Archive for the ‘Feature Stories’ Category

Earthquakes in the Carolinas

January 18, 2010 Comments off


Many people don’t know the Carolinas have a record of quakes the same size as the one that struck Haiti.  How prepared are we?

A big one on the magnitude of Haiti’s hit Charleston, South Carolina in August 1886 killing about 100 people.

It knocked trains off their tracks, damaged 2.000 buildings, destroyed a quarter of the town just trying to recover from the Civil War.

Earthquakes expert Dr. Andy Bobyarchick in the Geography and Earth Sciences Department at UNC Charlotte says damage is still evident in some places in Charleston today.  The quake was felt here in Charlotte and as far north as Boston.

“It’s something to remember that in the eastern U.S., we’re not beyond the affects of a large earthquake,” he said.

In part because of it buildings codes here in Charlotte and in Charleston of course require being able to withstand a Charleston-sized quake.

Not so in Haiti which is why there’s been so much widespread damage and consequently loss of life.

He says you have to be prepared.  “Earthquakes are notorious for being unpredictable. We can say where. We can say yes or no.. but in terms of giving you a date we’re still a ways off from doing that.”

The quake which caused so much damage in Charleston erupts on the average every 500 years.

But moderate quakes can and do occur in the Lowcountry and not so rarely.

A study released last fall by the College of Charleston found even a 5.3 magnitude earthquake could cause $9 billion damage and economic losses in Charleston County alone.

The city’s grown up drastically from what it was in 1886, 123 years ago which is why it concerns officials about the prospects of another big one.

Charleston sits on a different shifting plate than Haiti which lies on a fault line similar to California’s San Andreas fault and as a result is seismically active.

Charleston is not.. still Dr. Bobyarchick says, “We don’t want to become too complacent about that because we do have these historical and prehistorical studies that say large earthquakes have occurred even in the eastern United States.”

Does the earthquake in Haiti increase the likelihood of a quake in Charleston?

Experts say not necessarily, but just as they can’t predict when an earthquake will strike.  They say they can’t rule it out either.

Read the original article on WBTV’s website:

Read more about the Charleston earthquake here:


Recycled Christmas Trees Create Fish Habitats

January 13, 2010 Comments off

Trees collected in January will become new habitats for Lake Norman fish

From The Charlotte Observer

By Jenna-Ley Harrison – Special Correspondent

Imagine that decked out holiday tree, once proudly displayed in your home, now lying 30 feet below the surface of the lake, creating a home for hundreds of fish.

A common post-holiday practice for Christmas trees across the United States, Lake Norman residents have been catching on for years.

So why the lake and not the dumpster?

Gus Gustafson is a fishing guide in the Lake Norman area. Photo courtesy of Gus Gustafson

According to Lake Norman fishing guide and licensed United States Coast Guard Captain Gus Gustafson, this annual tradition proves advantageous for the lake’s population of fish species.

Not only do the trees attract and provide cover for smaller fish, such as crappie and bass, but trees also offer fish a place to gather and grow, an added bonus for fishermen.

“Every fisherman wants to look for brush piles, whether natural or man-made,” said Gustafson.

He also mentioned that, with this incentive, a number of individuals without permits illegally dump Christmas trees into the lake at night to conceal the location of a potentially lucrative fishing spot.

“It’s illegal to put anything into the lake unless it’s supervised or approved by the power company or North Carolina Wildlife Federation,” said Gustafson.

He noted that trees are collected from area residents and local tree lots, and, due to the trees’ quickly rotting soft wood, the practice must be done each year to ensure good fishing.

Gustafson, who is also an advisor for the Lake Norman Marine Commission, helps maintainpublic water safety and recreation and noted the particular hazards regarding this practice.

Due to the lake’s annual rising and falling, water depths periodically change throughout the year, turning once harmless depths into shallow danger zones where rotting trunks are exposed. A potential peril to both swimmers and boaters, this downside to tree disposal also proves to be an eyesore for lake-goers and residents.

Another problem includes anchoring the submerged trees.

“If they break free, they are a hazard to navigation,” Gustafson said.

Therefore, trees are placed in a standing position within the holes of a cinderblock and sunk 10 to 30 feet below the surface. Anywhere from 15 to 30 trees can be submerged in one location.

According to Mark Lancaster, president of the N.C. Wildlife Conservation and owner of Lancaster Custom Dock & Lift Systems Inc. in Mooresville, a number of volunteers including those from the wildlife commission and Duke Energy collect the trees, which are later dropped into the water by “fisher-tractors,” large instruments made of plastic PVC pipe. Each “tractor” can hold up to three trees at a time.

However, there’s no rush if you’re still admiring your tree.

Trees will continue to be dropped into the lake throughout January and February.

Original story and photo from The Charlotte Observer:

Hickory Community Theatre: Community Theatre of the Year

January 6, 2010 Comments off

Hickory Community Theatre has received the 2009 Community Theatre Award from the North Carolina Theatre Council, a state-wide organization representing over 200 theatre companies and theatrical professionals throughout the state.

