PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - The state is imposing new suspensions for the poultry industry as High Path Avian Influenza infections are on the rise.
Tuesday, North Carolina’s state veterinarian, Dr. Michael Martin, put a pause on all poultry shows and mass public sales.
More than 350,000 birds have been euthanized this week in the state, but the total number of birds affected is still unknown as with each new positive site, the state broadens its testing parameters.
Martin is tightening the reigns on bird gatherings, all in an attempt to beat the clock on migration patterns of infected wild birds out of the state and to keep cross-contamination as subdued as possible.
Feed store owners now wonder what this might mean for their industry.
“If there was a ban on commercial sales, that’s going to impact us pretty heavily,” said Greg Cannon, the owner of a hardware and feed store in Farmville.
Cannon sold the last chick of his most recent order, but with high path bird flu ripping through the country he wonders if it is safe to order more.
“We certainly have been concerned about it, but we’ve sold some chicks this year,” said Cannon. “We usually sell about 600 chicks a year out of the store.”
Seven commercial farming operations across Johnston and Wayne Counties euthanized more than 90,000 turkeys and more than 280,000 chickens in the past week.
“What we’re seeing with the spread of this virus in our commercial birds and also what we’re seeing nationally, shows that there’s a lot that we still have not learned about how this virus actually sheds,” said Martin.
His office most recently placed a suspension on all poultry shows and live public sales of birds but relief came for Cannon and other feed store owners.
“This is not for, like say pet stores and that type of thing, but we’re talking about open sales, auctions, swaps, poultry shows,” explained Martin, “Those types of things, where we have a large group of people that are coming together with maybe a mixed group of birds.”
Cannon acts diligently to keep his product safe from infection saying, “I want to make sure when we order our [hatchlings] that we get them immunized before they come here.”
All the while, he tries to keep the local industries afloat through the threat.
“I do have some farmers that have chicken houses and they are concerned about it,” continued Cannon. “They obviously don’t handle my chickens and don’t get around my chickens when they are here.”
Biosecurity is essential to containing bird flu.
Humans are safe from contracting the virus, but they can easily transmit infection if say they handle a sick bird and then touch other birds without washing up first.
The best thing for commercial and backyard flock owners to do is to limit their flock’s contact with other birds as much as possible.
At one time that excluded common backyard songbirds, but now the state says to err on the side of caution and quarantine your flocks whenever you can.
Infected birds do not pose a threat to the food supply, but Martin says no contaminated flocks will make it to processing centers because the risk of further infecting more flocks is too high.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Seemingly overnight trees and bushes bloomed all across Eastern Carolina and while it sets the scene for a beautiful spring, cars are covered in pollen and the sniffles soon follow.
The CDC reports allergies as the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the country, affecting more than 50 million Americans annually.
Now, the season is starting in the East.
Greenville native Willie Moore could be speaking for most of the East when he says, “I’m not too much of a fan of allergy season.”
Many drivers woke up to a blanket of yellow pollen on their cars on Tuesday.
“You’ll come outside your house and it’ll be straight yellow one day,” said Moore. “It’s going to be that way for a while, at least until we get some rain.”
This all serves as a signal of the incoming allergy season, and protecting yourself from irritants is not quite the same as what you may be used to with COVID.
“You know, with allergens, depending on what type of mask you wear, the pollens are so small that you’ll probably still get exposed somewhat through a mask,” said Dr. Mott Blair with Vidant Health. “It might not protect you.”
Spring brings out the beauty of the East and the congestion of Alyssa Proulx.
“For me, it lasts until next winter, but that’s just me. I have fall allergies too,” said Proulx. “If you’re driving in the mountains and it looks like fog, it looks like that, but yellow.”
When Proulx feels those symptoms of headaches, runny noses, and itchy eyes set in, she heads to the drug store.
“I certainly recommend to my patients the over the counter allergy medicines and antihistamines,” said Blair. “I certainly like the Claritin, Allegra, and Zyrtecs of the world. They typically don’t make you very sleepy.”
Allergies can be either seasonal, triggered by pollens, grasses, weeds, or airborne mold spores in the spring, summer, and early fall, or they can be perennial, triggered year-round by a sensitivity to things like dust mites, pet dander, or food allergies.
Dr. Blair suggests the over-the-counter antihistamines work just fine, but if you have any pre-existing conditions like elevated blood pressure or hypertension, you’ll want to consult a doctor before loading up on decongestants.
MARTIN, BERTIE COUNTIES, N.C. (WITN) - As roadway preparations continue, First Alert meteorologists forecast that this weekend’s system will bring several inches of snow to Eastern Carolina’s northern counties.
North Carolina Department of Transportation crews loaded up their brine tanks Friday and took to the roadways one last time before the snowfall.
