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The Gridlock Guy- Doug Turnbull

  • One assumption about traffic reporters is that all of us fly in a helicopter. In fact, most — almost all — do not. Smilin’ Mark McKay, Ashley Frasca, and I are the only airborne traffic reporters left in Atlanta. McKay is in the WSB Skycopter each morning drive and I take flight in the afternoons. Frasca has recently gotten the chance to fill in for us, as she gets the feel of both looking at traffic from above and arranging and leading the WSB Triple Team Traffic reports for the rest of the team on the ground. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: WSB Triple Team Traffic App helps navigate commute But none of us has a pilot’s license. We have a rotation of pilots, led by our Monday-through-Thursday stalwart Bob Howdy, a former police officer who prefers that pseudonym. And we carry a videographer on each flight, Brett Barnhill, who has the responsibility of providing a feed that all four TV news stations in Atlanta use. This cross-pollination allows us to stay airborne, but this balance with the needs of TV stations also can influence where we fly. I recently got a question from a WSB listener and viewer about how we decide where to go. I had not explained that in a while, so I found it a worthy topic for this column. The pilot has the ultimate say in where we fly. If they have to avoid busy airspaces around airports or cannot lift off in bad weather, that is their call. Regardless of how bad the weather is, they always drive in and make that call from the hangar at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport. There are so many stimuli to consider as a pilot that we would have no way as reporters of doing that job simultaneously. We do traffic every six minutes and they carry in their hands life or death; we “let” the pilots fly. When TV stations have special video requests or if we find something that the other stations want, Barnhill has to check with his producer on the ground to make sure to stay at those scenes long enough. If, say, I am ready to move to another problem, we cannot go until Barnhill is cleared. Balancing the demands he receives with what we want for News 95.5/AM750 WSB makes both of our jobs harder, but the reward of flying is worth the pause. All else being equal — i.e., when we do not have to wait for TV — we are a traffic helicopter. And that is more than 90% of the time. So we simply fly up and down the interstates when there aren’t any big wrecks or news stories that alter our routes. We generally do not go south of I-20, because Hartsfield-Jackson’s airspace is so wide. We have to make such a wide route to fly to McDonough or Fairburn that going that way isn’t worth the time cost, unless there is a big problem. In this past week, however, we have flown to the south side multiple times for different traffic issues. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: When traffic is stopped and you need to go We try to make our decisions to maximize our time flying over interstates, in hopes that we discover something new. Finding a crash that we didn’t already know about in the WSB 24-Hour Traffic Center “pays” for the whole two-hour ride in the Skycopter. We take the airborne advantage seriously and want to leverage it to help Atlanta commuters to the greatest extent. Earlier this month, we flew over a wreck during PM drive on I-85/northbound at Jimmy Carter Blvd. It took forever to clear, and the Traffic Team had a live ground shot of it on the WSB Jam Cam. But we stayed over it to get more detail and see the impact on surrounding roads. We noticed that commuters heavily underutilized Oakbrook Pkwy. as an alternate and started telling traffic to go there. Observing small details like that or something in a wreck that might make the clean-up last longer are the added value we can still give. And that is value that automated traffic apps still do not offer. Common sense is a great human trait. With technology becoming smarter and more superfluous, we tailor our flight paths differently. If we know that the Traffic Team has a good feel on a wreck without us flying over it, we don’t waste the fuel going there. We try to maximize our advantage. News helicopters generally fly a la carte to stories, whereas the WSB Skycopter flies for a couple of hours each morning and afternoon drive. Some days are very humdrum, but others see major problems. In a city with traffic jams like ours, WSB knows the importance of staying airborne in the Skycopter. In this time of automation, we have seen news organizations wave white flags for traffic reporting. They outsource it to bigger companies that assign one reporter to five stations and who just read crashes. We cover multiple stations in the WSB Traffic Center, but they are all local and we do it with the best tools and the most expertise in the city. We know your ride is important and we want the information you need to come at you constantly on radio, TV, online, on social media, and on the Triple Team Traffic Alerts App. The WSB Traffic Team is still on offense against Atlanta gridlock, and the WSB Skycopter is a huge weapon.  » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Residential cost of GA-400 expansion illustration of bigger conundrum Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • Atlanta’s population is booming, as evidenced by, well, many things. The crowd swell keeps this weekly column topical, as more residents slowly commute locally and more freight uses Atlanta as the transportation hub that it is. Sandy Springs residents recently learned the cost of expanding the infrastructure to fit these demands. » RELATED: Hit the brakes on transit expansion? Gwinnett voters to decide GDOT announced two weeks ago the need for the land where 19 homes sit on Northgreen Drive, in order to expand GA-400 by two lanes in each direction. Northgreen sits just a football field-or-so to the west of GA-400, as it runs off of Spalding Drive. The optics of this look a bit worse for GDOT, as the addition to GA-400 will be Express Lanes - A.K.A. toll lanes. Those always are polarizing. 