As the sun rises on a workday in downtown Birmingham, the human population in the city’s center typically includes a small group: first responders, cooks, cleaners, security guards, the homeless and those seeking to get some quiet time in the office before their colleagues arrive.
During the past two years, that early morning population also frequently has included a woman walking slowly and looking closely at the sidewalks, plazas and lawns outside glass-fronted buildings. Sometimes — as much as 20 times on the morning of Oct. 13 — she would pause, kneel, remove a small brown paper sack from her shoulder bag and carefully place inside it the carcass of a dead bird, usually one that had been migrating through town.
Her name is Jessie Griswold. She is the lead animal care professional at the Birmingham Zoo’s Animal Health Center. She also is an unabashed “bird nerd.” She recently concluded work on a research grant — the only type of its kind recently done in the state — to bring to local light a problem that has afflicted Birmingham and other metropolitan areas around the country.
The problem? Bird deaths from window collisions. Read more.
The council voted unanimously to extend the city’s moratorium on new self-storage developments by 90 days. But it also voted to settle a lawsuit from one developer, paying out up to $125,000 and allowing construction on a self-storage facility near Vulcan Park to continue. Read more.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin marked the halfway point of his first term in office Tuesday evening with a presentation highlighting his administration’s accomplishments and broadly gesturing toward his plans for the next two years.
Tuesday’s event, which took place at the downtown Birmingham venue Haven, followed a similar presentation that took place in March, also titled “The Big Picture.” Both events were intended to provide an update on the Woodfin administration’s strategic initiatives. But while March’s event featured presentations from a slew of city officials, Tuesday night’s presentation centered on a half-hour speech from Woodfin. Read more.
Mexico Beach, Florida — When Hurricane Michael exploded in strength over the Gulf of Mexico in October 2018 and hit Florida with a devastating storm surge and 157 mile-per-hour winds, it marked the first Category 5 storm to reach the Panhandle and only the fifth to make landfall in the United States.
Michael reduced much of the Panhandle town of Mexico Beach to splinters and destroyed parts of other nearby communities. We saw the destruction firsthand while reporting here for The American Climate Project. It killed 16 people across the Southeast and is considered responsible for 43 other deaths in Florida, including from storm clean-up accidents and health issues worsened by the hurricane, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It inflicted about $25 billion of damage to the region, including about $5 billion alone at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City. The storm caused catastrophic damage in southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia, as well.
More than other weather disasters, hurricanes seem to prompt people to ask: Was climate change to blame?
That, climate scientists say, is the wrong question. People should, instead, be asking, “How much worse did climate change make it?” said Texas Tech climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe. Read more.
Also from InsideClimate News’ American Climate Project:
The Sound of Rain, the Crackle of Fire Take Victims Back to the Moment of Their Nightmares
Daniel Hill remembers the indelible sounds: how the wind gusted like a dry hurricane, and the trees crackled before bursting into flame, and his neighbors’ propane and well-pressure tanks exploded as the Camp Fire swept through each block of his hometown of Concow.
In the early morning of Nov. 8, 2018, Daniel, with his family and friends, fought the blaze as its flames towered and swirled across their northern California farm. By midday, the fire would kill 85 people in Butte County and incinerate nearly the entire town of
Paradise, population 26,000, becoming the deadliest, most destructive fire in California history.
Disasters split people’s lives apart into a before and an after. Even as they move on, for victims of these disasters, the sounds from those disasters take them right back to the dark moments.
The tanks exploding during the Camp Fire told people their communities would soon become unrecognizable. The disembodied beeping of smoke detectors in piles of rubble after Hurricane Michael marked the destruction. In the aftermath, the familiar morning bustle of a small town disappeared, becoming a troubling silence instead. New sounds like the whine of chainsaws arrived during the rebuilding, which often added to the confusion of a newly unstable world. After the trauma, everyday sounds that once brought comfort — rainfall, the crackle of fire — now brought anguish and pain. Read more.
Also from InsideClimate News’ American Climate Project:
As More-Powerful Hurricanes Batter the Country, Scientists Ask, ‘How Much Worse Did Climate Change Make It?’
Spectators – many wearing ‘Let It Shine’ stickers – packed a Public Service Commission hearing room this morning to hear testimony about the fees Alabama Power Company charges residents to use solar panels or other alternative means of power generation.
As the 2½-hour hearing concluded, Administrative Law Judge John A. Garner instructed both sides to prepare briefs to be delivered on or before Dec. 20. The matter will be taken under advisement, and the ruling will be made during an open meeting of the commission.
Two persons were escorted from today’s proceedings for failing to adhere to Garner’s order of no recordings. One woman was shooting video of the hearing while another was livestreaming the event. Read more.
A federal advisory group recently voted in a split decision against strengthening the current standard for fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5. Corey Masuca, an environmental health scientist with the Jefferson County Department of Health and one of the six members of the panel, sided with the majority.
The 4-2 decision during a contentious meeting of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee last month pitted Masuca and three other members against Environmental Protection Agency scientific staff and an independent panel of scientists. Read more.
Eleven federal Superfund sites in Alabama — including two near Birmingham — are at greater risk from disasters such as flooding, hurricanes and wildfires due to the possible consequences of climate change, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Government Accounting Office.
Nationwide, at least 60 percent — 945 of 1,571 — of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund locations nationwide are threatened by warmer temperatures, rising seas and more intense storms expected from the changing climate, according to the “EPA Should Take Additional Actions to Manage Risks from Climate Change” report. Read more.
The Public Service Committee is conducting a public hearing Thursday to hear testimony from those who support and oppose Alabama Power’s solar backup fee.
Customers complain that the fee is unreasonable and stymies solar power use in the state. Alabama Power officials counter that the fee isn’t high enough and are requesting an increase. They say the fee is necessary so solar users also have additional power when they need it. Read more.