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Working towards goal

The founding members of the Rural Broadband Cooperative are very close to offering broadband internet services to those in the Mill Creek Hollow and Big Valley areas, but they are calling on others for help in getting beyond that area.

Dwight Rittenhouse, a member of the board of directors for the Rural Broadband Cooperative, explained how far they’ve come and where they’re at now in getting broadband internet services to Mill Creek Hollow and Big Valley.

“Since August 2018, we started with a vacant piece of land, and we now have a tower on Stone Mountain (in Brady Township),” he said. “We are now at the point where we now have Kinber as an internet provider. In a couple of weeks, we will be cutting the fiber in for us to turn on our tower.”

After the fiber is cut in, Rittenhouse said they will be testing with members to see if it works, and they hope to offer the service to everyone in a 10-mile radius who can see Stone Mountain from their homes, added Rittenhouse.

“We’ll be testing for a month or so in the area we’re serving directly,” he said. “If you can see the tower in the Airydale area on Route 655, and in the 10-mile radius of that area, we can serve you directly.

“We hope to say we’re taking on anyone who wants to become a subscribing member, we hope to be able to broadcast a signal to provide for everyone in this area by the end of October,” Rittenhouse added.

While they’re almost ready to offer broadband internet services to the Mill Creek Hollow area, Rittenhouse said more capital is needed, and more founding members are needed to offer the service to more area.

“All of the co-op members rallied together to get to this part,” he said. “Now, we’re looking for some founding members, or investing members, to get some tower sites to get to other places like McAlevys Fort. We’re looking to build a tower there, but we need to have a site where we can see Stone Mountain from McAlevys Fort.”

Additionally, help is also needed for installation and other work to do the labor end of getting broadband internet to homes.

“Just because we’re almost ready to operate, doesn’t mean we don’t need the capital to service a wider area,” said Rittenhouse. “We want to deliver high speed internet to locations where the internet may go through by a line. We’re doing it by a microwave signal beaming from the tower to your house, collected on a dish, which is similar to your television service.

“Being a co-op, we’re like a lot of the electric co-ops in the state,” Rittenhouse added. “It’s a nonprofit organization, and everyone has a vote in what way their co-op goes. Everything has been built by no labor costs and built by members. We’re looking for other members to help continue on to other communities and outlying areas that have no broadband internet service.”

Meetings are held for the Rural Broadband Cooperative at 8 a.m. every Saturday at 9956 Mill Creek Hollow Road if anyone is interesting in attending. For more information, contact the co-op at 644-7754.

Almanac releases forecast for winter months

Though the Old Farmer’s Almanac recently released its long-range winter forecast, others are keeping their information about what is in store for the winter months in the area, across the state, the Northeast and the entire U.S. guarded — for now.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, winter is expected to be warmer than normal for the area, with above-normal precipitation forecasted. Snowfall is expected to be above normal in the northern part of the Appalachians, while it will be above normal in the southern part of the Appalachians.

The coldest periods for this region, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, will be from mid-January from late February into early March.

Max Vido, long-range forecaster at Accuweather.com, said they will release their winter forecast until the first week of October, but he did discuss some of the things they use to determine the forecast.

“There’s three specific things we look at — analog years with similar climate drivers to this year, dynamic models that take a lot of date that projects the future and seasonal climate trends,” he said.

Vido explained a little bit more about how each worked.

“We look at what we call analog years, and these are years with similar climate drivers,” he said. “We look at sea surface temperatures around the world in the Atlantic and Pacific, upper levels winds in the atmosphere and the solar cycle in year’s past, and a similar types of long-term climate oscillations, and we use those years to look at particular weather patterns that stood out in the longer range.”

Another way they measure is by looking at computer models that project things out a few months, though that’s not as accurate.

“If we look at climate models for the fall forecast in the northeast, for the past 10 years, we’re much warmer than normal than normal climatology, especially in September,” said Vido. “It’s been warmer in the northeast and central part of the U.S. We will do the same, where we look at climate models that project out from a few months to a year and look at ones that perform better.”

Other climate trends that are factored into a forecast are also whether it’s an El Niño or La Niña.

“That’s the distribution of heat surface temperatures and wind patterns over the Pacific Ocean,” said Vido. “That helps to project what the jet stream patterns and storm patterns are going to be for winter.