'We are entering the right of way-acquisition process,' GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale explained on the March 4th 'The Mark Arum Show' on News 95.5/AM750 WSB. Dale said that this is different than and precedes eminent domain. In fact, Dale told Arum that both federal and state laws outline a specific process that GDOT must follow, before eminent domain even comes into play. “We are entering a negotiation with these property owners to negotiate a sale of their property.” Dale said that the government can exercise eminent domain only if the homeowners refuse the offers. “It is one of the harder things that we have to do; we don’t have to do it a lot. I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone to come to me and tell me they need my home. When we design these projects originally we look to avoid any circumstance like this. Beyond that, we look to mitigate it and then to minimize the impact, so if we only had to take part of the property, and then mitigate it if we have to take it all.” Dale said GDOT does not enjoy making these hard choices. “And I think that’s sort of a misconception — that this is something that we do without feeling and we just do.” In this case, Dale said it is absolutely necessary. “We want it to be part of an ongoing Express Lanes system in the metro area,” Dale explained. New such lanes along I-285, I-85, and GA-400 would be double and separate in each direction. They would not be reversible like the lanes along I-75 on both sides of town. The GA-400 lanes would go from I-285 to McFarland Pkwy. and the I-285 lanes would reside in all directions anywhere north of I-20. Construction for the GA-400 lanes will not begin until around 2021 and may not conclude until 2024. » RELATED: North metro Atlanta mayors propose east-west transit plan Dale and Arum discussed how the I-285/GA-400 corridor, an area already carved up for the new interchange GDOT is building, is chock full of both businesses and residences. “You have some pretty densely-populated residential communities that are set up alongside of the interstate — not a great scenario for avoiding trying to take property,” Dale said. This, again, brings up a real problem for the desirable living places in Atlanta. More people bring more traffic. More people galvanize a need for more housing. More traffic means a need for bigger roads. The construction of bigger roads sometimes interferes with said housing. And an increase in people brings the increased need for commercial areas. And so on and so on. As tastes and demands have changed, the “live, work, play” concept has made popular both condos and townhomes that are near both public transit and places to, well, do life. Compressing living spaces in convenient areas can free up more room for development and roads and decrease traffic. On Arum’s show, Dale quickly outlined GDOT’s Major Mobility Investment Program, a cadre of 11 projects statewide that aim to decrease traffic congestion by 5% by 2030. That’s a 5% decrease statewide, not just in those 11 zones, so the improvements are significant. But they come not only at a significant monetary cost, but possibly a residential one. Looking ahead, the idea of traditional, spread-out subdivisions in highly populated areas works against the efficient expansion of roads, highways and mass transit. Just as the car culture must change at least slightly, so must residential culture. This isn’t a call to action for all situations. But this notion is something to consider in both city-planning and life-planning moving forward in Metro Atlanta.  » RELATED: Federal budget deal allows Georgia DOT to catch up on road work Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • Don’t grab the smelling salts; you’ve dealt with this news before, Uptowners. Beginning Monday, Peachtree Street/Road just northwest of I-85 will see intermittent lane closures during daytime hours until as late as the early fall. Before turning beat red and stringing together four-letter words and gerunds about the dysfunctional government, consider the reasoning. These are not closures for hanging and painting big “PEACHTREE” letters and arches on the I-85 bridge, or fixing the sewer and then fixing the fix, or for an unauthorized crane that then broke, or for the construction of private buildings. Georgia Department of Transportation spokesperson Natalie Dale explained the project. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: Innocuous turn could save a ton of time in Midtown “The focus of this project is a utility pole safety program,” Dale told News 95.5/AM750 WSB news director Chris Camp. Dale said the project is a phase in the Clear Roadside Program (CRP), where GDOT works with various utility companies to move utility poles farther back from the edges of the roads. “We look at corridors that have a high rate of drivers leaving the roadway and hitting these utility poles.” Both the public and private sector pick up the tab. “We look to fund a program that is 50% funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation and 50% by the utility companies, to move these poles away from the road ways and create a safer clear zone.” The premise is simple: GDOT and, in this case, Georgia Power identify places where poles are very close to the road. By moving back, say, a road of streetlights, drivers have a higher margin of error. “If you fell asleep or weren’t paying