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March 13, 2017 - 3:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather, news.

Press release:

The Yard Waste Station on Law Street will be closed this week, Tuesday, March 14th and Wednesday, March 15th due to the forecasted snow event. We plan to resume operations on Thursday, March 16th with regular hours (noon-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday) for the season. If there are any questions or concerns about this matter, contact the Bureau of Maintenance at (585) 345-6400, option 1.

March 13, 2017 - 1:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Pavilion, news.

A vehicle rammed into the doors of a new annex being built on Pavilion High School over the weekend causing more than $3,000 in damage.

Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster said investigators have solid leads and they think there will be an arrest in the next couple of days.

There's no description of the vehicle available.

The potential charges against any eventual suspect would be second-degree criminal mischief and trespass.

March 13, 2017 - 1:15pm
posted by Billie Owens in crime, batavia, news.

A distrubance is reported in the Walmart parking lot in the area of Row #8 by the food entrance. There are three people involved, including at least one female. A subject reportedly has some sort of a weapon, which was brandished because "he was being attacked." Sheriff's deputies just arrived.

March 13, 2017 - 1:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in oakfield-alabama, schools, education, news.

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Mixing different kinds of chemicals and compounds together isn't the only kind of experiment going on in David Porter's classroom at Oakfield-Alabama High School.

Porter is also introducing a concept that is only about a decade old called "flipped learning." Basically, students watch videos of typical lecture material at home or otherwise away from the classroom and then classroom time is used for worksheets, labs or individual instruction. 

Proponents say it's a style of teaching more suitable to students raised in the Digital Age. Porter says it empowers kids to more easily master the subject.

"With flipped learning, more lecture and note-taking takes place at home and typical homework now takes place in class," Porter said. "The whole idea behind it is that it’s almost brainless work to do note-taking. I fill in the blanks. I just copy what’s on the board. It’s not high-level thinking skills being used. Then students go home and get stuck on question number four and then they give up. By flipping that order, students can do the lower level thinking skills at home. They just watch a video, fill in their notes and there’s no question. Then when they come into the class, do the work and they have a question on question number four, I’m right there; they have a teacher who can jump in and say, ‘ok, now we’re stuck, here’s how we get past there.’ "

Porter started trying flipped learning in the middle of the semester last year so this year's chemistry class is the first one getting the instruction through the whole course.

Students say they like it.

"It helps because if you don’t understand something, you just watch that part over until, ‘oh, yeah, I get it,’ ” said Jonathan Mateos.

Ryan Douglas said he thinks it's more interesting than a whole class just watching a teacher lecture. He thinks he's learning the material faster.

So far this year, students have gotten through 28 labs in 25 weeks. Last year's class did 35 labs in 40 weeks.

"So I'm almost to where I was last year and I’ve still got another 15 weeks to utilize for that hands-on working material," Porter said.

Porter is a graduate of Batavia High School. He got his degree in Chemistry Education from Roberts Wesleyan College and is working on his master's at SUNY Brockport. He's writing his thesis on flipped learning.

He said as he works on his paper, he's continually studying all the literature on the subject and learning new things himself about the process. He brings new ideas into his own instructional approach, he said.

His interest in teaching was sparked by his mother, a teacher herself. He said he was always more of a math and science guy.

"I was never very strong in history and English, but I loved numbers and doing something to get numbers," Porter said. "It was always math or science, but I loved science because it's more hands-on. You get to do more than just put letters and numbers on a page."

To excel at chemistry in a flipped classroom, a student need not be strong in science. He or she just needs to follow through on assignments. Everybody works at their own pace, but they are expected to master the material before moving on. 

“Chemistry is a tough subject, where if you don’t understand day one you’re never going to get day two," Porter said." If you don’t get day two, you’re never going to get day three and that just sets up a whole year of hardship that’s not needed. So I’d rather take the time, dive in and really understand day one before we get to day two."

That's the approach Jonathan said he likes.

"If you go home and don't understand something, you can watch the video over and over again until you have a complete understanding," Jonathan said. "Then, when you come into class, it's really nice to have the teacher there while you're doing your homework."

