Five stories that have North Texas talking: severe storms race across North Texas; Texas prisoners graduate from a behind-bars seminary program; who killed an 11-foot alligator?; and more.
North Texas had a night of wild weather – we saw heavy rain, hail the size of dimes, flooding, and vivid lightning shows filled the night sky. Tornadoes skipped through Wise, Denton and Cooke counties late Thursday, damaging some structures. National Weather Service crews are out surveying the damage. The weather service says damage in Wise County is consistent with an EF-1 tornado. We have no reports of serious injuries so far. BNSF Railway officials are figuring out if winds and high water caused a 17-car derailment earlier Friday in Cooke County near Valley View, which is about 50 miles northwest of Dallas. Sections of track were damaged or washed out. Four crewmembers were slightly hurt – but the injuries aren’t life-threatening.
Counties along the Texas-Oklahoma border saw the most rain overnight -- by 5 a.m., more than 4 inches of rain had fallen near Gainesville. Some parts of Dallas-Fort Worth saw 2 inches. The Dallas Morning News reports about 4,000 customers were without power Friday morning – down from 17,000. North Texas will see another round of storms later this afternoon and this evening. The weather service says large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes are possible. More storms could race through North Texas this weekend. [Associated Press/KERA]
— NWS Fort Worth (@NWSFortWorth) May 8, 2015
- A popular scholarship program could soon be coming to an end. The Texas Tribune reports: “A state-funded college scholarship program designed to keep top students in Texas may soon be axed due to lawmaker concerns that it doesn't have enough money to accomplish its goal. Budget proposals passed by the House and Senate each call for $21.4 million in cuts to the Top 10 Percent Scholarship Program, leaving just enough money to cover students who are already receiving the financial aid. Once the existing students graduate or are no longer eligible, the budget would drop to zero and the program would be eliminated, meaning thousands of future students will miss out on that financial aid opportunity.” [Texas Tribune]
- We’re in the middle of the Dallas Symphony’s first international music and arts festival. It’s called Soluna and it features three weeks of concerts and art shows in the downtown Arts District. One of Soluna’s strangest events will happen outside the district. Jerome Weeks with KERA’s Art&Seek reports it involves a car parked in a warehouse in West Dallas. Intrigued? Read all about it here. [KERA]
- Thirty-three Texas prisoners are graduating from a behind-bars seminary program this weekend — part of an initiative producing what organizers say are the first "pastor inmates" in state history. Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat who heads the chamber's Criminal Justice Committee, said 185 prisoners are working to earn college degrees in biblical studies, including Saturday's graduates. The program only offers Christian and biblical studies, is privately funded, and taught by professors from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary visiting prisons. Whitmire said Texas is "still the toughest state in the union" on violent offenders, but that the program has improved prisoner morale and reduced cellblock cursing and violence against guards. His voice cracking, deeply religious Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the program wouldn't have been possible "without the hand of God." [Associated Press]
- Game wardens in Central Texas are trying to determine who killed an 11-foot alligator along the Lampasas River. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department on Thursday announced the investigation in an area above the Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, near Belton. Authorities did not immediately provide additional information on when or how the alligator died or details on the carcass. Texas law requires alligator hunters to be licensed, have permission from the landowner and secure a tag purchased upon harvest of the animal. The alligator must be hunted during open season for the area, running April through June. TPWD officials say anyone with information on the slain alligator can contact Operation Game Thief officials at 1-800-792-GAME. Callers can remain anonymous. [Associated Press]