attention and ran off the road, you’d be able to correct back onto the road before you hit a pole,” Dale explained, noting that GDOT and Georgia Power have done this on Northside Drive at Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in northwest Atlanta. Dale said that crews need one to two days to move a pole back far enough. Initially, this project will focus on Peachtree between Deering Road and Collier Road. A cursory look at Google Maps shows at least a few dozen utility poles in that half-mile stretch. For sure, the project will cause intermittent lane closures, but Dale said those closures could expand to a bigger stretch on Peachtree. The CRP will continue to meet to decide the sections of Peachtree — and elsewhere — that most need these pole push backs. » RELATED: Lanes reopen after I-285 sinkhole repaired on the Southside The hours of work are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Dale wants to remind drivers that these, “are not full lane closures, they are intermittent lane closures on certain sections.” And the contract for the work allows for the minimum pain inflicted on the midday commute. “It would only be on the north side or the south side at a time, so you’re not going to have lanes closed on the north and the southbound at the same time.” Officials are still finalizing some parts of the project, but Dale said that these pole shifts cannot happen overnight. “It is safest for the Georgia Power crews and for the general public for these closures to be done during the daylight hours.” Do not discount the cost of labor to pay people to work overnight, as well. The contract allows for the project to last until November, but builds in possible weather delays. Essentially, November is a worst-case scenario. “It’s not outside the realm of possibility that this may be finished much sooner,” Dale said. So as some of you prepare to stew and simmer over crawling traffic on Peachtree — as many of my co-workers (and I) will — Dale said to remember the main reason both GDOT and Georgia Power are beginning such an undertaking. “The end result is to create a safer atmosphere and possibly save someone’s life down the road and we think that is well worth it.” » RELATED: Georgia Legislature passes school bus safety bill Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • In this space two weeks ago and in AJC transportation writer David Wickert’s late January column, we agreed that MARTA’s reputation was at least partially on the line by how it operated during Super Bowl 53. Super Bowl week was a complicated one for Atlanta’s bus and rail service, but judging by the traffic flow and the positive reviews of Atlanta from out-of-town visitors, MARTA seems to have performed very well on the world’s stage. And this is despite several big obstacles along the way. » RELATED: MARTA was ready for its Super Bowl close-up The biggest problem MARTA faced was completely out of its control. A fire near the tracks close to the busy Brookhaven Station caused big service interruptions Saturday evening. But it wasn’t just one brush fire on another property that forced MARTA to set up a bus bridge between the Lenox, Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Doraville rail stops. “A Rail Supervisor had all trains use the track farthest away from the [initial] fire,” MARTA spokesperson Stephany Fisher told the AJC. So, the trains were still running at that point. “That Supervisor then reported a second fire, again, not on MARTA property, and ordered all rail service through that portion of the Gold Line suspended.” Firefighters ran out of water fighting the fires, which then caused the conflagrations to rekindle as they searched for another water source. Fisher said this caused the bus bridge to last an hour and five minutes, with seven northbound trains stopped at Lenox and their passengers sent to buses. MARTA was feeling the burden of not only its busiest travel day in decades — 270,000 riders, which MARTA said is more than double that of a normal Saturday — but also a shortage in bus drivers, some of which were still calling out sick in a union dispute. But MARTA was prepared for that also, Fisher said. “MARTA experienced delays on some bus routes because of the bus operator sick-out. Supervisors were pulled in to operate buses to minimize the impact to customers. We were not anticipating a significant increase in bus ridership surrounding the Super Bowl since the majority of our customers accessed the event venues on the rail system. The sick-out did not have an impact on rail service,” Fisher said, adding that operators from other Metro Atlanta bus systems provided buses and workers to help with last Saturday’s emergency bus bridge. » RELATED: Super Bowl 53 Wrap: How did Atlanta do? While people were upset by the delays, the whole thing could have gone much worse. If MARTA had not staffed up, the rail system would not have been able to handle the crowds even without an emergency. If the agency hadn’t collaborated with CobbLinc, Gwinnett Transit, and SRTA — as they are doing in a broader way with the new ATL transit system — then they wouldn’t have been able to quickly implement a plan to move those commuters to alternate routes. The Atlanta Streetcar, now run by MARTA, has often been lightly used. But Fisher said that was a different story last weekend: “The Streetcar saw heavy ridership the entire three-day Super Bowl weekend, with rail cars filled to capacity on almost every trip.” But it had its own difficulties. “On Saturday night, service was suspended when cars and overflow crowds turned away from Centennial Olympic Park filled the streets, making it impossible for the Streetcar to move safely through the downtown area,” Fisher said. We saw those hordes on the WSB Jam Cams all