Fifth Rabies Case Confirmed in Orange County for 2016

The North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health has confirmed the fifth case of rabies in Orange County this year.

The latest incident involved a bat, according to Orange County Animal Services, and originated when a bat was spotted inside the fireplace of a Mebane residence.

Officials say residents immediately left the house and call Animal Control. There were two dogs and a cat in the home at the time but all were up to date on vaccinations, according to a release. That vaccination history allows for the pets to receive a booster shot. Pets who are not up to date must either be destroyed or quarantined for a period of up to four months, according to state law.

Orange County had 10 positive cases of rabies recorded in 2015, which was down dramatically from 23 the year before.

Orange County Animal Services is hosting another low-cost rabies vaccination clinic from five o’clock until seven o’clock Thursday evening at the Eno River Farmers Market in Hillsborough.

For a full calendar of low-cost rabies clinics click here.

Safety Concerns with Pokemon Go Extends to Roadways

The new Pokemon Go app gained popularity in a matter of days across the country. Since the popularity has increased so quickly, officials are concerned for the safety of the players.

The interactive game guides users to various surrounding areas and has caused many to be so immersed in the game that they lose sight of where they are headed.

Director at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center David Harkey said this app has emphasized the need to be aware of your surroundings while playing the game.

“Put the phone away, take your eyes off the phone as you are crossing streets and as you are in the presence of motor vehicles,” Harkey said.

News stories across the country have reported accidents involving people playing the game while driving.

“The app will function at very low speeds and so we’ve seen cases of drivers actually trying to play the app while rolling down the roadway. We’ve seen cases of bicyclists actually trying to use the app while traveling down the road or on a trail,” Harkey said. “Anyway that you can imagine anyone using this app, I think they’re using it.”

The game attracts all age groups. Harkey said it is important for the parents of younger children with this app to discuss safety precautions while playing.

“They’re going to be even less cognizant of their surroundings at times and not have that same sense of awareness that maybe a teenager or college-aged student may have. So it’s very important to remember that,” Harkey said. “This is where we want to encourage parents as well to make sure they have that discussion with their children about the need to be aware of their surroundings and to be safe at all times.”

Harkey said it’s important to pay attention and know where you are and what’s around you while playing the game.

“We’ve seen stories and incidents of individuals being lured into maybe some unsafe places. Playing in numbers is one of the ways to insure your personal safety as well as pedestrian safety,” Harkey said. “The other thing to be aware of is if you are playing this late in the evening or at night, wear something that is brightly colored, carry a flashlight, make sure you are visible; that’s very important. I think most importantly, do not play this while you are driving or trying to ride a bicycle, I think that’s a bad idea all the way around.”

Orange County Officials Provide Safety Tips for Holiday Weekend

With July 4th on Monday many are planning to celebrate with cookouts and – possibly – their own firework shows, but Orange County Fire Marshal Jason Shepherd is urging people to be safe.

Shepherd says that July 4th weekend has more reported fires than any other time of the year.

There are a lot of reasons for that, Shepherd says, people are outside grilling, setting off fireworks. It creates more of an opportunity for things to happen around this particular time of year.

Cooking may not be at the top of most people’s minds when they think about fire prevention for July 4th weekend, but Shepherd lists cooking in his top two activities where residents need to take the necessary steps for safety.

Safety tips include: always grill outside, keep the grill at least 10 feet from the house, keep children and pets three feet away at all times, do not have any grease or fat built up on the grill, do not leave it unattended and leave your gas grill lid open when you are trying to light it.

Setting off fireworks is another activity many participate in over July 4th weekend and Shepherd’s number one recommendation for fire safety is going to one of the town-sanctioned shows.

Shepherd reminds Orange County residents that any fireworks brought in from another state that fly off the ground and through the air are illegal.

For the fireworks that are legal, like sparklers, Shepherd emphasizes that they burn at 1,200 degrees and account for 16 percent of all firework injuries.

He wants people to keep them out of reach of children and plant them in the ground instead, but not in a dry area.

