The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

1 week ago

Volunteers keep history alive in tiny Blountsville

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Betty Alexander has lived all her 82 years in Blount County. But the history of her particular community goes back to way before she arrived on this good Earth.

Her husband, Oliver “O.K.” Alexander, can claim some historical connections of his own; he is a descendant of John Witherspoon, a delegate from New Jersey to the Second Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.


They are among a small band of dedicated volunteers who make up the Blountsville Historical Society and who, over the years, have helped create and nurture a remarkable attraction in this town of 1,600 about midway between Birmingham and Huntsville on U.S. Highway 231.

Blountsville Historical Park features a collection of restored 19th century pioneer cabins from the area and beyond; a post office building that dates to 1836; a rare log barn; an old jail building; a blacksmith shop; and a museum housed in a structure dating to the 1830s. There’s a small chapel, a pavilion (available for weddings, etc.) and a café that operates Thursdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

And there are special events that take place at the park throughout the year, drawing people from near and far. Come by on the second Friday night in August for the final “Pickin’ in the Park” this summer, which typically features live bluegrass, country or gospel music. In October, the annual Homestead Festival takes place the first Saturday of the month, and come next spring, the annual Daffodil Festival is slated for the third Saturday in March. There are also events on July 4 and during the Christmas holidays.

“We’ve worked really hard,” Betty Alexander said. “It’s a good example of wonderful volunteerism.”

Indeed, in 2016 the Blountsville Historical Society was awarded the Small Town Preservation Award from the Alabama Trust for Historic Preservation for its good works. And this small town has a lot of history to tell.

Blountsville first appeared on a map in 1819 as “Wassausey” – a Native American village. According to Wikipedia, the word means “bear meat cabin,” which was the name of an Indian translator who lived in the area. The name stuck and became the first name for the town by white settlers who rushed in during “Alabama Fever” in the early 19th century.

According to Betty Alexander, remains of the road the settlers used on their westward journey cut through the back of the historical park. Legend has it that both Andrew Jackson and Daniel Boone traveled the road. “So many people came down it” during the rush, Alexander said, “they say it looked like the children of Israel being led by Moses – except for the cussing.”

Some of those folks decided to stay in the area, which was blessed with natural springs. In fact, local spring water is a commercial commodity – bottled and sold by Blue Spring Living Water. Union and Confederate troops skirmished briefly in 1863 near Blountsville, which was the county seat at the time. The seat moved to Oneonta in 1889.

The historical park is not only popular with history buffs; it is an educational resource, with many local schoolchildren visiting on field trips. One day last year, some 400 students visited on one day. “They worked us to death,” Alexander recalled.

She encourages anyone interested in Alabama and American history to come to the Blountsville park. There’s no admission charge, but a small donation to the historical society is appreciated to help keep things running and to further the society’s preservation mission. Among the organizations that have supported the historical society and park are the Community Foundation of Greater BirminghamCawaco Resource, Conservation & Development Council and the Alabama Power Foundation.

For more information, visit You can also find the society on Facebook.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Alabama Power goes above and beyond in closing ash ponds to protect the environment, water quality

(PIxabay, YHN)

Alabama Power continues to make progress toward safely and permanently closing all its ash ponds.

This week, the company posted reports on its website with additional details about the closure process. The meticulously designed process goes above and beyond closing the ponds in place.

Safety and protecting the environment are the top priorities of the closure process, which uses multiple, advanced engineering technologies on top of the close-in-place methodology prescribed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


The process includes:

• Excavating and moving material farther from rivers and waterways and reducing the size of the closed pond sites by as much as half.
• Using advanced engineering to construct additional protections, such as redundant dike systems and other structures, for increased, robust flood protection.

At all of Alabama Power’s ash ponds, the closure process includes treating and removing all water and installing a specially engineered barrier to keep the dewatered material safely in place. Groundwater monitoring will continue at the closed ash pond sites for at least 30 years to ensure protection of water quality.

And there is far more taking place. The closure plan for each ash pond is site-specific, and includes additional, advanced technologies and safeguards that go above and beyond closing in place.

For example, at Plant Barry in Mobile County, the process includes:

• Excavating and moving material farther away from waterways, creating a buffer up to 750 yards from the Mobile River – a distance in some places longer than seven football fields. In all, over 7 million cubic yards of material, approximately 30% of the total, will be moved farther from the river.
• Reducing the size of the closed pond site by 267 acres, or approximately 45%.
• Constructing a redundant dike system and a subsurface retaining wall around the entire consolidated footprint to provide further groundwater protection. The retaining wall will tie into a natural, solid clay layer that extends up to 28 feet below the site, effectively sealing the material in place.
• Constructing an internal drainage system around the perimeter of the consolidated footprint to accelerate the removal of water.

At Plant Greene County, the company is:

• Excavating and moving material farther away from waterways, creating a buffer up to 400 yards from the river. The facility’s size will be reduced by approximately 268 acres, or more than half its original footprint.
• Applying advanced engineering technologies to construct a5-mile subsurface wall around the closed pond to provide additional structural integrity and water quality protection. The wall will extend 30 feet below ground around the entire closed facility and tie into a natural chalk layer, effectively sealing the material in place.

At Plant Gaston, in Shelby County:

• Material will be excavated and moved farther away from waterways, creating a buffer up to 330 yards from the river – a distance longer than three football fields.
• The facility’s size will be reduced by approximately 75 acres, or by more than a fourth.
• The company will apply advanced engineering technologies to construct a redundant dike system between the closed site and the river as part of the plant’s increased, robust-flood-protection system.
• The company will also install a specially engineered drainage and collection system for additional long-term protection.

