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S.C. Senate to Take a Snow Day Thursday

The South Carolina Legislature is planning a snow day.

Both the House and Senate voted to take Thursday off with forecasters saying several inches of snow could fall in the Upstate.

The House will hold a joint session Wednesday at noon to listen to Chief Justice Jean Toal talk about the state of the court system, then adjourn for the week.

The Senate may meet briefly after Toal's speech, but President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman says he wants to make sure senators get home before the weather gets too bad.

The National Weather Service says up to 6 inches of snow is possible Wednesday evening into Thursday, mostly in areas north and west of Columbia.


Krispy Kreme Offering 1,000 Free Doughnuts Per Store Today

Krispy Kreme is offering customers a free glazed doughnut Tuesday as the company celebrates the opening of its 1,000th doughnut shop yesterday in Kansas City, Kansas.

To celebrate the milestone, the doughnut chain will offer the first 1,000 customers who show up at all 1,000 stores on Tuesday a free glazed doughnut with no purchase necessary. Krispy Kreme is also encouraging people to post selfies with their doughnuts using the hashtag #KrispyKreme1000.


Clemson Evaluating Cold Winter Effect on Peach Crop

February’s frigid temperatures could make spring and summer tiring seasons for South Carolina peach growers.

Crop losses due to freezing temperatures likely will be minimal, said Gregory Reighard, a pomology professor at Clemson University, speaking at a peach grower update meeting in Edgefield this month. But the cold snap could condense the peach bloom period and subsequent fruit thinning window, he said. That will put logistical pressures on manpower.

Peach trees are in a period of dormancy, a time in which a certain number of “chill hours” are accumulated while the flower buds are still dormant. The number of cold hours, or chill hours, during dormancy determine when varieties will flower and can impact fruit quantity and quality. Buds typically bloom in early March.

South Carolina grows around $64 million in peaches a year, according to federal data. Image Credit: Clemson University

As temperatures warm up, dormancy breaks and buds begin to open. At that point, a freeze like the one South Carolina is experiencing now would be more detrimental.

“Being that it’s February and our normal bloom date is a month away, cold temperatures are not as detrimental as they would be in March or April,” said Clemson Extension agent Gregg Henderson. “This year is as near normal of weather for fruit trees as we could expect. What’s abnormal is if we were to get 10 days of 60 plus degree weather because that would pull the trigger on these early varieties to break dormancy initiating bud break and we’re not out of winter yet.”

Growers harvest more than $64 million in peaches a year, according to figures from the National Agricultural Statistics Service. That puts South Carolina second only to California in peach production, federal data shows.

South Carolina’s predominant peach-growing region, known as “The Ridge,” from the western counties of Edgefield, Saluda, and Lexington, saw temperatures dip to 18 degrees in February. At those temperatures, trees could lose about 10 percent of flowers, Reighard said. If that’s the case, growers will still need to thin flowers on selected varieties anyway.

Peach trees produce more blooms than they can support, so growers thin the blooms so flowers don’t compete for nutrients. Losing some blooms to frost, then, shouldn’t be a huge concern. Reighard recommended growers thin about 40 percent of flowers this year.

A high number of chill hours will impact growers’ decisions on timing. Such a chill shortens the time flowers need to bloom and bunches together the bloom dates of different peach varieties. Typically, peach varieties bloom and mature at different points in a growing season. That spreads out the workload for growers.

“You’re not going to have time to manage that crop load in such a short period of time,” Reigard said. “You’re going to have a lot of work in a short period of time if you want to get the right size.”

Trees are thinned to optimize fruit size. Growers must decide when to thin flowers: before they bloom, after they bloom or after the peach forms. The decisions made are critical to a field’s output.

“The more chilling you get, the less heat you’ll need to get the flowers to come out,” Reighard said. “If you have warm temps, you will have very tight bloom, which will affect thinning decisions.”

Clemson Extension agents will continue monitoring fields as more frigid weather arrives.

“We try to monitor weather so we can make informed recommendations on managing crop loads by the timing of our pruning, early bloom thinning and follow-up green fruit thinning. Some years, like this one, these common management decisions are more critical,” Henderson said.


School Districts 1, 4, on Two-Hour Delay

Due to rapidly deteriorating conditions, Anderson County School districts 1 & 4 have decided to delay operations for 2 hours.

