Morning Headlines: Underground Transformer Fire Knocked Out Power in Center City

underground-transformer-fire-940x540

Photo | Philly 311

Good morning, Philadelphia. Here’s what you need to know:

An underground transformer fire plunged parts of Rittenhouse into darkness. What city officials called an underground transformer explosion caused a fire at the evening rush hour in the 2100 block of Walnut Street. According to a story on Philly.com, the fire knocked out power to about 400 customers in the 2000 and 2100 blocks of Walnut Street; 6ABC reports that the outage even affected last night’s performance of Rain at the Merriam Theater. Several buildings surrounding the site of the fire were evacuated for about two hours. As of this morning, PECO’s outage map reports the probable cause as an “underground cable problem”; 91 customers remain without power, which the utility expects to restore by noon. Read more »

Bridge Inspections to Cause Slowdowns on Philly Roads Starting Next Week

I-95 at Columbus Blvd

Bridge inspections will cause lane closures on I-95 in Center City and other area roads from Feb. 19 through Feb. 28. Photo | Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

If you’re driving during the middle of the day in and around Philadelphia between February 16th and February 25th, be prepared to slow down at the following locations, as PennDOT will be closing lanes on several area roads for routine bridge inspections.

Here’s when and where there will be lane closures, day by day: Read more »

5 Takeaways from the North Philly Candidates Meet & Greet

Sims&English

State Rep. Brian Sims (right) talks with 49th Ward vice chair Lilian English Hentz at the forum. | Photo by Sandy Smith

“The people of North Philly don’t stop, they don’t get broken down, and they care.”

That was event organizer Malcolm Kenyatta-Green’s main takeaway from Tuesday night’s North Philly Candidate Meet & Greet at the TLO Event Complex on Cecil B. Moore Avenue. The forum managed to draw an impressive list of participants: All of the Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Pat Toomey. All of the Democrats running for the Second Congressional District seat currently held by Chaka Fattah, except Fattah himself. (Fattah said he would send a representative, but no one showed.) Two of the Democrats challenging Attorney General Kathleen Kane in her re-election bid. Representatives of the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders presidential campaigns. And 10 candidates running in state House and Senate contests.

The candidates’ presentations ranged from bland to bombastic. One member of the audience said of 3rd State Senate District candidate Emmanuel Bussie’s pitch, “We have our Donald Trump now.” Here’s what I took away from Tuesday night’s well-attended forum: Read more »

Lonely Planet Names Philly Top U.S. Travel Destination for 2016

Philadelphia Skyline | R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Skyline | R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia.

One day, we’ll get used to this. But not yet.

Last year, the city got giddy when The New York Times recommended its readers spend the third of the 52 weekends they will presumably go globetrotting in Philadelphia.

Now, everyone’s agog that the highly respected Lonely Planet travel guide has put the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection at the top of its annual “Best in the U.S.” list of the 10 places one must visit in the United States this year. Read more »

Police Arrest Suspect in Overbrook Cop-Dragging Incident

Kevin Cooke

Kevin Cooke

Philadelphia Police have arrested a 52-year-old Cheltenham resident in connection with an incident in the overnight hours of Sunday where a routine traffic stop turned into a high-speed chase that had the officer who made the stop hanging on for dear life at the outset.

According to the police report, two officers on overnight patrol stopped a silver Infiniti driving without headlights near 60th Street and Lancaster Avenue. When the officer on the driver’s side of the car approached, the driver allegedly ducked over to the passenger side, then got up again in the driver’s seat without license or vehicle registration. When the officer requested his license and paperwork, he said he noticed a strong smell of alcohol coming from both the driver and the inside of the car. Read more »

Ted Cruz Shares Emotional Story of His Half-Sister’s Overdose Death in Delco

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz. | Photo by Elise Amendola/AP

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz. | Photo by Elise Amendola/AP

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is usually a rabble-rouser when he delivers a stump speech on the campaign trail. Thursday night at a church in Hooksett, N.H., he was anything but as he shared the story of his half-sister Miriam’s drug addiction and an attempt he and his father made to rescue her.

