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Freezing cold is coming, death sentence halted

The National Weather Service is looking into damage from last weekend’s storms in Alabama. APR’s Alex AuBuchon reports, forecasters are also looking ahead to some brutally cold weather starting tonight…

The National Weather Service says at least three tornadoes hit Alabama over the weekend. One EF-2 twister destroyed a home and some chicken houses near the town of Luverne. Another smaller tornado touched down in the west Alabama town of Hamilton. The storm had winds of eighty five miles per hour which damaged one home and uprooted trees in the area. No one was hurt. Minor flooding is being reported in mostly rural areas in western Alabama from the weekend storms. Starting tonight, forecasters will be watching for temperatures to plunge to the upper twenties in Huntsville tonight. It gets even colder Wednesday night with a low of about twelve degrees and a wind chill predicted to be around five below zero.  Alex AuBuchon, APR news in Tuscaloosa...

The city of Montgomery won’t see big changes to its bus system. That’s the promise from Mayor Todd Strange following a meeting with mass transit riders and non-profit groups. The city was talking about cutting evening and Saturday service to make up for a three hundred thousand dollar deficit. The Mayor says that won’t happen now. The Montgomery transportation Coalition represents lower income riders who depend on buses to go to and from work, and to things like doctor’s appointments. Board member Jon Broadway says a healthy bus system is vital to Montgomery’s economic future… “You know, access to and from downtown Montgomery is a critical issue right now. And, if people can get into and out of downtown, that’s a major limitation in terms of attracting economic development downtown.” Broadway suggests a survey to find ways to improve bus service. A study by the University of Arizona points to statewide problems like a lack of state funding for mass transit in Alabama. .

The killer of a Muscle Shoals man can’t be not be put to death for now. A federal judge says Alabama can't execute death row inmate Tommy Arthur because a two-year-old stay of execution remains in place. U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins also ruled that Arthur could amend an existing lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the state's new lethal injection drugs. Arthur's legal team is happy with the decision. He’s been on death row since 1983 after being convicted of the murder-for-hire of a Muscle Shoals man.

A state task force will be taking a look at the overcrowding problem in Alabama prisons. Committee members say their ideas will likely include sentencing changes, building new jails, and more opportunities for probation and parole. Alabama has the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the country. State prisons house about twenty five thousand inmates. That’s nearly twice the number these jails were built to hold. One concern is that the federal courts could eventually order Alabama to release inmates, as they did in California, unless Alabama fixes the problem.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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