Steve’s Ramblings: Outstanding Job by Emergency Service Officials Yesterday

by Steve Dunford

The massive amount of traffic on Interstate 57 yesterday afternoon. (Michelle Marvel, photo)

Yesterday, there was something that everyone of us who lives, or have lived in the past in Southern Illinois experienced, traffic jams.

Rick Linton, of Rend Lake Area Tourism issued a press release around a month ago.  It had several points that with the hundreds of thousands of people that will come to the area might experience.

One of the points was to avoid all state highways throughout the weekend ending today.  The projections were the traffic would flow in starting Friday.

The projections came true, and the influx of people to Little Egypt happened yesterday.  The eclipse was spectacular and might be the news story of the decade.  It is a story that most of us that are in middle age will tell our grandkids about sitting on our lap.  Equally, we will tell them about the big traffic jam on eclipse day.

For our emergency officials, this was uncharted waters for them.  As residents of the region we did not know what to expect.  This was on the job training for April 8, 2024 when the next eclipse will head through our region.

Makanda will be the focal point again, as it is in the path of totality, as it will be the spot that will experience the longest length of it again.  The area also cuts through Franklin County again.

Before I went to experience what I have dubbed as “God’s Light Show”,  I was watching the coverage on KFVS before and afterwards.  When I came in after the eclipse, Carly O’Keefe was reporting live from Makanda.  After all the oohs and ahs of the eclipse, people were going straight to their cars and taking off.  It reminded me of going to a fireworks display. or when I was a kid, my parents leaving the drive-in.

In about 20 minutes time, I was hearing scanner reports of traffic at a standstill on Route 149, between Zeigler and Royalton.  It was not 15 minutes later, that I was hearing and seeing reports that all highways that run north to south was clogged.  When Mr. Linton said for us locals to avoid state highways, well yesterday was the day.

I have a friend of mine that is an officer in Zeigler, Jim Emberton.  He made a long social media post about yesterday the experience.  What he said, is what makes Southern Illinois and especially Franklin County a great place to live.

To handle the heavy traffic load, they were only allowing people to go north and east.  When you have something like yesterday, always there are the obnoxious few in line that thinks the world revolves around them.  They were laying on their horns and shouting obscenities, but  most of all were patient though.

He said that one phone call was made.  The City of Zeigler was sitting up barricades on southbound Route 148 and westbound 149.  A few minutes later, the Royalton and Hurst fire departments where there to help, without being toned for mutual aid.  Citizens that were not emergency service workers, were on the scene asking the Zeigler Police Department how they can help.

A few minutes later, I received a text from my dad.  It was a traffic report from Thompsonville.  He said that traffic was rolling, but backing up in front of his house on Main Street (South Thompsonville Road)  Growing up in the same house, lets just say the biggest jam that I saw in the 22 years that I lived there was four cars in a row.

In the next ten minutes I heard there was a string of cars all the way back to Crab Orchard.  I was sharing cell phone pictures from my friends in a matter of minutes.  I was thinking unreal.

Then North Thompsonville Road (Akin Blacktop), Deering Road (18 Bottoms). Old Marion Road which all run, the Freeman Spur blacktop, and Yellowbanks was also backed up with people trying to cut through.

This was new territory for us all.  With everyone coming yesterday, no one expected the county highways would be clogged as well.  This will help everyone involved prepare for 2024.

Throughout the morning of people moving south and the afternoon moving north, the work by the law enforcement, local fire departments and street departments and the area mayors were incredible.  I have heard comments how the eclipse brought unity to people watching it at the same time.  The unity of what I saw and heard yesterday between agencies was incredible.

With the Illinois State Police releasing real time traffic maps, like you would see in a major metropolitan area was unreal.  Some of the pictures from Interstate 57 reminded me of people in the Muslim Faith, of the highways leading into Mecca to make their pilgrimage.

Sheriff Don Jones and his Deputies, Franklin County Emergency Management Director Ryan Buckingham, every Police Chief and Fire Chief in the county, the mayors of the communities affected need a huge pat on the back for a job well done.

As well as Zeigler, the communities of Christopher and Sesser were slammed really hard.  There was no major incidents in the three cities.  Every person that had a hand in yesterday

With all the traffic, I was expecting to hear a slew of wrecks on I-57.  Yesterday was unusually quiet.  The only wreck that I know of where there was personal injury was in Johnston City.  With the tens of thousands of people that were heading north that is very positive.

When anyone has an injury, it is terrible.  I just said a prayer for the individuals that will have their lives temporarily or permanently altered.  There were several fender benders, considering the amount of traffic that came through, it is expected.

