Child Found Safe After Amber Alert

August 31, 2014

The child has been found safe and the amber alert canceled.

An Amber Alert has been issued for a nine-year old abducted by his grandmother from Fairfield, AL. Officials say the child may be in extreme danger, and his abductor may be traveling to the Mobile area. Complete details are in the poster below; click to enlarge.

Labor Day Gas Prices Down Slightly This Year

August 31, 2014

Gas prices on Labor Day weekend were at their lowest in a couple of years, and AAA says that will translate to more people on the highways.

Escambia County’s average gas price on Saturday was $3.37 for a gallon of regular unleaded —less than the year-ago price of $3.43 per gallon.

AAA Travel projects 34.7 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Labor Day holiday weekend, the highest volume for the holiday since 2008 and a 1.3 percent increase over 2013.

Nearly 86 percent of travelers (29.7 million) will celebrate the holiday with a final road trip before summer comes to an unofficial close. The Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, August 28 to Monday, September 1.

Historically, when Labor Day weekend begins in August, Americans have shown a higher tendency to travel.

Slight Rain Chance For Labor Day

August 31, 2014

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

  • Sunday Night Partly cloudy, with a low around 74. South wind 5 to 10 mph becoming light after midnight.
  • Labor Day A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 94. Light southeast wind becoming south 5 to 10 mph in the morning.
  • Monday Night Partly cloudy, with a low around 74. South wind 5 to 10 mph becoming light and variable in the evening.
  • Tuesday A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 94. Light and variable wind becoming south 5 to 10 mph in the morning.
  • Tuesday Night A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 72. South wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.
  • Wednesday A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 93. Calm wind becoming east around 5 mph in the afternoon.
  • Wednesday Night A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 72. Southeast wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the evening.
  • Thursday A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 93.
  • Thursday Night A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 71.
  • Friday A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 91.
  • Friday Night A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 71.
  • Saturday A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly sunny, with a high near 90.

Flood Survivors: Group To Access Needs At Cantonment Interviews

August 31, 2014

Volunteer interviewers will meet with flood survivors to help individuals connect with resources and gain a clear picture of what it will take to recover.

BRACE and the Escambia County Long-Term Recovery Group have requested the services of a national disaster recovery group to determine who in the community will not be able to rebuild and recover without assistance.

A team of World Renew volunteers will conduct one-on-one interviews with flood survivors at Allen Memorial United Methodist Church at 200 Pace Parkway in Cantonment from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m on Wednesday, September 3; Friday, September 5; Monday, September 8; Wednesday, September 10; and Friday, September 12. An appointment is not necessary.

The process will help to prioritize individual and family needs and connect survivors with organizations offering long-term support.  Several voluntary organizations have committed to sending volunteer reconstruction teams to the community to assist survivors in their recovery once the needs can be defined and prioritized.  Those volunteer organizations will be assisting survivors with unmet disaster caused needs with reconstruction.

Interview questions are straightforward and should not require residents to supply any paperwork, although if flood survivors do have a FEMA number, they are asked to bring that with them to the center.

For more information contact the Escambia County Long-Term Recovery Group, at (850) 292-8024 or email

Cotton Transition Assistance Program Enrollment Underway

August 31, 2014

Farmers can enroll in the Cotton Transition Assistance Program (CTAP) beginning  through October 7.

The program, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides interim payments to cotton producers during the 2014 crop year until the Stacked Income Protection Plan, a new insurance product also created by the legislation, is available. Details on the plan will be released by mid-August.

CTAP applications approved before Oct. 1, are subject to Congressionally mandated automatic reductions of 7.2 percent for the 2014 crop year. Applications approved after October 1 will be reduced the required 7.3 percent for the 2015 crop year. The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires USDA to implement these reductions to program payments.

For more information about CTAP, visit a local FSA office or go online to file photo.

Sunny Days: Growing Sunflowers

August 31, 2014

by the Santa Rosa Extension Service

Sunflowers not only make the garden beautiful but can also be used to bring the beauty of outdoors inside.