“For right now, we’re seeing a weak El Niño, which means there are warmer than normal sea surface temperatures over the central Pacific Ocean and that can drive weather patterns in the winter months,” he said.

Photo by ADAM WATSON  

Lights from amusement rides and concession stands lit up the night sky as the 54th annual Robertsdale, Wood & Broad Top (RW&BT) Homecoming Picnic opened Friday evening and at the homecoming grounds along Route 913 in Broad Top City Borough. The event features food, games, rides, entertainment, a car show, fireworks and a parade that begins at 2 p.m. today. The event runs through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2.

Focus on vaping health effects grow

Concerns over the health effects of vaping have come back into focus after vaping use was linked to the death of an individual in Illinois last week by health officials.

The Illinois Department of Public Health released a statement saying the patient was hospitalized after vaping, though they did not release further details.

Vaping has become particularly prevalent among teenagers and young adults who often see it as a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes.

“Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control,” said Dr. Bijal Patel, a pediatrician at Geisinger Lewistown Medical Center. “Exposure to toxic substances may be reduced, but there are still significant concerns when replacing smoking cigarettes with vaping. One’s lungs are exposed to fine particles, metals, other toxins and nicotine which are all harmful.”

Some of the ingredients in e-cigarette aerosol could also be harmful to the lungs in the long-term. For example, some e-cigarette flavorings may be safe to eat but not inhale because the gut can process more substances than the lungs.

In September 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) proclaimed that it does not consider the electronic cigarette to be a legitimate smoking cessation aid and demanded that marketers immediately remove from their materials any suggestions that the WHO considers electronic cigarettes safe and effective.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last Friday that 193 people in 22 states have contracted sever respiratory illnesses after vaping. However, these are still considered potential cases as a definitive cause of the illnesses has yet to be identified.

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, believes that street vapes containing marijuana are to blame and that vaping products “remain a far safer alternative to smoking.”

“It is incredibly irresponsible for media outlets and health authorities to continue to focus on vaping products generally when we know that tainted, black market THC products remain on the streets,” he said in a statement.

While it remains an open debate as to whether vaping is a safer alternative to smoking in the long-term, Patel said the health field’s stance on has always remained the same, though professionals are now becoming more vocal in their discouraging of vaping.

“Health professionals have always discouraged vaping and continue to do so even more today as more and more cases of health problems associated with vaping is coming up,” said Patel.

For parents, she encourages having a conversation with children about vaping and being a good role model.

“Convey your expectations. Express your understanding of the risks along with why you don’t want your child vaping. If you choose to set consequences, be sure to follow through while reinforcing healthier choices. Set a positive example by being vape and tobacco-free. If you do vape, keep your equipment and supplies secured,” said Patel.

Using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.

UGI rates will remain the same

While gas cost rates natural gas will decrease in some parts of the state, that’s not the case locally.

In the south district of UGI, which covers mainly the southeastern portion of the state, the average residential heating bill for natural gas customers will drop by 1.93% starting Sept. 1.

The natural gas service areas are broken into three districts — north, south and central. There’s also one electric district for UGI electric customers.

Joseph Swope, UGI spokesperson, explained why that won’t be the case for UGI customers in Huntingdon County, which is in the central district for UGI.

“We have four different rate districts,” said Swope. “There’s only one with the change — the south district We have a petition to combine one of the rate districts, but as of right now, the reason why the south district is decreasing is based on geography and proximity to natural gas supply.

The last time customers saw any sort of rate change with natural gas bills was in June 2018.

UGI Central Penn Gas passed on savings to customers as a result of a tax relief credit.

The state Public Utility Commission (PUC) issued the directive to utility companies to provide a credit to customers based on the decrease in federal corporate tax rates under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

UGI customers saw an average average of $4.50 in savings on their monthly bills.

By law, utilities are required to pass the cost of the natural gas they purchase directly through to customers without any markup.

There was also a rate decrease in May 2018, and Swope outlined the reasons for the decrease at that time to The Daily News.

“A great advantage we have in Pennsylvania is the local, plentiful supply where costs have been moderate and very stable,” said Swope. “In fact, in cost cases, the cost of Pennsylvania gas tends to trend lower than the national average because it’s already here and we don’t have the transportation costs. Our customers are positioned very well to take advantage of very stable prices.