There was one unit in the county that was very mobile, and did an outstanding job.  Chief Amos “Eddie” Abbott and the West City Fire Department was providing relief and a cooling station in their Rehab Unit.  The importance of this unit was especially important with highs in the lower 90’s and the heat index between 105-110.

I had a friend that has passed, Dan Finney, who was a West City fireman.  He was telling me about this during the developmental stage.  They respond to nearly every emergency in the county, especially structure fires, aiding the firefighters.

The National Weather Service in Paducah, did an outstanding job in forecasting cloud cover.  I felt very sorry for the ones in attendance at Saluki Stadium as part of totality was in cloud cover.  They predicted that Carbondale might experience it.

For me, this has been a busy and good type of busy.  I was going to hit the ground running on High School Football previews yesterday.  I will start on them today.  Week one of the season starts Friday night.  I can not wait.  I am very thankful however, I was able to play a small role in it.

Yesterday was one of several emergency situations, that I covered in the nine months that I have been working for franklincounty-news. com.  In the future, I will post the outlet will go into Emergency Alert mode, in which there could be several posts that will be on the Facebook page only.

For the planning that went into how to handle a massive amount of tourists in the county, the execution of the plan was nearly flawless.  There will be seven years to make the small tweaks.

Again all the emergency workers made the citizens of Franklin and surrounding counties proud.  For those who came, thank you for stimulating our local economy.  You are more than welcome to visit us again anytime, especially for the 2024 eclipse.






What I am looking for in today’s eclipse

by Steve Dunford

My mom had a saying that drove me nuts as a kid,  if wishers were horses, beggars would ride.  This means people who sit around saying I wish, and never accomplish anything.

This is how I am going to handle the coverage today.  I will be going outside around 11:00 a.m. and look at the sky every 15 minutes or so.  If there is anything to report, I will post it.  Around 1:00 p.m. I am going across the road to the parking lot of Calvary Baptist Church.  I am going to watch the show.  Then, I will follow the same pattern until daylight is restored.

Yes, I started as a sportswriter.  However sharing the news to the people of Franklin and surrounding counties is very fulfilling.  I have never felt more in the will of God than I have right now in this stage of my life.

When I shared a little over a week ago, how communications were strange in 1979 during the partial eclipse, I would be leery if near the event that cell coverage would be weak.  In a perfect world, this is how I will spend the day.

I would love to be out on a lake or a farm.  If on a lake I would love to monitor how the fish would bite before and after the eclipse.  My curiosity would be if channel cats would be feeding right before it.   The perfect spot, would be one of the West Frankfort lakes.  It has been years, but I know in the past where fish bed and where catfish run.

I would love to be on a farm to watch how the livestock behaves, especially if the roosters crow after it is over.

Actually, I am more curious how nature behaves, than the eclipse itself.  Being a weather nerd, I am wondering how the temperature drops, and will the storms be more intense tomorrow.  I am not making a forecast, this is out of curiosity.

God is going to give us an awesome light show today.  Get out and enjoy it, if possible.


A few random thoughts about free speech, monuments and who’s next …

By Jim Muir

A few random thoughts about free speech, monuments and who’s next …

I worked in the news media for 25 years and during that time I wrote thousands of newspaper columns and op-ed pieces. I also hosted a weekly two-hour radio/call-in show that allowed listeners to voice their opinion about any topic. In both of these jobs I was used to readers and listeners voicing an opinion with me and many times against what I had said. I never took offense at those who disagree, because that’s the beauty of free speech. I can have my say … but you can have yours too.

I once got sideways with a listener when I said that, while I despise the vitriolic message of the Rev. Fred Phelps (I use the term ‘reverend’ very loosely here) and his hate-filled congregation … I still defend his right to say what he wants. You remember Phelps and his crew traveling the country hating on gays and protesting military funerals.

In the words of one caller, ‘I simply can’t believe that you would defend this group.’ It was a good question, so let me explain.

Again let me stress in the strongest terms possible, I despise, I loathe and I detest Phelps’ message, but if the politically-correct police tell Phelps to shut up and he is silenced, then who’s next? Is it me or you? Do the PC police soon say that they don’t like the comments of a small-town radio guy or an aging newspaper columnist and silence him? Or maybe that post you put on Facebook yesterday about the inept state government in Illinois or your dislike for Trump is deemed offensive and you’re silenced. In my thinking shutting down ANY free speech puts us all on a slippery slope of no return. So, while we hate the comments of some, in order to maintain the greatest freedom we have, we have to accept it. We don’t have to like it, but we must accept it, regardless! As Voltaire said: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’

I mention that today because in every way I believe this is exactly what is happening with the recent surge of monuments and statues that are being removed, vandalized, destroyed and torn down. Let me pose this question regarding what we’ve witnessed in the past week: where does the line stop for what type of monument, symbol or statue that ‘this’ person or ‘that’ group finds offensive?

