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The strong storm activity that swept through southeast Louisiana earlier today has resulted in wind damage and street flooding in the area.  Frank Rivette, with the National Weather Service, says trees and power lines are down throughout the region.  

He says the damage caused by these storms is fairly widespread.
"There may be some concentrated areas that we're going to have to go and check out but there was quite a bit of wind damage all across the area where that squall line moved."

He says they still have to survey the area to determine if any damage was the result of tornadoes.  Rivette says downpours with these storms has caused street flooding in several communities.  He says the area may not be out of the woods just yet.

"We've still got this fairly powerful upper level low pressure system over the southern plains and until that moves further to the east, we have some potential of some development of severe weather overnight.

These storms have also left thousands without power.  Entergy spokesman Tom Peters says  it could be a while before power is fully restored.

"It could be a lengthy outage for some places depending on the damage, especially where they may have had real high straight line winds." 


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Michelle Southern reporting.
Today is the start of Navy Week in Shreveport/Bossier -- an opportunity for the community to meet Sailors and learn about their missions. Lead Navy week planner Gary Ross says events include free concerts, demonstrations, commemorative events, school visits and participation in service projects.

"The purpose is to educate the citizens of the cities we go to," said Ross. "These are the taxpayers who pay the salaries of these sailors and officers, so it's good to have that face to face contact."

Ross says this is one of 12 Navy Weeks their Office of Community Outreach is hosting in 2015. He says the US Navy Parachute team, the Leapfrogs, are also in town for the week.

"They will be making six jumps this week including at the Bossier Parish Community College, and they will be jumping into 5 high schools," said Ross.

You can get a full list of the Navy Week events online at navy-outreach-dot-org. Ross says Shreveport/Bossier is such an Air Force town that it's good to bring in the Navy to let everybody know what they are all about.

"With Barksdale Air Force Base being here, it's a great experience not only for the Navy but for the community as well."


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The family of 27-year-old Kris Beall of Pineville, who was competing in a regatta in Mobile Bay when a powerful storm capsized several sailboats, says he is among the dead.  Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Seth Johnson says the incident happened Saturday afternoon.

"A string of severe thunderstorms moved eastward over Mobile Bay and caught many boaters in Mobile bay off guard."

The family says Beall's body was one of two recovered, although authorities have yet to release names of the victims.  Over 100 sailboats and more than 200 people were participating in the regatta when the storm hit.  Johnson says the storm was quite powerful.

"The winds during the storm, what was reported to us, gusted over 70 miles per hour and lead to capsizing vessels, both within the regatta and in other places in Mobile Bay at the time."

Beall's wife reported his death in a Facebook post Sunday.  Four people remain missing and officials say they are focused on finding them.  Johnson says the storm caught boaters by surprise.

"There were people that were blown overboard.  It's a combination of things.  There were many different instances taking place all at the same time.  It was a widespread weather effect that took place." 


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The House Ways and Means Committee approves a bill that increases he state's cigarette tax from 36-cents per pack to 68-cents, to match the tax rate in Mississippi. The bill's author, Bogalusa Representative Harold Ritchie, originally proposed a tax increase of over one-dollar, but agreed to the lower tax, so the measure would be approved.

"I'm talking about trying to save lives, raise revenue for this state, is what I'm trying to do," Ritchie said.
The tax proposal passed on a 11-5 vote. It's expected to generate an estimated 67-million dollars for the state annually, which could be used towards the one-point-six billion dollar shortfall. Opposition came from convenience store owners, like former state senator Fred Hoyt.
"It would cost jobs, hurt businesses, and squeeze my customers when they are struggling for dollars to pay rent, utilities and food," Hoyt said.
Ritchie's bill originally proposed a tax increase from 36-cents per pack to $1.54, which is a national average. Jack Casanova is a cigarette wholesaler and he says such an increase will have an impact on jobs and bring security concerns.
"We've got drivers that are carrying quite bit of cigarettes, hijacking, what have you, becomes a major issue," Casanova said.
Health advocates lined up to speak in favor of a higher tax on cigarettes. Frances Gilcreast, a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, is a former smoker and told the committee about how smoking has impacted her file.
"I've had breast cancer, I've had colon cancer, my mother died of second-hand lung cancer."  
The bill still has a long way to go before legislative approval.  


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The $22.9 million makeover of the Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria begins today after numerous delays.  The project is finally getting underway after voters approved a bond issue to renovate the facility two-and-a-half years ago.  

