Sunday, December 9, 2012

Houston area flu cases spike!

THE CHRON: If you've been putting off your annual flu shot, don't delay any longer: Texas is already being hit hard this flu season.
Houston-area hospitals have seen a spike in the number of emergency room visits for flu-like symptoms, said Porfirio Villarreal, spokesman for the Houston Department of Health and Human Services. During the week of Nov. 18, about 1,580 visits to emergency rooms were attributed to flu-like illnesses, compared with just 249 visits during the same week last year, Villarreal said.
Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization or even death, the CDC says.
Every flu season is different, and even healthy people can get very sick from the disease and spread it to others. From 1976 to 2007, estimates of U.S. deaths each year due to flu ranged from 3,000 to 49,000.
"Flu is predictably unpredictable," said Dr. Gail Demmler-Harrison, pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Texas Children's Hospital and pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine. "There's no cause for alarm but cause for action. People should get themselves vaccinated so it doesn't get any worse."
National Influenza Vaccination Week, a campaign established in 2005 to counter the notion that December is too late to get a vaccination, ends Saturday. Once a vaccine is administered, it takes about two weeks to develop immunity.
Although the influenza season usually peaks in February, 48 states and Puerto Rico have reported cases, with rates rising quickly nationwide, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week.
Along with Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee are also reporting high levels of activity.
In Houston, Texas Children's Hospital has seen an early start to the season with 123 confirmed cases of Type A influenza and 32 cases of Type B, compared with just two Type A cases in the same span last year, Demmler-Harrison said.
Everyone who is at least 6 months old should get a flu vaccination, but the CDC says it's especially important for these groups:
» People at high risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia if they get the flu, including those with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease.
» Pregnant women.
» People 65 years and older.
» People who live with or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sam's club employees robbed in Pearland

PEARLAND, Texas – Two employees leaving their jobs at a Sam’s Club in Pearland were assaulted and robbed late Wednesday, police said.
According to the Pearland Police Department, it was around 9:45 p.m. when the victims, a man and a woman, were leaving the Sam’s Club store on Highway 288 at Discovery Bay.
The workers told police they were walking to their vehicles when an older model green Jeep Grand Cherokee pulled up, and two armed men with ski masks jumped out. The male employee tried to protect the female, causing one of the suspects to hit him on the head with a pistol.
Police said the two suspects made off with the man’s wallet, cash, watch, and other items.
Investigators said there may have been a third suspect driving the vehicle.
Anyone with information can call the Pearland Police Department.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Park & Ride" coming to Pearland in 2014

CHRON: Motorists driving on Texas 288 may get some needed relief when a new Metropolitan Transit Authority Park & Ride comes online in mid- or late 2014 taking from 900 to 1,000 cars off the road daily.
In November 2011, Metro purchased 15 acres off northbound Texas 288 north of a detention pond and just south of a medical office for the Park & Ride. Hughes Ranch Road is north of the site and County Road 94 or Smith Ranch Road is just to the east.
Metro is in the process of bringing on a firm to perform engineering services for the Park & Ride. Once final design has been completed in late 2013, construction activities will soon follow, said Caroline Mendoza of Metro's press office.
Edmund Petry, Metro manager of environmental and capital planning, said cost for the project is anticipated to be approximately $14 million. The Park & Ride will include about 1,000 parking spaces, a three-bay bus facility with a canopy and accompanying seating.
"Based on the current assumptions within the proposed service plan, the annual ridership is projected to be 228,600," he said.
The new facility will provide residents service between the Texas Medical Center and Brazoria County.
Petry said the route will offer patrons additional opportunities since about 13 bus routes operate out of the Texas Medical Center Transit Center and because it also provides access to MetroRail connecting to downtown.
"State Highway 288 is the main artery from this area into downtown Houston, and there is no high-occupancy vehicle lane at the moment to help ease congestion. This new service would give Brazoria County residents a cost-efficient, direct ride to the Texas Medical Center," Petry said.
He said many medical center employees call the Brazoria County area home. TMC officials, he said, have consistently asked for additional service for their commuting employees and to help them meet expansion goals.
"This service will help the medical center meet its development goals by reducing the need for parking, provide mobility options, enhance safety and improve air quality," Petry said.
Carol Artz-Bucek, president and CEO of the Pearland Chamber, of Commerce, expects the project to contribute generally to the quality of life for Brazoria County residents.
"Such projects improve the quality of life by offering more choices, better safety and more opportunities for commuters in the Pearland area. I am very proud of our civic leaders who negotiated and worked on this," Artz-Bucek said.
Petry said the process began in 2010 when the city of Pearland and Gulf Coast Connect Transit approached Metro with a request for commuter service between the medical center, Pearland, Manvel and the adjacent Brazoria County area. He said these entities had secured grant funding for operating the service and needed Metro to program and provide the service.
A stakeholder committee comprised of representatives from the cities of Pearland and Manvel, the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Gulf Coast Connect Transit, Brazoria County and the Texas Department of Transportation conducted extensive studies in selecting the land for the Park & Ride, Petry said.
Pearland Assistant City Manager Jon Branson said, "We've been asking Metro for many years to put a Park & Ride in Pearland due to the growth of our area and our large number of commuters. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Pearland was the second fastest-growing area in Texas and the 15th fastest-growing in the nation," he said.
Branson said the city was a key partner along with Metro and Gulf Coast Connect Transit in securing federal grants to make land procurement and construction possible. The city has committed to provide matching funds to facilitate day-to-day operations at the Park & Ride for the first five years. The first two years are expected to cost the city $90,000 to $100,000 each. The next three years he anticipates will be about $320,000 each.
Branson and Pearland Economic Development Corp. President Matt Buchanan think it is a great investment. Both men anticipate that Petry's estimate of 228,600 annual boardings will translate to around 900 to 1,000 cars taken off the road daily.
"It's an exciting opportunity for our residents to have another option to get to the Texas Medical Center, downtown and other job centers," Buchanan said.
And Branson said it is not just the improvement for people commuting from Brazoria County into town that is in focus, but also increasing the opportunity for people to commute into the Pearland area for work as well.
"We believe the Metro estimates will be met and exceeded," Branson said. He also noted that residents are already calling the city asking when the new Park & Ride will come online. That, he says, is another cause for encouragement.
Mark A. Quick is a freelance writer. He can be reached at