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March 13, 2017 - 11:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron, Darien, fire, news.

Two barns were destroyed in fires on Saturday.

The first was reported about 2:45 p.m. at 7014 Townline Road, Bryon. Responding were Byron, South Byron, Elba, Bergen and Emergency Services. The fire is believed to have started when the owner was burning a small debris pile near the barn causing extension to the barn. The barn was a total loss. (Note: We didn't have prior coverage because I was in Buffalo covering basketball and Billie was at our house without any electrical power at that time.)

The second fire was reported about 10:30 p.m. at 9829 Simonds Road, Darien. Darien Fire, Town of Batavia, Alexander, East Pembroke, Corfu and Pembroke along with the City's Fast Team and Mercy EMS were dispatched. The barn was already fully involved by the time the first firefighters arrived, so the city's response was canceled and Mercy EMS soon went back in service. Tim Yaeger, emergency management coordinator, said the cause of the fire has yet to be determined. For photos and additional coverage, click here.

March 13, 2017 - 11:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Pavilion, Le Roy, Stafford, batavia, news, bergen.

David Lane Handley Jr., 54, of Ontario Avenue, Niagara Falls, is charged with burglary, 3rd, and criminal mischief, 3rd. Handley allegedly broke into the Yellow Goose Store in Pavilion at 2 a.m. Feb. 12. The investigation was conducted by Deputy James Diehl.

Jeffrey Allan Youngs, 56, of Montclair Avenue, Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, inadequate headlamps, driver's view obstructed, and open container. Youngs was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday on Route 20 in Alexander by Deputy Eric Meyer.

Timothy K. Smith, 23, of South Street Road, Le Roy, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, driving without insurance, inadequate headlamp, aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd, and unregistered vehicle. Smith was stopped at 9:56 p.m. Saturday on West Main Street, Le Roy, by Deputy Kyle Krzemien.

Chad Allen Cooper, 21, of Emily Court, Bergen, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th. During a "check the welfare" request, Cooper was allegedly found in possession of heroin.

Ghislaine Pena, 25, of Highland Park, Batavia, is charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, 2nd, and failure to stop. Pena was arrested on a warrant during a traffic stop at 2:07 a.m. Saturday on Clinton Street Road, Stafford, by Deputy Andrew Hale.

Shamir Kamran Aslam, 29, of Landstone Terrace, Rochester, is charged with menacing, 2nd, and two counts of criminal contempt, 1st. Aslam allegedly drove his vehicle at a high rate of speed and swerved by a person covered by a protective order when leaving the Genesee County Courts facility at 11:05 a.m., March 1.

Mark Joseph Amico Jr., 29, of Route 237, Le Roy, is charged with aggravated harassment, 2nd. Amico allegedly called another person and made several threatening statements at 6:07 a.m., March 7.

March 13, 2017 - 9:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather, news.

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Frank Capuano sent in this picture of this morning's sky over Batavia.

March 12, 2017 - 3:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, news.

A winter storm warning is in effect from 8 p.m. Monday to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

During the two-day period, as much as 12 inches of snow is possible in some areas.

Winds from the north at 15 to 25 mph are expected, with gusts up to 35 mph.

This will create blowing and driving snow conditions making traffic difficult and create periods of very low visibility.

March 12, 2017 - 2:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, news.

Rachel Doktor created this short documentary video about Wednesday's windstorm.

March 12, 2017 - 1:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Stafford Fire Department, Stafford, fire services, news.

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Randall Henning left the Stafford Fire Department's annual installation dinner at Batavia Downs with a handful of hardware, having logged the most training hours for both firematic training and EMS training. Each of those categories have their own awards, and there's also an award for most combined training hours, which Henning won, with 191 total training hours in 2016.

The department responded to 271 calls on the year. Of those 22 were fire calls, 166 medical, 11 hazardous conditions, 15 service, 54 good intent and three false alarms.

With 165 answered alarms, Timothy E. Eckdahl had the most responses for the year.