At Plant Gorgas, in Walker County:

• Material will be excavated and moved farther away from waterways, creating a buffer in some areas nearly a half-mile wide.
• The consolidated, dewatered footprint will be reduced by approximately 130 acres or by nearly a third.
• Advanced engineering technologies will be used to construct a reinforced dike system between the closed site and the river as part of the plant’s increased, robust flood-protection measures.
• The company will install a specially engineered drainage and collection system for additional long-term protection.

And at Plant Miller, in Jefferson County:

• Material will be excavated and moved farther away from waterways, creating a buffer up to 450 yards from the river – a distance longer than four football fields.
• The facility’s size will be reduced by approximately 125 acresor by more than a third.
• Advanced engineering technologies will be used to construct a reinforced dike systemto provide additional structural integrity.
• The company will install a specially engineered drainage and collection system for additional long-term protection.

The advanced and enhanced closure process plus other measures are designed to correct, over time, any issues related to groundwater around the pond sites. If additional measures prove necessary, the company will take action to protect the community and the environment, in coordination with state regulators.

Alabama Power has already made significant strides toward safe and permanent closure of its ash ponds. Over the past three years, the company installed new water treatment systems and dry ash-handling systems at its fossil plants – a prerequisite for ending use of the ponds.

Last year, Alabama Power completed the permanent closure of the ash pond at Plant Gadsden.

This past April, the company stopped using ash ponds completely as part of its environmental controls.

The company is now moving ahead with dewatering the Greene County ash pond. Dewatering is expected to begin at the remaining ponds at plants Barry, Gorgas, Gaston and Miller later this year.

Also later this year, the company will hold public meetings in communities near the pond sites to share information about the specific closure plans. Dates for the public meetings have not been set.

To learn more about the company’s closure plans, visit and search for “CCR compliance.”

(Courtesy Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

New law could mean a comeback for electric scooters in Alabama


Last year, electric scooters rolled in – and then quickly out – of some Alabama cities after it became clear they were not street-legal under state law.

But a bill approved by the Alabama legislature, and signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, may clear the way for a scooter comeback.


E-scooters from companies such as BirdLime and Uber’s JUMP have wheeled into large cities across the country, from Los Angeles to Chicago. The state of New York is on the verge of legalizing e-scooters. They’ve invaded European cities, too, along with local competitors such as Sweden’s voi and Wind in Germany. U.S. scooter startups also are giving it a go, such as Verve in Philadelphia and Skip in Washington, D.C.

Last summer, Bird swooped in to Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Auburn and Homewood before having its two-wheelers rounded up by local authorities. But now, Alabama has given the green light to “micromobility device systems,” as the recently approved legislation calls them, to be used on Alabama roadways.

Greg Cochran, deputy director of the Alabama League of Municipalities, said he is aware of at least 10 cities in the state that are exploring the possibilities around e-scooters. Under the just-approved law, cities have the authority to regulate the devices.

He said the resurgence in downtowns and downtown living are driving interest in expanding ways people can conveniently travel shorter distances around Alabama’s urban centers.

In Birmingham, city boosters are bullish about the prospect.

David Fleming, with the nonprofit economic development group REV Birmingham, said e-scooters not only provide an attractive option for people to get around the city’s revitalizing urban core, they also can be a tool for helping recruit millennials and businesses while also supporting local tourism.

For the past four years, REV has operated the Zyp bikeshare system in downtown and in-town Birmingham neighborhoods. The most popular bikes in the Zyp system are electric-assisted. The Alabama Power Foundation is among the supporters of Zyp.

“Zyp has proved that Birmingham wants mobility options, and will use them,” Fleming said. He said the new legislation is generating renewed interest from several scooter companies that are eyeing the Birmingham market. Some of those companies also offer bike-sharing systems that potentially could replace Zyp over time.

“We’re excited that multiple operators of bikes, scooters and other modes of transportation now want to bring their vehicles to Birmingham and we’re helping to get them here,” Fleming said. “Bikes and other forms of personal transportation create vibrancy in business districts and support recruitment and retention of businesses and talent. That’s our mission, and we think this is the next step in Birmingham’s evolution.”

Fleming said REV is already working with the city and other potential partners on rules that would allow multiple private operators to coexist. Regulations could be in place in time for scooter and other alternate transportation companies to begin operating in Birmingham next year.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Greener State team hits Pepper Place to promote green energy in Alabama

(Michael Sznajderman/Alabama NewsCenter)

The sun was elusive and a chilly breeze kept folks bundled up, but it didn’t stop inquisitive strollers at Birmingham’s Pepper Place farmer’s market on Saturday from stopping by the Greener State tent to learn about options for greening their energy mix.

Nearly 2,000 Alabama Power customers are enrolled in Alabama Power’s Greener State, which provides an economical way to support renewable energy. With people across the globe today commemorating Earth Day, Alabama Power customers can support renewables through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs.


Customers who purchase RECs can match their electrical usage with renewable energy and claim ownership of a specific amount of renewable energy going to the Alabama Power grid. Customers can choose among three pre-built plans or create their own custom plan.

The three pre-built plans — named Leaf, Tree and Forest — match customers with different amounts and types of renewable energy. For example, customers who enroll in the Forest plan for $15 a month for a year get 12,000 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy generated from Alabama sources – an amount roughly equal to the energy used in a month by a typical Alabama home. Customers also can build a customized plan and purchase enough renewable energy to match their individual usage or more. The cost of the plan is in addition to a customer’s normal power bill.

Greener State is also available to commercial customers and small businesses.

Throughout Saturday morning’s farmer’s market, shoppers paused at the Greener State tent to learn more about the program and sign up for more information. They also learned about some of the renewable energy projects in the state.