weekend along Marietta St. and Centennial Olympic Park Dr. Driving down there was nearly impossible; moving a streetcar through there would seem unreasonable as well. Fisher said that service resumed by 8 a.m. Sunday. MARTA actually saw significantly fewer riders on Super Bowl Sunday — an estimated 155,000 — than on Saturday. And Mass Exodus Monday saw 161,000 use the rail system. The security-line waits at the fully-staffed Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport saw many more delays than did MARTA. Atlanta traffic and transit endured a million visitors, double the amount of MARTA riders, tens of thousands more air travelers, a winter weather scare, a bus driver sick-out, a fire near the tracks, and several big game-related road closures. Locals either stayed away or rode the rails. Atlanta traffic was light, considering the large crowds in town. And MARTA game-planned enough to zig and zag with the problems. Atlanta gets at least a solid B, if not better, for how it handled travelers on Super Bowl week. And MARTA was a big part of that.  » RELATED: Opinion: MARTA: Playing hard outside M-B Stadium Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.
  • The Super Bowl’s presence in Atlanta suggests road closures and bad traffic. But here we discuss a small open road — or a ramp, rather — that could help ease a big bottle neck on Peachtree Street in Midtown. As traffic engineers in Atlanta constantly explore ways to ease traffic without major capital expenditures and projects, one AJC reader has suggested going back to the past, to fix traffic for the future. » RELATED: Gridlock Guy: MARTA and your transportation keys to Super Bowl 53 Frank sent in a detailed email about one of the busiest stretches in town: Peachtree Street between the Buford-Spring Connector/I-85/northbound turn and Spring Street. I’m very familiar with this, as WSB Radio and TV’s studios are right there. And I have made the right turn off of Peachtree onto the Buford-Spring Connector/northbound ramp, just north of Spring, thousands of times. But I make that right turn easily off of Peachtree/northbound. Frank takes umbrage with a decision he says officials made over 20 years ago to allow Peachtree/southbound to also make left turns onto that very same ramp. He said that locals raised concerns at public forums about the traffic this would cause. Since Peachtree/southbound has to turn left across oncoming traffic, it backs up easily. That traffic needs a left turn signal, which then causes extra red light time on Peachtree/northbound. And then on full green lights with breaks in the traffic, drivers try to scoot across and beat the oncoming cars. That maneuver can lead to bad crashes. Eliminating left turns in busy areas is a goal in modern traffic engineering. This principle is what has driven the construction of Diverging Diamond Interchanges (DDI’s) at Ashford Dunwoody and I-285, Jimmy Carter at I-85, Pleasant Hill at I-85, Windy Hill at I-75, and Wade Green at I-75. One is currently under construction on Camp Creek at I-285. These interchanges put what once was left-turning traffic on the opposite side of the road, so when it turns left it does not have to impede or cross oncoming traffic. While these newer interchanges are confusing, they do save time and decrease crashes. Traffic planners routinely eliminate left hand turns on busy streets that do not have turn lanes. Some other Peachtree Street intersections in Midtown, south of Peachtree at Spring, do not allow left turns at all. Again, they back up traffic and can be dangerous.» RELATED: Georgia DOT opens up its playbook to keep Super Bowl traffic moving Frank’s opposition to the left turn makes sense, as that left turn lane on Peachtree/southbound at the BSC backs up and then slows the regular thru lanes during peak drive times. But I pushed back on Frank’s desire to eliminate that turn. Where would Peachtree/southbound traffic be able to access I-85? That traffic would have to either pick up GA-400 back in Buckhead, route around to Piedmont, head south and then route to West Peachtree, or drive all the way down to 10th Street, a mile-plus away. As bad as the backups are at the left turn, having to route that far away to find I-85 doesn’t seem efficient. But Frank pointed out an obscure turn that could eliminate the whole problem. Just south of the debated left turn, Peachtree/southbound actually can access the BSC. Just past Rhodes Castle, south of Spring, there is a small right hand-only turn that Peachtree commuters can take onto the Buford-Spring Connector/northbound. I have both covered traffic and worked at WSB for almost 15 years — I never knew about this turn. For one, I have never had to take that ramp, since the other one I normally take is much more convenient. There also is zero signage on Peachtree, telling drivers that it even exists. With so many people in the routine of taking the more common left turn, this small right turn just a block or so ahead gets very little attention. This less-traveled ramp actually merges with the traffic coming off of W. Peachtree and onto the BSC/northbound. The only inconvenience to the Peachtree/southbound drivers for choosing this ramp, instead of the left-hander, is that they would have to sit through the lights at Spring and at Rhodes Circle. I posed this revelation to the Georgia Department of Transportation and they are exploring it. More than likely, they aren’t going to eliminate that left turn. But maybe with some more signage and education, some of that backed up traffic can use this right turn and save themselves — and some others — a bit of time. Thanks, Frank!  » RELATED: SUPER BOWL TRAFFIC: Peachtree, other streets face closures on eve of big game Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.

