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Leading Off (4/27/16)

All the most awful news in one convenient place. Investigators believe the Midlothian fitness trainer murdered in a church nine days ago was in fact targeted, but by whom they do not know. Up north, the Collin County medical examiner concluded that a Frisco mom, found dead in her car with her three children still alive, died of an intentional overdose of antihistamine medication. Finally, out west, a Haltom City grandma was booked in the Tarrant County jail on charges relating to the scalding death of the toddler CPS had put in her custody.

Local man’s son still not doing so hot in primaries. In spite of Sunday’s announcement that Ted Cruz and John Kasich were joining forces to stop the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump went on to sweep all five states in Tuesday’s primaries. Cruz was also Twitter-pummeled for using the words “basketball ring” in the Hoosier State yesterday. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton lost only Rhode Island to Bernie Sanders.

Johnny Manziel indicted, enjoys bieber show. The former football pro was officially indicted yesterday on a misdemeanor assault charge. Manziel allegedly restrained, assaulted, and kidnapped his ex-girlfriend in Dallas in January. Last night, he was seen at a Justin Bieber concert in Cleveland.

“Hail no” headlines abound during storm threat. Ok, I only spotted one, but last night’s much-hyped storm deserved more. Grayson County was hit by tornadoes, but thankfully the grapefruit-sized hail meteorologists feared never appeared in Dallas. News outlets posted pic after pic of the extreme measures North Texas car owners took to avoid hail damage yesterday. Now what I’d really like to see is coverage of those folks as they peel sopping mattresses and pick bits of wet cardboard off their Hondas this morning. Send it my way! [email protected]

Morning News Responds to Dam Questions

On Wednesday, Eric put up a post that asked several questions about the DMN’s recent story on the Lewisville Dam. Doug Swanson was the editor of that story. He has sent along responses to each of Eric’s questions. I am going to repost each of those questions, along with Swanson’s responses, which I’ve indented. Swanson says that anyone with further questions is welcome to contact him at [email protected]

1. The only named Army Corps person in the story who supports its thesis — basically, that we’re all gonna die in a 65-foot wall of water if we don’t do something pronto — is a former employee. Did any current employees, even on deep background, support this theory?

SWANSON: It’s true that the person quoted is identified as a former Corps employee. However, when the story was first being reported, some months back, he was the dam safety program manager for the Corps district, as the story says. In fact, he’s wearing a shirt with a Corps logo in the video posted on the DMN website. He left the Corps, under favorable circumstances, to work in the private sector.

He is just one of numerous Corps employees who confirmed the 65-foot wall of water figure. The Corps figure was not based on “theory.” It was based on a host of inundation studies performed by the Corps and by consultants working for the Corps.

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How Much Will It Cost Dallas To Fix the Lewisville Dam?

UPDATE (4:40 pm) I’ve put Councilman Philip Kingston’s response at the bottom of this post. Original item:

As Zac mentioned in Leading Off, Sunday’s Morning News brought us an important story about the Lewisville Dam, which the Army Corps of Engineers lists as the eighth-most-hazardous in the country. You really should read the story, especially if you live downstream of Lewisville Lake. I’ve got a couple of wonky observations about the authorship and presentation of the story, and then I’d like to get Councilman Philip Kingston involved, because he and I had a back-and-forth on Twitter.

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Leading Off (12/7/15)

Tiny Crowd Turns Out To Support Small-Minded Irving Mayor. It could be worse. Irving could still have the Cowboys.

Police Arrest Two Suspects In Early Morning Robbery At Gunpoint In Oak Lawn. It’s been a rough few months in the Oak Lawn area, with at least a dozen unsolved burglaries and attacks, so this was a bit of good news. The suspects haven’t been tied to any of the previous crimes, at least for now, and police plan to keep up additional patrols. Could be worse. Oak Lawn could get annexed by Irving.

Two More Earthquakes Over the Weekend. A 2.1 on Saturday and a 2.8 on Sunday. Guess where? Come on. Guess. I’ll give you a hint. It rhymes with “Irving.”

Wes Matthews Ties Mavs Record With 10 3-Pointers. His big second half — he made eight 3s as part of his 28 points in the third and fourth quarters — fueled the team’s win against the Wizards. You know where they struggle with their outside shots? Irving.

Would This Have Been A Worse Season For the Cowboys?

In May, I predicted that the Cowboys would go 1-13-2. If you’re not used to reading sports standings, that is one win against 13 losses and two ties. Given what a cannonball into a pool filled with broken glass the 2015 campaign has been thus far, as I asked in the headline, would 1-13-2 have been a worse season for the Cowboys?

Pros: According to this, no team has ever tied twice in a season since overtime was instituted in 1974, which was also the year I and this magazine were born — a pretty good year, all told. Since I don’t think anyone is ever beating that, the Cowboys would have a permanent place in the NFL record book, alongside the mark it set in 1996 — most players to wear a full-length mink to a grand jury hearing. Plus, all those forfeits! So, still terrible but you’re getting something memorable in the exchange.

Cons: No one wants to forfeit that many games in a season, no matter what. I don’t even know why we’re discussing it. This is dumb. Who brought this up, anyway? Jeez.

Oil and Gas Wells to Blame For More North Texas Earthquakes

Today a new study was released in the journal Nature Communications that determined the causes of the unusual seismic activity (earthquakes) around Azle (northwest of Fort Worth) in November-December 2013, which Brantley Hargrove wrote about in the May 2014 issue of D Magazine.