The award will be presented during a pre-show reception in the Jeffers Theatre on Thursday, January 14 at 6:30pm, prior to the preview performance of Hickory Community Theatre’s (HCT) next production, Macbeth.

“We are beyond thrilled,” says HCT President Carrie Deleary.  “The greatest thing is that this is not because of a competition we entered.  The Theatre was chosen because of what we do, and have been doing, day in and day out.  This award belongs to all of our actors, volunteers, donors and the community that supports what we do.”

Angie Hays, Executive Director of NCTC, notified Pamela Livingstone, HCT Artistic Director, about the theatre’s selection for the award.  Ms. Hays wrote, “As you may know, each year, the NCTC Board of Directors presents the NCTC Awards to companies, schools, and individuals that have exhibited leadership roles in their community, as well as artistic, professional, or educational excellence.  The board has decided to present the 2009 NCTC Community Theatre Award to Hickory Community Theatre!  The Community Theatre Award is presented to a company that has demonstrated excellence in performance, in service of mission, and in community outreach.”

Hickory Community Theatre has been providing quality theatre productions for Hickory and the Catawba Valley region for 60 years.  For so many community arts programs, despite their longevity in the community, this past year has been fiscally challenging. Many programs have struggled to remain in operation.

“This year is an anniversary for us,” explains John Rambo, Managing Director.  “It has been especially gratifying–the icing on the cake, if you will–to be celebrating 60 years in the community and to receive this award during that same period.  And it emphasizes the level of entertainment we provide.

“It takes the volunteers and it also takes commitment from the community, something that is especially important when economic times are tough,” Rambo relays. “We hope this award will spotlight Hickory Community Theatre and encourage people to enjoy another season with us.”

The award reception and show are by invitation only but a limited number of seats are being made available to the public.  Contact John Rambo, Managing Director, at (828) 327-3855 ext 113 or email to request placement on the guest list.

Editor’s Note: Hickory Community Theatre was one of the first in the nation to secure the rights to “The Producers.”  Pamela Livingstone discusses “The Producers,” which can be viewed in our video section.

First in Flight for 2010: Injured Red Tail Hawk Soars

January 2, 2010 Comments off

It seems unimaginable–that a driver would purposely aim his car to run over a Red Tailed Hawk, but that is exactly what happened in eastern NC this past November.

Fortunately, the hapless bird’s plight was witnessed by Sam Melville, who was also driving on that stretch of road.  He quickly contacted Lake Waccamaw State Park Ranger Toby Hall, who responded to the scene.  Together, the two men managed to capture the bird in a cardboard box and transport her to Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter on Oak Island.

Shelter owner Mary Ellen Rogers has patiently nursed the hawk, who suffered a broken wing in the auto attack.  She decided the bird was ready for release on New Year’s Day.

A camera crew was there to capture the moment, and a video can be viewed of the hawk’s release back into its natural habitat.

Mr. Melville gets our Good Citizen award for 2009.  His quick thinking allowed one of North Carolina’s raptors to soar again–a great example of volunteerism’s importance to wildlife preservation in our state.

Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter is a private shelter established by Ms. Rogers to care for injured or orphaned shorebirds.  Check out her blog for more stories of birds that have been rescued by volunteers and transported to Sea Biscuit Wildlife Shelter.  The photo of the injured hawk, above, is by Gus Grosch.

Rare migrating Right Whale spotted near Fort Fisher

November 12, 2009 Comments off

bildeMarine scientists are abuzz, because Right whales have been spotted–earlier than usual–migrating off the coast of Virginia and the Carolinas.

Reporter Gareth McGrath reports in Wilmington’s StarNews Online that researchers from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington spotted a trio of Atlantic Right whales swimming just three miles off Fort Fisher on Sunday, November 8th. The earliest previous whale sighting in the Southeast was recorded on November 17th.

North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher also posted an article regarding the sighting, explaining that a “boater called in a report that they had seen a North Atlantic Right whale around Masonboro Jetty.  UNCW’s aerial marine mammal survey team was in the air at the time and flew over the area to see if the sighting was accurate. In fact, three North Atlantic Right whales were sighted near Fort Fisher State Park in Kure Beach.”

Tracking the migration patterns of the endangered Right whale is important because ship strikes and entanglements in fishing gear are the top killers of right whales. [StarNews Online]

Read more about this sighting and the seasonal migratory patterns of Right whales as they make their way past coastal Carolina.

Photo: UNCW Marine Mammal Program

A Winter’s Tale–told by a Wooly Worm

November 9, 2009 2 comments


I moved back to North Carolina in late October, 2002.  I had a month to get my home in order before playing hostess for my extended family’s Thanksgiving celebration.

While scurrying around unpacking, hanging curtains and foraging for displaced small appliances, my mind was on recipes, grocery lists and locating my missing salad plates.  It sure the heck was not on winter storms.