Anderson County offices will be open on regular schedule.


GSA Business: Bassmaster Impact $23-24 Million


Bassmaster spokesman pegs Upstate catch at $23M-$24M


By Bill Poovey 
Published Feb. 23, 2015

Despite frigid air, ice and rain, the 45th Bassmaster Classic ran up a big economic score for the Upstate with the tournament’s third-largest turnout ever. Spectators of the boat launches and fishing tourney in Anderson County, combined with the three-day expo and daily weigh-ins in Greenville, numbered more than 103,000 and likely generated $23 million to $24 million, a spokesman for B.A.S.S. LLC said today.

B.A.S.S. LLC Vice President Dave Precht said he was particularly “surprised” by such a big turnout in 12-degree, icy conditions Friday that delayed the tournament’s first launch by 90 minutes at Green Pond Landing in Anderson County.

“It was absolutely the coldest weather we have ever had,” Precht said. He said the turnout of 103,091 ranks third behind 137,900 in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., in 2009 and 106,000 in Tulsa, Okla., in 2013.

“I was surprised,” Precht said. “I think others were as well.”

Full Story Here


Feds Inspecting Damage at S.C. Nuke Plant

A special inspection is underway after damage to a nuclear reactor under construction in South Carolina, federal regulators said Monday.

In a news release, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said its representatives are launching a special inspection this week at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville, about 25 miles northwest of Columbia.

Earlier this month, the NRC says that Chicago Bridge & Iron workers cut rebar and damaged a containment vessel while drilling into concrete. Officials think the damage was minor but are concerned that it took the contractor a week to report it to SCANA Corp., which owns a 55 percent stake in the new reactors.

The NRC said that inspectors will spend about a week at the site, and their report will be available within about 45 days. A SCANA spokeswoman said that the company had already begun to address the issue and that the public was never at risk.

"With a construction project of this size and scope, we expect that there will be issues along the way," Rhonda O'Banion said. "We will continue to address the issues with a firm focus on quality and safety."

One reactor is already in use at the site, and Santee Cooper and SCANA are partnering up to build two more. The new reactors have been estimated to cost nearly $10 billion and are among the first of their kind to be built in the United States in more than 30 years, slated to come online in 2019 and 2020.

Read more here:



Veterans Gather to Remember Iwo Jima Anniversary

The 70th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima was remembered in veterans' gatherings across America over the weekend.

The five-week World War II battle, formally known as "Operation Detachment" began Feb. 19, 1945, a campaign of heavy losses meant to secure the heavily-fortified island of Iwo Jima, south of Japan in the Pacific Ocean, for use by U.S. troops to invade mainland Japan. Official statistics note 6,821 U.S. troops and 18,441 Japanese troops died in the battle.

It produced an iconic photograph by news photographer Joe Rosenthal of the planting of a U.S. flag atop the island's 545-foot tall Mt. Suribachi, used as a patriotic touchstone and the model for many monuments across the U.S., including a full-size recreation in bronze at the U.S. Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va.

Many are unaware the flag-raising, and the photograph, came early in the campaign and was not the symbol of victory with which it was later identified.

A Vietnam veteran, John Henry Mashunkashey, noted that although the U.S. Marines were most prominent in the photograph, every branch of the Armed Forces was involved in the battle.

"It cost a lot of lives," he said at a ceremony Saturday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 577 in Tulsa, Okla. "These men (gathered for the ceremony) know that, understand it, lived it, survived it, for freedom."

A veteran of Iwo Jima and now a volunteer guide at the Marine Corps Museum, Frank Matthews, 88, recalled that U.S. forces "lost 750 (troops) in one five-hour stretch. Every inch of that beach and everything around it had been pinned down and zeroed-in by the Japanese guns."


"Birdman" Takes Home Best Picture, Director at Oscars

An awards season which had played out along relatively smooth tracks clattered off the track as it reached its final destination: the 87th annual Academy Awards.

Longterm favourite Boyhood – which took best drama and best director at the Golden Globes last month – lost out in both categories to Birdman at the final hurdle, although Patricia Arquette did secure best supporting actress.

Over the past month, momentum had swung away from Richard Linklater’s epic coming-of-age tale and towards Alejandro González Iñárritu’s satire about an ageing movie star trying to reinvent himself as a credible Broadway actor, which picked up key wins at Guild awards. It went on to win four awards: picture, director, cinematography and original screenplay.