At what point do those who are anti-Christian or atheist say that a cross that is attached to the steeple of a church is offensive? Or maybe even the steeple itself? What about the words ‘In God we trust’ that adorns our currency? Or a sign in front of a church? Or the words of a minister standing in the pulpit? The list of things that could be labeled as offensive to fringe groups all over the nation is endless. Again, tell me where the red line stops concerning what is and what isn’t offensive?

You might say that my comments are far-fetched and might even proclaim ‘that could never happen.’ To that line of thinking I would simply say – ‘don’t count on it.’ Take a good look around you – that red line is moving rapidly every day!

We’re already on the ‘slope’ I mentioned earlier and I believe it’s getting more slippery every day!



By Bob Gardner, Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations and Craig Anderson, Executive Director of the Illinois High School Association.

Tailgates. Pep rallies. Friday night lights. The new school year is here! And that’s exciting news for student-athletes and high school sports fans alike.

Research shows that being a student-athlete is about a lot more than fun and games. It teaches important life lessons, too. In fact, high school athletes not only have higher grade point averages and fewer school absences than non-athletes, they also develop the kind of work habits and self-discipline skills that help them become more responsible and productive community members.

Attending high school sporting events teaches important life lessons, too.

Among them, it teaches that we can live in different communities, come from different backgrounds, faiths and cultures, cheer for different teams, and still have a common bond.

That’s why attending the activities hosted by your high school this fall is so important. It’s not only an opportunity to cheer for your hometown team, it is also an opportunity to celebrate our commonality. And that’s something our country needs right now.

The bond we share is mutually supporting the teenagers in our respective communities. We applaud their persistence, tenacity, preparation and hard work, regardless of the color of the uniform they wear. We acknowledge that education-based, high school sports are enhancing their lives, and ours, in ways that few other activities could. And we agree that, regardless of what side of the field we sit on, attending a high school sporting event is an uplifting, enriching, family-friendly experience for all of us.

Many of the high schools in our state lie at the heart of the communities they serve. They not only are educating our next generation of leaders, they also are a place where we congregate, where people from every corner of town and all walks of life come together as one. And at no time is this unity more evident than during a high school athletic event.

This is the beginning of a new school year. Opportunities abound in the classroom and outside it. Let’s make the most of them by attending as many athletic events at the high school in our community as possible.

Turn on the lights, and let the games begin!


Steves Ramblings: August 16, 1977….my first bitter taste of death…twice

by Steve Dunford

There are dates and times in history that you know where you were when you heard or seen a news story break.  I was watching on a black and white TV as a Sophomore at Thompsonville High School when the Challenger exploded.  I was watching this new upstart channel Fox News seeing the second plane go through the World Trade Center.  I just got home from cross country practice (yes I was actually a runner at one time) when Ozzie Smith hit the home run in the playoffs, with Jack Buck’s go crazy folks call.   Those before my time, can always recall where they were when they heard the news John F. Kennedy was assonated.

I can remember the details of August 16. 1977 very clear.  It was the day that I experienced the bitter taste of death in my young life.   My dad worked at Old Ben 24 and was on day shift.  As he was going to work, he came up on my Mom’s cousin Duane Armes having a heart attack, in front of Jimmy Elimon’s barber shop in Thompsonville  I am unsure of his age but I am guessing he was in his early 50’s.  He did not survive.

Duane ran the Standard station at the T’ville Y, that is now a parking lot.  My brother and I thought the would of Duane.  In fact, when my mom was pregnant, my brother was three at the time, wanted me to be named Duane Armes, and nothing else if I was a boy.  It was a good thing I wasn’t a girl because he wanted me to be named Lucille Ball.  That is where my middle name came from.

His wife Wanda ran the filling station for a few years, and she made a swap and owned the café in T’ville for a few years, before selling it to the school district.  It served as the Superintendent’s office for years, and it has been recently tore down.

Wanda turned the grease rack into a pool hall at the “fillin” station.  I would ride my bike up there at times and receive an “education” from the “loafers” there.  She would give me a quarter, from time to time, to run out and pump gas and attempt to wash windows.  There were times I would get a tip of a quarter also.  This primary aged kid would go blow it playing the pinball machines there.