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pearland GNC store arsonists sought

The Pearland Fire Marshal's Office is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of any suspects in a store arson fire.

Arson investigators believe the suspect(s) entered the GNC store located at 7117 Broadway through a rear door between the hours of 6:30am and 7am on October 24. The suspect(s) then attempted to burn the store by setting multiple fires and using an accelerant to promote fire growth and spread.

The sprinkler system installed at this location controlled the fires and prevented them from spreading throughout the building until the Fire Department could arrive and fully extinguish the fire.
The Pearland Fire Marshal's Office is seeking help to identify the person or persons responsible for this fire. A reward of $1,000 is being offered by the City of Pearland for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who set the fire.

Anyone with information regarding this fire is encouraged to contact the Pearland Fire Marshal at 281.651.1954. Information provided that results in an arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for this arson fire will be eligible for the reward. For information on fire investigations, please contact Deputy Fire Marshal Shohn Davison at 281.652.1965 or
(Copyright ©2012 KTRK-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Teens abusing Delsym taken to hospital

PEARLAND, TX (KPRC/NBC) - Four Texas teens were taken away from a school by paramedics after they became intoxicated from Delsym cough syrup on Tuesday.
Parents and students at Glenda Dawson High School in Pearland, TX, where the incident took place, reacted to the news Tuesday.
"I wonder, what's the rationale behind that? I guess maybe they wanted to go home or something and kids do things that I don't understand," said Edward Jasmine.
Police said the boys, two 14-year-olds and two 15-year-olds, ingested the medicine in one of the school's restrooms.
One of the boys had brought four bottles of Delsym cough syrup.
Each teenager drank a full bottle.
After they returned to class, a teacher noticed one of the students were behaving differently and appeared to be in distress.
The teacher sent him to the nurse, who discovered that he had an elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
That's when the teenager admitted that he had consumed the cough syrup with the other boys.
"In the end, all four were transported to Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital for evaluation," said Onesimo Lopez with the Pearland Police Department
Delsym is a strong medicine with a 12 hour time release, which is meant to be taken in teaspoonfuls.
It's so strong that it is often placed behind the counter.
"If they take too much of it trying to keep chasing that high, they could end up overdosing and may actually even die from it," Lopez said.
The students may face public intoxication charges.
Copyright 2012 KPRC via NBC. All rights reserved

