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Candlelight service Saturday for kindergartner

Rock Spring Athletic Association (RSAA) will hold a candlelight service for Zachary Bryant from 6-8 p.m. at the ball fields. Six-year-old Zachary, a kindergartner at Chattanooga Valley Elementary School in north Walker County, died Monday after being hit by a bus at the school. Zachary was also a member of the RSAA’s Golden Knights team. The RSAA ballfields are located near the intersection of U.S. 27 and Ga. 95. Donations will be accepted to cover funeral costs and non-perishable food items to help the family during this very hard time.

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Tuesday 04/15/2014
Walker & Catoosa counties: obituaries for April 15, 2014
Updated: April 15, 2014 - 3:59 pm

John Francis Lang, 53

Walker County: Investigation continues into fatal school bus accident
Updated: April 15, 2014 - 4:20 pm

The preliminary investigation of a fatal bus accident at Chattanooga Valley Elementary on Monday is expected to continue throughout the week.

Candlelight vigil Saturday for kindergartner
Updated: April 15, 2014 - 4:20 pm

A candlelight vigil for Zachary Bryant,  the young Chattanooga Valley Elementary kindergarten student who died Monday morning will be held Saturday from 4-6 p.m. at the Rock Spring Athletic Association ballfields, the very fields where the 6-year-old and his Golden Knights team mates played. Non-perishable food items and monetary donations will be accepted for the victim’s family in their time of grieving. The baseball diamonds are located near the intersection of U.S. 27 and Ga. 95.

Bat-killing fungus spreads in Georgia
Posted: April 15, 2014

CLAYTON, Ga. (AP) — Black Diamond Tunnel sits just outside the city of Clayton in the northeast corner of Georgia.

In the mid-1800s, the tunnel was meant to be part of a train passageway connecting South Carolina to Ohio. After the breakout of the Civil War, construction stopped and never resumed.

Today, the man-made tunnel is the state's largest known winter shelter for some of Georgia's 16 bat species. It's also the latest site in the state to fall victim to white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that's killed more than 6 million bats in the eastern half of the U.S. since it arrived from Europe in 2006.

Almost immediately upon pushing off into the flooded tunnel in a small Jon boat, Katrina Morris, a bat specialist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, points to dead bats floating in the chilly, rippling water.

"Looks like a dead bat floating in the water, or maybe two. And that guy may not be alive. It's hard to tell, but they get a lot of fungus growing on them," Morris says, pointing to a more recent victim of the fungal disease. She keeps counting.

"I think that's two dead bats," Morris says. "When it was healthy there were over 5,000 bats in here, and this year during peak, we got 3,500."

The tunnel is primarily home to tri-colored bats, one of eight bat species in Georgia affected by white-nose syndrome.

Deeper into the pitch-black tunnel, more bats dot the walls - more than a thousand. Below, a couple dozen dead bats float alongside the boat.

Near the tunnel's end, Morris points out an infected bat, a male no bigger than a golf ball that's just starting to wake up from hibernation. She pulls it off the wall to high-pitch shrieks.

"So you can see the angle and the fuzz growing up over his nose close to the eyes, on the ears, and on the forearm and the wing," Morris says, describing the fungus that's spreading over the bat. "It will grow on their feet and their tale. And it looks like they're covered in a coating of white powder."

Regina Bleckley, who owns the land on which the tunnel sits, says she knew something was wrong when a bat flew out in the middle of winter. She immediately called Morris.

"We came up here to clean it up, and here come a bat out, but it could barely go," Bleckley says. "I knew right then. I went and called her. I knew right then they were sick."

Bleckley was right.

As the bats hibernate, the fungus grows on their skin and fur. The fungus is itchy, so the bats wake up in the middle of winter when they're supposed to be sleeping. Now awake, they leave the cave in search of food that doesn't exist or fly around until they die.

"It meant something to this family," says Bleckley. Her family ties to the land go back to 1919. She's devastated the bats are dying on her watch.

"I guess that's why it hurts. And I don't know in my lifetime if they're going to be able to wipe this virus out, the fungus. I'm worried about it. I'm scared about it," Bleckley says.

Pete Pattavina of U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Georgia office is also scared. He says the disease is so pervasive the agency expects to add another bat species, the northern long-eared bat, to the national endangered species list this fall.

Pattavina says it would be the first bat species added because of population declines caused by white-nose syndrome.

"I don't think we really know what the trickle-down effect is going to be on our natural systems with whole species of bats not represented," Pattavina says.

White-nose syndrome was first found in northwest Georgia early last year.

This year, the state Department of Natural Resources confirmed it had spread farther south and to the northeast corner of the state, including Black Diamond Tunnel.

The fungus, which is primarily spread from bat to bat, has been confirmed at 12 sites in Georgia so far. Currently scientists have no way of stopping it from spreading to more.

"You're talking about miles and miles of cave with bats that are 100 feet up in the ceiling. Treatment will be nearly impossible even if we do find a compound," Pattavina says.

That's not to mention the spots researches can't get into, should a treatment be found.

In Georgia alone, there are 600 caves, tunnels and mines that could be home to bats. Only 20 are accessible to the state.

Chris Cornelison, a postdoctoral researcher at Georgia State University studying white-nose syndrome, says despite those odds, scientists have to try to find a cure.

"Right now we're seeing up to 100 percent mortality," Cornelison says. "And so if we continue to allow this to go, there's nothing that would indicate that we won't be in a world without bats - or at least a North America without bats - at some point."