In his speech for best picture, Iñárritu dedicated his award to the Mexicans who had helped to build America; his victory follows that of a fellow Mexican last year – Alfonso Cuaron – in the best director category.

But Birdman did fail to score a best actor award for Michael Keaton; in a very tight race it was Eddie Redmayne who proved victorious for his turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. He dedicated the award to the film crew and his wife, the Hawking family and to “everyone around the world suffering from ALS”. Such sentiments were echoed by best actress winner Julianne Moore, who took the award for her portrayal of a woman diagnosed with early onset dementia in Still Alice, one of whose directors is an ALS sufferer.

American Sniper, which many fancied as the dark horse of this year’s race, wound up with just one award, for sound editing, while The Grand Budapest Hotel took four (costume design, hair and makeup, production design and original score).

Whiplash also did better than expected, with editing, sound mixing and best supporting actor for JK Simmons.

It was a highly-charged ceremony in which host, winners and presenters alike alluded to issues of race and gender equality, and in which frequent mention of death and suicide was made on the podium. 

There was also a minor upset in the foreign language film category, with Poland’s Ida trumping Russia’s Leviathan – both films which have stirred up some controversy in their homelands. 

Full Story Here


Council to Discuss Buying Old First Federal Building Tuesday

As part of Tuesday's meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the historic courthouse downtwon, Anderson County Council will go into executive session to discuss details of the proposed purchase of the building at 201 North Main Street, the old First Federal Bank location, with the space to be used for the Election Commission, Voter Registration and other office and storage needs.

Council gave the go ahead to explore the purchase at the last meeting. The proposed purchase amount is $935,000, which would come from the county’s balance fund, not new fees or taxes. Another $500,000 would be used to renovate the building and bring it up to code.

Tuesday's meeting was rescheduled from last week because of inclement weather.

Full Agenda Here


WYFF: Nominee for DHEC Top Spot Passes on Job

The woman nominated to lead the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control took herself out of the running for the job.

In a statement to WYFF News4, the DHEC board wrote, "On behalf of the Board of Directors of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, we have received the attached letter from Eleanor Kitzman informing us that she is withdrawing her name as the nominee for Director of the DHEC. This is an unfortunate occurrence for DHEC and South Carolina."

The board says it will immediately convene to begin the process of identifying the replacement nominee.

Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Kitzman, a longtime friend, as the new director DHEC in January, four days after Catherine Templeton announced her resignation.

Although the S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control selected Kitzman, their decision had to be approved by the Senate and Haley.

Kitzman's withdrawal comes days after a Senate Medical Committee grilled her about her politics. One senator questioned her for more than half an hour on how her connections to Governor Haley would affect her job.

Kitzman ran the Department of Insurance from 2005 to 2007, but resigned over a disagreement with former Gov. Mark Sanford.

She also ran for Lt. Governor in 2010 before moving to Texas.


Local Pro Casey Ashley Wins Bassmaster Classic 

On Sunday evening at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Casey Ashley completed a journey that began more than three decades ago and seemed to drag on forever these past few weeks.Casey Ashley
The 31-year-old South Carolina native, who has lived just a few miles from Lake Hartwell all his life, caught five bass that weighed 20 pounds, 3 ounces to cap a moving victory in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro on his home waters with a three-day total of 50-1.

The weight was enough to help Ashley pass Elite Series pro Bobby Lane of Florida, who finished second with 46-15, and Texas angler Takahiro Omori, who placed third with 44-3.

The end of the weigh-in meant Ashley could finally take a deep breath after seven weeks when the lake was mostly off-limits due to B.A.S.S. rules and when virtually everyone he saw wanted to talk about him being the favorite to win.

“I worked a show in Greenville at the TD Convention Center (in mid-January), and I bet I thought about the Classic 50,000 times while I was standing there,” said Ashley, who won the Classic on his sixth try. “My first Classic was here (in 2008), and ever since then I’ve been saying I’d like to have that one back.

“I wanted to win so bad here at home, and I had a long time to think about it. It was pretty rough.”

Once it began, Ashley made the most of his opportunity.

An accomplished singer, songwriter and musician in addition to his career as a pro angler, Ashley opened the event with a stirring rendition of the national anthem before Friday’s frigid opening-round takeoff at Green Pond Landing in Anderson.