Firematic officers installs: Brian Pocock -- chief, Stephanie Call -- 1st assistant chief, Christopher Bobo -- 2nd assistant chief, Timothy Eckdahl -- 3rd assistant chief, Michael Dorgam -- 4th assistant chief, Matt Hendershott -- rescue squad captain, Michael Dorgan -- rescue squad lieutenant, Ben Fox -- fire police captain, Stephen Johnson -- fire police lieutenant, and Mark Dougherty -- master mechanic.

Administrative officers: James Call -- president, Stephen Johnson -- vice president, Ashley Swartzenberg -- secretary, Stephanie Call -- treasurer. Trustees: James Call, Ron DeMena III, Timothy Eckdahl, Stan Gere and Matt Hendershott. Auditors: Dean Brooks and Randall Henning.

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March 12, 2017 - 12:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, Notre Dame.

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Too many missed shots and too many turnovers made it hard for Notre Dame to keep up with Panama yesterday at Buffalo State College in the Far West Regional championship for Class D girls basketball.

Notre Dame lost 49-40.

Callie McCulley scored 13 points, Margaret Sutherland, eight; Morgan Rhodes and Natalie Thornton had six each.

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March 11, 2017 - 11:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, elba.

A truck vs. tree accident with possible injuries is reported in the area of 7382 Starowitz Road, near Bank Street Road, Elba.

Elba Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

March 11, 2017 - 10:23pm
posted by Billie Owens in fire, news, Darien.

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A fully involved barn fire is reported at 9829 Simonds Road, Darien. All available manpower from Darien Fire Department is called to the scene, along with Mercy medics and mutual aid from the city's Fast Team, Town of Batavia, Alexander, East Pembroke, Corfu, and Pembroke. A first responder en route says flames can be seen a mile away. Crittenden Fire Department is called to fill in at Darien's fire hall. The location is between Richley and Bennett roads.

UPDATE 10:29 p.m.: Mercy medics are back in service.

UPDATE 10:42 p.m.: The barn is on the ground, totally destroyed.

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UPDATE: Below, reader-submitted photos, first of the fire and then of one of the tanker refill locations.

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UPDATE: More reader submitted photos.

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March 11, 2017 - 6:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, news.

There are only about 11 power outages left in Genesee County, the lingering effect of Wednesday's windstorm, and all of those affect fewer than five customers each.

Three of them are in the city.

Here's a press release from National Grid (sent out at 3 p.m.):

National Grid crews have restored power to more than 174,000, or 97 percent of the nearly 180,000 Upstate New York customers who lost electricity after a damaging windstorm hit the region on Wednesday. The company expects the vast majority of the remaining 4,800 customers still without service (as of 3 p.m.) to be restored by late this evening, and continues to commit extensive resources until the last outage is repaired.

A field force of more than 1,100 has been at work around the clock in Western New York, which was the most severely impacted portion of the company’s Upstate service area. While services have been restored in most areas, intensive work continues in the particularly hard hit Genesee region, including Genesee, Orleans, Monroe and Wyoming counties.

Wind gusts in some areas exceeding 70 mph did extensive damage to trees and utility equipment. National Grid has had to replace more than 300 broken poles and 80 damaged transformers, including more than 200 poles in the Genesee region alone. Miles of distribution circuits have been repaired or replaced, along with service lines to individual homes and businesses.

“We deeply appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding as we continue to work around the clock to restore service as quickly and safely as possible,” said Melanie Littlejohn, National Grid’s New York vice president.

“This was an extremely damaging storm and we are grateful that our Western New York crews were assisted by their Upstate counterparts, as well as National Grid crews from New England and from other utilities in New York and Canada. We also are grateful for the many police, fire, public works, municipal officials, Red Cross workers and other volunteers who did so much to support our customers and our communities.”

Littlejohn also recognized the support and generosity of the company’s Upstate New York customers during this hardship.

“Reports from the field poured in of customers offering thanks, coffee, gratitude and a ‘thumbs up’ as power was restored,” she said. “No one likes to be without electricity – even for a little while -- yet the spirit of cooperation and understanding demonstrated by our customers has been remarkable."