Elvis from his famous Aloha from Hawaii concert, which is still one of the most watched TV shows of all time. (Record image)

Here is the other event that happened that day.  Elvis Presley died at the age of 42.  It was double heartbreak for me.  My brother and I loved Elvis.  When he performed the back to back shows at the SIU Arena, we pestered our parents to get tickets.  Both concerts sold out less than two hours, and people were camping out in the arena parking lot to get tickets.

A few years later, we made the pilgrimage to Graceland when it was open to the public.  It is on my bucket list to go back one day.

We turned on the TV that morning and my brother and I were in disbelief.  Two of our idols were dead, idol meaning someone we looked up to and not worshiped.

Over the years, I have watched several documentaries about his life.  I really got into watching the first season of Sun Records on CMT last winter.   The most thing that was impressive to me he never forgot the humble background he came from, in the ghetto of Memphis.

There were countless stories of him buying a waitress or the janitor in a venue that he was playing a Cadillac.  Most people around him would say stardom never went to his head.

Stardom was his downfall though.  He could not go out in public without a mob.  There were times he would rent a whole amusement park after hours.

He would call people at times to hang out with him in the wee hours of the morning.  In one documentary, the late Harry Caray was the voice of the St. Louis Hawks then.  When he was calling a game at Memphis, Elvis called him up a few times at Graceland to hang out with him.  Caray said it was like being around a normal guy

Elvis had his demons to fight, one a serious drug problem.  When he became hooked, doctors did not know the harmful effect of drugs.  Instant stardom, resulted in take this pill to wake up, take this pill to sleep etc.

As a kid,  people would debate whether Elvis was in Heaven or Hell.  Stardom led him down the wrong path at times.  I am not God but if someone would hold a gun to my head and ask me where his soul spent eternity, I would say heaven.

No one will be able to sing How Great Thou Art, with the passion that he did.  There would be times at Graceland or back stage, he would sing with the top Southern Gospel groups of the day, the Blackwood Brothers, The Statesman and others to the wee hours of the morning.

His backup singers were a Southern Gospel quartet, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps.  One documentary I was watching was produced by Bill Gaither.  It was in the middle of a concert.  It was not on the docket to be performed.  He had the Stamps sing Sweet Holy Spirit.  He told the crowd listen to the words, and he wiped tears the whole time.

King David was caught up in some things he shouldn’t have been.  When he repented, he asked the Lord to return the joy of his salvation.  From observations Elvis knew the truth.

There are also the conspiracy theorists that believe that he faked his death to have his freedom.  To this day, there are still supermarket tabloids that claim he was spotted on an island somewhere.

It was a tragedy that he was taken long before his time.  His music still lives on across generations 40 years later.  After watching a documentary when my son was about six, he fell in love with his music.  He dressed up like him for Halloween that year.  From those in their 80’s from those in their childhood, his music has bridged several generations together.

I remember my mom telling me about her and my aunt Patty going to the old Capitol theater in Benton to watch an Elvis movie with the Waller girls, Velma (Palmer) and Treesie (Osburn) she told me she was deaf from the screaming and walked out with claw marks all over her.  She told me that was her last trip, even though she liked Elvis.

In several accounts, people told me the world stopped when he was on the Ed Sullivan show.  When Elvis was drafted, all the networks had a special report to watch his head get shaved.  A lot of teenage girls, who are well into their social security years, were squalling as I have been told.

I had all intentions to reach out to one of the biggest Elvis gurus in the nation Curtis Simpkins in Christopher to write a feature story on him and publish it today.  I was tied up in the eclipse and high school football and it slipped my mind.  I will talk to him around Elvis’ birthday in January.

I had all intentions of cutting it short.  I have went from a long winded preacher to a writer.  However, I whipped this out in less than an hour with my internet down for 15 minutes of it and still slow.

The comment section on the website is disabled, it was causing the site to crash.   On the Facebook page, comment your memories of Elvis especially if you were at the SIU concerts, I would love to hear from you.  If you were from around T’ville, if you have any memories of Duane, I would love to hear them also.





Steve’s Ramblings: Don’t Blink….it goes by much faster than you realize

by Steve Dunford

I just got done sending a text, and dad is a little emotional, I have to admit.  Today, is my son Andrew’s first day as a college student.   The Kenny Chesney song has came to my mind a lot, Don’t Blink.

My son Andrew and I after Christopher won the Class 1A Crab Orchard Regional in February.