In 2017 Alabama Power completed construction of two solar energy projects at Army bases in Alabama, at Fort Rucker and Anniston Army Depot. The energy and RECs from the project are being used to serve Greener State customers.

Also, in 2017, one of the largest solar facilities in the state began operating in LaFayette, in Chambers County, in partnership with Alabama Power. Called the AL Solar A project, most of the energy and RECs from that facility are going to serve Walmart within Alabama Power’s service territory. The remaining RECs are being sold to Greener State customers and other interested in supporting solar energy. The project was featured last year in Parade magazine online as part of its Earth Day edition.

Learn more about Greener State and options for Alabama Power customers to support renewables at

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Birmingham area students, adults, agencies join forces for Valley Creek Renew Our Rivers cleanup

(Michael Sznajderman/Alabama NewsCenter)

Students from Birmingham and across Jefferson County joined adult volunteers and local agencies this past weekend to clean up trash and debris during the Valley Creek Clean-Up, one of 30 Renew Our Rivers-affiliated cleanups taking place this year.

Volunteers converged Saturday at four locations – in Bessemer, Birmingham, Lipscomb and Oak Grove – picking up trash that could otherwise wash after rainstorms into Valley Creek. A second, multi-site Valley Creek cleanup is scheduled for September.


Multiple organizations, including Alabama Power, combine resources to support the Valley Creek cleanups. Among them are the Jefferson County Conservation DistrictJefferson County Health DepartmentCity of BessemerCity of Birmingham Stormwater ManagementJefferson County Stormwater Management, and the nonprofit Freshwater Land Trust.

Renew Our Rivers cleanups are taking place throughout this spring, offering volunteers several opportunities to help clean Alabama lakes, rivers and creeks across the state. To learn more about Renew Our Rivers, which is celebrating its 20th year, and to view the cleanup schedule, please visit

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

9 months ago

Alabama to be featured in American Airlines magazine

(Contributed, Wikicommons)

Alabama will be in the ‘Spotlight’ in December, on every American Airlines flight spanning the world.

The Yellowhammer State is the subject of a 40-page, full-color special section – called Spotlight – inside the December issue of the airline’s American Way magazine. The magazine will reside for 31 days, beginning Saturday, in every seat pocket of every plane American and its regional partners fly during December – the busiest travel month of the year. After that, it will be available online.


American Airlines Group (AAG) averages nearly 6,700 flights daily to 350 destinations in 50 countries, the airline reports on its corporate website.  It’s the world’s largest airline based on number of aircraft and passengers served, according to the online site Airport Technology. Nearly 200 million passengers traveled on American in 2017.

The Spotlight special section examines the state with a focus on economic development and innovation. It highlights business and education “Trailblazers,” the state’s research and educational institutions, and examines workforce development efforts. One article probes Alabama’s global impact, highlighting foreign investment in the state in industries such as automotive and aerospace. The state’s growing tech and startup sectors also are examined, with attention paid to companies such as Birmingham’s Shipt. A number of innovative projects underway across the state also get mentions, such as the design and management of NASA’s new Space Launch System at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, and the Smart Neighborhood project in Hoover, built in partnership with Alabama Power and other companies.

“At a time when there is so much positive momentum in Alabama, this special supplement offered a perfect opportunity to reach a large audience with stories of excellence from across the state,” said Steve Spencer, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, which assisted with connections to business and industry across the state for the project. “Passengers on American Airlines’ flights in the month of December are going to be impressed, and probably a little surprised, to learn about the exciting developments in Alabama’s economy, as well as all that the state offers as a quality place to live, work and play.”

The state’s hot spots for visitors also are covered, with writeups about the state’s largest cities, its historic sites and natural wonders, and unique attractions, including the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail and Gulf Coast beaches. Birmingham’s culinary scene also gets a nod, with an interview of famed chef Frank Stitt, whose Highlands Bar & Grill was named the nation’s most outstanding restaurant this year by the James Beard Foundation.

American Way readers offer an enticing demographic. More than 86 percent are college educated, and readers boast a median household income of $114,200, according to the magazine.

As for the cover of the special section, it features a lively graphic blending sites from across Alabama, from the state Capitol, to Huntsville’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center, to Mobile’s downtown skyline, to Birmingham’s iconic statue of Vulcan.

The final article, titled “Looking Ahead,” provides a positive glimpse of Alabama’s potential tomorrows, with predictions for expanded tourism, business expansion and research breakthroughs.

State Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield offers a glowing vision for the state’s future to close out the glossy special section: “We want Alabama to be seen as a place where there are no obstacles blocking the path to success and a state where the odds aren’t stacked against dreamers.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 months ago

Alabama Power, state prepared for Hurricane Michael

(NOAA NWS/Facebook)

Alabama Power is mobilizing internal resources, employees and contractors in preparation for Hurricane Michael, which is expected to strike along the Florida-Alabama border Wednesday.

Between 600 and 700 Alabama Power and contract crews are being deployed to the southeast area of the state to support Alabama Power teams already on the ground. The crews will be staged closer to where the storm is expected to cause damage.

The company also is communicating with sister companies and investor-owned utilities in the region via Alabama Power’s mutual assistance agreements. The agreements provide for utilities to quickly help each other if needed following a natural disaster or other significant disruption.


Teams at Alabama Power’s Plant Farley nuclear plant near Dothan also are also prepared for the storm. Southern Nuclear operates Plant Farley on behalf of Alabama Power.

Tuesday afternoon, federal reconnaissance aircraft found Michael’s maximum winds have increased to Category 2 intensity near 100 mph. The infrared satellite appearance shows intense thunderstorm activity beginning to completely encircle a more-defined hurricane center, indicating an intensifying storm.