Thanksgiving came and went with only a few glitches, but I wasn’t prepared for what occured only days later. Piedmont North Carolina was covered in ice, paralyzed by a storm that set records for power outages, accidents and fatalities.  I’ll never forget that winter, as the post-Thanksgiving storm would be the first of four that season.  All of them packed a punch, too.  We  went without power up to five days on two occasions before Spring finally arrived.

I learned a lesson my first year back in my home state. I had been in such a rush to get prepared for my Thanksgiving guests, it had not occurred to me to prepare for  winter storms.  Besides, I had been living in Kansas where blizzards are common.  North Carolina could not possibly compete with the challenges of 30 degree below temps and two feet of snow accumulation in less than 24 hours. Or so it would seem.

What I hadn’t considered was that in Kansas, my home had gas water and heat and two fireplaces with gas logs that kept a room quite comfortable for days–and I lived in a city with underground utilities.  In Charlotte, our home has a wood burning fireplace (“real wood is so charming“), dual zone electric heat pumps and vulnerable trees that snap when laden with ice, taking power lines down with them.

It never crossed my  mind to buy a cord of wood “just in case.”

These days, my pantry stays stocked with tuna fish and bottled water, and wood stays stacked at two locations near the house.

And every Fall, I scavenge for woolly worms.  Yep. In 2002, while spending some time near Foscoe (outside of Boone) I found the biggest, fattest wooly worm I had ever seen.  Big and fat and black.  The old-timers had told me as a child that black wooly worms meant long, challenging winters.

I believed them as a child, and after 2002, I assure you, I believe them today.

While moving some plants a few weeks ago, I discovered a black wooly worm. That’s all I needed to know.  I immediately made sure I had fuel for the generator, extra batteries for all things battery-operated, and I checked on my wood supply again, “just in case.”

Heed the wooly worm warning and make sure you are more prepared than I was back in the winter of 2002.  At one point, we had about one million folks in the Piedmont without power.

And that, dear readers, is not a good thing.


Photo credit: Seoul Mama

Fish Camps: Fried History

October 12, 2009 Comments off
Fried Fish: A Fish Camp Delicacy

Fried Fish: A Fish Camp Delicacy

Diane Turbyfill, Gaston Gazette

Frying fish 50 years ago was a social experience.

Men spent afternoons reeling in catfish, perch and carp. Their sons would join in, cleaning and prepping the catch and a fish fry would soon ensue.

That tradition evolved into an phenomenon that still draws a crowd most nights at local fish camps.

“There aren’t too many people who don’t like seafood, and people also like the history of fish camps,” said Don Lineberger.

Lineberger’s father, Luther Lineberger, was a pioneer in the fish camp business, making his start by cooking for friends, civic clubs and church groups on the riverbank.

“My dad just had so many friends and mother too. He thrived on making people happy and enjoyed seeing them enjoy food and fellowship,” said Don Lineberger.

That passion turned into a career for Lineberger, who quit his third-shift job at the mill to open Lineberger’s Fish Fry in 1948.

At its peak, Lineberger’s could seat more than 400 patrons and cars would line up on New Hope Road to make it into the parking lot, Lineberger said.

From that one fish camp, others were born.

A former manager at Lineberger’s, Raymond Stowe started Catfish Cove on Armstrong Ford Road in late 1990.

Howard Smith worked at Lineberger’s when he was 15. His father opened Twin Tops on New Hope Road in 1968. Smith is still in the business 45 years later.

“I worked in the kitchen. I cooked and rolled the fish,” Smith said. “I’ve stayed here all my life.”

Fish camps have changed some from their simple menus.

“Back in those days the only type fish we knew about was catfish, perch and carp and those types of fish,” said Lineberger. “At that time, the rivers were fairly clean and there was no question about eating fish out of those rivers.”

A wider variety of fish is available now and cooking techniques have changed.

Plates are still typically piled high with breaded fish, hushpuppies and french fries, but they don’t have to be. Salads, baked potatoes and broiled fish have been added to menus.

Twin Tops took a step toward modern technology last week by adding a credit card pay option, Smith said.

There are fewer fish camps today than 50 years ago, but the ones that survive stick to the same mantra observed by Luther Lineberger.

“Dad served a lot of food for the money, and he always served fresh fish,” said Lineberger.

The Lineberger family ran the fish camp after the death of the restaurant founder in 1978. Shortly after selling the business in the late 1990s, a fire broke out and burned the place to the ground.

Don Lineberger still has pictures, a scrapbook and keepsakes from his family’s business.

Those items have been placed in display cases at the Belmont Historical Society Cultural and Heritage Learning Center on Catawba Street.

The Historical Society will kick off the exhibit with an old fashioned fish fry from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Food will be cooked by Catfish Cove, and local bands will provide music.

The exhibit and event should be of interest to people across the county, Historical Society President Elizabeth Atterberry said.

“When you say Gaston County or Gastonia, you automatically think of fish camps. It is a part of our history and our heritage,” she said.

Categories: Feature Stories Tags: ,