Sheriff Charles Blackwood says law enforcement is concerned with alcohol and gun safety during the holiday weekend. He urges Orange County residents not to drink and drive, especially since it is a long weekend where people are celebrating for four days.

“First and foremost, alcohol and fireworks do not mix and neither does alcohol and driving. So we are stepping up patrols and there will be an increased number of law enforcement officers across the state,” Blackwood says.

Blackwood warns residents from shooting their guns into the air. Firing a round in the air is dangerous, he says. That round has to come down somewhere, with some type of velocity and it can cause some damage.

In light of his warnings about residents setting off fireworks and drinking, Blackwood understands it is a celebratory weekend and that residents will be setting off fireworks. He hopes residents will maintain a level of responsibility with their actions this weekend.

Listen below to the full interview with Blackwood:

Chapel Hill Police Searching for Missing Man

Chapel Hill Police are asking for assistance in locating 58-year-old Richard Michael Tobin.

Tobin is described as a 5′ 8″ white male weighing approximately 140 pounds. Officials say Tobin has gray hair and hazel eyes.

Authorities say he was last seen in the area of Laurel Ridge Apartments on or about May 30. Police say he is possibly operating a 1999 black Honday CRV with North Carolina license plate CEY-8875.

If you see Richard Tobin or have any information regarding his whereabouts, you are asked to contact Chapel Hill Police (919) 612-8240 or call 911.

“Unity In The Community” Joins, Heals

More than a dozen organizations are coming together to host an event called “Unity in the Community” this Saturday, April 16, from 11 am to 4 pm at Hargraves Community Center.

It’s free and everyone’s invited to enjoy food, music, dancing, a martial arts demonstration, and more.

The idea for Unity in the Community originated with St. Paul AME Church; last year’s event took place in the Rogers Road community, where the church is in the process of building a development called St. Paul Village. This year’s event, though, takes place in Chapel Hill’s Northside neighborhood – where Maleah Williams, just 14 months old, was shot and killed on Christmas Day. Organizers say one of the themes of this year’s event will be “healing.”

Along with St. Paul AME Church, co-organizers include the Rogers Eubanks Neighborhood Association, EmPOWERment, Inc., Habitat for Humanity of Orange County, the Jackson Center, United Church of Chapel Hill, Piedmont Health Services, the Student Health Action Coalition, Faith Tabernacle Oasis of Love, Grape Arbor Development Corporation, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Partnership, the Chapel Hill Teen Center, Blue Ribbon Youth Leadership Institute, and the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. (The Student Health Action Coalition will be providing free health screenings, including blood pressure and blood sugar checks.)

Rev. Thomas Nixon of St. Paul AME Church, Delores Bailey of EmPOWERment, Inc., and Adwoa Asare of Orange Habitat discussed “Unity in the Community” with Aaron Keck on WCHL.

86-Year-Old Drowns in Orange County Pond

Orange County authorities say that an 86-year-old man has drowned in the Bingham community.

A release from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office says that deputies responded to a pond in the vicinity of Highway 54 and Gold Mine Loop Road and found the victim, who authorities say had apparently drowned in the previous 24 hours.

Authorities were alerted by family members who said they last heard from the victim on Monday evening when he told them he was going fishing. The family then became concerned when they could not reach the man on Tuesday, according to authorities.

The release says a fishing rod and other tackle were located closed to the deceased.

An investigation is ongoing, but authorities say the Sheriff’s Office believes the death was caused by an accidental drowning.

Fire Closes Rosemary Street Tuesday Afternoon

Chapel Hill Fire crews responded to a report of an “explosion and vehicle fire” in the Wallace Parking Deck on East Rosemary Street on Tuesday.

Crews were called to the scene just after 2:30 Tuesday afternoon.

Officials say firefighters found one vehicle with fire in the engine compartment, and the fire was initially threatening other vehicles and an office located in the parking structure.

Authorities say a fire extinguisher was initially deployed and may have limited the spread of the fire.

The fire did not, ultimately, cause any damage to the structure or any other vehicles and no injuries were reported.