Monday, September 17, 2012

Houston man accused of salt poisoning boy

A Houston man is accused of pouring salt down the throat of 4-year-old Angel Maldonado and torturing him on a number of occasions.
Rolando Tomas Mendez, 21, was charged with injury to a child this week after a year-long investigation.
Angel was rushed to Memorial Hermann Hospital Northeast after vomiting and losing consciousness on September 28, 2011. He was then airlifted to Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital. Doctors there said he could’ve died if they’d waited any longer.
Poice questioned Angel's mother and Mendez, her live-in boyfriend. He is not the boy’s father, but does have a 2-year-old daughter with the mother.
Mendez told police he was keeping both kids while their mother worked the first day of her new job. He said after feeding them, he noticed Angel had vomited in the bedroom and bathroom.
The child’s mother said she noticed her son was walking sideways and was unable to keep his balance so she ran and picked him up. As she rushed her son to the hospital, she noticed his bottom lip was blue and hanging down.
Mendez told the mother he had given the boy a piece of lemon with a little salt on it and fed him spaghetti, but denied doing anything wrong to the child.
Doctors, however, said the child had elevated levels of sodium and had to be either poisoned with salt or deprived water. After numerous tests, they determined there were no underlying medical conditions that could explain the sodium levels.
When Angel returned home, relatives say he would often cry uncontrollably and had developed a fear of the salt shaker. His grandmother said he’d say "no touch, that’s bad" when someone would reach for the shaker at the dinner table.
They put two and two together and called police.
Angel told investigators that "Lando" was mean and often forced him to eat "a lot of salt" when he got mad. The boy showed how Mendez would tilt his head back and shake the salt directly into his mouth. He also said Mendez would place him into scorching hot baths.
"I was real, real mad. I didn’t know what to do," said Alberto Maldonado, Angel’s father.
Angel's paternal grandmother was also interviewed. She told investigators the child told her that Mendez would lock him in the closet and make him watch scary "Chucky" movies.
Mendez told police he did let the child watch the "Chucky" movie with him, but said he never locked him in the closet or poured salt down his throat.
He refused to take a polygraph examination.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pearland man faces teen pornography charges

KHOU HOUSTON – A 44-year-old Pearland man is facing charges after investigators say he took a nude photo of a teenager in the sound room of a local church.
Medger Chauncey Duckens is charged with promotion of child pornography.
According to court documents, the victim told investigators she’d been involved in a relationship with Duckens since she was 16.
She said their relationship consisted of sending sexually explicit photographs and text messages.
Police began investigating Duckens in May of 2011, after the victim came forward.
They said they found numerous text messages on her phone from Duckens.
On September 6, 2011, police searched Duckens’ home in Pearland and seized his iPhone and several other devices.
A forensic analysis of those devices yielded dozens of child-porn images and sexually explicit texts, investigators said.
One of the images appeared to have been taken in the sound room of the Heavenly Star Baptist Church.
The victim told investigators that Duckens took the photo of her during one of the church services. She was 17 at that time.
Police executed a search warrant at the church and located a room that matched the one in the photograph, according to court documents.
Charges of online solicitation of a minor were filed in 2011.
The promotion of child pornography charges were filed on August 9, 2012.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mystery surrounds skeletal remains found in Pearland
Posted on June 21, 2012 at 3:13 PM
PEARLAND, Texas – Police are hoping the public can help them identify skeletal remains that were found in Pearland in March of 2012.
The remains, believed to be female, were discovered on a property in the 4600 block of Dixie Farm Road and were collected and sent to the Galveston County Medical Examiner’s Office.
From there, the remains were sent to Sam Houston State University for further examination. DNA was extracted and sent off to the University of North Texas to determine if the remains could be matched to a missing person.
Investigators said the testing did not match the DNA of any known missing person, so now, police can only hope that the public can shed light on the dead woman’s identity.
Investigators believe she was a black woman between the ages of 40 and 50.
She would have been between 4 feet, 10 inches tall and 5 feet, 4 inches tall.
Forensic anthropologists believe she died between one and three years ago.
At the time of her death, she was wearing a blue shirt, Old Navy flare jeans and white, size 6 Reebok tennis shoes.
"This was someone’s daughter; someone’s friend," said Pearland Lt. Onesimo Lopez.  "Someone is missing her."  
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Steve Weaver at            281-997-4154      

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pearland girl sacrifices hair for her friend with cancer.

