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Three Big Things

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  • EPA formally denies Alabama Power's coal ash plan

    Mobile County environmental advocates are claiming victory as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a final denial of Alabama’s coal ash waste management plan, finding it is “significantly less protective” than federal regulations.

    The decision was handed down Thursday, May 23, formalizing a proposal to deny the plan issued in August 2023. The permit was submitted by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and would have operated in lieu of the EPA’s coal ash residual program.

     

     See more here: EPA formally denies Alabama Power's coal ash plan | News | lagniappemobile.com

  • New preseason hurricane forecast is highest ever issued

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday released its forecast for the 2024 season, which starts June 1, calling for a more active than normal season — thanks in large part to the off-the-charts high temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean.

    NOAA is predicting that 17 to 25 named storms could form this year, with eight to 13 powering up into hurricanes and four to seven of those reaching major hurricane status, Category 3 or higher. That’s above the average: 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. In fact, they’re the highest ever forecast by the federal agency. In 2020, NOAA had predicted the highest number of storms of all time. That season wound up with 30 named storms, 14 of them growing into hurricanes.

    This season — at least potentially — sets up to top that.

    “That’s the highest forecast that we’ve had,” said Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service. “It’s reason to be concerned, of course, but not alarmed.”

    Last year, NOAA called for 14 to 21 named storms, six to 11 hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes. The final numbers for 2023 were 20 named storms, seven of which became hurricanes and three that reached major hurricane strength. It was the fourth-most active season on record.

    Several factors come together to bake up such an alarming forecast. Primary among them, experts said, is just how hot the ocean is expected to be this summer. The peak of hurricane season for Florida is August to October.

    The ocean heat content in the main development region of the Atlantic, where the majority of storms are born, is running at levels in May that are normally seen in late August

    Another factor supercharging this season is the global atmospheric phenomenon, La Niña, which is linked to a more active season in the Atlantic.

    As of early May, NOAA predicted there was a 49% chance La Niña could form by June to August and a 69% chance it could form by July to September.

    Other contributing factors are lower levels of wind shear, which can destabilize baby storms and halt them from strengthening; weaker trade winds, which blow east to west; and a stronger, wetter African Monsoon Season, which can spark more storm formation.

    Despite the strong prediction for the season, nothing has actually formed so far this year. This is the latest into the year in forty years that nothing has formed in the Atlantic or Pacific

    Read the rest of the story here: New preseason hurricane forecast is highest ever issued. Brace yourself, Florida (yahoo.com)

  • US Border Patrol has lost 25% of its agents during Biden presidency: report

    The US Border Patrol has lost nearly a quarter of its ranks in the four years since President Biden was elected, according to a report.

    Just over 4,200 border agents have left the federal agency between October 2020 and April 2024, the Washington Examiner reported Thursday, citing new US Customs and Border Protection staffing data.

    The depletion in the 19,000-agent workforce is down to a mix of those who quit, agents who hit mandatory retirement age, or ones who opted to retire as soon as they became eligible.

    While the number of agents who quit has been steady — between 600 and 900 per year — for the last decade, the number of retirements has shifted under the Biden administration, the data show.

    Twice as many have opted to retire as soon as they reached the eligible age, compared to that of the Trump and Obama administrations.

    The number of early retirements averaged roughly 257 per year between 2014 and 2020, the outlet reported. Since 2021, the average has come in at 529 agents.

    The Biden administration has seen an unprecedented rush on the border with more than 7.6 million migrants apprehended there since Biden took office in January 2021, according to CBP statistics.

    Customs and Border Protection maintains its reduction in employee numbers has hovered between 4% and 6% — despite the doubling of early retirements in recent years.

    Still, some agents claimed the data show morale has been sinking.

    “The administration is so bad for morale,” an unnamed Border Patrol official told the outlet.

    “I’m not trying to be political. I’m just speaking facts. It’s become so political. Catch and release is demoralizing for agents.”

    Earlier this week, agents working on the US-Mexico border detailed how conditions are leading to a spiraling mental health crisis for them.

    “We regularly see things that people should never see, like rotting human remains, abuse of every kind, babies and kids dying or dead,” one veteran Border Patrol agent, who didn’t want to be named, told the Free Press.

    “Do you know what that does to you over time? You have to shut down a part of yourself to keep going.”

    In April this year, an average of 6,000 migrants were encountered along the southern border daily. In December 2023, the average was just under 10,000 per day, per CBP figures.

    READ MORE: Border Patrol lost 25% of agents during Biden admin: report (nypost.com)

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