Watauga still in drought
Watauga County remains in a state of moderate drought despite recent rains, and more of the state has entered drought classifications as the dry spell continues.
The number of North Carolina counties experiencing drought more than doubled last week as the state continued to feel the impact of dry conditions and high temperatures.
The weekly map released by the U.S. Drought Monitor and posted at http://www.ncdrought.org shows that 39 counties are experiencing drought, including four northeastern counties, where severe drought has emerged for the first time this year. Severe drought is the second-worst of the four-category drought ranking system.
Watauga County emerged from a two-year drought last year, with conditions returning to normal in November 2009. However, this summer's weather has hampered agricultural production and led to local governments' monitoring of water supplies, with the town of Boone permanently adopting Stage I water restrictions that support water conservation.
A total of 45 North Carolina counties are abnormally dry. "Abnormally dry" means that drought is not present but could return without sufficient rainfall. Corn in particular has been affected, according to agricultural officials.
The weekly map does not take into account the impact rainfall from the past few days may have had on streamflows, reservoirs, lakes and groundwater.
- Scott Nicholson
County to link Brookshire to Greenway
The county is gearing up to link the town of Boone's Greenway Trail with the walking trail at Brookshire Park and extend the trail along the South Fork of the New River.
The county commissioners took action Monday morning to move the expansion forward, including the challenge of running a connector beneath a highway bridge.
Planning director Joe Furman said the state was restoring a $35,000 grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund that had been suspended for a couple of years because of a poor economy. The commissioners approved an amendment to the planning grant for work on the South Fork of the New River.
Furman said N.C. Department of Transportation could provide $100,000 for planning and some construction of the extension of the Greenway Trail. Engineering would cost about $45,000 to plan a route under a bridge spanning U.S. 421 near Brookshire Park. The project would also extend the trail along the expanded park near the Ted Mackorell Soccer Complex.
Work is expected to begin this fall and would continue a portion of the trail that follows the river. The engineering for the connection under the bridge would likely take place later and the work put out for bid.
Furman said the extension project in Brookshire would depend heavily on the use of county labor and equipment. The commissioners approved $35,000 for engineering on the Brookshire Park Greenway and to make a formal request of $100,000 from the state.
Furman said the county would likely ask that the pedestrian underpass be added to the Transportation Improvement Plan as part of the county's priority list sent to the DOT. County manager Rocky Nelson estimated the underpass would cost about $300,000. AppalCART director Chris Turner presented information on state funding for public transportation, saying the Department of Social Services uses funding for both in- and out-of-county medical transportation.
Turner said the new AppalCART terminal on the N.C. 105 Bypass near Boone should be open early next year.
- Scott Nicholson
County confirms third case of distemper
The Watauga County Animal Control Department confirmed a third case of distemper in a dog Thursday and is advising people to make sure their pets are vaccinated.
Animal control officer Anita Gomez said it's not an epidemic, but is likely spreading from wildlife and it's the most distemper activity she's seen in 15 years. Distemper reports in East Tennessee suggest the viral infection is now spreading across the border.
"The big concern to the public is to make sure your dog has had the series of shots," Gomez said. "There are so many raccoons and foxes with distemper this year, and it can be transferred to cats, too."
Distemper is a viral infection that can be transferred through saliva or eye secretions, either through contact or sharing of food. While it's treatable if caught in the early stages, treatments are expensive and animals in close quarters can lead to a spread of the disease.
"Tennessee has had a huge issue with it, and it's just starting to come across into Watauga," Gomez said. "The animal control officer in Mountain City (Tenn.) called and warned me against taking any animals from Tennessee."
The sick animal had been turned in at the shelter several days before Gomez recognized the symptoms. The animal, since euthanized, was six years old and had never had any vaccines, and Gomez suspects the people who dropped it off knew it was sick.
The county animal shelter currently has suspended any adoptions and has four dogs in its kennels. Though the kennels are cleaned daily with bleach, Gomez said adoptions must be put on hold to ensure no sick animals are sent out into the public. She said none of the animals are experiencing symptoms and dogs don't share cages, so she's hopeful the outbreak has been contained.
Symptoms of distemper include watery eyes or a runny nose, as well as lethargy or weakness accompanied by weight loss, and the virus can be carried by an animal for up to three weeks. It resembles "kennel cough," a bacterial infection, so it can be hard to recognize, and antiobiotics are not effective against distemper.
- Scott Nicholson
Boone calendar photo contest starts
Send your best photos of the Boone area to Town Hall by Sept. 17, and you may see them published in the town of Boone's 2011 calendar.
The town is now accepting entries for its annual photo contest, and the selected 12 photos will be printed in the 2011 calendar, along with each photographer's name and a description of each image.
"The town distributes a free calendar to citizens each year that depicts local landmarks and special events," Mayor Loretta Clawson said. "The photo contest provides a great opportunity for citizens and visitors to share their best images of Boone. And we're excited to recognize some of our local talent."
All photos must be taken within the Boone city limits. Photos should represent all 12 months of the year. They may depict town-supported activities and attractions, such as Boone Clean-Up Day, public parks, street clearing and parades. Entrants are encouraged to send no more than two photos per category. These categories are listed with the contest rules at http://www.townofboone.com. Anyone can enter the contest, and winners will be notified by Nov. 1.
Each photo should be submitted in a separate folder and include a completed entry form, available at http://www.townofboone.com or at Town Hall. All prints must be at least 8" x 10" and be in horizontal format. Digital entries must include both a printout and a CD with the image being 8" x 10" at 300 dpi.
All entries will become the property of the town of Boone. By submitting an entry participants grant permission of the publication of the photo and photographer's name. Photos will not be returned.
Entries must be postmarked or turned into the Town Hall office on King Street with an entry form by noon on Sept. 17. Entries may be mailed to: Greg Young, P.O. Drawer 192, Boone N.C., 28607.
For contest rules and entry forms, log on to http://www.townofboone.net or visit Town Hall.