PEARLAND, Texas—Children at a Pearland school knew something wasn’t right when one of their friends started wearing a cap to class.
When one girl, Katie Tindall, found out that her classmate had cancer, she was moved to sacrifice her own head of hair.
The friends attended a party at a hair salon, but it wasn’t in honor of Katie; it was for her friend Emily Pena. Emily has been fighting cancer, and that meant losing her hair.
"She lost her hair about a year and a half into treatment. That is not very common so it was like starting all over again," said Emily’s mother Orfelinda Pena.
Emily kept going to school no matter what.
"Katie would come home and say Emily got to wear a hat today to school because she doesn’t have any hair. That really impacted Katie," said Katie’s mother Marissa Tindall.
So Katie decided to grow her hair for a year and donate to a program called Wigs for Kids.
There was another reason to be happy that day—doctors just told Emily she is cancer free.
"I’m happy that she doesn’t have cancer anymore and we use to pray all night and now God heard our prayers an

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cocaine ring busted in Pearland

Six individuals, including one Pearland resident, have been taken into custody following the return of an indictment alleging conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced Tuesday.
The two-count indictment, returned under seal April 3, was partially unsealed per the arrests of Lewis Charles Hawkins, 39, and Jarriette Eurk Hawkins, 35, both of Houston; Demetrice Quarles, 41, of Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Marcus Dejuan Colbert, 35, of Pearland and Morris Alexander Wise, 32, of Maywood, Ill., Christopher Knox, 49, of Hopkinsville, Ky., is already in state custody in Louisiana on related charges and is expected to be transferred to federal custody to answer to these charges in the near future. The indictment remains sealed as to those charged but not as yet in custody.
All are charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine from Jan. 1, 2011, to the date of their arrest. Jarriette, Hawkins and Wise are also charged with possession with the intent to distribute cocaine on Sept. 15, 2011.
Both counts carry a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life in federal prison in addition to a possible $10 million fine.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ted Imperato.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tornadoes ravage Arlington/Dallas Ft Worth

Tornado-wrecked Dallas begins assessing damage
By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press –

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The tornado hurtled toward the nursing home. Physical therapist Patti Gilroy said she saw the swirling mass barreling down through the back door, after she herded patients into the hallway in the order trained: walkers, wheelchairs, then beds.
"It wasn't like a freight train like everybody says it is," said Gilroy, who rounded up dozens to safety at Green Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. "It sounded like a bomb hit. And we hit the floor, and everybody was praying. It was shocking."

The National Weather Service said as many as a dozen twisters touched down in a wrecking-ball swath of violent weather that stretched across Dallas and Fort Worth. The destructive reminder of a young tornado season Tuesday left thousands without power and hundreds of homes pummeled or worse.

As the sun rose Wednesday over the southern Dallas suburb of Lancaster, one of the hardest hit areas, it was clear that twisters had bounced in and out of neighborhoods, destroying homes at random. Vehicles were tossed like toys, coming to rest in living rooms and bedrooms.

At one house, a tornado had seemingly dipped into the building like an immersion blender, spinning directly down through an upstairs bedroom and wreaking havoc in the family room below before lifting straight back up and away. A grandfather clock leaned slightly but otherwise stood pristine against a wall at the back of the downstairs room that was filled with smashed furniture and fallen support beams.

Despite the intensity of the slow-moving storms, only a handful of people were hurt, a couple of them seriously, and no fatalities were reported as of late Tuesday.
The Red Cross estimated that 650 homes were damaged. Around 150 Lancaster residents stayed in a shelter Tuesday night.

"I guess 'shock' is probably a good word," Lancaster Mayor Marcus Knight said.
The exact number of tornadoes won't be known until surveyors have fanned across North Texas, looking for clues among the debris that blanketed yards and rooftops peeled off slats.
April is typically the worst month in a tornado season that stretches from March to June, but Tuesday's outburst suggests that "we're on pace to be above normal," said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Bishop.

An entire wing at the Green Oaks nursing home in Arlington crumbled. Stunning video from Dallas showed big-rig trailers tossed into the air and spiraling like footballs. At the Cedar Valley Christian Center church in Lancaster, Pastor Glenn Young said he cowered in a windowless room with 30 children from a daycare program, some of them newborns.

Ten people in Lancaster were injured, two of them severely, said Lancaster police officer Paul Beck. Three people were injured in Arlington, including two Green Oaks residents taken to a hospital with minor injuries, Arlington Assistant Fire Chief Jim Self said.

Gilroy said the blast of wind through Green Oaks lasted about 10 seconds. She described one of her co-workers being nearly "sucked out" while trying to get a patient out of the room at the moment the facility was hit.

Joy Johnston was also there, visiting her 79-year-old sister.
"Of course the windows were flying out, and my sister is paralyzed, so I had to get someone to help me get her in a wheelchair to get her out of the room," she said.
In one industrial section of Dallas, rows of empty tractor-trailers crumpled like soda cans littered a parking lot.