Once restoration is completed, National Grid crews will remain in the field for the next few days as storm cleanup continues. In some areas, customers will continue to see significant utility activity as any temporary repairs are made permanent. National Grid urges drivers to use extreme caution as they approach work areas, to ensure the safety of utility and other storm-response personnel.

Additionally, customers are reminded to avoid downed wires. All wires should be considered live and should be immediately reported to National Grid at 1-800-867-5222.

While National Grid expects power to be restored to all impacted circuits tonight, there may be instances of damage to individual customer’s electricity service. Any customer who remains without power should call National Grid at 1-800-867-5222 for assistance.

March 11, 2017 - 1:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GSO, Genesee Symphony Orchestra, music, entertainment, news.

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Internationally acclaimed pianist Brian Preston performs tomorrow with the Genesee Symphony Orchestra.

They will perform Brahms, "Concerto No. 1 in D Minor."

Also on the program, "Danzon No. 2" by Marquez.

Shade Zajac conducts.

The concert starts at 4 p.m. in the Stuart Steiner Theater at GCC. Tickets are available online at GeneseeSymphony.com or at the door.

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March 11, 2017 - 12:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, news.

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There are still nearly 1,000 National Grid customers in Genesee County without power as crews from throughout the Northeast have come to WNY to help the utility recover from Wednesday's windstorm.

There are still more than a dozen outages in the city affecting 400 customers.

Crews are on Central Avenue, above, but there is as yet no ETA for power restoration on that street. There's also no estimate yet for Morton Avenue and Redfield Parkway around Richmond Avenue as well as other city outages.

Several of the outages around the county have restoration time frames of this afternoon, but not all of them.

A National Grid supervisor said this morning that there are 300 workers in our area today. A firefighter says city fire has been notified that of the remaining customers without power today, about 90 percent of them should have power restored by midnight.

There is bottled water and dry ice available at the fire headquarters on Evans Street until 5 p.m.

There were more than 800 outages caused by the storm affecting nearly 100,000 National Grid customers in WNY.

There are currently 245 outages reported within National Grid's service area in WNY affecting 6,870 customers.

March 11, 2017 - 12:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, batavia.

A car has hit a tree on Clifton Avenue, Batavia.

A person is reported to be disoriented.

City fire and Mercy EMS responding.

March 11, 2017 - 9:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, thruway, news.

Press release:

“This week, residents of Western New York were devastated by a hurricane-like storm that caused major damage and left thousands without power. We are now focused on cleaning up the mess left behind by the storm and ensuring that everyone is safe and has power.

“The powerful winds blew many signs down in my district, including at least three ‘I Love NY’ signs at mile post 381 on the Thruway just east of Batavia. These gimmicks cost taxpayers $25 million and were installed by the governor despite being in violation of federal law.

"I am calling on the governor not to waste another cent of taxpayer money on these illegal signs and put that money into repairing our infrastructure and the damages from this horrific windstorm that wreaked havoc on our region.”

March 11, 2017 - 8:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Tompkins Bank of Castile, business.

Press release:

Tompkins Insurance has expanded staff on duty today  from 8 a.m. to noon to assist our customers with claims due to the storm.  In addition we are available 24 hours per day 365 days a year. Thank you for allowing us to be your trusted insurance advisor.

Tompkins can be reached at (888) 261-2688.

March 11, 2017 - 1:08am
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, Emergency Dispatch.

Take the six hours between noon and 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Genesee County dispatchers handled more calls for service, 428, than any other full day in the known history of emergency dispatch for the county. 

And that's just six hours.

For the full day, dispatchers received 620 calls for service. There were 706 dispatch events, 507 9-1-1 calls, 597 seven-digit emergency calls, 12,350 monitored radio transmissions, 38,953 total radio transmissions and the on-air time for dispatchers was 36 hours and three minutes. (Calls for service does not include canceled calls or consolidated calls. Monitored radio transmissions do not include transmissions to highway departments, public works and other talk groups not normally monitored by dispatch.)

Wednesday, of course, was the day Genesee County got hit with a windstorm that may have included gusts up to 80 mph. As a result, more than 12,000 National Grid customers locally were left without electricity, trees were downed, trucks were overturned and homes were damaged.

