Good Thursday morning, and we have a lot of ground to cover…
Weather: Severe weather ahead. We are all in for a rude — and loud — awakening on Friday, as a line of severe thunderstorms moved through the metro area. The National Weather Service says that the line should reach our area between 5 and 8 a.m. The biggest threat will be straight-line winds, but isolated tornadoes are possible. For today, though, it will be mostly sunny and breezy with a high in the middle 80s. Tonight’s low will dip to the lower 50s before the storms arrive, and Friday’s high will struggle to reach 60 after the storms.
Texas explosion death toll climbs. A small fire at a fertilizer plant about 20 miles from Waco turned into a massive explosion that killed an undetermined number of people, though some local news reports put the number at 70. The explosion in the town of West destroyed a 50-unit apartment complex, a nursing home and dozens of houses, and the town was evacuated because of anhydrous ammonia fumes. The blast was described as being similar to the one in the bomb used by Timothy McVeigh to hit the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which used fertilizer for the main explosive material.
Theft turns into murder attempt. A Birmingham man is jailed after police say he pulled a knife on two Gardendale Walmart employees, and then hit a patrol car in an attempt to get away. Charles Earl Jackson was detained by the store’s loss prevention team after they suspected he was shoplifting. Police say he was taken to a back room, where he pulled the knife and fled. He went north, but police lost him at the Blount County line. He ditched his car, but was found and arrested at a store at I-65 and Highway 160. He was taken to the Blount County Jail on unrelated charges; he’s charged here with attempted murder and several other felony counts.
Bombing suspect identified. Police and the FBI think they may have a picture of someone who planted one of two bombs that exploded at the finish line of Monday’s Boston Marathon. The image came from a surveillance camera at a Lord and Taylor department store nearby; the suspect has not been identified, though, and no arrest has been made despite earlier reports to the contrary. Meanwhile, at least 14 victims are still in critical condition in Boston hospitals, while crews search the Copley Plaza site for more clues.
Major defeat for Obama. The Democrat-controlled Senate failed to pass an amendment to a bill that would expand background checks for gun buyers. The proposal was a key part of the president’s gun-control agenda, but was defeated by a 54-46 vote, with five Democrats voting against and four Republicans voting in favor. Obama was visibly upset in a Rose Garden statement, saying, “All in all this was a pretty shameful day for Washington,” while the National Rifle Association, which campaigned heavily against the bill and was mentioned by name by Obama, claimed victory.
Poison-letter suspect caught. The FBI arrested a man in Corinth, Miss. and charged him with sending letters to President Obama, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and other lawmakers which contained the deadly toxin ricin. Paul Kevin Curtis, described as an Elvis Presley impersonator who was known for Internet rants, was taken into custody Wednesday. The poisoned letters never got close to the intended recipients, thanks to screening systems put in place after the anthrax incidents a few years back.
Sports: Blanked. Pisgah, the top-ranked softball team in Class 3A, has had Mortimer Jordan’s number this season. On Wednesday, that number was zero — the number of runs the Blue Devils scored (or didn’t score) in a 7-0 loss to the Eagles. Speaking of rankings, Jordan has flip-flopped with Hayden in the ASWA Class 5A poll released at midnight. The Wildcats are now fourth, up from sixth, and the Devils fell to sixth from fourth. Curry, also in Area 12, dropped from fifth to seventh. Corner stays in sixth place in 4A… Baseball: The Atlanta Braves’ 10-game winning streak ended Wednesday night, as they lost a 1-0 game to Kansas City.
We leave you today with a touching scene from the Boston Bruins hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres. Wednesday night’s game was the first pro sports event in the city since the Boston Marathon bombing, but the real lump in the throat comes about three minutes into this video, where Bruins favorite Rene Rancourt sings the national anthem. He doesn’t get far along before he gets some help. #BostonStrong, indeed.