Hurricane Michael is about 380 miles south of Panama City, Florida, and about 405 miles south to south-southeast of Pensacola Bay, moving north-northwest at 12 mph. The latest reported pressures by aircraft have been 968-972 millibars.

Forecasters said there is no change to the track or intensity of Michael, with landfall anticipated in the Florida Panhandle around Wednesday afternoon. The only remaining question is how strong the hurricane may be at landfall. Michael is expected to become a strong Category 2 or a Category 3 storm prior to landfall. Estimates put the damage at up to $10 billion from this storm.

On Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency in anticipation of widespread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds and heavy rain associated with Michael. Flash flooding and tornadoes are possible as parts of the state are under tropical storm watches or warnings.

“On the state level we are prepared, now is the time for residents in south Alabama to review your emergency preparedness plans and also get prepared,” Ivey said. “Most importantly, heed all warnings and instructions from local authorities.”

Houston and Geneva counties are under a hurricane warning. Coffee, Dale and Henry counties are under a hurricane watch. Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Butler, Crenshaw, Pike, Barbour and Covington counties are under a tropical storm warning. Bullock, and Russell counties are under a flash flood watch. Localized flooding may prompt a few evacuations as flood waters may have the possibility to enter a few structures in vulnerable spots. Rainfall totals of 3-6 inches are possible across the flash flood watch area.

By declaring a statewide emergency, Ivey activated the Alabama Emergency Operations Plan, directing state agencies to exercise their statutory authority to assist communities and entities affected by the storm. The Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) is authorized to make assessments of damages following the storm.

“Hurricane Michael is forecast to become a major hurricane and it will produce widespread power outages and debris that will challenge our response and recovery in the southern and Wiregrass counties,” said AEMA Director Brian Hastings. “Alabamians should always be prepared, but everyone needs to make final preparations now to be ready for Hurricane Michael.”

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency began operating at a Level 2 activation this morning.

The Ozark Civic Center at 302 East College St. opened up as a Red Cross shelter this afternoon for those displaced by Hurricane Michael.

Those needing a place to shelter livestock can do so at Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery, the Alabama A&M Agribition Center in Huntsville and the Randolph County Equine and Ag Center in Wedowee.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the price gouging laws are in effect to discourage those from trying to illegally profit from the bad weather.

“Alabamians should be cautious of those who would seek to prey upon them through crimes such as price gouging and home repair fraud,” Marshall said.

Although what constitutes an unconscionable price is not specifically set forth in state law, a price that is 25 percent or more above the average price charged in the same area within the past 30 days – unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost – is a prima facie case of unconscionable pricing. Marshall said. The penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 per violation, and those determined to have willfully and continuously violated this law may be prohibited from doing business in Alabama.

Consumers and officials can report concerns of alleged fraud or illegal price gouging to the Attorney General’s Consumer Interest Division by calling toll-free 1-800-392-5658 or visiting the Attorney General’s website to file a complaint.

School closings are being compiled at the Alabama State Department of Education.

Safety is a priority at Alabama Power and should be for people in the path of Michael. Here is some safety information for hurricanes and severe storms:

Preparing for a hurricane:

–Learn your community hurricane evacuation routes, in case an evacuation is necessary.
–Determine where your family will meet.
–Make sure you have a way to contact your family.
–Keep cellphones and electronic devices charged.
–Stay informed with a battery-operated weather radio.
–Stock an emergency kit with flashlights, batteries, first-aid supplies, cash and copies of your critical information.
–Keep a three-day supply of water – a gallon per person per day – and three days’ supply of nonperishable food on hand.
–Trim shrubs and trees close to your home to minimalize damage to your home.
–Turn down the thermostat in your home. It can help keep your home cool for up to 48 hours when power is interrupted.
–Bring in outdoor items, such as furniture, decorations, garbage cans, etc.

During a hurricane:

–Seek shelter in a sturdy building, away from windows and doors.
–Monitor your weather radio for updates and reports.

After a hurricane:

–Stay off flooded roads.
–Stay away from downed lines and keep pets away.
–If you are an Alabama Power customer and experience an outage or see or a downed line, report the outage at or call Alabama Power’s automated reporting system at 1-800-888-APCO (2726).
–Turn off appliances to avoid any potential safety hazards when power is restored.
–Stay clear of damaged and fallen trees where a downed line may be hidden.
–Stay away from areas where repair crews are working.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

12 months ago

Alabama Power prepared for Tropical Storm Gordon

(Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama Power is preparing for Tropical Storm Gordon as it strengthens this afternoon and heads toward the Gulf Coast. Alabama Power crews and personnel are ready to respond, if needed.

Current forecasts predict Gordon will make landfall on the central Gulf Coast overnight Tuesday. The forecasts suggest Gordon could intensify to hurricane-strength before arriving on shore in Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana.

The storm is expected to drop between 4 and 12 inches of rain in the western Florida panhandle, southwest Alabama, central Mississippi, eastern Louisiana and into southern Arkansas.


Forecasters say southwest Alabama, including the metro Mobile area, will be affected by high winds and heavy rainfall, with the possibility of flash flooding. Downtown Mobile also faces potential flooding.

Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency at 7 a.m. Tuesday for Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe and Washington counties.

“All coastal Alabama residents need to prepare now ahead of tonight’s potential landfall near Alabama,” Ivey said. “I have directed essential state agencies to be on the ready should they be needed over the next couple of days.”

Localized flooding is possible across the southern portion of the state. Dangerous wind gusts of up to 45 mph will be an issue as the storm makes landfall. Tornadoes also are possible.