Rapides Police Jury President Richard Billings says everyone's excited these changes are finally being made.
"Because we're going to have a product that got to the point that it was almost unusable to the point of looking brand new again and that's what we want."

He says the coliseum last held an event over a year ago.  Billings says, when complete, the venue will be practically brand new with renovations happening both outside and inside the building.

"It's going to be box seats put in it, it's going to be new scoreboards, new flooring for basketball, dressing rooms for entertainers."

The renovations are expected to take 20 to 22 months to complete.  Billings says he can't wait for people to visit the new facility when construction is complete.  He says renovations, so to speak, won't stop with the building itself.

"We're going to hopefully have a manager that is aggressive, to be able to go out and sell our new coliseum, to bring some entertainment in here we haven't had in many, many years."


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Michelle Southern reporting.
Caddo Parish District Attorney Charles Scott will be laid to rest today after his sudden death last week in a Baton Rouge hotel while on business at the Capitol. Preliminary findings reveal the 67-year-old died of previously diagnosed heart disease. 

"Charles was the kind-of guy that everybody respected," says Pete Adams is the Executive Director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association. "He was very very intelligent."

Caddo District Court proceedings are suspended today in honor of Scott's funeral at the Broadmoor Baptist Church. Adams says Scott was the kind of person who was kind to everyone and didn't have a mean bone in his body.

"He's one of these people that is service oriented, he was a do-er and not somebody that just talked about stuff," said Adams. "He worked very very hard."

Scott was found by two employees in his office at the Lod Cook Hotel and Conference Center at LSU after he didn't show up for breakfast. A special election for a new Caddo DA is expected to happen in conjunction with this fall's gubernatorial race.

The first assistant is currently the acting DA.

Adams says Charles was a true leader in their organization.

"Along with Hillar Moore, and some others in our group, lead by example in the best possible way," said Adams. "Increasing training, and holding our assistant DAs to the highest standards."


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The House Ways and Means Committee will consider Monday morning a bill that will raise the state's cigarette tax from 36-cents per pack to $1.54 per pack, which is the national average. Stasha Rhodes, with the American Heart Association in Louisiana, says the measure has an excellent chance at passing, because of the state's large budget shortfall.

"Obviously the opportunity to fix some of the budget woes presents this as a probable solution," Rhodes said.
Rhodes says not only will an increase in the cigarette tax help the state's budget situation now, it will result in fewer people smoking, which should result in cost savings in the future. 
"Health care cost savings from fewer smoking caused lung cancer would be 7-million dollars, health care cost savings from fewer smoking caused heart attacks and strokes would be 15.4 million dollars."
The state is facing a 1.6 billion dollar budget shortfall. Rhodes says the cigarette tax increase under consideration today would generate 223-million dollars in new revenue for the state, which is why they think it has an excellent chance at passing.
"That's something legislators can fall back and say this is an opportunity for us to not only help budget issues, but we have a chance to save 7,000 lives." 


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One bad inning kept the number one ranked LSU Tigers from sweeping Texas A&M on Saturday. The Aggies scored four runs in the 3rd inning and that helped A&M salvage the final game of the series by winning 6-2.

All four runs in that fateful 3rd inning were unearned. An error by LSU first baseman Chris Chinea, who had the ball pop out of his glove. After the error, there was a walk, a strikeout and then four consecutive singles to plate three runs.
Texas A&M added single runs in the 6th and 9th innings. 
LSU scored its two runs in the 4th inning. A one-out double by Andrew Stevenson started the rally. He scored on an RBI single by Chris Sciambra. Sciambra advanced to second on the throw to the plate and then scored, when Jared Foster hit a fly ball to the Aggies center fielder who dropped the ball.
But in the end it was a frustrating day for the LSU offense. They had a runner thrown out at the plate in the 1st and 2nd innings.The Tigers out hit the Aggies 11-to-7, but left 9 runners on base.
The losing pitcher was Austin Bain, who allowed five runs in 5.2 innings pitched, but only one of those runs were earned. Jake Godfrey gave up the other run in relief.
The loss drops LSU's record to 37-7. They are 14-6 in the SEC, one game ahead of the Aggies for first place in the SEC West.
The Tigers complete a five-game homestand on Tuesday as they host Alcorn State at 6:30 PM.