There was also a four-unit apartment fire in Batavia, a pellet stove fire in Pavilion, and a train derailment east of Donahue Road.

"It was definitely the busiest day in the entire history of emergency dispatch," said Steven Sharpe, director of emergency communications. "It was definitely a hectic room, but we have some extraordinary people so we're not running around with heads cut off. We have our heads down, plowing ahead and taking care of business as each call came in. It was very business-like but we worked our way through it."

A normal shift of three or four people swelled quickly to 11 dispatchers in the communications center on Park Road as the calls came flooding in for reports of power lines down, arcing and sparking wires, accidents and the normal medical emergencies.

"It started off like any other day, then one thing leads to another and it starts adding up," said Sgt. Jason Holman, that day's dispatch center supervisor.

One of the more experienced dispatchers in the center as winds started to kick up was Nate Fix.

"I personally worked the ice storm of 2006 and the tornado in 2009 and we've had some tough, large storms, but I've never seen that many calls and dispatches," Fix said.

Sharp, who working with Russ Lang as kind of floater support in dispatch, Holman and Fix all described a nonstop call volume that didn't let up from minute-to-minute for the duration of the storm.

The storm combined intensity and duration to make for a very busy day for dispatchers.

Sheriff William Sheron said he was really proud of the job dispatchers did during the storm.

The fire at 404 S. Jackson at 10:30 a.m. struck just as winds started to pick up, but before their full force hit the county.

"When that came in, there wasn't a real relation for us to the wind," Holman said. "The process was more day-to-day operations and you get through it and you make sure everyone responding has the information they need to know."

Winds didn't get strong until after the fire was pretty much out.

Then came the train derailment.

Russ Lang took the call, but Nate Fix was working Sheriff's dispatch so he was the first to notify patrols.

He put the word out in a single sentence, calm and in control, but knowing an incident like that could be bad.

"My dad was the Corfu chief in '94," Fix said, recalling the most recent train derailment in the county. "I remember the tones going off and it was still dark outside. I was 12 or 13 and I probably shouldn't have gone on the call, but I rode along with him and I remember people walking out of the woods in the fog. My first instinct (on this call) was to make sure there were no people involved. There wasn't, so that changed my thinking. We don't need ambulances. We just need people there to check if anything is leaking."

With the wind, Fix said, we're fortunate there was nothing toxic on the train, because the wind would have carried it right into the city.

"A lot of things go through your mind when a call like that comes in," Holman said.

Fortunately, the train derailment was nothing more than a property-damage accident, but that was still near the start of a multi-hour effort to field all the calls coming in.

Holman said, though, for all the work and all the stress on dispatchers, the real burden of the day was on the deputies, troopers, firefighters, medics, and highway personnel who actually had to respond to all those calls for service.

"We do our part, but we've got some protection," Holman said. "We're not dealing with the hazards. We try to get the information out to them as fast as we can, so my hat goes off to those guys out in the field. When it comes down to it, we've got the easy job."

With that many calls coming in, coordination and professionally handling priorities are essential to staying on top of the call volume, both Holman and Fix said. Every call is logged in the dispatch computer and all things being equal, calls are handled in the order received, but anything that involves the potential for loss of life -- a fire, an accident with entrapment, wires trapping somebody in a car or a house, gets a priority dispatch.

Dispatchers know, Fix said, that their first priority is to take care of the people in the field and the people calling in for help. Dispatchers have to stay calm in the midst of chaos and assure callers that help will arrive as soon as possible, then calmly pass the information on to responders.

But while dispatchers are taking care of everybody else, they also have their own concerns, Fix said, as does every other emergency responder.

"...the hardest thing for any emergency worker, especially for the volunteer firefighters, is they don't know what's going on with their own families because they’re going nonstop with no time to think of their family," Fix said. "I’m not sure people understand that or appreciate it."

Fix noted that Genesee County was fortunate in another way -- a storm in March isn't that unusual, but one without snow or rain is. Snow or rain could have made things so much worse.

"It still just blows my mind that we got a windstorm in March and no snow or rain with it," Fix said. That’s just remarkable this time of year."

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