Based on current forecasts, the Mobile area will see the greatest impact from this storm in Alabama before it moves north and west on its forecasted track through Mississippi, Louisiana and toward Arkansas. Heavy rain and gusting winds could cause trees to fall.

As always, safety is a top priority for all Alabama Power. Individuals, families and businesses in the projected path of the storm should take precautionary measures and make sure they have a hurricane plan, including a fully stocked emergency supply kit. Click here for specific tips related to hurricane preparedness.

Alabama Power customers who experience storm-related outages can report them online via mobile devices at Customers also can call the company’s automated outage reporting line at 1-800-888-APCO (2726).

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 year ago

Alabama apps: Planet Fundraiser brings customers, good causes together

(Contributed/Alabama NewsCenter)

Like many successful ventures, Birmingham-based Planet Fundraiser began with a simple idea – to solve a complex problem.

For company co-founder and CEO Kasey Birdsong, it started with his kid’s ball team.

Of course, it took hard work – research, a solid business plan, recruiting investors, developing the product – before Planet Fundraiser could move from clever notion to thriving business.


“… Kasey – it was his idea originally,” said Drew Honeycutt, Planet Fundraiser co-founder and chief operating officer. “He was asked to go raise money for his daughter’s T-ball team … and like any idea, you got to do something with it.”

Birdsong was frustrated by the challenges of effectively raising money for the team – how to reach out and to whom, how to persuade people to give, and how to make it easy for them to donate. There must be a better and simpler way, he thought.

From there (add the hard work part) sprang the Planet Fundraiser app.

“Right now, we are working on scaling the business,” Honeycutt said. But the mission hasn’t changed since it all began: “to be the smartest fundraising app on the planet.”

Here’s how Planet Fundraiser works: After you download the app, you can select good causes you’d like to support. The app tells you which area merchants will donate a percentage of their sales to the cause. Then, it’s a simple matter of shopping at those merchants, snapping a photo of the receipt, and sending it to Planet Fundraiser. Then, every month, that nonprofit, or school team, or good cause, gets a check with their share of the sales.

“We’re a three-sided marketplace,” Honeycutt said, “connecting local businesses to local organizations, and then the local organizations get their supporters – the people that care about the organization – to download our app, go shop at the local businesses … and they earn back for causes they care about.”

In the two years since it launched in June 2016, thousands of schools and nonprofits across the Southeast have raised money using Planet Fundraiser. Now, with the recent addition of online merchants, Planet Fundraiser is expanding nationwide, with school organizations from Michigan to Texas using Planet Fundraiser technology.

An ever-expanding list of merchants includes a variety of businesses such as Piggly Wiggly, Mountain High Outfitters, Trim Tab Brewing Company, Gus Mayer, Alabama Power Appliance Center, Target and Shipt.

For merchants, it’s an easy way to handle requests for donations while showing they care about community causes. For app users, it’s an easy way to help support the causes of their choice while they shop. And for the nonprofit, school or good cause, they get the donations without complicated or costly campaigns.

But the app provides additional benefits, making it more than the sum of its parts.

In addition to making it easier for businesses “not to say no” to a charitable request, Honeycutt said data they’ve gathered shows the app can help merchants increase sales, as word spreads about their support for community causes. “We’re seeing people spending more at these businesses, so it’s a marketing tool for them.”

On the flip side, the app “makes it easier for more people to give back,” Honeycutt said. Indeed, some individuals and nonprofit organizations use the app to challenge each other in friendly fundraising competitions.

Honeycutt said it was a surprise to the Planet Fundraiser team how the app can affect the shopping patterns of some users, prompting them to visit more often stores that support their causes – and spend more when they get there.

“We didn’t fully anticipate the way that it would change consumers’ purchasing behaviors. People, when they have a care that’s close to their heart, they will go and patronize businesses and spend more money at these businesses to earn back for things they care about,” Honeycutt said.

Data gathered by the app is another benefit available to those engaged in the transactions. Merchants can retrieve aggregate information (no names) about sales generated from app users, and where those app users are located; nonprofits and other causes can see who supports their good works and how often; and individual users can view their own shopping habits and track the causes they support through the app.

“The idea was to create a way that businesses and the local organizations in the community can better work together using technology,” Honeycutt said.

It’s an idea, born in Birmingham, that is now taking off.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Public contributes ideas for new Birmingham downtown linear park

(M. Sznajderman/Alabama NewsCenter)

Dozens of individuals, plus representatives from local businesses, public agencies and nonprofits expressed themselves Tuesday about what should be in the mix of amenities and activities at a proposed linear park in downtown Birmingham.
Officials with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and the City of Birmingham kicked off the first of multiple public sessions aimed at crafting a unique, 31-acre, 10-block-long public space that will live underneath a rebuilt elevated section of Interstate 59/20.

“We want to do something special,” Brandon Johnson, the city’s director of Community Engagement, told the crowd at Boutwell Municipal Auditorium.


“We want your input. We value your ideas,” said DeJarvis Leonard, ALDOT region engineer.

Dubbed CityWalk BHAM, the public space, running from 15th Street to 25th Street North, near the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, is scheduled to be completed in time for The World Games coming to Birmingham in summer 2021.

“The World Games is a magnificent opportunity for the city, and we think this project can be a welcomed attraction for visitors and natives of Birmingham alike, come 2021,” Leonard said.

Ben Donsky, vice president of  Biederman Redevelopment Ventures, told the audience at the start of the first public session that the project is an opportunity to create a unique public space that offers an enormous variety of activities and programming, serving different audiences at different times of the day. One of the project consultants, Biederman has helped design or redevelop numerous public spaces around the country, including Bryant Park in New York City, Salesforce Park in San Francisco and Canalside in Buffalo, New York.