It only seems like a couple or three years ago, that we were dropping him off at Sesser-Valier school for the first day of kindergarten, four or five years, that we were taking him home as a newborn from Carbondale Memorial Hospital.

Most of his high school days, there was a different dynamic to things. There was something that happened that I, or anyone else did not plan or when a couple says I do at the front of a church, in an outside wedding, or even at the courthouse, that the marriage would fail and your child would be raised in a broken home.  I will take full responsibility in the mistakes that I have made.

Things compounded greatly when I lost my license.  I would have been at every Christopher basketball game, or C-Z-R football game.  I ended up being at around half of them, thanks to my father and several good friends who got me to them.  With Christopher playing in the Mid Winter Classic this year, I was able to walk down to Max Morris Gym and watched four basketball games last year.

The world stopped back then and it still does when it comes to my son.  I do not get to see him a whole lot.  We swap texts on a daily basis.  Most of the time the conversation revolves around sports or severe weather events.

After Andrew gets his Associate’s Degree from RLC, he will be transferring to Western Illinois University, to major in Meteorology and minoring in Emergency Management.  He is on track to have that completed in the spring, between summer classes and dual credit courses.

After transferring to Christopher High School, he had Luke Saeger take him under his wing.  Sager is now a Leatherneck, in the Meteorology program at Western.  This is a specialized field, which  is highly unusual that two kids out of a high school of a little over 200 students would choose this field.  You have seen Luke’s severe weather updates on the Facebook page of the website from time to time.

Andrew went from being manager of the football and basketball teams his sophomore year, to winning a starting job on the JV team in basketball his junior year, and starting as an offensive lineman his senior year for C-Z-R.

When he earned his first start in football, it was week five of the season.  They were playing S-V-W-W in what I call rivalry week here in Franklin County.  I was standing in the south end zone of Spann Field, talking to Tom Wheeler, with a few of Benton’s basketball players.  I remember that Austin Wills was in the bunch.

When I saw Andrew put that helmet on, Adam Rosoho announce, him, as he ran onto the field, I lost it.  I was glad I was talking to Coach Wheels, because he has been known to get emotional a time or two.

The reason I broke down, is because the resilience that my son has shown over the years.  The never give up attitude that he displays, is what makes me very proud as a father.  Most of all, everyone that I meet over the last few years that has been in his life at this season where I am not as around as much as I desire, tells me how fine of young man that he is.

There is nothing worse than going down the path of parenthood than having a sick child.  When my son was eight, we thought he had the flu and was not getting any better.  Over spring break, he kept running a 103 fever plus.  My wife took him to the doctor on Monday, and we were told to get him to Cardinal Glennon ASAP.  He spent a week in the hospital in St. Louis.  He had Kawasaki disease, just like the motorcycle.  It is an autoimmune disease that is common between boys 6 to 10.

He had esophageal damage from it, but no heart damage which is common.  He would wear down easy in the grade school years.  Another battle he had to face was forming multiple kidney stones.  This was result from the sodium content, along with other chemicals in PowerAde.

Through the journey of parenthood, there is nothing more scary than having a sick child.  There are kids who have had a lot tougher battle than my son, but at the same time I know what the fear is.    At Andrew’s first postnatal visit, I remember the ObGyn, Louie Guillen telling my wife and I, you do not know what fear. pain, joy, and love is until now.

You might be facing a right of passage with your child today.  I know Christopher and Z-R has already started school, because they are on the same schedule with a fall break.  Benton, West Frankfort, and Thompsonville are starting this week.  Sesser-Valier is not starting until next Tuesday.

The toughest one on most parents is the first child going to kindergarten.  I was very comfortable leaving my child with his kindergarten teacher, Natalie Page, who is now the High School Principal at Sesser Valier.  It will be tough but it will be fine.

You might have some toddlers at home that you don’t think will ever grow up.  I enjoyed them, but I would have wished I would have taken more time to enjoy it more.  Stepping on Lego’s in the middle of the night, and being woke up to Blue’s Clues, especially the annoying barking, and the cares of this world that I thought was so important, would be less important to me.

You could be experiencing the empty nest for the first time.  Living alone for four years, I have never got used to the idea of waking up to an empty house.  When your kids are away, just pray everyday that the Lord will keep them safe and they will make good choices in their life.  Like through every stage we experience on this journey, he will be with you every step of the way if you allow him too.

When I was a kid, I always thought time stood still.  When older people, especially the elderly would tell you that it goes by fast, I would think what planet they are on.  As I am well into middle age, the 50 side of my 40’s now, I have learned not to blink, it goes by faster by the moment.