"The officers were watching the tornadoes form and drop," Kennedale police Chief Tommy Williams said. "It was pretty active for a while."

Most of Dallas was spared the full wrath of the storm. Yet in Lancaster, television helicopters panned over exposed homes without roofs and flattened buildings. Residents could be seen walking down the street with firefighters and peering into homes, looking at the damage after the storm passed.

Hundreds of flights into and out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field were canceled or diverted elsewhere Tuesday. About 500 flights remained grounded Wednesday, airport officials said.

The storms knocked out power for thousands. Utility Oncor said nearly 14,000 homes and businesses, mainly in the Arlington area, still had no electricity early Wednesday.
Meteorologists said the storms were the result of a slow-moving storm system centered over northern New Mexico.

Dixon reported from Lancaster. Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant, Terry Wallace and David Koenig in Dallas, Betsy Blaney in Lubbock, Angela K. Brown in Fort Worth and Robert Ray in Lancaster contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Severe weather expected today in Houston area

KRPC: You can see a wall of heavy rain," KPRC Local 2 meteorologist Anthony Yanez. "From 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock is the time to watch for these dangerous storms."

"Do not take these warnings lightly. Typically, whenever we get these and see a pattern like we had this morning, we'll see a handful of tornadoes," Yanez said.

Gusty winds and scattered showers moved through the area at 2 a.m., knocking out power to 30,000 CenterPoint Energy customers. As of 6:30 a.m., approximately 18,000 people remained without electricity.

"Earlier this morning, we had wind gusts of 50 to 55 mph," Yanez said. "That's what knocked down some of those trees and power lines. We could still see some 60 mph straight-line winds, hail and lots of lightning."

A low-pressure system is responsible for strong storms in central and northern Texas, which are expected to drench the Houston area most of the day.

"There's a couple of lines that we're tracking. The strongest one will arrive in Houston around noon. It's a concern for this morning until early afternoon. The radar is picking up a lot of twisting winds," Yanez said. "It's going to be wet from 8 o'clock all the way through 2 o'clock. By 5 p.m., this storm system will be in our eastern counties."

Yanez said south of Interstate 10 is not expected to see the strongest storms.

"It's a lot more scattered and not as well put together," Yanez said.

Power outages caused problems for some southwest Houston businesses.

Whataburger on the Southwest Freeway near Weslayan had to turn away customers when employees could not prepare food for the morning rush.

"Their lights just came back on (at 6 a.m.), but they weren't ready to serve yet," customer Carol Bennett said.

Many Houstonians were worried about flooding after severe weather left its mark on Jan. 9.

Houston firefighters performed about 140 water rescues when people became stranded in high water.

Officials warned drivers to "turn around, not drown" if they approached rising water.

Flooding is the most common hazard in Houston and many times, individuals are not able to judge the depths of water along roadways and find themselves in perilous conditions.

Officials said 6 inches of water can cause tires to lose traction and begin to slide, and 12 inches of water can float many cars. Two feet of rushing water will carry off pickup trucks, SUVs and most other vehicles.

Water across a roadway may hide a missing segment of road or a missing bridge, officials said.

In flash floods, waters rise so rapidly they may be far deeper by the time you are halfway across, trapping you in your vehicle.

Be especially cautious at night, when it's even more difficult to gauge the amount of water in a roadway.

The safest option is to simply avoid driving over water and find an alternate, safer route, or wait until the danger has passed.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Houston skyscraper implosion ...

Posted on January 9, 2012 at 7:57 AM
Updated today at 8:14 AM

HOUSTON — A big boom could be heard on Sunday at the Texas Medical Center in Houston as demolition crews brought down a 20-story building that was once the home of KVUE's sister station, KHOU-TV.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rare treat: Houstonians can watch as Space Station crosses Moon

A slice of Houston will have a chance to view a rare treat this evening.

Not only will the International Space Station make an incredibly bright, six-minute track across the sky tonight, some observers will be able to see the orbital laboratory blink across the moon.

Beginning at 6:28 p.m. the station will rise above the northwest horizon in Houston, and disappear just above the southeast horizon some six minutes later. Skies are forecast to be partly cloudy.

Along this path, for some parts of Houston all the way to Galveston, the station’s track will bring it across the face of the moon.

The following map, made by Steve Clayworth of Observable Universe, shows the approximate area from which this will be visible.

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