The salt and water mixture, they hope, will withstand rainfall and bond with the pavement overnight, reducing the chance of ice formation.
“It’s a little unusual,” maintenance engineer Andy Mulder said.
Mulder has been with the department for about 30 years and he says he can’t remember three weekends in a row that they had to be out treating the roads.
“Maybe we’ll get better each time,” Mulder said.
Due to the consecutive hits to the counties’ stockpiles of salt for their brine, an additional order was placed and delivered on Wednesday.
With over 100 tons of additional salt, the crews were well stocked for their treatments.
“So far we’ve applied about 20,000 gallons of brine in Martin County and close to 15,000 gallons in Bertie County,” Mulder said.
When mixed at the DOT maintenance yard to a salinity of about 23%, the brine is ready to spray on the roadways.
It aims to keep roads from freezing over for those who will need to be on the roads, like Maleek Gilbert.
“As far as we know, we have to be in for work tomorrow,” Gilbert said as he refueled his GFL truck in Bertie County. “It’s difficult, but if we have to work then we have to go get it.”
To “go get it” safely, Mulder and his team will be ready bright and early.
“We will report in around 6 a.m. tomorrow morning and begin plowing snow if there is any accumulation on the roadways,” Mulder said.
If you have to be behind the wheel this weekend, you are urged to be cautious.
“You just have to go 10 miles under the speed limit,” Gilbert said. “If not, you could be going the speed limit and have an accident.”
One concern over the pretreatment of the roadways is the forecast of precipitation. Before we see snow, we will likely see rain.
Mulder said, ”With less than a half-inch of rain and by us brining today, so near the event, we feel like we’ll have some effectiveness from the brine.”
If there are any trouble spots, there is plenty of salt left over to treat it. Mulder anticipates his crews will use around 70 tons of salt to prepare.
PITT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - For the third week in a row, North Carolina Department of Transportation maintenance crews are loading up their trucks and preparing roadways for winter weather.
Thousands of gallons of brine have been sprayed on Eastern Carolina roadways ahead of the weekend.
Due to using so much salt, the Pitt County branch of the DOT has had to order more. Still, the department is fully stocked and ready for the incoming weather.
“We’ve got some trucks that hold 1,600 gallons all the way up to some that hold 5,000 gallons,” Jordan Davenport, Pitt County maintenance engineer said.
The trucks can apply the brine at a rate of 40 gallons per lane, per mile.
The agency is treating roads as a precaution for freezing temperatures and forecasted snowfall, but before the snow, ENC residents should see rain.
The rainfall could threaten their work.
“It’s kind of a cheap insurance, if you will, that even if some of it washes away, some of it will stay and bond to the pavement and prevent ice from forming there,” Jamie Kritzer of the Raleigh DOT branch said.
The brine is good for the roadways because it reduces the possibility of ice formation.
But it isn’t good for cars.
“We’ve seen a lot of dirty cars,” Eric Bailey with A Perfect Shine Everytime car wash said. “We have to rinse them down really good, twice, before we wash them.”
Bailey and his team of car washers use a special wax cleanser to keep the salt from rusting the exterior metal.
“We called the truck two weeks ago to get some more,” Bailey said. “It’s getting challenging, but it’s our job. We’ve go to do what we’ve got to do.”
When it comes to slick roadways, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
“If you get a heavy rain after you treat, it can wash away some of your material, but if it’s just a light rain and for not a very long duration, it can still be effective,” Davenport said. “A lot of times we feel like we need to treat and that way we are as prepared as we can be leading into the event.”
For another weekend, folks are encouraged to stay inside, far from behind the wheel.
MARTIN COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Freezing temperatures throughout the afternoon set the stage for wintry precipitation, making roads unsafe to drive on.
Department of Transportation trucks were seen treating roadways around Highway 17 hours before the storm was forecasted to begin.
Williamston Fire, Rescue, and EMS were at the ready for any emergency calls. As of noon, fire captain David Bonds was urging drivers to make plans to stay at home.
“We would prefer people stayed off the roadways once the storm does get here just because of the impact that it has for our first responders and also for our DOT workers,” Bonds said. “We have five on duty right now of our normal career staff, and we’re going to be looking at bringing in an additional five guys this evening. That way, we’ve got extra coverage.”
Around 4:00 p.m. sleet fell, accumulating alongside the roadways.
Spanning over the next several hours, there will be a mix of sleet and rain-wet roadways. Freezing air, ground, and soil temperatures quickly made roads hazardous to drive with ice accumulating on busy intersections and poorly lit roadways.
Martin County is forecasted to accumulate two to four inches of snow overnight and around one-tenth of an inch of ice.
While these predictions may not be severe enough to cause mass power outages, they do make for unsafe conditions outside.
Temperatures are going to stay in the freezing range across Eastern Carolina tonight.