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The Louisiana Attorney General's office urges consumers to research the costs and benefits of solar panels before purchasing them. The director of the public protection division of the state's A-G's office, Sam Pleasant, says homeowners can be attracted by a promise of reduced energy costs from solar power systems, but sometimes there are some significant up front costs.

"Whether you purchase the system outright or lease from a company, there are some pretty hefty prices that you have to pay up front," Pleasant said.
Pleasant says Attorney General Buddy Caldwell recommends that potential solar panel buyers should get at least three written proposals or price quotes and speak with people who have first-hand experience in purchasing them.
"Find out how satisfied they are with the product and how soon they were able to recoup savings," Pleasant said.
Pleasant says they issued this alert now, because warmer weather prompts many consumers to look at ways to save money on utility bills. She says you can contact your utility provider to see if they'll perform an energy efficiency audit of your home, which can determine if it's even worth getting solar panels. 


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Number one ranked LSU and Texas A&M played another classic college baseball game on Friday and for the second straight night the Tigers came out on top. The Bayou Bengal bats erupted for four runs in the 7th inning to erase a three-run deficit and claim a 9-6 victory over the 2nd ranked Aggies.

The win clinches a series victory for LSU and they'll go for the sweep Saturday afternoon at 1 PM. 

LSU trailed 5-2 going into the bottom of the 7th inning. Chris Chinea started the rally with a single up the middle. Jake Fraley followed with an infield single. Jared Foster then singled to right field to score Chinea and put runners at 1st and 3rd base. Chris Sciambra then laid down a safety squeeze to score another run and that set-up the at-bat of the game. 

Alex Bregman came to the plate with one out and runners at 1st and 2nd. Bregman battled Aggies pitcher Mark Ecker and on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, the Tigers star shortstop hit a shot down the left field line to score both runs and give the Tigers the lead. 

LSU scored three more runs in the 8th inning. Chinea had an RBI double, Fraley had an RBI triple and Jared Foster scored another run with a ground out. 

The Tigers finished with 14 hits, Fraley led the way with three hits. 

LSU's offense bailed out Tigers staring pitcher Alex Lange. The freshman allowed 5 runs in 5.1 innings as he walked 5 and gave up 8 hits. 

Russell Reynolds did a nice job out of the pen to get the win. He kept the Tigers in the game, until the bats could get going. Reynolds pitched an an inning and two-thirds, without allowing a run and striking out two. 

Hunter Newman earned the save as he allowed one run in two innings.


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The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission reports there was a slight decline in the number of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2014. Eighty motorcycle riders were killed last year, a 7% drop from 2013.

The commission's deputy director, Ken Trull, says they hope to reduce that number even more in 2015, but they need help from all motorists. 
"We see that 18-wheeler and we see that big pick-up truck, but sometimes it's hard to see a motorcycle, so it's really important to be aware of them," Trull said.
Trull says helmets are helping to reduce the number of motorcycle deaths. He says an observational study in 2014 found that 100-percent of motorcyclists wore a helmet on Louisiana highways. 
Trull says a factor in motorcycle fatalities is impaired driving as one-third of Louisiana's 2014 motorcycle deaths involved alcohol. He says motorcyclists should never ride impaired or distracted and try to make yourself more visible. 
"If they ride in the middle of the lane, they are often times more visible to drivers and cars," Trull said.  


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Ochsner Health System in New Orleans announces they are the first hospital in the country to use the new Apple Watch to manage patients suffering from chronic diseases.  The Ochsner Hypertension Digital Medicine Program uses the watch to track patients who are struggling to control their blood pressure.  

Chief Clinical Transformation Officer, Dr. Richard Milani.
"Ochsner has always been interested in innovative technologies that can help patients and help us better manage patients, and we think that the Apple Watch will be able to do that for us."

With the Apple Watch, patients can receive medication reminders, feedback from clinicians, activity tracking, and exercise reminders.  Milani says about 40-percent of patients with chronic disease want a medication reminder.

"What better one to have than something that's just on your wrist that might even just vibrate once in a while and pop up with the pill you're supposed to take at that time."

Milani says the fact that the watch is on your wrist, it will provide individuals with nudges and feedback in a timely fashion.  He says the first seven weeks of the program have been very successful.  Milani says over 40-percent of patients have their hypertension under control, compared to a usual care group of only one-percent.

"We are delivering better care, more effective care, more durable care faster and at less inconvenience to the patient."