That’s the way it was…..February 26, 1979

By Steve Dunford

This is a column that I did not plan on writing.  I figured I would have spent tonight in my recliner watching the red hot Cardinals.  When I have something that is burning, I have learned that I need to sit at the keyboard to get it out of my system.

There was a total eclipse that went through the northern states and Canada.  Below is a clip from Walter Cronkite on CBS news telling “the way it was” on that day.

Long time legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite. He closed every news cast, with his catch phrase, that’s the way it is. (BBC Photo)

One thing that was interesting on the video, was the Canadian Broadcasting Company did a story with a caged rooster.  After the eclipse passed it crowed.  I am interested in the reaction of the animals.

I was nine years old at the time.  I remember the eclipse was 1/4 around here, but the biggest story was the blizzard of 1979.  For those of you that have followed this page for a while realize I am a weather nerd.

I am going to rewind a couple days.  The eclipse happened on a Monday.  I had to look up the date to refresh my memory.

Don McNeely when he gave the weather, heavy rain and thunderstorms were in the forecast.  He disagreed with the National Weather Service forecast, which was in Cairo at the time.  He said we could possibly see some snow.

Legendary KFVS-TV meterolgist Don McNeely. (Southeast Missourian photo)

We woke up to several inches of snow.  There were two feet plus in some places.  There were very high winds.  We had thunder snow and intense lightning.  The graphics were not great in 1979.  When Channel 12 broke in they would put a cloud on the screen.  The series of beeps for the crawler across the screen existed back then.    I remember Mike Shain saying bulletin bulletin bulletin several times.

Several people lost power in Southern Illinois.  We lost it Monday afternoon.  We attempted to go down to my grandparents who had a fireplace.  There were drifts four feet high.  I felt for my dad as he had to pack me to the car.

The roads were impassable.  We had a big Monopoly game.  With two brothers cooped up in a house, there were a few game boards turned over.

I remember on the day of the eclipse,  the local radio and TV stations were bleeding over each other.  I loved the game shows Tic Tac Dough and the Price is Right.  I remember watching Bob Barker and Wink Marindale on the CBS affiliate out of Philadelphia.

I was playing with the radio and TV that day.  I was amazed of all the stations I was pulling in.  WLS-FM was coming in.

The video of Walter Cronkite helped me recall the events of that day.  When you watch the video, check out the KFVS feed of cars that were abandoned on I-55 around Jackson Missouri.

While composing this, I believe the memories came back to me.  What I am about to say, I do not mean to cause alarm.   My entire life I have lived by the boy scout motto, be prepared.

When I watched the Dukes of Hazzard as a kid, I was mesmerized by Boss Hogg’s car phone.  There are very few of us that does not have a wireless device.  If there was that much havoc with radio signals that day,  just think of how it could affect cell coverage.

Here is two advantages that I will have in eclipse coverage.  I still have a land line.  The number is 937-0253.  I also have cable internet.  I might have service, and faster speed if lines are overloaded.

I am going to do my best to be the eclipse information source for you.  From that Friday on, I will be monitoring the situation.  During the flooding it was the most rewarding but at the same time was the toughest to cover.  It was hard seeing pictures of people that I know were in danger.  I thank you for the confidence you shown in me.  I want to further earn your trust in the upcoming story of the century.






The statements by local officials about the elclipse, need to be taken seriously

by Steve Dunford

I have always had the philosophy that if an error is made, err on the side of caution.

Here is the thing about the potential influx of people on Southern Illinois, we do not know what to expect.

I have started the process of being in contact with local officials and business to see what to expect here in Franklin County.

There have been some in conversations, and reading social media posts that say this is an eclipse not the apocalypse.  When Rick Linton, the Rend Lake Area Tourism Director issued the press release with how an estimated 25ok to a half million people could have on this area, raised the eyebrows of a lot of people.

I have read people say this is all media hype.  According to the weather, it could be more or it could be less that descend on little Egypt.

The two things that most releases I have read by officials, say that we as local people need to prepare like it is  a winter storm.  There have been comparisons that stores could be hit hard in a similar fashion like the May 8, 2009 storm.

I  was working at Walmart in Mt. Vernon then.  The shelves were bare on a lot of things.   In fact, my dad, who lives in Thompsonville,  was coming home from my nieces graduation from the University of Illinois.  He stopped in Effingham to stock up.  This was mid afternoon on May 9th.  The stores in Salem where hit hard from people from Franklin, Williamson and Jackson Counties.

