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General
City of Longview changing emergency alert system

The city of Longview’s mass emergency notification system is changing, and officials are encouraging residents to opt in to stay informed of severe weather and emergency situations.

The city on Saturday will begin using Smart911 by RAVE Mobile Safety, replacing the CodeRED system. The service is offered in partnership with the East Texas Council of Governments, which provides access to the system for cities and counties in the region.

Account users may sign up for free to receive phone call, text or email alerts, officials said. In addition, users have the option to provide supplementary information such as medical conditions, pet information, house description and more that could be helpful to first responders during an emergency.

Users who had an account with CodeRED will need to create a new account through Smart911 if they wish to continue to receive emergency notifications. Officials said the city will send notifications to existing users with information on how to sign up for the new system.

“This is a great tool for our community to have during emergency situations, and I strongly encourage everyone to take a few minutes to sign up for our new emergency alert system,” Fire Chief J.P. Steelman said. “It’s very important for all existing subscribers to realize you must register with the new system if you wish to continue to receive our emergency alerts.”

The Longview Public Library will provide registration assistance for residents who may not have internet access or need help signing up.

To register, go to LongviewTexas.gov/Alerts .

Registration also is available by downloading the Smart911 app for Apple and Android users and then opting-in for alerts from the city.


centerpiece
Driver rescued from flood; Lake Gladewater closed; flooding closes some roads in Longview, Gregg County

A driver was rescued from a car submerged in a creek off Harrison Road in Gregg County late Wednesday afternoon, and continuing rain prompted the closures during the morning of Longview’s popular Paul G. Boorman Trail and Lois Jackson Park, along with Lake Gladewater and several area roads.

The Gregg County Sheriff’s Office received a report at 4:58 p.m. Wednesday of a submerged vehicle in Hawkins Creek off West Harrison Road, west of Jordan Valley Road. The sole occupant of the car — a man — was trapped on the roof of the vehicle.

Gregg County sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Josh Tubb said the driver had lost control of the vehicle, which ended up in Hawkins Creek.

Longview Fire Department personnel extended a ladder to the vehicle, allowing the man to walk to safety, Tubb said. The Texas Department of Public Safety responded to the incident, and a wrecker service was attempting to retrieve the vehicle from the water late Wednesday.

The storm, which started a week ago, dumped 1.36 inches from midnight Tuesday to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to a rain gauge the National Weather Service monitors at the East Texas Regional Airport.

The storm brought the year’s total so far in Longview to 8.33 inches, said Marty Mayeaux, senior forecaster with the weather service in Shreveport. That compares with last year’s total of 4.31 inches as of this date and the average of 4.94 inches by this time.

Mayeaux said the weather service at 3:14 p.m. canceled a flash flood warning because flooding had subsided. The warning was to remain in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday.

That action occurred hours after the city of Longview closed the Boorman trail and Lois Jackson Park, which were both under water, city spokesman Shawn Hara said.

“Anytime that the creeks are rising, then the trail is closed,” Hara said. He said the trail will reopen once the rain recedes.

The city of Gladewater closed Lake Gladewater around 9 a.m. because of rising waters, said Steve Matlock, the city’s water treatment plant manager. He said the lake rose 2 feet above the spillway.

“The water is rising pretty quickly in town,” Matlock said late Wednesday morning. “It is still raining pretty hard here.”

He said the water almost rose up to the road, Lakeshore Drive, leading to the lake.

However, Lake Cherokee remained open Wednesday morning because the lake was only 6 inches above the spillway at its dam, Lake Cherokee Manager Erin Summerlin said. She said management would close the lake if the level rose 1 to 1 1/2 feet above the spillway, which is at 280 feet.

“Right now, it’s fine,” Summerlin said around 11 a.m. “Just saturated ground.”

The rain saturated many roads in the area. Longview police Wednesday morning shared photos of flooding on Brent and Dumas roads in northwest Longview. Police also reported closures on Lafamo and Pliler Precise roads at Judson Road.

The Gregg County Sheriff’s Office about 8:15 a.m. reported the flooding-related closures of Lonesome Pine Road between Hunter and Northridge roads, Old Highway 135 south of Smith Road, Texas 135 south of Country Club Road, FM 1650 off U.S. 259, Mackey Road at the Upshur County line, Big Woods and Campbell roads and McCann Road at Fuller Road.

Longview-area residents will get relief from the rain today until Saturday night, with cloudy skies gradually becoming sunny with an afternoon high today of 49, the weather service forecast. Tonight will be mostly clear, with a low around 28.

Friday is predicted to be sunny, with a high near 51 and an overnight low around 33.

Saturday is expected to be mostly sunny, with a high near 62. A 20% chance of showers is forecast for Saturday night, which will be mostly cloudy with a low around 49.

The weather service expects Sunday to be partly sunny, with a high near 69. A 20% chance of showers is forecast for Sunday night, with mostly cloudy skies and a low around 56.

Monday is predicted to see a 40% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mostly cloudy skies and a high near 74. The chance for showers and thunderstorms is likely to increase to 50% by Monday night, with a low around 57.


Smith
East Texas Medical Center Foundation gives $80 million for UT medical school in Tyler

TYLER — The East Texas Medical Center Foundation will give $80 million to help establish the proposed University of Texas medical school in Tyler.

Last week, the UT System announced it will seek approval for a medical school in Tyler. On Wednesday, the East Texas Medical Center Foundation announced the gift to help support the venture, which is aimed at significantly transforming health education, care and outcomes in the region.