It may be towards the end of summer, but you can still plant sunflowers and enjoy them during the fall. In north Florida, try to complete sunflower planting by the third week in August. Depending on the variety, sunflowers will bloom about 55 to 75 days after planting – 60 days is a good average. Some sunflowers are sensitive to day length and may yield shorter plants and earlier bloom when planted in late summer. This corresponds to the reduction in daylight hours as summer progresses toward autumn.

To begin, choose cultivars that fit your landscape. There are now more sunflowers than just the seed bearing giants that many gardeners are familiar with. Just take a look at the gardening catalogs.

Sunflowers can be broadly divided into two types: those grown for production of edible seeds and those grown as ornamentals and cut flowers. Most gardeners will be interested in the ornamental sunflowers, also known as Helianthus annuus.

Sunflowers come in heights ranging from less than one foot to ten feet and also come in a wide range of flower colors. While brilliant yellow will always be popular, you can also choose from creamy white, bronze, mahogany, rusty red, burgundy and orange. Some types produce flowers with more than one color. The center disk of the sunflower also adds to the display and goes through color changes as the flower matures and seeds form.

Sunbright, Sunrich Lemon, Sunrich Orange, Soraya and Moulin Rouge are some that are recommended for Florida.

For best bouquet results, choose cultivars that are pollen-less to prevent pollen from shedding onto a tablecloth or other flowers in an arrangement.

If you want to grow sunflowers for the delicious, nutritious seeds, make sure you choose varieties bred for seed production, such as Mammoth Russian – also known as Mammoth, Russian Giant and Gray Stripe. These tall-growing sunflowers produce a single enormous flower at the top of the plant. To grow a really big seed head, apply general-purpose fertilizer when the flower head begins to appear. Just be sure to place them so that you can stake them if necessary.

Sunflowers are true to their name, they need to be grown in full sun. Prepare a sunflower bed as you would for planting most vegetables. They tolerate heat and dry conditions and almost any soil type. The pH preference is 6.5 to 7.5 and the addition of composted organic matter is beneficial.

Plant seeds about one-quarter inch deep directly into a prepared garden bed. It’s common to plant sunflowers into landscape beds, and many gardeners include a row of sunflowers in spring and fall vegetable gardens. After sowing the seeds, water the bed well and thesun water it as needed to keep the soil moist – even lightly every day if the weather is dry.

Sunflowers should be harvested in early morning before 10:00 a.m. It is best to cut the stems and place them in warm water right away for best results.

The versatility and variety of today’s sunflowers offer something for almost every garden and gardener. If you haven’t tried this plant lately, give it another look.

Theresa Friday is the Residential Horticulture Extension Agent for Santa Rosa County.

Escambia 4-H Horse Club Donates To Manna Food Pantries

August 31, 2014

Members of the Escambia County 4-H Horse Club was concerned by the spring floods that devastated the Manna Food Pantries.  In order to help, the group collected 121 pounds of food for Manna Food Pantries. The club plans to help Manna again in the future. Submitted photo for, click to enlarge.

Pack A Better School Lunch

August 31, 2014

by Dorothy Lee, Escambia County Extension

It’s that time of year again.  With kids off to school they are  again faced with the important question: What’s for lunch? With childhood obesity on the rise, having a nutritious lunch is an important part of an overall healthful diet. Since most kids  consume one-third of their daily total calories at lunch, here are  some tips on helping them eat more super-nutritious foods:

  • Plan ahead. It helps to have all the right ingredients on hand for making the best lunch. You might even consider coming up with a weekly menu. Involve the kids in planning whenever possible.
  • Avoid last-minute rushing by preparing all or part of lunch the night before.
  • Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes with sandwiches, etc.
  • Make sure you always include at least one fresh fruit or vegetable – both is even better.
  • Hide special notes or cards in the lunch box.
  • Best beverage bets include skim milk, water or 100% fruit juice.
  • Try to use more low-fat snack and cookie items – see the list below for ideas.
  • Remember food safety. It is better if you keep foods chilled in insulated lunch boxes with either  an ice pack or frozen juice box.

And consider options when choosing ingredients for lunches:

Dorothy C. Lee, CFCS, is an Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences with the Escambia County Extension Service.