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Michelle Southern reporting.
Bruce Jenner, the 1976 Olympic Gold medalist, confirmed to the world Friday night that he is transgender. Jenner made the admission during a two-hour special with ABC's Diane Sawyer. Matthew Patterson of Equality Louisiana says the 65-year-old Jenner is being amazingly courageous.

"This is something I'm always struck by..the people who put themselves out there and live authentically as who you are and ask for that recognition from people in your life," said Patterson.

Patterson hopes Jenner will be able to live his life the way he wants to. He says discrimination against transgender people is unfortunately quite pervasive and severe.

"Trans people are twice as likely to be homeless. They are 25 times more likely to attempt suicide and they are much more likely to face discrimination at school or at work," said Patterson. "Also violence by police or other people."

Patterson says he hopes this story will be educational and spur more acceptance among the public. He also hopes Jenner's very public story will be an inspiration for other transgender people.

"This will serve as a role model for people," said Patterson. "We're missing in the culture almost any positive descriptions of trans people."



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The LaSalle Parish Sheriff's Office has arrested a man in connection with a double homicide.  37-year-old Randy Eugene Waits has been arrested for the deaths of 19-year-old Kylie Duncan and 76-year-old Irma Cotton.  

Sheriff Scott Franklin says the incident took place Wednesday morning.
"The two were killed, Mrs. Kylie Duncan was killed in the vicinity of Mrs. Cotton's carport.  Mrs. Cotton was killed inside her home."

Cotton was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head.  Duncan was also shot in the head and her throat was cut.  Franklin says there appears to be a connection between the suspect and one of the victims.

"Mr. Wait's and Mrs. Duncan and her family were friends and Mrs. Cotton, to be honest with you, was just an innocent bystander.  The killing ended up at her house and he had to eliminate her as a witness."

He says Cotton was an innocent bystander and not the intended target.  Waits was booked into the LaSalle Parish Jail on two counts of first degree murder.  Franklin wants to assure people that this is not a serial killer or mass murder situation.

"He had a specific reason for killing Mrs. Duncan and Mrs. Cotton was just an innocent witness that he needed to eliminate to keep himself from getting caught, he thought." 


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A bill by Gonzales state Representative Eddie Lambert would set a limit on the size of live crawfish that would be sold to people or restaurants.  The measure would make it illegal for vendors, farmers, and harvesters to sell crawfish that are smaller than three and a half inches for people to eat.  

Lambert says he's heard complaints about small crawfish from both wholesalers and consumers.
"You go buy a sack, you don't know what's in it, you open it up and then you notice it's full of little bitty crawfish.  It's like the old saying, 'You're buying a cat in a sack.'  You can't tell."

There would be an allowance of up to five percent of undersized crawfish in each sack.  He says crawfish is a multi-million dollar industry that basically has no standards.  Lambert says for the crawfish meat industry, these undersized crawfish are just not economically viable.

"In order to get one pound of meat, you would have to peel somewhere around 180 crawfish."

He says this would damage the crawfish meat industry.  First offense punishment would be a fine of up to $350 with possible jail time of up to 60 days.  The bill will be heard in the House Natural Resources Committee.  Lambert says one problem with crawfish is that they are difficult to grade.

"I mean, crawfish are a live animal.  When you buy shrimp, they're already dead and they're on ice so it's easier to sort them.   Where, in crawfish, it's a lot harder to do, you've got live animals." 


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The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission begins their "Buckle Up in Your Truck" campaign today in an effort to get more pickup drivers to use their seat belts.  Executive Director Lt. Col. John LeBlanc says even though Louisiana's seat belt compliance rate rose to a record 84-percent in 2014, pickup truck drivers lag behind.

"Only about 78.5-percent of pickup truck drivers statewide are using seat belts.  Traditionally they've been the lowest."

He says because of a pickup's tendency to roll over, it's especially important for people to be restrained inside a truck.

"And when you're not buckled up in a pickup truck and it rolls over, there's a real good chance you could be thrown out of the window. which most of the time is fatal.  And we're trying to get those fatalities down and get the pickup truck compliance rate up."

The campaign runs through April 30.  LeBlanc says you can expect to see increased patrols to make sure you are buckled up, no matter what kind of vehicle you're in.  He says buckling up in a front seat passenger car is the best way to reduce your risk to fatal injury.

"You can increase your safety by 45-percent and in a pickup truck the risk of fatal injury is 60-percent if you're not buckled up.  The best insurance you can have is to buckle up."


