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Lack of rain hurts area's fall foliage, but beauty can still be found

Blame it on the rain, or rather the timing of the rain, but East Texas’ fall colors have largely peaked.

Still, spots of beauty can be found around Longview’s parks, on rural highways and in area state parks.

“We were looking good for about three weeks,” said Steven Chamblee, executive director of the Longview Arboretum and Nature Center, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. Normally, East Texas would see a good six to eight weeks of colorful fall foliage, he said.

“Most of it depends on the weather ... and it depends on how much rain,” he continued. “We have had an almost powder dry fall, which has really wrecked a lot of our fall color. Yes, we irrigate, but there’s nothing like rain. Irrigation doesn’t do it like rain. Nobody does it like Mother Nature.”

Longview’s total rainfall for the year is about an inch below normal at 40.26 inches, said Chris Nuttall, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Shreveport. That’s not so bad, he said, but since September, rainfall is 3 inches below normal and down 2.5 inches this month.

“The last couple of months have been relatively dry,” Nuttall said. “Some of that was due to some of the tropical systems, some of the hurricanes that came up, and that didn’t really affect the Longview area and much of Northeast Texas very much.”

The area has a small chance of rain Sunday, again on Tuesday night and then Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Rain could perk some of the colors back up, Chamblee said Tuesday, as he pointed out some of the remaining pops of color in the arboretum. The bald cypress trees have turned a “rust” color, he said.

“They will drop their leaves, but they kind of go rust colored,” he said. “I think it’s nice, but it depends on who you are.”

Before the arboretum’s official construction, a sweet gum tree growing on the property there was pinned down by another tree that fell, but it kept growing.

Michael Cavazos 

A sweet gum tree, on Wednesday November 18, 2020, at the Longview Arboretum and Nature Center. (Michael Cavazos/ News-Journal Photo)

“Sweet gums are famous for having everything from yellow, to gold, orange, red and purple leaves, sometimes on the same tree,” he said, adding that he hopes to intentionally place a bench with the fallen tree’s branches to create a nice seating area and photo opportunity.

Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo 

Executive Director Steven Chamblee points out some confederate jasmine that is turning red while speaking about fall colors, on Wednesday at the Longview Arboretum and Nature Center.

“Sometimes, the best fall color you’ll see is poison ivy,” Chamblee said, but he also pointed to Confederate jasmine that was planted in the arboretum and whose leaves had a turned a deep red along the fence were it was growing.

An American beautyberry shrub in the arboretum was flashing its fall color — bright magenta berries revealed after dropping its leaves.

And nearby, at the Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center’s J.R. Curtis Jr. Memorial Garden for the Blind, a Japanese persimmon tree was showing off orange leaves, and fruit, as bees still buzzed around flowers in the garden there.

Michael Cavazos 

A persimmon tree, on Wednesday November 18, 2020, at the Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center. (Michael Cavazos/ News-Journal Photo)

Longview’s trails, too, offer peeks at color. Ken Davis, maintenance supervision technician for the city’s parks department who has a longtime background in horticulture, said his favorite tree this time of year is the black gum.

“It’s red in color right now. It’s normally your first one to turn red, and just this time of year is my favorite time of year,” with leaves blowing on the ground and a wide range of colors, Davis said.

“I believe that our trails in Longview are as top of the line as they can be. They’re spectacular. I think we’ve got the best parks around, the best trails,” he said Wednesday. “Just this morning, I was on the Boorman Trail, which runs pretty much from Highway 80 all the way to the loop, and it has beautiful fall color.”

Sugar maples, sweet gums, coral bark Japanese maple, birch trees and the Chinese tallow or popcorn tree — they’re all showing off colors on the Cargill, Akin and Boorman trails, for instance.

“The great thing about East Texas is we’ve always got a great backdrop for everything, too, with the pine trees,” Davis said.

Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo 

A maple tree shows yellow and green leaves along the Paul Boorman Trail on Wednesdayy in Longview. (Michael Cavazos/ News-Journal Photo)

Longview Main Street contest encourages shopping local

Longview Main Street is encouraging residents to shop local this year by offering a prize contest for those who do.

Between now and Dec. 9, residents who shop local can upload pictures of receipts or purchases from local retailers for a chance to win prizes from Longview businesses.

Main Street Coordinator Melida Heien said throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she believes people have become more cognizant of where they shop.

“More so than any other year, it is so important to support your local businesses,” she said.

Small, locally-owned retailers work within different budgets than big box stores and do not have as much money for marketing, she said. Additionally, local retailers do not have corporate support.

“When you spend money at a local business, it’s going to go further in a lot of different sectors of our community,” she said, adding that local retailers are owned by people who live here, and those people will reinvest that money into the East Texas economy.

To help encourage residents to shop local, Longview Main Street decided to reward those who do.

The group has set up a website where residents can upload pictures of their receipts or purchases from local businesses. Each photo submitted counts as one entry into Main Street’s prize drawing, Heien said. Residents can submit up to 10 photos each time they visit the link; the website also asks shoppers to fill out a form with contact information so they can be reached if they win a prize.

Residents can win weekly prizes from local businesses, and a grand prize drawing that features gifts from several local retailers will be awarded at the end of the contest. Heien said if more businesses are interested in participating in the prize drawing, they can contact her at (903) 239-5538.

