Drought spreading across Alabama
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Drought is quickly spreading across Alabama.
Statistics released Thursday show about two-thirds of the state is abnormally dry, and about 10 percent of the state is in a moderate drought.
A week of hot, dry weather made conditions worse. Less than half the state was experiencing any type of drought conditions a week ago.
The situation also is much worse than this time last year, when rainfall levels were normal and Alabama was drought-free.
One of the driest areas is around Birmingham. Officials have issued an air-quality alert for Jefferson and Shelby counties.
There's also a moderate drought in the southeastern corner of the state and an area north of Lake Martin in eastern Alabama.
State climatologist John Christy says things could improve since rain chances increase this weekend.
CHEAHA STATE PARK DROWNING
Man dies in apparent drowning at state park
DELTA, Ala. (AP) - Authorities say a man has died in an apparent drowning in a lake at Cheaha State Park in eastern Alabama.
Cleburne County Coroner Ben McKnight tells Al.com that the body of the 19-year-old Hoover man was recovered from the water around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Crews had searched for him for about three hours before the body was located.
McKnight said all indications are that the death was an apparent drowning.
The man's name wasn't released as authorities were still notifying relatives.
Few other details were available early Thursday.
Ala woman, son charged in fraud scheme
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Authorities say a north Alabama woman and her son have agreed to plead guilty to defrauding an east Alabama health center of more than $100,000.
Federal prosecutors in Birmingham say 59-year-old Sheila Parker of Cullman and 33-year-old James Parker are charged with multiple counts of fraud and failing to file income tax returns.
The U.S. attorney's office says the two already have entered plea agreements.
Prosecutors say Sheila Parker worked for a Birmingham nonprofit that took over Central Alabama Comprehensive Health in Tuskegee in 2008. They say the woman got her son to help with the Tuskegee operation and gave him access to its accounts.
The two allegedly took more than $100,000 and used it to purchase items including cell phones, tires, fish finders and an adult website membership.
NORTH ALABAMA VANDALISM
School: Vandalism damage at UNA could cost $50K
FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - The University of North Alabama says a round of campus vandalism will cost thousands of dollars to clean up.
The school says graffiti was found Wednesday at the construction site of a new Science and Technology Building. Red spray paint covered parts of the building's exterior, and more graffiti was inside, on construction equipment and on a nearby overpass.
Assistant Vice President Michael Gautney says just cleaning up the paint could cost from $5,000 to $8,000, and contractors are already working on it.
He says replacing items could cost as much as $50,000 if removing all the paint isn't successful.
No one has been arrested. The university is offering a reward of as much as $1,000 for information leading to an arrest.
WEST ALABAMA STATE FAIR
West Alabama State Fair to add security upgrades
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Organizers of the West Alabama State Fair say they plan some security upgrades for next year's event after a fireworks explosion prompted fears of gunfire during this year's fair.
Erin Treadwell, development coordinator for United Cerebral Palsy of West Alabama, said the fair plans to have extra security personnel and a security checkpoint at the entrance for next year's fair.
Treadwell said police told her that a group of teenagers Saturday night dropped firecrackers in a barrel and someone yelled, "Gun!"
Treadwell tells The Tuscaloosa News that organizers offered free admission to everyone from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday in an effort to compensate those who lost time at the fair because of the scare Saturday night. The carnival company also honored Saturday night wristbands for a time on Sunday.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.