“We want to build something that is sustainable, that will be treasured for generations,” Donsky said.

Participants in the first session moved among six viewing stations, where they could examine conceptual images of different activities and elements that could be incorporated into CityWalk. They ranged from skateboarding to walking paths and playgrounds, a dog park, a farmers’ market, cafés and music stages.

Donsky said programming at CityWalk also could range broadly, from exercise classes for seniors, to art and music events for adults and children, to food stalls for downtown workers on their lunch hour. “We want to have lots of variety,” he said.

“We think this could be an economic generator for the city and a regional attraction … from every demographic and every age level,” Donsky added.

Participants could mark their preferences among the many images spread on the tables – or suggest their own ideas.

Donsky said few cities have created public spaces of this proposed magnitude underneath a rebuilt highway. “It’s really groundbreaking.”

A comprehensive price tag for the project hasn’t been finalized, but an estimated $15 million to $20 million is expected to be available from state and federal transportation coffers for construction. Officials hope to add to that amount with local support, along with corporate and philanthropic dollars that could help to provide resources for ongoing events and programming.

In addition to the three public sessions held Tuesday at Boutwell, a second round is set for July 24 at the Birmingham Crossplex. Additional public meetings also could be scheduled. More information is available at a new website,, and a new Facebook page, where additional details are expected to be shared from the public sessions.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 year ago

Birmingham airport adds free electric-vehicle charging stations

(M. Sznajderman/Alabama NewsCenter)

Visitors to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport who drive electric vehicles now have a place to charge up their rides.

Officials with the airport and the Birmingham Airport Authority this week unveiled nine electric-vehicle charging stations, newly installed in the airport’s parking deck. Three chargers are on Level 3, in the hourly parking area. Six are on Level 6, in daily parking.

There is no cost to charge electric vehicles, although customers pay for parking.


“We want to incentivize our customers,” Miguel Southwell, interim president and CEO of the airport authority, said during a brief media event to show off the chargers.

“Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport has been a leader in sustainability,” said Michael H. Bell, airport authority board chairman, noting that the airport has received a LEED gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The electric-vehicle chargers for airport visitors are the latest environmentally friendly feature at the airport, which already boasts an all-electric, high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, sophisticated building automation systems, energy-efficient lighting, solar water heating and a rainwater harvesting system. The airport also has charging stations for electric-powered ground-service equipment.

Electric vehicles produce no emissions, versus gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles.

Alabama Power worked with the airport to install the electric-vehicle chargers for airport customers, as well as those used to support ground-service vehicles.

“We are privileged to partner with Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport and the Birmingham Airport Authority on this project,” said Cedric Daniels, Alabama Power’s Electric Transportation manager. Daniels said that in addition to the environmental benefits, electric vehicles are cheaper to fuel than traditional combustion-engine vehicles and require less maintenance.

He said the installation at the airport “shows the world that we are ready” for the continued growth of electric transportation.

So agreed Mark Bentley, executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition, who attended the airport event. He noted that all major carmakers are producing all-electric or gas-electric hybrid vehicles, with electric vehicles expected to take an increasing share of the global market in coming years.

At the event, local plug-in electric vehicle owners brought several models to plug in at the airport for the first time, including cars and SUVs from Chevrolet, Honda, Cadillac and Tesla, as well as an Alabama-produced Mercedes-Benz.

Auto manufacturers “have decided that electric vehicles are the future,” Bentley said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Check out a video of the electric charger unveiling on the airport’s Facebook page.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 year ago

Downtown Birmingham linear park the focus of upcoming public meetings


A proposal to create a mile-long linear park underneath the rebuilt Interstate 59/20 elevated highway through downtown Birmingham is generating excitement among city and community leaders.

The proposal is in the conceptual stage, and is expected to be unveiled for community discussion before two meetings next month. Officials emphasize that nothing is firm and that community residents will be encouraged to provide ideas about what should go in the public space.

The linear park would run for 10 blocks underneath the widened highway from 15th Street to 25th Street North – starting near the Civil Rights District and ending just beyond the Uptown entertainment district, east of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC). In comparison, Birmingham’s popular Railroad Park, while significantly wider, is only four blocks long.


State transportation officials and others participating in the process say the new public space is possible because of the way the elevated highway will be rebuilt. For example, the rebuilt interstate will have no vehicle exit or entrance ramps along the 10-block stretch, making the space below the highway more inviting for pedestrians and public activities. Enhanced lighting that can change color, similar to the 14th and 18th Street tunnels near Railroad Park, also promises to make the proposed linear park more pleasant.

The new highway design removes hundreds of support columns that disrupt the space beneath the existing elevated highway. Instead of the existing spans that have columns every 65 feet, the new design will have columns 165 feet apart. The seamless design of the new highway is expected to eliminate much of the highway noise, including the “thump-thump” heard now as trucks rumble over seams between spans.

Officials said no plans are locked down for what could occupy the linear spaces underneath the new highway. Among ideas being floated are everything from a carousel, to athletic fields, to fountains and performance and event spaces. Art installations could be part of the mix.

Birmingham-based Barge Design Solutions is working on the concepts. Barge has been involved in park, greenway and large landscape-design projects, including a 3-mile extension of the Tennessee Riverpark in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the renovation of Rhodes Jordan Park in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Consulting with Barge is New York-based Biederman Redevelopment Ventures, which was part of the team responsible for important public projects around the country, including renovated Bryant Park in New York City and Klyde Warren Park in Dallas.