Then he went out and steadily caught fish every day on a homemade fish-head spinner rigged with a Zoom Super Fluke Jr. in pearl white. His father, Danny, made him about 20 of the baits before the tournament began.

Ashley prefers to fish a jig — and he won an FLW Tour event last year on Hartwell doing just that. But the more he tried it this week, the more he realized it might sink him if he didn’t abandon the tactic and stick with the baits his dad made for him.

 “I was going out and getting a good limit with that bait and then going and fishing brushpiles and structure looking for big fish with a jig,” Ashley said. “I burned a lot of time doing that the first two days.

 “Then Saturday night, I was lying in bed and the (country music) song ‘Why Lady Why?’ kept going through my mind. So I asked myself ‘Why do I keep doing that?’”

With the conditions rainy and overcast on Sunday — just perfect for what he’d been doing with the homemade bait — Ashley stuck with the tactic that helped him catch 10 fish that weighed 29-14 on Friday and Saturday. It paid off as he steadily culled fish throughout the day Sunday.

He rose from fifth to first with his catch of 20-3.

“I knew I had to catch a big bag today, and the weather was textbook for me,” Ashley said. “It all came together, and I could just see it getting closer and closer and closer.”

Omori, the Day 2 leader, was the final angler to weigh in — and when his weight fell far short of what he needed to win, Ashley was overcome with emotion. He was named champion and handed the 45-pound Classic trophy with his own song, “Fisherman” blaring over the speakers and a capacity crowd on their feet inside the arena.

Ashley, who held the trophy above his head with the song still playing and confetti spraying around him, said he considered his Classic victory a “win for everyone.”

He was also proud to be one of the few anglers who has managed to win a Classic on his home waters despite all of the distractions and potential pitfalls that come with the scenario.

“I know everybody wanted to win this tournament, but they couldn’t have wanted to win more than I did,” Ashley said. “I broke that record — that nobody can win on their home lake. There have been a lot of guys who said they fished the Classic on their home waters through the years when it really wasn’t their home waters. It was just close to their home.

“But these are really my home waters. This is my back yard — and that’s special.” Only two other anglers in 45 years have won the Classic in their home state.

Behind Ashley, Lane and Omori, were Arizona pro Dean Rojas (43-13), Virginia pro Jacob Powroznik (43-1) and New Jersey pro Michael Iaconelli (42-6).

The GEICO Everyday Leader Award of $1,000 was presented to Rojas on Day 1; an additional $1,500 was awarded to Rojas for having a GEICO decal on his boat’s windshield. Omori earned the Day 2 GEICO Everyday Leader Award of $1,000, and the $1,500 GEICO decal bonus.

Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., was awarded the GoPro Big Bass award of $2,500 for his Day 2 big bass of 6 pounds, 11 ounces.

The local host for the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro are VisitGreenvileSC, Visit Anderson, Greenville County, Anderson County and the state of South Carolina.


New Defense Chief Gathers Experts for ISIL Strategy Meeting

New U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is gathering top U.S. military commanders and diplomats for talks in Kuwait on Monday about the battle against Islamic State, as America's military effort approaches major hurdles in both Iraq and Syria.

Carter says he hopes the roughly six hours of largely unscripted discussions will help assess the war that he is inheriting after swearing-in on Tuesday as President Barack Obama's fourth defense secretary.

"I'm trying to assess the situation in Iraq, Syria and the region more generally," Carter told reporters during his first trip abroad as defense secretary.

Carter's meeting at a U.S. Army camp in Kuwait comes against the backdrop of a fierce debate inside the United States about the U.S. strategy, which Obama's Republican critics say is far too limited militarily to succeed.

It also comes at a moment of increasing concern about the group's spread, with Libya emerging as a battleground for militants loyal to Islamic State.

Among the long list of participants are General Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. forces in the Middle East, retired General John Allen, Obama's envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition and U.S. ambassadors to countries including Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Still, a senior U.S. defense official traveling with Carter stressed the gathering was a learning tool -- not a sign of his concern about the strategy or a prelude to an overhaul.

"I am not expecting a major re-write of our strategy. I'm just not. He just wants to understand it and he's the kind of guy where he needs to ... dig into it," the official said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity.