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: The Inevitable Battle Begins

August 31, 2014

With the unofficial beginning of campaign season just around the corner, Florida voters headed to the polls this week to choose their nominees for governor and seats in the Legislature.

Or, at least, to finish the predetermined coronations in many of those races. There never seemed to be any real danger that either of the leading gubernatorial candidates would lose their primaries. And virtually every incumbent on the ballot Tuesday was still standing on Wednesday. the election wasn’t the only battle that moved into a new phase. As candidates began to turn their attention to the broader electorate, opponents of the state’s de facto school-voucher program were going from the court of public opinion to the actual courts. Almost four months after the Legislature followed through on a promise to expand eligibility for the voucher program, groups opposed to the move filed a lawsuit that could lead to the entire system being overturned.


For the most part, there were few surprises in the primaries Tuesday night. Republican Gov. Rick Scott and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, cruised through primaries against lesser-known candidates.

Crist easily defeated former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich and was officially welcomed by his new party as its nominee. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Broward County, praised Crist and running-mate Annette Taddeo as working-class champions.

“Charlie and Annette have embraced policies that will help Florida’s middle-class families, a stark contrast to the current governor, Republican Rick Scott, who is beholden to special interests and radical tea party ideology,” she said in a statement.

Scott handily defeated two obscure GOP opponents, Yinka Abosede Adeshina and Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder. But the Scott team’s primary focus has long been on Crist.

“The next few months are about talk versus action,” Scott said. “That means Florida will have a choice between a governor who sent our state into a tailspin and a governor who gets results.”

In a marginally competitive statewide race, former Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon beat House Minority Leader Perry Thurston in the Democratic primary for attorney general.

“I believe the attorney general is the people’s lawyer, not the governor’s lawyer, and not the Legislature’s lawyer,” Sheldon told supporters during a victory party at the Wine Loft Wine Bar in Tallahassee. “Help me give Pam Bondi the job she really wants, as an anchor on FOX News.”

Bondi wasted little time in both congratulating Sheldon and challenging him to a debate.

“The voters will have a clear choice between candidates in this election, and they deserve to hear directly from us on the distinct difference in visions and leadership that each candidate will offer to the attorney general’s Office,” Bondi said in a prepared statement.

Races in the House provided the sole state-level incumbent to go down and the usual bit of Florida elections drama.

In Central Florida, Rep. Ricardo Rangel, D-Kissimmee, was defeated in his bid for a second term by John Cortes, vice chairman of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida. State Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant seemed just fine with Cortes beating the incumbent.

“From his time as a police officer to his extensive work as an activist in Osceola County, John has always put his fellow community members ahead of himself,” Tant said in a statement. “I look forward to working with John to ensure that the residents of District 43 continue to have representation that puts the middle class first this fall.”

Meanwhile, the costly and bitterly fought Republican primary in Duval County’s House District 15 turned into a nail-biter between Jay Fant, a tea party-style candidate, and Paul Renner, who had much of the local establishment behind him. Fant, who loaned his campaign $375,000, ended up with a two-vote margin of victory after a manual recount and is now almost certain to replace Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville.


Scott didn’t wait until he had officially dispatched his challengers to start rolling out what will clearly be one of the central themes of his campaign. He unveiled an education agenda Monday that included promises to review the number of tests being administered to Florida students and to take further steps to rein in the cost of college if he wins a second term in November.

“We want to make sure that our students have every opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in their careers, and we want to make sure our teachers have every tool they need to make that possible,” Scott said.

The call for an investigation of standardized testing is noteworthy, given that Republicans interested in education reform have long looked at assessments as a way to judge how well schools are educating children. In 2011, Scott signed a bill that more closely tied teacher pay to student performance on standardized tests

A brochure outlining Scott’s proposals seemed to place the blame for the amount of testing on local school districts.

But Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of the advocacy group Fund Education Now, said blaming local school districts was disingenuous, because many of the tests they require are tied to state laws. Districts will have to create tests for some courses under the teacher-pay law that Scott signed, Oropeza said.

