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Park Ranger Recommendations for Hot Weather Hikes

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AUSTIN— Heat exhaustion is one of the most common maladies that park rangers encounter during the summer months, and with temperatures soaring to scorching heats well above 90 degrees, Texas State Park staff are encouraging park visitors to follow basic heat safety precautions to stay safe on the trail.

Heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke can be prevented by drinking water, wearing proper clothing, hiking in the morning or evening, checking the weather ahead of time and knowing the length of the trail.

One of the most important things to do is hydrate. Hydration is necessary for good health and helps with heat tolerance. Park rangers recommend having extra water packed while on the trails and to continue drinking water even if not thirsty. Also, if hiking with your four-legged friend, don’t forget to bring water for them.

A good rule of thumb is to turn around and head back once you’ve consumed half of your water supply.

It’s important to know the length of the trail and take a map of the park before heading out. The maps provide an overlook and the lengths of all trails at the park. Park trail maps are available at visitor centers, the entrance to the park and online on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.

People often underestimate the trails and rough terrain, so make sure to be aware of any warning signs posted at parks and seek trail information from park rangers.

If possible, plan hikes early in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t the strongest. Park rangers say starting hikes earlier when the temperature is milder will help you gain more distance before the heat peaks in the middle of the day.

Make sure to take breaks when necessary and know your limit. Stop and rest under some shade and recuperate when necessary before continuing on the trail.

Before heading to a park, wear proper clothing. If going for a hike, wear light-colored, lightweight and loose fitting clothing. The light colors will reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them like dark colors can, and clothing that is lightweight and loose-fitting helps regulate body temperature.

Bring a hat for face and neck protection from the sun. A bandana can also be dunked in water and worn around the neck to keep you cool while the water evaporates.

Lastly, don’t forget to check the weather beforehand so you will be prepared for any conditions you may face on the trail.

If you begin to experience a heat related emergency, call the park headquarters or 911.

For a map of all Texas State Parks, visit the state park page on the TPWD website.

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Tips help residents beat the heat, stay safe

AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety is warning Texas residents to be prepared for summertime temperatures, and to take precautions to stay safe as temperatures and heat indices hit 100 degrees and above in many parts of the state this time of year. Extreme temperatures increase the risk of heat-related injuries or deaths.

“Summertime heat is a fact of life in Texas, but the dangers from high temperatures are real and should not be taken lightly,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Heat-related deaths and injuries are often preventable if residents take the necessary steps to educate and protect themselves – and their loved ones.”

Warmer weather places children at greater risk of injury or death if left unattended in a vehicle. Every year children die from heat-related injuries after being left in a vehicle or by entering a vehicle unnoticed. A child should never be left unattended in a vehicle.

Temperatures inside a car can rise more than 20 degrees in only 10 minutes; and even with an outside temperature of 60 degrees, the temperature inside a car can reach 110 degrees, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Leaving windows partially rolled down does not help. Young children are particularly at risk since their bodies heat up faster than an adult.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), extreme heat events or heat waves are one of the leading causes of extreme weather-related deaths in the United States. Periods of severe heat and high humidity tax the body’s ability to cool itself and can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be fatal.

DPS offers the following tips for staying safe and managing the heat:

Check on the elderly, sick or very young, especially if they don’t have air conditioning.
Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol during prolonged outdoor exposure. Start consuming water before you head outdoors; you may not realize you’re dehydrated until it’s too late.
Pay attention to your body. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can develop quickly. If you start feeling ill, immediately find a shaded or cooler area and slowly drink fluids. Seek medical attention if necessary.
Monitor weather radios and newscasts for information on current conditions and weather alerts in your area.
Stay indoors as much as possible, and limit exposure to the sun. Consider indoor activities this summer at places like shopping malls, the library or other community facilities.
Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a hat are recommended during outdoor exposure.
If possible, avoid strenuous outdoor activity during the hottest part of the day.
Be extra careful when cooking outdoors, building campfires or driving off road to avoid igniting dry vegetation. Also, stay aware of burn bans in your area and always abide by restrictions on outside burning.
Don’t forget pet safety. Animals are also susceptible to heat-related injury or death – don’t put your pets in these dangerous conditions.