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Michelle Southern reporting.
The 2015 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival gets underway today. The lineup this first weekend includes headliners Keith Urban tonight, The Who tomorrow and Sunday it's Jimmy Buffett on the Acura Stage. Festival producer Quint Davis says he's excited about the music as usual, but he knows festers can't get enough of the delicious Louisiana food.

"When I'm out there on my golf cart riding around, I can't get enough of the food signs," says Davis. "I think this is the best restaurant in the world when it's open."

Other huge artists performing this weekend are Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Pitbull, Irma Thomas, Ryan Adams, John Legend, Wilco, Jimmy Cliff, Wayne Toups and more. 

Davis says festival also offers gourmet food in a field on a paper plate for $10 and under.

"And we're talking about a soft shell crab sandwich on butter bread, crab meat poboy, Pheasant, Quail and Andouille Gumbo," said Davis.

There are chances for rain in the forecast for New Orleans mostly today and tomorrow, but Davis says that doesn't stop the good times from rolling. He says last year's Jazzfest was attend by over 400,000 people.

"With the talent that we have and the love that people have for this festival and how long they've been waiting for it, I would expect us to do as well or better than last year."



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The matchup of the top two ranked teams in college baseball lived up to the hype as the Tigers won in thrilling fashion over Texas A&M 4-3. Danny Zardon delivered the game winning hit in the bottom of the 9th, with a shot down the left field line to score Jared Foster.

The Aggies tied the game in the top of the 9th. Jesse Stallings gave up a lead-off triple to J.B. Moss. He eventually scored to tie the game.
A&M jumped out to an early 2-0 lead as LSU starting pitcher Jared Poche gave up single runs in the first two innings. 
But the Tigers tied with two in the 4th inning. Chris Chinea tied the game with an RBI single to score Andrew Stevenson.
LSU took the lead in the 7th inning as Jake Fraley scored on a throwin error by Aggie pitcher Ty Scholottmann.
Collin Strall was the winning pitcher for the Tigers as he recorded a strikeout in the top of the 9th.
Game 2 is Friday night at 7 PM.  


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At a gubernatorial candidate forum in Baton Rouge today, all four candidates were asked what should be done about the state's current fiscal crisis.  Legislators are currently working to resolve a $1.6 billion dollar budget deficit for next fiscal year.  

Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle says the state's tax code is outdated and needs to be totally redone.
"As governor, I would work toward  reforms to enact a fair, transparent, competitive tax code allowing state leaders to finally be able to create a balanced, sustainable budget that reflects the priorities of the people of Louisiana."

The forum was put on by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.  Republican Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne says one short term fix for the budget crisis is for legislators to increase the cigarette tax.

"The cigarette tax is going to generate money immediately and would make us competitive with sister states, if we don't make it any more than what they're charging.  That's a realistic way that we have to try and find some money."

Democratic Amite state Representative John Bel Edwards says Louisiana should reduce or eliminate tax credits that aren't producing a the desired benefit.  Edwards says tax credits are tax expenditures.

"We can reduce those expenditures, create savings, and reallocate the higher priority items.  We need to cap and sunset and review these things."

Republican US Senator David Vitter appeared by recorded video as he is in Washington, DC for a Senate vote.  He says, if elected, he would immediately call a special legislative session focused on spending and tax reform and nothing would be off limits.

"There won't be any boundaries put on the discussion or the deliberations set by Washington or anywhere else.  Everything will be on the table."


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Michelle Southern reporting.
The Youngsville Police Department says a male youth softball coach is facing charges for allegedly punching an opposing female softball coach and breaking her nose. Chief Rickey Boudreaux says it was a highly contested game between two teams with the Lafayette City-Parish Parks and Recreation. 

He says after it was over words were allegedly exchanged then three players jumped on an opposing player. 
"The mom/head coach attempted to intervene to break up the fight, when a cowardly man from the other team walked over and sucker punched her causing her nose to break in three places," said Boudreaux.

Boudreaux says the suspect in this case is a complete low life and the sports organization indicates there is no place for violence in youth recreation sports. He says the players and the coach in this case let their emotions rise above common sense.

"And I think that male coach is not a very good role model for today's youth after such actions over a youth softball game," said Boudreaux.

Boudreaux says since the victim's nose was broken in multiple places she will have to see a specialist to repair the injury.

"She's got a lot of swelling and bruising as you can expect with an injury like that but she seems to be doing okay."


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