Miriam’s journey from untroubled childhood to addicted adulthood began when Cruz’s father, Rafael, divorced Miriam’s mother — and it ended in a crack house near Philadelphia.  Read more »

Morning Headlines: Attackers Back on Schuylkill Trail

Good morning, Philadelphia. The snow is beginning to fall and stick across the region. We’re not expected to get a lot — about an inch — but please be careful out there. Here’s what else you need to know:

Attacks return to the Schuylkill River Trail, arrests made.

The young men on bikes who have been robbing joggers, walkers and riders on the Schuylkill River Trail are back after going into hiding when police stepped up patrols on the trail. Trail users were relieved of cash and possessions in three separate incidents on two days this week, according to a 6ABC report. In the most recent incident on Wednesday, things got violent when the victim refused to unlock his cell phone and the young men began to punch and kick him. Police arrested four young men a few minutes after that incident, while other incidents reportedly remain under investigation. Residents living near the trail have been concerned about the attacks for months, and City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson has formed a task force to come up with ways to make the trail safer. Read more »

Here’s What You Need to Know About That Vox Report on Lead in Philadelphia

Photo by Morgan Burke, Creative Commons license.

Photo by Morgan Burke, Creative Commons license.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Pennsylvania Department of Health data published in Vox, 18 cities in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, have higher levels of lead exposure than Flint, Michigan. Flint, of course, has made national headlines in the aftermath of revelations about its water crisis.

In Flint, 3.21 percent of the children were found to have at least 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. In Philadelphia, according to state Department of Health records, that figure is 10.19 percent. (5 micrograms per deciliter is the threshold level the government uses to identify dangerously high blood lead levels. The Centers for Disease Control has continuously lowered what it considers to be a dangerous level of blood lead over the years based on surveys.)

Philadelphia’s exposure rate puts it 17th among the 18 cities in the state with higher levels of lead exposure than Flint (Vox has a chart which puts it in focus); among this group, only Pittsburgh has a lower rate. Exposure rates run as high as 23.11 percent in Allentown, the Pennsylvania city with the highest level of elevated blood lead levels.

Flint’s exposure rate is the result of the city’s emergency managers switching its water source to a local river whose water proved highly corrosive in 2014. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the most common source of lead poisoning in Keystone State children is aging, deteriorating lead-based paint chips and dust. Read more »

NTSB: A Simple Signal Change Could Have Prevented Amtrak 188 Crash

A “caution” signal would have kept Amtrak 188 from jumping the tracks on the curve at Frankford Junction. But Amtrak only gave that signal to southbound trains, not eastbound ones.

A “caution” signal would have kept Amtrak 188 from jumping the tracks on the curve at Frankford Junction. But Amtrak only gave that signal to southbound trains, not eastbound ones.

Railroad engineers on Amtrak have three things that determine how fast their trains can go. One is the speed governor on the locomotive, which determines the train’s absolute maximum speed. Another is the train timetable, which lists the normal speeds along the route. The third is the in-cab signals, which can force trains to slow down if they are approaching a speed-restricted section of track. This last item is known as “automatic train control.”

Trains approaching the 50-mph curve at Frankford Junction from the north are forced to slow down to 45 mph by a restrictive cab signal far enough away to bring the train down to that speed by the time it hits the curve. Prior to the crash of Amtrak train 188, trains approaching the curve from the west were not. Read more »

What We Know About the Amtrak 188 Crash, Based on the Interviews

Emergency personnel work the scene of a train wreck, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. |Photo by Joseph Kaczmarek/AP

Emergency personnel work the scene of a train wreck, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia. |Photo by Joseph Kaczmarek/AP

“‘I don’t know if someone is shooting at us or throwing rocks, but I see it.’ After that, the horn started to go.”

That’s how assistant conductor Akida Henry first described the radio transmission she heard between Brandon Bostian, the engineer on Amtrak train 188, and the control center in Wilmington, Del., just seconds before the train derailed on a sharp curve with a posted top speed of 50 mph. Data from the locomotive event recorder at that time shows the train was traveling at 106 mph at 9:20:31 p.m., followed four seconds later by an engineer initiated emergency — that is, an application of the emergency brakes — then, three seconds after that, by the end of the recorder data. At that point, the train was doing 102 mph.

Interviews with both assistant conductor Henry and dispatcher Joseph Curran, who was responsible that night for controlling movements in the stretch of track that runs through North Philadelphia, indicate that trains running through the area of the accident were being damaged by projectiles of some sort. The interviews are part of a big information release today from the NTSB. Read more »

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