News

  • A paraprofessional in a Texas school district was fired from a high school after she was accused of sending sexually explicit photos and videos of herself by Snapchat to a 15-year-old student, the Houston Chronicle reported. >> Read more trending news  According to court records, Kelsie Rochelle Koepke, 25, of Katy, allegedly sent nude photos of herself to the student at Paetow High School, where she worked, through the Snapchat application, the newspaper reported. Koepke was charged with improper relationship with a student, a second-degree felony, and solicitation of a minor, according to the Chronicle. She was released on a $15,000 bond, the newspaper reported. According to court documents, Koepke exchanged Snapchat information with the student around October 2017, and began a chat relationship with him, KTRK reported. Koepke used the nicknames 'kelsie_koepke' and 'Momma K,' the television station reported, citing court documents. The conversations allegedly turned sexual in nature, and “she instructed him not to save any of their chats,' according to court documents. Koepke then allegedly sent the first set of nude photos and videos of herself on homecoming night, KTRK reported. Koepke told investigators she thought she was sending the nude photos to someone else, the Chronicle reported. When she found out she was sending the photos to a student, she said she did not delete him from Snapchat because she wanted to “keep the peace,” the newspaper reported, citing court records. The student allegedly receiving the photos and videos reported what happened to school officials on Feb. 28, KTRK reported. Paetow High School Principal Mindy Dickerson sent a letter out to parents advising them of the situation, the Chronicle reported.
  • If you enjoy viral posts, a “Little Mermaid”-themed hairdo of a girl who attends a Houston preschool is part of your world.  >> Read more trending news  Atlantis Castillo sported braided hair to resemble the ponytail of Ariel, the main character in the Disney movie classic, “The Little Mermaid,” KTRK reported. It was part of a crazy hair day theme at Clear Lake United Methodist Church’s preschool, the television station reported. Ariel Romero posted photos of her younger sister’s hairstyle on Twitter, and they created a wave of positive reaction on social media. “My sister had crazy hair day at school today and my mom was not playing games and really wanted her to win,” Romero tweeted Tuesday. The hairstyle featured a bright green-colored braid that looked like a mermaid tail, topped by an Ariel doll on Atlantis’ head that resembled a hair pick. The hairstyle was created by Atlantis’ mother, KHOU reported. “My mom did the mermaid because my name is Ariel and my sister is Atlantis which is where Ariel lives under the sea,” Romero tweeted. “We’ve grown up loving mermaids thanks to my parents.” 
  • City Council members in San Antonio approved a concession agreement at the city’s airport that will exclude Chick-fil-A, KSAT reported. >> Read more trending news  By a 6-4 vote, the council approved the Food, Beverage and Retail Prime Concession Agreement with Paradies Lagardère at the San Antonio International Airport. The motion to exclude the Atlanta-based chicken chain from the airport was brought to the floor by council member Roberto Treviño, WOAI reported. Chick-fil-A has a history of donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations, and the city’s vote was applauded by the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, a local LGBTQ political action committee, KSAT reported. “The LGBTQ community is excited that the City Council has decided to look for restaurants that support all Americans in our airport,” Chris Forbrich, a co-chairman of the organization, told the television station. Treviño released a statement Friday, saying the decision “reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion.” “San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior,” Treviño said. 'Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport. I look forward to the announcement of a suitable replacement by Paradies.” Chick-fil-A released a statement, calling the action “disappointing.” “This is the first we’ve heard of this. It’s disappointing. We would have liked to have had a dialogue with the city council before this decision was made,” the company said in its statement. “We agree with Council member Treviño that everyone is and should feel welcome at Chick-fil-A. We plan to reach out to the city council to gain a better understanding of this decision.”