For Martin County residents, Captain Bonds advised, “Be mindful of what you’re using for a heating source and of how much you plug into one outlet. Limit the use of any types of drop cords when you’re using heating systems, just for the simple fact that it could potentially cause a short.”
The Williamston Fire, Rescue, and EMS squads will be on call for emergency assistance during the storm.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Severe weather events have left destruction across the Midwest, but what is the cause for such unusual activity in December?
State climatologist Corey Davis says temperature is at the root of it all.
“The way the weather has looked lately doesn’t look like December. It looks more like the middle of April,” said Davis.
Colder months like December create a more stable environment, giving less opportunity for severe events.
“Out to our west, they’ve seen this unseasonable warmth pretty much all month so far,” said Davis. “We are seeing a really out of character December in terms of temperatures.”
Combined with a potent jet stream, tornadoes have touched down in several states.
“The jet stream is sort of this river of air that’s flowing through the upper atmosphere,” explained Davis. “So, when the warm air to the south is even warmer and the cold to the north is even colder, that really magnifies the strength of the jet stream and the storms that it’s bringing in.”
More than 20 tornadoes were reported on Wednesday across the United States. In Minnesota, the first ever December tornado was among the reports.
First Alert Meteorologist Phillip Williams says, “Minnesota had never had a December tornado warning. They had never had a December tornado watch, and yet this time, they got that.”
While eastern North Carolina has not experienced a tornado this month, the state averages just over 30 each year.
“We are going to see more and more of these extreme events happen as we have more warming in the winter months,” said Williams.
Most of the state’s recorded tornadoes make landfall in the eastern half of the state.
“We’re pretty much the prime target for North Carolina,” said Williams. “That’s why we have to always stay vigilant to always know what to do when a tornado is coming because we do have that risk year-round.”
Shelter is the number one priority if a tornado is coming. Seek shelter low to the ground, away from any windows, and out from under any possible falling debris, should your shelter collapse.
WASHINGTON, N.C. (WITN) - A duo of kayakers with the Sound Rivers organization made their way through 70 miles of the Tar-Pamlico river this week to get a first-hand look at waterway concerns that have been recently reported.
“This river that I’m charged with protecting... I feel like I should know it pretty well,” said riverkeeper Jill Howell.
Howell found the best way to learn about the water is from the water itself.
“When you’re paddling and you don’t have much else on your plate except to paddle and be there and look around and see what everything is like, that’s a really important thing and a great way to see everything.”
What Howell found most alarming were tens of thousands of dead menhaden fish.
“You can really see how something like that disrupts people wanting to get out on the river,” Howell said. “Whether it’s paddling, boating or fishing, nobody wants to be around a bunch of dead fish.”
Sound Rivers says mass fish deaths, fish kills, are caused primarily by nutrient pollution, algal blooms, and salt wedges about six feet below the surface of the water. They prevent the river from maintaining a steady mix of freshwater through the depths of the water.
Also on the list of concerns to address are waterway accessibilities for the public.
“It’s known that a lot of people out on the river, especially in the Pamlico portion, look like me,” said environmental projects coordinator Clay Barber. “And it gets to the point that the only people enjoying the water are the people that can pay to be there, which leaves out a huge group of people that have every right to use the water.”
He says the waterway is a beautiful resource, but it has its own special challenges that need addressing.
Barber plans to address what he saw in the hopes of improving state recreational opportunities along stretches of water, like the Pungo River area.
“To follow up on that, I’m really curious. I want to find any of those plans that are in existence and inquire with the state,” said Barber.
For now, the team will tackle these larger issues by starting locally. They will use waterfront property owners as their students to better educate about conservative management practices.
WASHINGTON, N.C. (WITN) - Two members of the Sound Rivers team are taking a five day journey, covering 70 miles of the Tar-Pamlico River, to survey the status of the waterway and make plans for any necessary intervention projects.
“I’ve paddled some of the creeks and smaller streams of Eden,” said Riverkeeper Jill Howell. “But I’m excited to see what it’s like on water that only gets bigger from here in a kayak and how that feels.”
Most of the river team’s scheduled events for 2020 and 2021 were canceled due to the pandemic.
Last year, the duo paddled down over 160 miles of the Tar-Pamlico River in an event they coined “Tour de Tar.”
“This fall, we again canceled a lot of our stuff and we want to keep our members engaged and let people know that we are still out here and still working,” said Howell.
After reports of several fish kills came into the Sound Rivers office this past week, the trip is very timely.
“That’s usually an indication of nutrient overload and we’ll be paddling past those places to see what the conditions are now,” said environmental projects coordinator Clay Barber.
They will keep their eyes pealed for any other red flags along the watershed.
“There are a lot of concerns around just water quality, number one,” said Barber. “We have a couple of farm operations and some mining operations and storm water runoff. All of these things contribute to nutrient and sediment pollution in the river.”