Researchers from SMU, the University of Texas at Austin, and the U.S Geological Survey determined that activities related to oil and gas operations in the area, as the Morning News notes, are responsible for “shifting faults below Dallas-Fort Worth that have not budged in hundreds of millions of years”:

The scientists zeroed in on an unusual mechanism behind the quakes: workers pushing liquid into the ground on one side of a fault and sucking gas and groundwater from the other side of the fault.

“The combination of these activities seems to have triggered the earthquakes, and that was a real surprise to us,” said Matthew Hornbach, a geophysicist at SMU and a lead author of the paper.

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North Texas Drought Persists

Looking at the Texas Water Development Board’s weekly drought map, and noting that only 43 percent of the state is in the midst of a drought today as compared to 58 percent a year ago, it sure is unpleasant to see that dark red lingering over much of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Like we’re the bullseye on a dart board.

Of course, that NASA video that was going around online a couple weeks back says most of North America is likewise pretty well screwed, so we won’t be alone in our misery.

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More Nature Destroyed in Trinity Watershed

Ben Sandifer had a couple hours to kill Sunday, so he went traipsing around down in the McCommas Bluff Nature Preserve. He found some tracks of heavy vehicles and followed them to the disturbing scene you see above. The “before” photo was taken in April 2014. The “after” picture was taken February 8. This place has been destroyed. It’s a county preserve. Ben has called around to all the various agencies — Trinity Watershed, Water Utilities, he even called John Wiley Price — but he hasn’t gotten an answer yet as to who did this and why. Read Sandifer’s blog to learn more about the sensitive area and what’s at stake (such as one of about 100 known trout lily colonies in the State of Texas).

Remember last year when Trinity Watershed Management officials apologized for their incompetence and invited a bunch of folks out to see their horrible stewardship of the land and promised it wouldn’t happen again? Yeah, well. So much for that.

“A half acre here, an acre there disappears,” Sandifer says. “Suddenly you don’t have anything left.”

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Yawn, Another Earthquake in Irving

A 2.7-magnitude earthquake shook Irving at about 6 a.m. this morning. These minor events, none of which have caused significant damage or injuries, have been so common in the area (it’s the 12th since the beginning of October) that I’ve begun to feel downright Californian in my lack of excitement in hearing news of another.

The Morning News has a map showing the close proximity of the epicenters of each of these quakes to a natural gas well. Fracking, and more specifically the injection of wastewater from fracking being injected into the ground, has been found in some studies to be correlated with greater seismic activity.

A FrontBurnervian in the oil and gas business sent me a note with a map from a drilling industry information site showing the horizontal track of the well’s drilling bores was in the opposite direction from where the quakes are clustered. He argued that because of this, and because the well hasn’t been active since 2012, it’s likely not responsible for the tremors.

I ran this claim by Brian Stump, a seismologist at SMU.

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Leading Off (12/12/14)

OSHA to Investigate Thanksgiving Tower Fire. Thursday’s blaze beneath the downtown Dallas building’s parking garage claimed the lives of three men working in a thermal storage tank. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined. Officials don’t know if the workers may have been welding or cutting even though the company that employed the men hasn’t had a valid permit for that sort of work since 2009.

10th Irving-Area Earthquake in 2 Months. Last night at 9:25 p.m., a 2.6-magnitude quake struck near Spur Road and the Trinity River northeast of the former Texas Stadium site.

Dallas DA’s Office Dismissed Cases Without Informing Victims. WFAA reports on two family violence cases dropped by the district attorney in violation of the Texas Bill of Rights, which states that crime victims are entitled to be told about all proceedings involving their cases.

Former Fort Worth Cop Not Indicted For Shooting Dog. Kenneth Wayne Flynn shot a neighbor’s German shepherd back in September after being led to believe the dog had killed his cat. A grand jury yesterday no-billed him on animal cruelty charges.

Yes, We Are Still in the Midst of a Drought, and It Is Still Exceptional

Gosh, we had all that rain last night. The storms last week. So we should be doing a lot better with the wet stuff, right? Not so fast. The Texas Water Development Board releases a drought report every week. The new one is just out. It says:

For the first time since late 2010, less than half the state is under drought conditions. We saw improvements in south Texas and the southern High Plains over the past week, but drought worsened in North Texas. One patch of exceptional drought includes Dallas, Fort Worth, Weatherford, and Mineral Wells, and another patch includes the Wichita Falls area.

So let’s continue to conserve, people. Which is totally different than if I’d written “let’s continue to conserve people,” which is what I almost did. The comma makes a big difference. Because if we wasted some people, we’d actually do better with conserving water. Anyway, I got distracted a bit there. So: water. Let’s watch it.

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Brantley Hargrove Lands Book Deal with Simon & Schuster

I want to say something funny here. I want to poke fun at Brantley’s affinity for “cat facts,” or his life in “the bubble,” or his fear of ghosts, or his inexplicable desire to climb–and then jump off of–things he shouldn’t. But no. Today we celebrate.

It’s official: Simon & Schuster will publish D contributor Brantley Hargrove’s forthcoming book about famed storm chaser Tim Samaras and the gigantic tornado–the widest ever recorded–that killed him. The book, tentatively titled The Storm is likely to come out some time in early 2016. It grew out of the reporting Brantley did for this Dallas Observer story last year. I know David Patterson, his agent, is very excited. So is Brantley, though he knows he has a formidable task in front of him.

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