Full Story Here


Takashiro Omori Leads Heading Into Final Round Sunday

The final day of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro on Lake Hartwell is shaping up to be a free-for-all with a handful of former Classic champions sitting atop the standings with the coveted trophy andTakahiro Omori $300,000 first-place prize well within their grasp.

Takahiro Omori, a Japanese angler who now makes his home in Emory, Texas, caught five fish that weighed 16 pounds, 11 ounces Saturday and claimed the lead going into Sunday’s final round with a two-day total of 31-11.

The 2004 Classic winner holds a razor-thin lead over Arizona angler Dean Rojas (31-9), New Jersey angler and 2003 Classic winner Michael Iaconelli (31-0) and 2014 Classic winner Randy Howell of Alabama (30-11).
Omori got off to a slow start Saturday. But with years of experience and one Classic title already under his belt, he didn’t panic and managed enough weight to jump from seventh into first.

“Yesterday, we were like two hours late starting – and when I got to my first spot, I caught five fish just like that,” Omori said. “We started at normal time today. So when I get to my spot, it was too dark. I was thinking there were no fish left out here.

“So I just hung around and stuck with it, and I caught most of my fish by noon. I ended up catching about 10 keepers today.”

Though he wouldn’t say much about how he’s catching his fish, Omori said every bass he’s brought to the scales this week has come from one 200-yard stretch of water. He added that he’s familiarized himself with every inch of the area and he plans to give it a major workout Sunday.

Omori said he wants to avoid getting too excited about a chance to win a second Classic. But at the same time, he admitted it’s not just another day of fishing.

“I just want to do my things right,” he said. “I don’t want to jerk a hook-set too hard and break my line or get too excited and miss something because I was being too crazy. I just want to enjoy the moment and have another great day.”

Omori can’t afford many mistakes with an angler like Rojas trailing him by just 2 ounces heading into the final round. Rojas, the Day 1 leader with 21-2 Friday, managed just 10-7 Saturday, but remained squarely in contention for his first Classic title.

“I’m having the time of my life, and I feel like I’m doing everything right,” Rojas said. “I’ve caught every single fish that has bit this week. So I’m just going to go out and do the same things tomorrow that I’ve done the first two days. If it happens, it happens. That’s the way I always approach it."

Rojas’s Friday catch was anchored by a 5-11 largemouth that took GoPro Big Bass honors for the day. His Saturday catch was missing that kicker.

“I didn’t get the big bite today that I was hoping for,” Rojas said. “But I’ve got another day to go out and try to find it again.”

Iaconelli dealt with a frustrating moment Friday when a fish he estimated at more than 3 pounds struck short on a jerk bait, preventing him from weighing in a five-bass limit. But he said the moment encouraged him just enough to make him go back to his shallow pattern Saturday – and that’s where the foundation came for the Saturday limit of 16-9 that lifted him into the Top 3.

“The first hour of each day – which was mostly shot on Friday because of the late start – I’m fishing what I call the ‘weapon bite.’” Iaconelli said. “I’m fishing the backs of drains and pockets where the blue backs are coming back out. They’ve been back there all night. They come back out, and the bass ambush them.

“The problem is finding the pocket with the bait because it only happens if you see the bait and the birds. So I run three or four pockets real quick. I buzz in there five or 10 minutes. If I don’t see anything, I go to the next pocket.”

Iaconelli said he finally identified the right area Saturday morning when he saw a loon flying out of a pocket.

“I caught two in there on a jerk bait, a deep Shadow Rap,” Iaconelli said. “One was a 2-pounder and one was a 4-pounder. That was a great way to start. Because when I go out deep, my biggest issue is I’m getting very few bites.

“I’m literally hitting 50 or 60 places a day, and I know I’m going to get maybe 10 bites. So if you can get out there and already have two, three or four in your live well, that’s big.”

Rain is likely for Sunday’s final round, and Iaconelli said that could actually help his early-morning pattern. Instead of moving deep at 9 a.m., he said he might be able to extend the pattern as late as 10:30.

The top 25 remaining anglers will launch at 7 a.m. Sunday from Green Pond Landing in Anderson, S.C. The public is encouraged to attend the take-off with shuttles from the Anderson Regional Airport.

The championship weigh-in will be held at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C., at 4 p.m. E.T. Doors will open at 3 p.m. to B.A.S.S. Nation and Life Members and at 3:15 to the general public.