Beginning in Washington, the journey will continue with the team stopping along the river each night to camp out. They will finish the ride in Swan Quarter.
To send of the kayakers, dozens of community environmentalists gathered bright and early to contribute to a riverside clean up.
“It’s easier to pick up trash on land than to fish it out of the river, so we had a really great turnout for that,” said Barber.
Howell and Barber are excited to tour the area and come up with new ways to make the Tar-Pamlico River accessible to all.
“We have the Tar-Pamlico water trail, which this is a part of,” said Barber along the waterfront of the Tar-Pamlico. “It’s got our network of camping platforms and it highlights access points. You’ll notice ‚if you look at the map, that once you get past Washington, access points and public beaches really drop off.
He is looking forward to potential recreational development projects.
“In the future we’d like to make this easier for people to do this without having to know somebody,” said Barber.
For Riverkeeper Howell, this trip is equally work and play.
“Anytime you can spend a good amount of time out on the river, taking a look around, I think that’s helpful for understanding issues when people call and report something that’s happening over on Bath Creek or at Summer Haven,” said Howell. “Just having a context of what the river looks like and where everything is at is really useful.”
The paddlers encourage followers to join their Pamlico Paddle journey on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/soundriversnc.
GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Congressman Greg Murphy brought together local government leaders and environmental science experts to hear about current threats to the east’s coastal regions and plan for possible outcomes.
The conference was the first meeting of what will become an annual convergence on the topic.
“The fact that we have all of the representation... county commissioners, our legislatures at the state, our congressional representatives... in one room, listening, and hopefully acting on what we’re doing, it doesn’t happen very often,” Dr. Reide Corbett, dean and professor of ECU’s Integrated Coastal Programs said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Corbett presented to the summit attendees on rising sea level threats and how active legislation needs to be custom-fit to the needs of each area.
“We need to look at it spatially and across different time scales,” said Corbett.
The event was hosted by Congressman Murphy.
He said there is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to tackling coastal conservation, but there is a need to act soon to save our waterways from further damage.
“We brought together, really, a brain trust of people to identify the problem and deal with it and then implement plans to take care of things in the future that deal with flooding and waterway management.”
Congressman Greg MurphyNext, Murphy says there will need to be policy sessions, meetings with environmental agencies, and hard decisions made in the best interests of our coastal areas.
“This is about learning and learning from each other and learning from a lot of smart people in the room, but it can’t end today,” said Murphy. “It has to end up with legislation. It has to end up with policies. It has to end up actually affecting the way that we live in Eastern North Carolina.”
With an emphasis on human intervention to climate-driven disasters, the summit hopes to spark changes from which the communities along the Eastern shore of North Carolina can benefit.
FARMVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The Sutton Family of S&S Farms and Homeplace Strawberries has been awarded by the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts as the 2021 State Conservation Farm Family of the Year.
A family operation since its inception, S&S Farms produces 3.3 million chickens, 306 thousand pounds of tilapia, 1100 acres of corn, 1400 acres of soybeans, and 450 acres of wheat a year.
With such a high yield of services, comes an important dedication to how they can conserve the land they use for generations to come.
Current owner Steve Sutton says that he has always had conservation in mind since he began working on the farm with his predecessors.
“Conservation is a way of life. It’s not just a thing we practice year to year, but it’s a way of life,” he said.
“Many, many years ago, as a matter of fact about 25 years ago, we began to see the return on investment on land that we did not till every year. But 25 or 30 years ago, the old saying was, ‘No till, meant no yield.’ That was not the case with us.”
He has taken a no-tiling approach to his farming that benefits soil and root health and water conservation.
The farm estimates that there are between 800,000 and 1,000,000 earthworms per acre of their land.
This is essential for root zone health because when combined with the spreading of crop residue, they are able to conserve one day’s worth of water for three to four days.
For Chairman Leroy Smith of the Pitt Soil and Water Conservation District Board, presenting this award comes hand and hand with recognizing the weight of the responsibility that area farmers carry.
“The farmer’s job gets tougher every year. They’re an example of how you can have a big operation, agricultural operation, and do everything correct,” he said. “For the area, it enhances the whole area as a better place to live. And that’s the goal of the office, of the soil and water office and the board, is to make everything here a better place to live and work. And Mr. Sutton and his family have done an excellent job.”
Conservation is not the only thing the Sutton family pays close attention to. They are dedicated to sharing their farming knowledge with our area’s next generation of conservative farmers.
“We can do our part to conserve the environment and save it for our grandchildren and their children,” said Sutton.
Beginning October 2nd, Homeplace Strawberries will open their Fall Festival. There will be pumpkins, a corn maze, and lots of information to share about how they work to better serve the area for the public.