For additional tips, visit…/Prepar…/tips/hotWeatherSafetyTips.htm.

For more information about heat alerts, heat safety and tips for staying safe, visit

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Texas Prepaid Tuition Program’s Newborn Enrollment Deadline Approaches

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(AUSTIN) — The deadline is extended through July 31 for Texas families to enroll their newborns in the Texas Tuition Promise FundSM and pay this year’s rates for all or some future tuition and school-wide required fees at Texas public colleges and universities. Newborns are children younger than one year at the time of enrollment.

Under the Texas Tuition Promise Fund, the state’s prepaid college tuition program, participants can purchase tuition units and lock in costs based on today’s prices.

“It is never too early for Texas families to consider enrolling their newborns in this program,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said. “Purchasing tuition units today allows families to lay the foundation for their children’s future educational opportunities.”

Enrollment at 2016-17 prices closed Feb. 28 for children older than one. The next annual enrollment period begins on Sept. 1 and is based on Texas public college and university tuition and school-wide required fees for the 2017-18 school year.

Complete plan information, including plan description and agreement, current prices, enrollment forms and more is available online at, or by calling 1-800-445-GRAD (4723), Option 5.

Purchasers should carefully consider the risks, administrative fees, service and other charges and expenses associated with the contracts, including plan termination and decreased transfer or refund value. Purchasers should read these documents carefully before purchasing a contract. Participation in the plan does not guarantee admission to or graduation from any college or university.

COMMENTS OR COMPLAINTS: Comments or complaints may be forwarded to the Prepaid Higher Education Tuition Program, Office of the Comptroller of Public Accounts at P.O. Box 13407, Austin, Texas 78711-3407, or by calling 512-936-2064.

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Watson Announces Campaign for Gregg County District Attorney

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Kilgore attorney Tom Watson announced today his intention to file as a Republican candidate for the office of Gregg County Criminal District Attorney.

Citing his energy, dedication and over 22 years of experience in law enforcement, prosecution, and litigation in Gregg County, Watson said his candidacy was to fill the need for “decisive leadership and aggressive prosecution by the District Attorney.”

“ I can promise you three things: (1) I will aggressively act to convict murderers and violent offenders in a timely fashion so that they don’t linger in our county jail at taxpayer expense (some up to five years), (2) improve teamwork and communications with all Gregg County law enforcement, and (3) represent Gregg County in court as a fearless and effective prosecutor.”

The 47-year old Watson is a 2002 graduate of the University of Texas at Tyler and a 2007 graduate of Texas Tech School of Law. His legal career began in 2007 when District Attorney Bill Jennings recruited him to be an Assistant Criminal District Attorney.

Before pursuing the practice of law, Tom spent several years as a Kilgore Police Officer under the supervision of current Sheriff Maxey Cerliano, also serving as Detective and Agent with the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force. During his law enforcement career, Tom took night courses and completed his Bachelor Degree graduating magna cum laude.

Shortly after that, Tom was encouraged by District Judge David Brabham and District Attorney Jennings to pursue a career in law.  In fact, Jennings made a phone call to the Chancellor of Texas Tech School of Law recommending Tom’s admittance.

Tom is currently in private practice with Phillips, Watson & Gilchrist, LLP in Kilgore. He specializes in civil litigation, representing individuals and businesses in commercial and real estate disputes, as well as estate planning, probate, and criminal defense matters.

Watson was born in Longview and raised in Kilgore. His wife is the former Chandra Stroupe of Kilgore. Married since 1991, they are parents of two children: daughter Carli and son Caleb who is married to the former Taylor Graham of White Oak.

Tom enjoys playing golf and spending time with his family, and especially the newest addition, granddaughter, Kirklynn Kay Watson.

The Watsons are residents of Kilgore and attend New Covenant Church in Longview where Tom has been involved in several ministries.

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By Suzanne Bardwell

I have spilled barrels of ink in columns on the joys of being a teacher but now some ink needs to be spilled to get educators the help we need. Along with other school employees and retirees we are facing a nightmare. And that is why 800 educators packed the front lawn of the Gregg County Courthouse recently in the “Use Your Teacher Voice!” Rally.