A week from today, I would fill up my gas tank.  I would pick up some “bread and milk” like it is going to snow.  Cell and internet service might be spotty.  The back roads will need to be well traveled by us locals.

I am working on two stories as we speak.  One will discuss how retail establishments are gearing up.  The second will discuss how officials will handle the influx of people.

Here is my plan for the website.  The coverage will be similar to the April floods.  If you do not see the website updated, check the Facebook page.   When internet speeds are slow, it is easier to switch to Facebook only.  I learned this during the “Sectional Tournament” tornado event.

I appreciate the trust, you the reader, has placed in me.  I will do my best to keep all the county informed.  Other than sneaking outside to the parking lot of Calvary Baptist Church to watch it, I plan on spending the weekend at the keyboard.










by Steve Dunford

I have spent 25 years being a substitute teacher.  I have a teaching degree in High School Social Studies.  There have been times that subbing has been extra income when I have held down a full time job.  This upcoming school year it will be a supplement to the income I receive from working on the website.  There is something that will be perfect for me that is hard to fill at time, half days.

Part of the reason I majored in education, was aspirations to be a basketball coach.  Covering sports, especially high school basketball, fulfills me beyond measure.  The main reason I was an education major at SIU, is that I love kids.  I have not came across a teacher, administrator, or someone who works in a school that does not love kids dearly.  Most teachers, especially at the elementary level, become very attached to their kids.

The lowest of the low in society, is someone that abuses a child, especially sexually.  The innocence of childhood is robbed.  As a former pastor, a sub, and as a friend of adults who where exploited  as a child, it breaks my heart.  Several adults have confided in me about their rough childhood.  I have never been surprised, it is something that I can just tell.  Maybe it is a God given gift.

I am still an ordained Southern Baptist preacher.  (I do not like Reverend or Minister, I feel unworthy to be called that)  Because of my background I am a Mandated Reporter times two.

There are scars that will haunt them for life.   The only way that a victim can overcome the terror they went through is the power of the Holy Sprit through Christ.  I unapologetically share my faith.  If you are a victim of the most inhumane thing that can happen to you, there are several verses in the Bible that say you can be an overcomer.  But at the same time, it could happen to you.   Here is the verse that I would like to share;

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  (Romans 8:37 KJV.)

Today, by a report from Brandon Richard of WSIL-TV, there were a lot of questions why someone from a coastal town in the Florida Panhandle would call in bomb threats twice to the Sesser-Valier school district.

Franklin County Sheriff’s Office photo

I hope Gabriel Estrada realizes the fear he caused on the northwest corner of Franklin Countym with his bomb threats.  There were multiple law enforcement agencies and emergency officials, called to the scene each time.  There were lost educational opportunities.  Parents had to scramble for child care.  His foolishness caused a mess.

With the child pornography charges, he used strong arm techniques, with threats.  He befriended minors using online games.  Please, I beg you please,  monitor your children’s internet usage and online gaming activities.  Do not let them make friends unless you know them.  Do not let them have Facebook profiles until the age of 13, the age Facebook allows.   For my son, it was a right of passage to be a teenager.  As long as your child is under your roof, it is your business who he or she talks to, or who they hang out with.

Lets face it, he ruined some young lives.  With him calling in bomb threats to Sesser-Valier, I assume the victims were from that school district.  If that was the case, he threatened to blow up their school.  No telling what other threats he made.  I just pray the children he had contact with, get the proper counseling.

You can read the multiple press releases on the website.  There was a great coordination from state, county, local police and Sesser-Valier school officials to lead to this arrest.  Our hats need to be off to them.

I pray that Franklin County States Attorney Evan Owens will seek the maximum penalty for their crimes.  Estrada deserves to be a ward of the Department of Corrections, for a long time.




Steve’s Ramblings: It was a good call to cancel school on the day of the eclipse

by Steve Dunford

The term “snowflake” is used a lot in our society today.  I have read some negative comments on social media regarding,  most schools in Franklin County will not be in session on the day of the eclipse, as well as across the region.  Every school in the county has made the decision to dismiss.   Benton High School will be making the decision soon.

This is something that will be new territory to all  emergency personnel and businesses in the region.  I posted this earlier this morning from Rick Linton, executive director from Rend Lake Area Tourism.   It was entitled, Eclipse Preparation for Local Residents .  When I was posting, my thoughts for the preparations taken were similar to if we had a major winter storm.

Here is a link to the post in case you missed it.  Please click on the title to read the full story.