One element already exciting to local officials and community leaders is how a linear park could provide pedestrian connections downtown – potentially linking attractions and institutions, including the BJCC, Uptown and the Sheraton and Westin hotels; the Birmingham Museum of Art, Boutwell Auditorium and Linn Park; the Alabama School of Fine Arts and its theater; and the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and its multiple historic sites. A linear park has the potential to be an attraction itself, providing a walkable connector between downtown and the institutions and neighborhoods just north of Interstate 59/20, which has been a physical barrier for decades.

Also being discussed are potential names for the linear park. Working with Barge on branding concepts is Birmingham-based public relations firm O2 Ideas. The firm is expected to unveil a potential name for the park before the public involvement meetings, scheduled for July 17 at Boutwell Municipal Auditorium and July 24 at the Birmingham CrossPlex. There will be three sessions on both days, from 10 a.m. to noon, noon until 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.  A website is being developed where details will be provided.

More information is expected to be posted soon at Click on “I-59 Public Space.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 year ago

Veterans from chef Frank Stitt family tree opening Blueprint on 3rd “American brasserie” at Birmingham’s Pepper Place

(Erin Harney/ Alabama NewsCenter)

Dean Robb and James “Huck” Huckaby call it a “perfect marriage.”

Some two decades after working together at chef Frank Stitt’s famed Bottega Restaurant and Cafe, and then moving on to successful careers elsewhere, they are reuniting at Blueprint on 3rd – the newest culinary attraction at Birmingham’s Pepper Place.


Robb hired the then-inexperienced but enthusiastic Huckaby when Robb was managing partner at Bottega. Huckaby then moved down the street to Stitt’s flagship Highlands Bar & Grill, and then helped Stitt open Chez Fonfon before leaving for other opportunities.

Robb went on to open restaurants in Nashville and later helped create the now-closed Dodiyo’s Restaurant in Homewood with George Sarris of the iconic Fish Market Restaurant on the city’s Southside before taking an executive post with the Taziki’s Mediterranean Café organization. The job with Taziki’s had Robb constantly on the road, across the South and beyond.

Now the two can’t hide their excitement about “Blueprint” – which is slated to open June 19 in the old Birmingham Blue Print Co. building on Third Avenue South, next to Hop City Craft Beer & Wine. Huckaby will serve as executive chef.

“It was Dean’s idea,” Huckaby said of Blueprint, but the menu is a Robb-Huckaby close collaboration.

“I’m excited about everything on the menu,” which ranges from a BLT tortellini with oven roasted tomatoes, bacon, wild watercress and garlic; to duck and dumplings with locally grown mushrooms, spring Vidalia petals and charred carrots. “We’re taking a lot of known foods and putting our twist on it,” Huckaby said.

“We’ve got the plenty of the world in the Southeast,” Robb explained, and the menu is built around the region’s natural bounty.

“It’s true American food, with a little bit of New Orleans,” Robb added, with dishes like fried whole Mississippi catfish with low country hushpuppy salad and crawfish aioli, or steamed mussels with local beer and crawfish sausage.

Robb and Huckaby recently took a break from building and outfitting Blueprint to appear at the market at Pepper Place, where Huckaby prepared one of the soon-to-open restaurant’s signature salads.

Huck’s Roasted Beet Salad combines local roasted beets, tiny French pickles called cornichons, walnuts, apples, shallots, arugula and goat cheese. On a steamy Saturday morning, samples of the tangy, cool and yet creamy salad hit the spot among market visitors, who lined up for a taste.

Huck’s Roasted Beet Salad
1 cup roasted local beets, cut in wedges
1 ounce cornichons, cut in half
1 ounce roasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 ounce honey crisp apple, cut in wedges
1 ounce sliced shallots
½ ounce arugula, leave leaves whole
1 ounce sherry vinegar
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
1 ounce goat cheese

Mix cornichons, walnuts, apple, shallots and arugula in a large mixing bowl. Add beets and oil and vinegar to taste and toss again. Garnish with goat cheese.
Serves two.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 year ago

Andrew Zimmern: Birmingham the ‘hottest small food city in America right now’

(E. Harney/Alabama NewsCenter)

Andrew Zimmern knows about eating. And at this moment in America, he says Birmingham’s the place to do it.

“I think if you’re not eating in Birmingham these days, you’re missing out on something really unique and special,” the noted chef and TV food personality said in an exclusive interview with Alabama NewsCenter. “I think Birmingham has solidified itself as the hottest small food city in America right now.”

Zimmern spoke to Alabama NewsCenter after strolling the food and vegetable stalls at Pepper Place with local chef Frank Stitt, whose Highlands Bar & Grill was named the outstanding restaurant in America last month by the James Beard Foundation. Not only that – the same night, the Beard Foundation named Highlands’ Dolester Miles the nation’s outstanding pastry chef. Last week, Miles was featured in a full-page spread in The New York Times. Another of this year’s Beard winners – South Carolina barbecue pitmaster Rodney Scott, best chef Southeast – has announced plans to open a restaurant in downtown Birmingham.


Highlands was a finalist for 10 years running, which Zimmern said is far more significant than the restaurant ultimately taking home the top prize.

“I think to be nominated is its own reward. Because when you’re nominated for restaurant of the year, in America, and there’s four or five other nominees, that’s amazing,” Zimmern said.

“The way I look at it is the inverse: Frank and Pardis were nominated umpteen times for that award,” he said, recognizing the team of Stitt and his wife, Pardis, who manages the operation. “That says more than the people who were nominated once or twice. To be that relevant for so many years, everyone knew – at least I knew – that eventually they were going to win that thing.”