A written statement from the UT System said the foundation’s gift represents the largest single contribution ever made to establish a medical school in Texas and the largest gift made to an institution or organization in East Texas.

Community, business and health care leaders and elected officials gathered Wednesday at Willow Brook Country Club for the announcement.

“The foundation board is honored to make this essential investment in our community,” said Elam Swann, chairman of the East Texas Medical Center Foundation board and a Tyler businessman and philanthropist. “At the core of a region’s vitality is its commitment to a healthy society. We have a desire and a responsibility to participate in that effort, and we hope our gift will inspire other individuals and organizations to participate.”

Because East Texas Medical Center was a nonprofit, the proceeds of the sale to UT/Ardent went back into the ETMC Foundation, which enabled it to make the gift.

Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun, president of the UT Health Science Center at Tyler, described the donation as “monumental” for the East Texas region.

“The East Texas Medical Center Foundation’s commitment to advancing medicine in East Texas marks an unprecedented financial commitment and vote of confidence in our university, and for that, we are eternally grateful,” Calhoun said.

The UT System board of regents will vote whether to approve the authorization for the medical school at their Feb. 26 meeting. Afterward, the UT System would work with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Legislature and other licensing and accrediting agencies to bring the school to fruition.

The UT System already operates six medical schools across the state.

Board of regents chairman Kevin Eltife, a former Tyler mayor and former state senator, said the gift will show lawmakers that the community is committed to bringing the idea of the medical school to fruition.

“Your gift means so much for UT and beyond,” Eltife said. “It will impact the region in countless positive ways that we cannot even capture today. We know it will expand opportunities for patients who need primary and specialty care, enhance the capacity of our local hospitals to treat and heal, and boost our economy and biomedical research capabilities, for starters.”

The East Texas Medical Center Foundation expressed its interest in rural health care and mental and behavioral health, and it has asked UT Health Science Center at Tyler to place an emphasis on those issues.

UT Health Science Center at Tyler is expanding residency programs. It recently added three residency programs in general surgery, internal medicine and rural psychiatry, now awaiting accreditation.

Accompanying the growth of residency offerings, UT Health Science Center at Tyler also is adding more than 200 new residency positions within its new health system, UT Health East Texas. Because physicians tend to stay and practice within close proximity of the region where their education and training was received, the new medical school will serve as a catalyst to encourage physicians to remain in the community for the long term, according to the statement.

An analysis by the Perryman group showed that a medical school would have an economic impact of billions of dollars. A new medical school in Tyler is projected to produce an additional $1.9 billion annually and create 18,145 new jobs.


Correction

A story on Page 1A Wednesday about a Longview ISD town hall meeting misspelled attendee Erika Rader’s name.


Local
Lover of all things school: Hockenberry begins as Longview ISD assistant superintendent

James Hockenberry said he “stumbled” into education. Now, it is his life.

“I love all things school,” the new Longview ISD assistant superintendent of human resources and community relations said. “I love the classroom. I love the extracurricular activities. I love the cafeteria. I love watching buses in the morning and watching buses in the afternoon.”

Hockenberry was hired by the district on Dec. 2 after Jody Clements retired. Hockenberry’s first day was Jan. 5.

A Humble High School graduate of 1986, Hockenberry grew up in the Houston area. He studied biology at Stephen F. Austin State University, where he later got a master’s degree and doctorate in education.

He met his wife, Mary, in 1995, and they married in 1997. She is a third-generation teacher. They have two children. Their daughter, Haley, is 20 and attending the University of Southern California after spending two years as a Kilgore College Rangerette. Their son, Grant, is 16 and a high school junior.

Before coming to Longview, Hockenberry was a superintendent at Center ISD for 12 years. Before Center, he said he was the superintendent at Chireno ISD for two years.

“I kind of stumbled into education. Somebody convinced me to use my background and some of my experiences to relate to kids,” he said. “I started off as a high school science teacher. I quickly moved into school administration. I’ve been a principal at all levels and a superintendent for the last 14 years at two different districts.”

Hockenberry said his core values are to help children and listen to staff to meet their needs. When he leaves every morning, he said he reminds himself to not forget the children of the district or the teachers.

“Because that’s where it happens,” he said. “All the work that we do — at the end of the day, the kids show up to school and the teachers teach. It’s still that simple.”

In his first month on the job, Hockenberry said he has spent time visiting with people in the district and listening to their needs. As he becomes more familiar with Longview, he said he will get more involved in the community.

He hopes to be involved with the Longview Chamber of Commerce, as he has been in the past, and plans to attend as many Lobo extracurricular events as possible. He especially is looking forward to football season.

In his spare time, Hockenberry said he can be found on a golf course or any other outdoor activity, which makes East Texas an ideal home for him.

As his time at Longview ISD continues, Hockenberry said he will keep an open mind and will be accessible.

“That doesn’t mean that I’m always available, but I will always make time for people,” he said. “I will always listen. I will always do everything in my power to meet their needs. Call me any time. If anybody needs my personal cellphone number, I’d be happy to give it.”

He also said he is emotionally invested in the district and will be “extremely transparent.” Part of the reason he was attracted to Longview is the “culture of high expectations,” he said.

“Every child matters, and that’s not lip service,” Hockenberry said. “I can assure you of that, and I will do everything in my power to make sure every single child gets the best education possible, and that every teacher gets heard, and that I do everything I can to make this what I consider a destination district, because for me, this was a destination district.”