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Flood watch in effect for Catskills

Above: A graphic produced Friday morning by the National Weather Service in Albany, showing widespread flood watches west of the Hudson River. 

Flood watches are in effect across the Catskills region for Friday afternoon through Saturday morning, as heavy rains move into the area.

A slow-moving band of rain is moving from west to east, and is expected to drop an inch or two on the Catskills region before moving on. Hudson Valley Weather is predicting drier weather for the upcoming weekend.

If you have a rain gauge, the National Weather Service in Binghamton is looking for rainfall reports.  Read more

Table limit: New York State releases minimum investment figures for casinos

Photo by Flickr user Mark Menzies; published under Creative Commons license.

Casino developers hoping to land one of four prized licenses from New York State will have to prove that they're investing enough in the project. But although the state's minimum investment figures are in the hundreds of millions of dollars, they're not likely to prove an obstacle to deep-pocketed casino developers, many of whom have already unveiled plans to spend much more than the state's required minimum figures.  Read more

Four injured in Trailways bus crash

Above: An injured victim being treated at the scene of this morning's bus accident on Route 17 in Ramsey, N.J. Photos by Boyd A. Loving; courtesy of the Cliffview Pilot.

A flying car wheel smashed through the windshield of a Pine Hill Trailways bus bound from Kingston to Manhattan on Route 17 around 7:30 this morning, injuring four people, according to several downstate media reports. 

The wheel flew off a Lexus that was driving north, in the opposite direction from the bus, the Cliffview Pilot reports. Two people aboard the bus were critically injured in the accident, and two others sustained head injuries.

One of the injured victims was airlifted to a hospital, and a few others were transported by ambulance, NorthJersey.com reports.  Read more

New York State bans wild boar hunting

Above: A trailcam in Delaware County catches a nocturnal glimpse of an elusive wild boar. Photo taken in August 2013; courtesy of USDA APHIS.

A statewide ban on the hunting and trapping of feral swine -- also known as wild boars or Eurasian boars -- went into effect on Monday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced in a press release

Until recently, boars were largely unknown to New York State, even as burgeoning populations of wild pigs wreaked over a billion dollars' worth of destruction a year across other parts of the country. But in recent years, feral swine have been found breeding in the wild in a few parts of New York State, the descendants of boars that escaped from private "canned" hunting preserves. 

Many other states have encouraged the hunting of wild boars in an effort to control their populations, but without much success. Banning the hunting of an animal that state officials want to rid the landscape of seems paradoxical. But scientists who study the animals say that allowing private hunting can interfere with state-sanctioned efforts to bait and trap boars, and has even encouraged hunters to release more of the animals into the wild for sport.

  Read more

Flood watch in effect across Catskills

Above: A graphic from the National Weather Service in Binghamton, showing the flood watch area across upstate New York and Pennsylvania that is in effect Wednesday through early Thursday morning. 

Heavy rains are in the forecast for eastern New York and Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon and evening, prompting the National Weather Service (NWS) to issue flood watches across the Catskills region.

The heaviest rainfall is expected to arrive this evening and overnight, with between 1.5 and 4 inches of rain forecast for the Catskills. Forecasters at NWS and Hudson Valley Weather say the eastern Catskills will get the most rain, with lower totals expected for the western end of the region.   Read more

Ulster County police release name of car theft suspect who was shot by deputy

Above: Car theft suspect Brandon Rifenburg. Photo courtesy of the Ulster County Sheriff's Office.

The Ulster County Sheriff's Office waited eleven days to release the name of a suspect who was shot by police after a car chase through several towns. But on Saturday, April 26, deputies finally named the man in a public news release: 20-year-old Brandon Rifenburg of High Falls. 

Rifenburg was shot while being taken into custody on the night of April 15, after leading local and state police on a car chase that ran through Marbletown, Kingston, Ulster and Saugerties before ending on Route 28 in Hurley. Police say that after a dispute with a family member, Rifenburg stole a car from the Vly-Atwood neighborhood in Marbletown, then sped away from an officer who attempted to stop the vehicle. 