Cornelison thinks he's found a type of bacteria that stops the growth of the fungus. He's seen positive results in the lab so far.

Cornelison says his experiment is one of two in the U.S. ready to go to trial with live, wild bats, and he's been in talks with Tennessee officials about introducing the bacterium at a retrofitted military bunker this fall.

There's more good news.

Researchers say if a bat can survive the winter, it can clean off the fungus and live. Because the South's winters are shorter and milder, there's hope the region won't see the population declines that some states in the North are experiencing.

Some bats have also resisted the disease, and Cornelison says scientists are trying to figure out why.

Cornelison says the research is necessary because bats are vital to the country and the state's agriculture industry.

Scientists estimate a single bat can eat up to its entire body weight in insects in one night.

The U.S. Geological Survey says bats save the country's agriculture industry between $4 and $50 billion a year in pest control services. That's not all.

"There's an entire other dynamic that has not gotten the same amount of attention as that, and that is their behavior as pollinators," Cornelison says. "And these bats tend to serve as exclusive pollinators to some plants."

For now, scientists can only track the disease as it spreads through more of the country, killing more bats in its wake.


Information from: WABE-FM, http://www.wabe.org/

Blood Assurance facing shortage of blood
Posted: April 15, 2014

Blood Assurance, the regional non-profit blood center, is facing a shortage of blood, especially type O negative, A positive and O positive blood types.

Derek Rogers appointed to Fort Oglethorpe council
Posted: April 15, 2014

It’s only temporary, but the city of Fort Oglethorpe will have a full council due to recent changes in the city’s charter. The council chose to act on those changes immediately by filling a vacant seat with a temporary appointment.

Children’s Advocacy Center dedicates memorial garden for Child Abuse Prevention Month
Posted: April 15, 2014

The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit’s Children’s Advocacy Center held a special ceremony on Friday, April 11, to recognize April as Child Abuse Prevention Month, and closed out the afternoon with the dedication of a special garden outside the facility to commemorate victims of child abuse.

Sub-freezing temps coming early Wednesday morning
Updated: April 15, 2014 - 10:10 am

We're under a freeze warning and wind advisory as lows are supposed to drop into the 20s tonight possibly damaging budding springtime plants. It's supposed to clear up today after a rainy morning and reach a somewhat cooler high of 56 with gusty winds reaching as high as 35 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Governor signs bill to extend tax-free holidays
Posted: April 15, 2014

Gov. Nathan Deal today signed House Bill 958, legislation that will extend the statewide back-to-school tax-free holiday and ENERGY STAR and WaterSense appliance tax-free holiday weekends for an additional two years. The bill, signed during visits to the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Atlanta Food Bank, is a direct result of the Governor’s Competitiveness Initiative and is a continuation of the Georgia Jobs and Family Tax Reform Plan originally signed into law in 2012.

Monday 04/14/2014
Catoosa & Walker counties: Mark your calendars for Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Updated: April 15, 2014 - 2:21 pm

 The death of Zachary Bryant,  the young Chattanooga Valley Elementary kindergartner who died Monday morning, will be mourned by a candlelight vigil being held Saturday from 4-6 p.m. at the Rock Spring Athletic Association ball fields, the very fields where the 6-year-old and his Golden Knights team mates played. Non-perishable food items and monetary donations will be accepted for the victim’s family in their time of grieving. The baseball diamonds are located near the intersection of U.S. Highway 27 and state Highway 95.

County Commissioners endorse Nathan Deal
Updated: April 14, 2014 - 6:00 pm

All five Floyd County Commissioners endorsed Gov. Nathan Deal for re-election, according to a Monday afternoon release from Deal's campaign office.

Kroger, American Cancer Society aim to raise $200K
Posted: April 14, 2014

Kroger and the American Cancer Society are partnering for an in-store fundraiser from Sunday, April 13, to Saturday, April 26, to raise awareness and funds to help fight cancer.

Tellus to open early Tuesday for lunar eclipse - how to see the eclipse if it's raining
Updated: April 14, 2014 - 4:28 pm

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A north Georgia science museum will open during the very early morning hours Tuesday to coincide with a lunar eclipse.

Walker County kindergartner killed in school bus accident
Updated: April 14, 2014 - 3:51 pm

A Walker County kindergartner was killed Monday morning after being struck by the bus he rode to school.

Walker County elementary student killed by school bus
Updated: April 14, 2014 - 3:05 pm

A Walker County elementary school student was stuck and killed about 7 a.m. today by a bus at the school.

Calhoun police warn of area scams
Updated: April 14, 2014 - 12:57 pm

Calhoun Police are warning area residents to be aware of internet and telephone scams.

New site this year for Walker-Catoosa Relay for Life fundraiser
Updated: April 14, 2014 - 7:14 am

The Walker-Catoosa Relay for Life may be held April 25 at a new venue, but its goal remains unchanged: finding a cure for cancer.

Caleb Hartshorn: LaFayette’s new animal control officer
Posted: April 14, 2014

The city of LaFayette has hired an animal control officer who will serve a dual purpose for citizens.

Sunday 04/13/2014
Governor signs third leg of criminal justice reform
Updated: April 13, 2014 - 4:24 pm

At Antioch Baptist Church in Gainesville today, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law Senate Bill 365, legislation that will help rehabilitated offenders successfully re-enter society by removing barriers to employment, housing and education.

Hit show Restaurant Impossible coming to Calhoun
Updated: April 14, 2014 - 6:32 am

The popular Food Network show Restaurant Impossible is set to film an episode at The Fork Diner in Calhoun beginning next week.

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