The 100 block of East Rosemary Street was block for approximately 30 minutes, according to officials.

Chapel Hill Woman Charged with Felony Hit and Run

Chapel Hill Police have arrested a woman in connection with a hit and run involving a pedestrian.

Chapel Hill Police Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says police responded to a report of a pedestrian being struck on Fountain Ridge Road at Highview Drive at 8:25 last Tuesday night.

Maureen Patricia Rogers. Photo via Chapel Hill Police.

Maureen Patricia Rogers. Photo via Chapel Hill Police.

The pedestrian was suffering from non-life threatening injuries, according to police, and – after initially refusing – was eventually transported to the hospital for treatment of lacerations.

“There was no suspect vehicle. They fled the scene,” Mecimore says. “And then it looks like the investigating officer had given out a description of the vehicle and the damage that was expected to be on the vehicle and another officer came across that vehicle.”

Mecimore says that officers questioned the suspect when the vehicle was found on Thursday.

“She, at the very least, told him that she thought she’d hit a deer,” Mecimore says.

On Friday, police arrested 58-year-old Maureen Rogers, of Charlesberry Lane, on a felony charge of hit and run. The charge was elevated to a felony level due to the injuries sustained by the pedestrian, according to police.

Rogers appeared before a magistrate and was released on a $3,500 unsecured bon.

She was scheduled to appear in court on Monday morning.

Winter Storm Safety Tips

With our area experiencing a serious bout of winter weather, Orange County Emergency Management Coordinator Kirby Saunders, has some tips to keep you safe and warm.

“Anytime there is a significant snow storm and there is the potential for accumulation of ice, the potential is always there for power outages,” said Saunders.

If you lose power due to a downed power line, make sure you stay clear and call authorities.

“If you are experiencing a power outage, and if you don’t have down trees or down power lines but your power’s out, you should contact your utility provider unless there is an emergency such as fire or sparking or arcing,” said Saunders.

Even if your power goes out, avoid the temptation to bring in that gas grill from the porch to warm you up.

“Never try to bring in anything that uses fuel to produce heat so a gas grill or even a charcoal grill, anything that uses some type of fuel to burn, to generate heat, that’s a bad thing to do to bring it inside because the carbon monoxide can get you pretty quickly,” said Saunders.

With temperatures below freezing it is also important to make sure your pipes don’t freeze. Keep the faucet dripping or open your cabinets to allow heat to reach the pipes.

Saunders says the best idea is to play it safe, with icy conditions even your front steps can become a hazard.

“So the best course of action is to stay indoors during the store and immediately afterwards. Even just trying to walk to on snowy or icy walkways can be dangerous so if you don’t have to be out the best course is to stay inside,” said Saunders.

But if you have to venture outside, make sure to use caution.

“Another thing that is often overlooked is to limit your time outside but mainly don’t overexert yourself if your shoving snow, especially if your elderly or young or if you have medical problems,” said Saunders.

Holiday Safety Tips

The Chapel Hill Police Department has some tips to share this holiday season to keep you and your home safe.

Chapel Hill Police say they experience higher rates of property crime during the holiday season and are increasing patrols in residential areas. The following holiday safety tips will assure you have a safe and happy holiday:

– Never leave any packages in your vehicle in plain sight. Always take them with you or lock them in your trunk.

– Never leave any personal items in your vehicle in plain sight. This includes money, credit cards, cell phones, purses and GPS Units. Take these items with you when you leave your vehicle.

– Always lock and secure all doors and windows on your home and vehicles.

-Leave a radio or TV on to give the impression that someone is home. Another good idea is to place lights on a timer and utilize motion activated lights on the outside of your home.

– If you receive an expensive or large gift, such as a TV, don’t leave the box in front of your house as an invitation to thieves. Rather dispose of the box in another container or turn the box inside out.

– When you leave, turn your heat down low but don’t shut it off completely to avoid the pipes freezing.

– The Chapel Hill Police Department is offering house checks while you’re gone. Go to Chapel Hill Police House Checks to sign up.