  • The U.S. Coast Guard offloaded more than 27,000 pounds of cocaine in Miami Beach that was seized in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. >> Read more trending news  'It will all be offloaded by the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa today in Miami Beach Florida and sent for destruction,' the Coast Guard said in a Facebook post.  The Coast Guard said in a news release that the drugs are worth an estimated $360 million. The cocaine was seized in 12 separate operations off the coasts of Mexico, Central America and South America during a three-month period.  Using #notonourstreets, the Coast Guard posted video on Facebook of the seizure, saying, “Here’s what 27,000 lbs. of cocaine looks like.”  'It takes a collaborative and sophisticated network to defeat a criminal network,' Deputy Commandant for Operations VADM Daniel Abel said in a news conference. The news release also stated: 'The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with allied and international partner agencies play a role in counter-drug operations.  The cutter Tampa even participated in the first joint boarding in recent memory between the United States and Ecuador. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Basin requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in Florida, California, New York, the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.
  • The Georgia mother of a teen who recently overdosed after vaping THC wax is speaking out, hoping other kids and parents become aware of the danger. THC is the active ingredient in cannabis. >> Read more trending news Lacey Turner, of Butts County, wants to spare other parents the anguish that she and her son Bailey went through. Turner told WSB-TV her son could barely keep his eyes open and his blood pressure was dangerously low at the time of the incident. “When I pulled up to the school, they were loading Bailey on the ambulance,' Turner said. Turner described the harrowing day in January when paramedics rushed her 16-year-old son to the hospital. She said he collapsed after taking a single hit of THC vaping wax, provided by a friend, in the high school cafeteria. 'He continued to vomit in the bathroom and passed out until someone came in and found him,” Turner said. After arriving at the hospital emergency room, the teen was still unconscious and had an extremely fast heartbeat and low blood pressure. 'Cognitively, he was completely disassociated. You pretty much had to slap him and get him to open his eyes,' Turner said. Turner, a nurse, first thought her son had overdosed on opioids, and so did the emergency room doctors. They administered an overdose reversing drug. “They gave him a shot of Narcan -- absolutely no change,' Turner said. Urine and blood tests told another story. “He was negative for anything in his system, except THC,' Turner said. Schools in metro Atlanta have reported students falling ill after vaping THC or synthetic THC. Turner believes the high potency is the problem. “This form of marijuana can be 85 to 90 percent concentrated with THC,” Turner said. The mother is thankful her son has fully recovered, but thoughts of what could have happened still haunt her. “My son could have passed out there in the bathroom, hit his head on the toilet on the way down and died of blunt force trauma,” Turner said. Turner said that when she posted her son's story on Facebook, she got responses from kids and parents across the country who had had the same experience.
  • A Florida man is facing child sex abuse charges after officials said he paid over $800 on an Uber to bring a teenage girl to Apopka. >> Read more trending news Police said 25-year-old Richard Brown raped the 17-year-old girl in his parents' home over the course of several days. The two met over Instagram after he told the victim that he was a 19-year-old Instagram celebrity and that he would 'take care of her.' The victim told Apopka police that Brown paid for an Uber to drive her from San Antonio, Texas, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In Louisiana, she got into another Uber that dropped her off in Apopka on Sunday. Brown would later show police receipts showing the second part of the trip that amounted to over $800. According to arrest documents, Brown told police he was 'only friends' with the victim and thought that she was of age and 'in need of a place to stay.' One neighbor couldn't believe the accusations. 'You might never know about it and now the cops are here,' said Amanda Trail. 'That's crazy for the parents.' The victim said once she realized Brown wasn't 19 or 'Instagram famous' that she wanted to go home. Brown then allegedly told her, 'no you owe me now for bringing you all the way here.' She later told officials that she escaped on Wednesday when Brown fell asleep and while she was on Snapchat with her mother. Police would locate her near Ustler and Wekiwa Preserve Drive, but said she wasn't able to point out which home belonged to the victim or what his name was on social media.  Brown's attorney took issue with the story, citing 'several inconsistencies.' Brown faces six felony counts of child sex abuse.