Zimmern admitted he’s become “kinda addicted” to Birmingham. It was his third trip to the city to tape episodes for his TV empire. But this time he made the most of it, taping for two separate shows – The Zimmern List, broadcast on the Travel Channel, and a yet-to-be-named show coming this fall to the Food Network. It will focus on food entrepreneurs aspiring for culinary greatness. Three Alabama enterprises were interviewed in Birmingham for the new show: Chubbfathers, which has a food truck as well as a bricks-and-mortar place in Alabaster; Granny’s Fish ‘N Grits, a food truck usually found near Birmingham Daiquiris on Ninth Street North at Third Avenue North, and Highway Kabobery, a Huntsville-based food truck. It’s the first time Zimmern has filmed two shows for two separate networks at the same time in one city.

Zimmern was downright gushy about Birmingham and the hospitality it shows every time he’s in town. He went so far as to proclaim that the people of Birmingham are on par – possibly even nicer – than folks in his hometown of Minneapolis, who are known for their welcoming ways.

He tweeted his affection for the Magic City: “I’m on the road, 230 days a year at minimum, 40/50 cities in USA. I never get as nice a welcome as I do in Birmingham. People stop their cars, pause on the street or use social and actually say ‘nice to have you back.’ It’s amazing. Love the B’ham people! Thank you for the love.”

Nor did Zimmern temper his deep affection for the Stitts, longtime friends whose restaurants have spawned numerous chefs who have launched their own restaurants in Birmingham, and beyond.

“Birmingham is extremely blessed to have someone who is as talented as Frank. But more importantly, who is as inclusive, gracious and as civic-minded as Frank is.

“Frank is a great chef. Pardis is an incredible businesswoman and hostess. But they’re better people,’’ Zimmern said.

“I think when you look at the history of restaurants in America, 50 years from now, Highlands is going to be written about. It’s 35 years old, and it’s better now than it’s ever been. I mean, how many restaurants can say that?”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 year ago

Deadline looming for Alabamians to register, request absentee ballots for June 5 primary election

After months of candidates crossing the state, debating each other and planting their campaign signs along highways, Alabama voters will get their chance to pick their major party favorites on primary election day, Tuesday, June 5.

But before that happens, Alabamians who want to vote need to register – and time is running out.


Monday, May 21, is the final day to register for the June 5 primary, when the state Democratic and Republican parties will select their nominees for a host of offices, from Congress to governor, to legislative seats, to county offices and local judgeships.

To register, Alabamians can submit a registration form online via the Alabama secretary of state’s website. Or they can mail a completed registration form, also available on the secretary of state’s website, to their respective county board of registrars. Folks can also walk in to their county’s board of registrars to register. If you mail in the registration, the form must be postmarked by May 21.

For voters who will be out of town on June 5 or who are physically unable to make it to the polls, the last day to request an absentee ballot is May 31. Absentee ballots must be mailed or hand-delivered to your respective county’s absentee ballot manager. If you are mailing in an absentee ballot, it must be postmarked by June 4. Learn more about absentee voting in Alabama here.

Polls open on June 5 at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. To cast a ballot in Alabama, you must have a valid form of photo identification. These include a valid driver’s license or non-driver ID, a current U.S. passport, a military ID, state or federal government, among others. Learn more here. You can confirm your polling location on the Alabama secretary of state’s website or by contacting your county board of registrars office.

Depending on the outcome June 5, some candidates could be forced into a primary runoff, scheduled for July 17, to determine the party nominee. The general election, in which party nominees and independent or third-party candidates face each other for the final decision by voters, is set for Tuesday, Nov. 6.

(Courtesy Alabama News Center)

1 year ago

100 Alabama Miles Challenge encourages people to be active, explore state’s natural beauty

(Z. Riggins)

A new initiative aims to nudge Alabamians to climb out of their easy chairs and head outdoors to “walk, run, hike, bike, swim, paddle, ride or roll” 100 miles by the end of the year while enjoying the state’s extraordinary scenery.

The 100 Alabama Miles Challenge kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday at Railroad Park in Birmingham, with coordinated events in Camden, Clanton, Cullman, Jasper, Red Bay and Chewacla State Park in Auburn. Anniston, Greenville and Jasper are planning similar events soon.

“The 100 Alabama Miles Challenge is a great way to get outside, enjoy the company of friends and family and see our beautiful state,” U.S. Army veteran, extreme race competitor and “Dancing with the Stars” hoofer Noah Galloway said in a news release announcing the challenge. Now a motivational speaker, the Birmingham native will serve as celebrity spokesman for the challenge.


Alabamians are encouraged to register here, where they can log their miles and earn “electronic badges” for milestones reached and places they’ve visited. The site also offers information about trail locations and recreational events around the state. Participants can also share their experiences using the #100ALMiles hashtag.

The 100 Alabama Miles Challenge is being spearheaded by the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development (UACED) with support from numerous organizations, including the Alabama Trails Commission, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama, Lakeshore Foundation, the Alabama Beverage Association, AARP, Jefferson County Department of Health, Alabama Department of Public Health, the Governor’s Commission on Physical Fitness and Sports, and the Alabama Obesity Task Force.

“Alabamians have high rates of inactivity and obesity and other associated health conditions, including hypertension and diabetes,” said Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama’s state health officer.

“Physical activity plays a major role in preventing obesity and chronic disease, and it is a blessing that Alabama has so many great places to get out and be active. The 100 Alabama Miles Challenge will be an outstanding program to help encourage that activity,” Harris said.

Brian Rushing, director of Economic Development at UACED and coordinator for the challenge, said the program also provides an opportunity to promote the state’s parks and other natural wonders and expand recreational tourism.

“We hope this program inspires people to seek out a previously unvisited trail or park to get outside and get to their 100 miles goal,” Rushing said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)