On higher education, Scott said he would push for a requirement that colleges outline the costs of textbooks and other materials before students register for classes.

In his official capacity, the governor joined Education Commissioner Pam Stewart on a jaunt across the state to welcome students back to school. Crist’s campaign cried foul on that.

“Floridians should not be fooled by Rick Scott’s shameful, taxpayer-funded campaign events this week,” spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said in a statement. “Scott’s back-to-school tour should be an apology tour for the $4.8 billion he wanted to cut and the $1.3 billion he did cut from education.”


“That’s all I can stands; I can’t stands no more,” the cartoon character Popeye used to say — and a coalition of groups including the state’s largest teachers union essentially said the same thing this week in launching a legal assault on Florida’s de facto school-voucher program.

The lawsuit comes after the Legislature approved a bill this spring that would expand eligibility for the program and increase the value of scholarships given to participating students. While one of the central claims of the lawsuit — that the program gets in the way of the state’s responsibility to provide a quality education to all children — could have been made for years now, those filing the challenge said the expansion forced their hand.

Ron Meyer, an attorney for the groups, said while education advocates were willing to allow the program to go forward initially, “this has become an industry.”

“It’s a money-maker for scholarship-funding organizations,” Meyer said. “And it’s a program that we think is a dereliction of the constitutional requirement (to provide public education).”

The Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which could raise as much as $357.8 million this year, provides tax credits to companies that donate money to nonprofit entities that pay for children to go to private schools.

Without the scholarship program, critics say, those tax dollars could be used to help fund public education. But supporters say the program provides better opportunities for low- or middle-income children trapped in failing public schools.

Republicans, who led the charge to institute and then broaden the voucher program, saw things a bit differently. Those attacking the scholarships were actually the special interests.

“This lawsuit is just the latest attack on parental choice by an entrenched education establishment more concerned about protecting the status quo than providing families the opportunities afforded by a great education,” said former Gov. Jeb Bush, who signed the legislation creating the program and is still an influential figure in the state’s education debates.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Primary elections cleared the way for general elections, including the long-awaited battle between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist for control of the Governor’s Mansion.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “We’re not the Rick Scott campaign. We can’t go whenever and whatever we want on TV. We have to make choices. So why would we make the choice to go spend a bunch of money in a primary that we know we’re going to win?”—Steve Schale, a consultant for the Crist campaign, on why the former governor essentially ignored primary opponent Nan Rich.

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

Wahoos Drop Second Straight 6-3

August 31, 2014

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos (27-41, 58-80) fell for the second straight night to the Birmingham Barons (31-37, 60-78) 6-3. With the win, the Barons take a two games to one lead in the series.

The Wahoos benefitted from a couple of errors to get on the board in the first inning. Yorman Rodriguez reached on an error, stole second and third, and a throwing error by the catcher allowed him to score. The Barons would take a 3-1 lead into the sixth thanks in part to solo home runs from Dan Black and Kevan Smith.

Pensacola cut into the lead on a two-out RBI single from Travis Mattair in the sixth. They would add one to tie the score at three when Ryan Wright followed Juan Silverio’s triple with an RBI single.

The big blow came once again off the bat of Joey DiMichele, who singled home Kevan Smith off of RHP Kyle McMyne in the bottom of the eighth inning. Trayce Thompson put the game away with a two-run double down the right field line to give the Barons a 6-3 lead. McMyne took the loss for the Blue Wahoos.

RHP Kevin Vance earned the win in relief for the Barons. Vance struck out six batters over 2.2 innings and surrendered just one hit. Gulf Breeze native Ben Lively made his final start of the season for the Blue Wahoos. Lively got the no decision going 5.0 innings and allowing three runs on five hits. He added five strikeouts to his season total of 171 and finished the night tied for second in the minor leagues in punch-outs.

Sunday’s game marks the penultimate contest in the Blue Wahoos season and starts at 3:00 p.m. at Regions Field. The Wahoos will send Cincinnati’s top prospect RHP Robert Stephenson (6-10, 4.93) to the mound. Terance Marin (0-1, 9.00) will start for the Barons.

by Tommy Thrall

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