Mexican cartels operating in Atlanta.  “Another successful law enforcement success targeting the Mexican organizations targeting this poison in our community,” Murphy said. MORE ON METH  • Methamphetamine is usually a white, bitter-tasting powder or a pill. Crystal methamphetamine looks like glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks  • Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that is chemically similar to amphetamine, a drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy  • People can take methamphetamine by smoking, swallowing, snorting, or injecting it  • Short-term health effects include increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite, and increased blood pressure and body temperature  • Long-term health effects include risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis; severe dental problems; intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching; violent behavior; and paranoia.  • Methamphetamine is highly addictive. When people stop using it, withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, fatigue, severe depression, psychosis, and intense drug cravings.  • The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction so far are behavioral therapies. There are currently no government-approved medications to treat meth addiction.  Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • It's that time again. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host the annual presidential turkey pardoning ceremony Tuesday afternoon in the White House Rose Garden, where one lucky bird will be named the National Thanksgiving Turkey.  >> Which restaurants are open on Thanksgiving? Here’s a list The pardoning, set for 1:05 p.m. EST, has been an annual tradition since 1989, but Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented to presidents for seven decades, The Associated Press reported. >> Read more trending news  This year, Peas and Carrots, two turkeys from South Dakota, are vying for the honor. Peas, a 39-pounder with a 36-inch wing span, loves Brad Paisley and popcorn, while the 41-pound Carrots enjoys yoga and boasts a 'strong and confident' gobble, the White House joked on its website. >> See their stats here In true reality show fashion, you can vote for your favorite gobbler on the White House website or on Twitter. >> See the poll here After the ceremony, Peas and Carrots will live at Gobbler's Rest at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Read more here. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A DeKalb County woman said her mega bank made a mega mistake and now nearly $9,000 of her money is missing. Roslyn Baitney said her money went through the tube at Wells Fargo and then disappeared. She blames the bank for what happened next. Baitney said 10 days ago she put $8,754 into the drive-thru tube to deposit with a teller at the bank on Flat Shoals Parkway.  Baitney said the teller told her that the deposit was too large and that she would need to go inside. Baitney said the teller never told her that she was going to send the tube back. >> Read more trending news  The incident report which said the teller alerted Baitney she was sending her money back through the tube. There was no money when she got inside. “I tapped on the window and said, ‘Hey, where's my money?’” Baitney said. A car had been in line behind her at the drive-thru.  “And then the teller said, ‘I wondered why the car behind you never did a transaction. They just pulled off.’ ‘Yeah, because you gave them my money,’” Baitney said. The police report also indicates security video was recorded off site, the bank won't talk about the video. The money is not the only worry for Baitney. “But I'm an open book because my identity is out there. My drivers license, my bank card, my bank info. It was all inside of that tube,” Baitney said. Baitney fears a thief now knows where she lives. She's been staying with her fiancé. “I don't like throwing people under the bus but there was a mistake made and the bank made the mistake,” Baitney said. A Wells Fargo spokesman emailed: We are aware of the issue at the Chapel Square branch and are working to resolve it.” The spokesman refused further comment due to an on-going criminal investigation “That's my house note, my car note, my car insurance. What are you all going to do?” Baitney said. A Wells Fargo official in Birmingham has called Baitney to say she'd have her money in full by midday Tuesday.
  • A kindergarten student was burned so badly by food at a Tennessee school that she had to be treated at a local hospital, according to a lawsuit filed in Shelby County. >> Watch the news report here The lawsuit, which is filed on behalf of the girl by her mother, names Shelby County Schools as the defendant. The alleged incident happened on Oct. 23 at Double Tree Elementary School in Memphis. The child was getting lunch – mashed potatoes – at the on-site cafeteria. >> Read more trending news  After getting her food, she was walking toward a table when she slipped on a wet spot on the cafeteria floor. The hot food landed on her arm and “resulted in severe burns … that required medical treatment,” according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims the kindergartner did not know the mashed potatoes were that hot – and she did not see the wet spot on the floor. It claims Shelby County Schools is liable for the incident and that every aspect could have been prevented. The family is seeking compensation for damages that include: Physical pain and suffering Emotional pain and suffering Medical bills and expenses Permanent disfigurement Loss of enjoyment of life Post-judgement interest Statutory and discretionary costs And all such further relief to which she may be entitled WHBQ reached out to SCS regarding the lawsuit, and officials said they cannot comment on 'pending lawsuits.' WHBQ’s Greg Coy spoke with the family’s attorney. 'A child should not suffer second-degree burns at a school,' said attorney Thomas Greer of Bailey and Greer Law Firm. 'I don't think anybody would expect a burn like to happen. It’s just something that should not happen. 'Our kids should not be burned with the food that has been served.' Greer told WHBQ that the girl has returned to school, but she brings her lunch now and avoids the cafeteria line.