For information about the contest, visit Longview Main Street’s Facebook page facebook.com/LongviewMainStreet/ and click on “Events.” In the “Events” section, visit the “Shop Local. Love Local and Win” page for more information.

Longview police investigating shooting death
  • Updated

Longview police are investigating the death of a man found shot to death — the city’s 10th homicide of the year.

At about 6:43 p.m. Thursday, officers responded to a shots fired call in the area of 15th and Young streets near a Family Dollar store.

“Officers located an adult male with apparent gunshot wounds who was pronounced deceased at the scene,” police said on Facebook. “Longview Police Detectives are actively working this case as a homicide.”

Police did not provide more details, including the identity of the victim.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Longview Police Department at 903-237-1199 or 903-237-1157.

Those who wish to remain anonymous should contact Gregg County Crime Stoppers at 903-236-STOP(7867) or online at greggcountycrimestoppers.org.

The death is the city’s 10th homicide of 2020. Others this year are:

James Barron, 30, of Longview was arrested and charged with murder after 58-year-old Llewellyn Williams was found dead in his home on the 1200 block of Eighth Street. Police discovered the body during a welfare check June 20.

Ernest Berry Neal, 36, was found dead outside his home June 7 in the 3400 block of Morrison Street. Police are investigating his death.

Prometheaus Washington, 27, of Dallas was charged May 9 with criminally negligent homicide after Gregg County Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace B.H. Jameson said Washington was in the back seat of a vehicle holding a handgun near the intersection of Mobberly Avenue and Young Street when the gun discharged, striking a male victim in the front seat who was killed.

Angelita Ruiz, 39, of Longview, was arrested April 29 and charged with murder in the shooting death of a man who was found with life-threatening injuries that morning at a home in the 1700 block of Live Oak Drive. Police said the shooting appeared to be “domestic related” and did not release the name of the man.

Andrea Burks, 40, was charged April 28 with capital murder after police say she smothered her 3-month-old daughter with a pillow and tried to smother her two other daughters because she feared authorities would take them away.

Nolan Trezhon Gardner Johnson, 20, of Longview, was arrested Feb. 19 after the fatal shooting of Damian Devon Daniels, 26, of Gladewater the previous day outside the home Johnson shared with his mother on Finch Drive.

Brandon Keith Harris, 37, of Longview was arrested in connection with the Jan. 30 shooting death of Valerie Hackett, 24, at the Ware Meadows Apartments in the 900 block of South High Street.

Eduardo Sereno, 19, of Longview was charged with criminally negligent homicide in the Jan. 22 fatal shooting of Bryan Rivera, 17, on Scenic Drive.

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COVID-19 in East Texas
Gregg County COVID-19 cases rise by 39, recoveries by nearly 100
  • Updated

New confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Gregg County increased again Friday by double digits as additional confirmed recoveries approached 100.

Regional health organization the Northeast Texas Public Health District, known as NET Health, reported 39 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in Gregg County residents and 98 newly reported recoveries.

The county’s cumulative confirmed case count reached 3,109, with confirmed recoveries at 2,419.

Confirmed deaths in the county remained at 65, a day after the health district announced four additional confirmed deaths related to the coronavirus.

On Friday, there were 625 confirmed active cases in the county and three Gregg County Jail inmates with active cases.

Harrison County Judge Chad Sims on Friday announced four new cases in his county for the second day in a row.

The county has had 1,211 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Recoveries and deaths from the virus on Friday remained at 1,067 and 35, respectively, leaving 109 confirmed active cases in the county.

In Smith County, NET Health reported 73 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 157 new confirmed recoveries in county residents. The county has had 5,677 total confirmed cases and 3,967 recoveries.

The health district on Friday reported one additional confirmed virus-related death for a total of 130.

The number of patients with confirmed or probable COVID-19 being treated Friday in Tyler hospitals was 195 up from 193 on Thursday.

A case is considered probable if it returns a positive result in a rapid test that is not then laboratory confirmed.

The state on Friday reported 17 new cases of the coronavirus in Rusk County and one additional death. The county has had 1,161 positive cases, according to the state, and 30 COVID-19 deaths.

Upshur County’s coronavirus cases increased by seven from the previous day for a cumulative total of 587, and the county’s deaths increased by two to 19.


Texas surpassed 8,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients Friday for the first time since a deadly summer surge as doctors amplified pleas to keep Thanksgiving gatherings small.

The worsening surge of cases has El Paso County — where the pandemic is blamed for more than 300 deaths since October — now searching for prospective morgue workers. County leaders are offering $27 an hour for work they describe as not only physically arduous but “emotionally taxing as well.”

The job posting comes as El Paso is already paying jail inmates to move bodies and has 10 refrigerated trucks as morgues began to overflow.

Texas reported more than 11,700 new cases Friday, the second-highest daily total of the pandemic. More than 8,100 virus patients are hospitalized, the most since early August.

The Texas Hospital Association, the industry group representing more than 500 hospitals, issued a new appeal for families to keep holiday gatherings “very small” as doctors and nurses struggle to keep up with rising caseloads.

“They are tired and emotionally drained. They are worried about their own families,” the organization said in a statement.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has ruled out another shutdown and accused local leaders of not enforcing restrictions already in place.