During the police pursuit of the stolen car, Rifenburg drove through two sets of tire deflation devices set up to stop the car. Police say he lost control of his damaged vehicle while trying to ram two police cars that were pursuing him.   Read more

Happy Earth Day, Catskills

Nature's always close at hand in the Catskills, on Earth Day and every day. Photo by Kellsey Buerge; submitted to our 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide Photo Contest

Earth Day turns 44 this year. In cities across America, environmentally-minded citizens are celebrating the holiday with big green-themed fests, parties and exhibit fairs. 

Not so in the Catskills, where Earth Day celebrations tend to be more low-key. Here, Mother Nature isn't an occasional guest to fête; she's a full-time resident. But this week, the local area holds a few special events in honor of the planet. 

Today, the Arkville-based Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and the MARK Project are setting up shop outside a few local stores to give away reusable shopping bags: The Freshtown and the Dollar Store in Margaretville, and the Great American in Prattsville. Stop by to get a grocery bag that won't end up in a landfill -- or, better yet, bring your own. 

Sullivan County's digital library of maps for hiking trails and public lands, Trailkeeper.org, is celebrating today with a family scavenger hunt at Turtle Spring Nature Trail, at 64 Ferndale-Loomis Road in Liberty. Treasure hunters of all ages will get a chance to try geocaching, in which hikers hunt for hidden capsules with the help of GPS receivers. The scavenger hunt runs from 4:30 to 6 p.m. To pre-register for the event, call the Sullivan County Cornell Cooperative Extension at 845-292-6180, or email Nicole Slevin at nas96@cornell.edu. 

  Read more

Hein: Open Space Institute to fund plans for Ashokan rail trail

Above: A map of a proposed 11.5-mile walking and biking trail near the Ashokan Reservoir, on an Ulster County-owned railroad track that was once part of the Ulster & Delaware railroad and is currently leased to the Catskill Mountain Railroad. Map from Ulster County's website

The Open Space Institute (OSI) will use private funds to create plans for an 11.5-mile multi-use rail trail near the Ashokan Reservoir, according to an announcement issued Thursday by Ulster County executive Mike Hein  Read more

Winter's last hurrah (we hope)

People across the Catskills awoke this morning to find April's first green shoots covered in snow. Above: A row of icicles that sprouted overnight from a Margaretville roof gleams under a dazzling blue sky. Photo by Lissa Harris.

According to snow reports from the National Weather Service in Albany and Binghamton, some areas in the Catskills -- like Claryville in Ulster County, Livingston Manor in Sullivan County, and the Greene County mountaintop region -- got over three inches of snow Tuesday night. 

Tuesday's bout of winter weather came just a little too late to extend the ski season, which lasted well into April this year. Over the past week or two, the four major ski centers of the Catskills -- Belleayre, Hunter, Plattekill and Windham -- all put an end to this year's blockbuster season.

Above: No BBQs on this Margaretville porch til the snow melts. Photo by Lissa Harris.  Read more

Fleeing driver shot by police on Route 28 in West Hurley

A driver fleeing police pursuit in a car reported stolen from a Marbletown home was shot by a police officer on Tuesday night, the Ulster County Sheriff's Office reports.

Around 10:40 p.m. on Tuesday, police say, Ulster County 911 received a call from a woman in Marbletown who said her car had been stolen from her driveway. State troopers spotted the car on Route 213 and pursued it, but were unable to get the driver to stop. The driver fled into the city of Kingston, where troopers lost sight of the car.

An Ulster County sheriff's deputy then spotted the car, and continued the pursuit. The chase ended on Route 28 in West Hurley, when the fleeing car swerved into an Ulster County sheriff's vehicle, taking both vehicles off the road. The driver was then shot by an Ulster County officer while being taken into custody, police say.

The driver is being treated at Albany Medical Center. Police have not identified the driver, or released any information about his or her condition.   Read more