Eclipse preparations for local residents

This is why I feel it is a good call.  If you read what Mr. Linton shared about avoiding I-57 and all state highways, we will be dealing with traffic here in Southern Illinois like we have never seen before.

The reserved camping spots at Rend Lake have been filled up for months. All hotel rooms from south of Effingham have been booked.   There will be a lot of people wanting to camp in peoples’ back yards as well.  There will be a lot of local people on the roads, trying to find a good viewing spot as well.  Officials have strongly advised not to pull over on the shoulder.

There are stretches of bus routes that can not avoid being on state highways.  When will people start heading toward Carbondale and other cities?  Exactly around the time school will start.  It would be a mess, and possibly a safety issue getting kids to school.

The eclipse will cross Southern Illinois about 1:20 p.m. in the afternoon.  Schools will be dismissing around 90 minutes later, give or take a few.  With the traffic, and the possibility that full sunlight might not be restored, it is safer for our students to be at home.

People have made the “I walked four miles uphill with two feet of snow on the ground, and it was uphill both ways, argument.”  These kids will end up being snowflakes staying home

Since I have been a substitute teacher over the years, I have been around a lot of administrators.  Here is one thing, the vast majority of school staff are there because they love kids.  The call was made to keep the students safe.

There is a balance calling off school or not.  Administrators wrestle with the decision.  I faced this in the years I pastored churches, whether to call off church or not in winter storms.   Several teachers worry if the kids will have adequate supervision, and the sad reality, will some kids be  able to get something to eat.

Some have claimed there will be a missed educational opportunity.  and there is no better place to be than school on that day.   The day can be dedicated to the eclipse, and it would be great to have the teacher explain things to them.   The argument has a point,  however, we need to go back to student safety as I mentioned before.

This is something that is non-related, but I am going to throw out there.  We had some oppressive heat about two weeks ago.  Area football teams were having camps, and 7 on 7 games.   I heard everything from kids should not be practicing to a “real coach” would not allow water breaks.  It will make them tougher in week one, and it builds character.

Being a sportswriter, I am around a lot of coaches.  A coach has a special bond with their players.  The last thing they would do is put them in harm’s way.  The IHSA has protocol about extreme heat.  There are mandatory water breaks, and players have to take their pads off for a period of time.  If you follow protocol, I have no problem with that.  My son’s coaches followed it, and kept an eye on all their players.

You might think I am “snowflakey” in some things I am about to say.  We need to heed Mr. Linton’s warnings.   I think the superintendents need to monitor the situation on Tuesday, whether or not to have school.   Starting Monday evening into Tuesday, you will see a mass exodus of people leaving Southern Illinois.  Like I said earlier, this is territory that we have never been before.

I think churches need to monitor the situation on Saturday.  If traffic is tied up everywhere, it needs to be considered calling off services.  The ones that would be there every time the doors are open, are the ones who don’t need to be out in it if there is a mess, the elderly.

You might be reading this and say “God will take care of us.”  There is another side of the coin, God gave us a brain to make good decisions as well.  I am not saying everyone needs to call off church, but it would be something to look at on Saturday.   On the flipside, it would be a great opportunity to minister to people around the globe.

Here is another “snowflakey” statement.  Schools have already made the decision to call off classes.  Retail and emergency workers will have to show up for work.  If something is non-essential, I feel like employers need to look at giving their employees the day off on Monday.  If it is bad as they say it is going to be, people will have a tough time getting to work on Monday.  I know Carbondale is in the center, but the mail will not run that day.

I do not think my views make me a snowflake.  I can give you several examples of a snowflake, but here is one.   When Donald Trump was elected president, several college campuses had safe places for their students, giving them crayons and coloring books.

I am sorry, but if you have a meltdown because of who was elected president, life will definitely throw you a lot more curves than that.  Some just  need to get mentally tougher.

As a conservative, I had fears when Barack Obama was elected president.  I feel this country slipped morally, but overall things turned out fine.  If you are stressing about President Trump, things will be ok.

I felt I had to throw that in about what a snowflake was.  Like Forrest Gump says, “Life is like a box of chocolates, we don’t know what we are going to get.”  We don’t know what we are facing with this.  I believe in life, that if there is an error made, it is best to make one on the cautious side.

So far there have been several meetings in Franklin County, among officials, to prepare for the eclipse.  After the event, they will have the chance to enhance what was right, and tweak mistakes for 2024.   Next week I will be making contact with several people how they are going to prepare for the event.

I was long winded again, and I apologize.  I wish you all the best until next time we meet.