During the regular state legislative session it felt as if education and educators had been targeted. So now teachers and other school employees, active and retired, are rising up like the proverbial ‘sleeping giant’. Here is why.

Our pension is at risk of being changed when it is the sixth healthiest in the nation. Why would politicians want to mess with something that works? Probably so they can raid the treasure chest.

The fact that Gov. Abbott placed a former Enron executive to head a commission to study a possible change does not give me confidence that public education retirees’ best interests are at the heart of this ‘study’.

True, our retiree health insurance was in deep trouble because of underfunding. The House came out solidly with a plan to undergird the failing system expecting the Senate to add their part. The Senate chose not to help. Which translates, that as of Jan. 1, retirees will use one-third to one-half of their earned pension to pay for their health insurance.

The fact is that during the fund’s 30-year history the state funded only .5 percent of payroll instead of the current 1 percent. The active employees and retirees paid and are paying the rest.

To add insult to injury, Gov. Abbott has tasked Senator Bryan Hughes with carrying a bill for the special session that would deny public school employees the right to have their professional association dues subtracted from their pensions and salaries. Talk about a Gag Bill, this is it.

This is a blatant attempt to strip associations of membership and public voice. By the way, the proposed bill would exempt our public servant brother and sister firefighters and police.

Retirees have not had a cost of living raise in 16 years by the way. And back to that health insurance, the prescription plan has been cut, the benefits have been cut and yet we will pay one-third to one-half of our take home to pay for it.  For the average retiree who takes home a $2,000 monthly pension it will eat their check. And, even more heartbreaking is that 30 percent of public school retirees bring in $1,000 or less before insurance.

Of course, even for those of us who have earned enough quarters to draw social security in addition to our pension, we CAN’T, by law. And the good Lord knows only how many of us have worked multiple jobs to support our families while we are denied drawing what we have EARNED!

I haven’t mentioned the hit Gov. Abbott’s proposed $1,000 teacher salary mandate which is a smokescreen and NO raise from the state. If a district pays the state salary minimum they will have to find the money for the raises from…where? Transportation? Curriculum? Maintenance? if they pay over the state minimum the teachers will not be getting that unfunded raise from their district. At all.

After educators have rallied, called and emailed, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is scrambling with what he calls pro-education proposals and a way to fund the $1,000 raise. Look carefully, listen well and dig deep because there is also a great deal of posturing.

There isn’t enough space to discuss the impact of vouchers and small school funding and the exorbitant cost of testing (let’s talk billions!)

During the rally I asked the protestors present a series of questions that the vast majority raised their banners in acknowledgement of, let me share those questions the teachers answered yes to and you consider what it is like dealing daily with 22 to 150 students, depending on the level taught, along with state mandated testing, non-English speaking students, special needs students and more, while dealing with this list:

How many of you…

~extended your work day to tutor students on your own time before or after school?

~paid for your own training and/or attended workshops or classes on your own time so you could be a better teacher?

~have bought meals for your students? Supplies? Equipment?

~have paid for students to go on a school trip?

~have paid at least $500 to a $1,000 a year or more to outfit your classroom and supplement your curriculum?

~how many of you spent this amount every year you were in the classroom?

~handled the fall out of divorce on your students’ emotional and academic performance?

~have helped students deal with the death of a parent, sibling or grandparent?

~have had terminally ill students in your classroom?

~continued to teach while fighting a serious illness?

~tried to intervene with students with drug and alcohol problems?

~dealt with the trauma of serious accidents and even student suicides?

The list is endless.

Let me say this clearly, Teachers Change Lives…often at the expense of their own pocketbook, their health, their time and their families.

The least the State of Texas can do is give educators what they have EARNED and what they were promised when they became teachers.

If you believe this as well, please call and email Governor Abbott and your senators and representatives NOW and tell them you expect them to do what is right by educators and education.

It is the right thing to do.

And, we need every single voice out there speaking with us and for us.

If I had it to do it all over again?

I would still be a teacher.

I just can’t afford to be a retired teacher.

(Suzanne Bardwell is a retired high school teacher of 33 years.)

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