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Around the state

Big boom set in bomb test

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 11, 2003

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE -- A 21,000-pound conventional bomb is set to be tested for the first time at this Florida Panhandle base today.

Air Force officials Monday warned residents of communities surrounding the western half Eglin's 724-square-mile military reservation to be prepared to hear an explosion that sounds like thunder or a slamming door between noon and 5 p.m. CST although the blast will be miles away.

The test of the "massive ordnance air burst," or MOAB, will be conducted in a buffer zone and only under weather conditions best for minimizing the sound. The backup date is Thursday during the same time frame.

MOAB is similar to, but 40 percent heavier than, the 15,000-pound BLU-82, billed as the world's most powerful nonnuclear bomb

The BLU-82, nicknamed "daisy cutter," was developed during the Vietnam War and recently was dropped in Afghanistan on caves where al-Qaida leaders were suspected of hiding.

A deal to benefit nature

MILTON -- A private conservation group is negotiating with International Paper Co. to buy 16,652 acres that would connect state and federally owned woodlands in Alabama and the Panhandle to create a wildlife corridor.

The acreage would be paid for through the Florida Forever program. The land would be added to the 190,000-acre Blackwater River State Forest, linking it with the Conecuh National Forest in Alabama and Eglin Air Force Base's 464,000-acre military reservation.

The Nature Conservancy is seeking two tracts, both owned mainly by International Paper. One totals about 12,000 acres 9 miles east of Milton and stretching north from the Yellow River -- Eglin's northwest boundary -- to the state forest. The second covers some 4,600 acres within the state forest's present boundaries extending north to the state line.

The purpose of the acquisition, known as the "Yellow River Ravines," is to protect native plants and animals. But it also may provide more public land for picnics, camping, hiking and horseback riding, forest officials said.

Nature Conservancy officials said no price has been agreed upon, and they are unsure how long negotiations will take. The purchase would have to be approved by Gov. Jeb. Bush and the Florida Cabinet.

Rain tames Bike Week

This year's Bike Week had fewer violent crimes, fewer serious crashes and fewer problems, a silver lining brought by the torrential rains that reduced turnout for much of the 10-day Daytona Beach festival.

Six inches of rain fell over eight days during the festival, compared with 1 inch for the period last year.

About 500,000 bikers normally attend the festival and its economic impact typically is $350-million to $400-million, but it will be months before figures for this year's event are determined.

The rain even postponed the Daytona 200, the motorcycle race held during Bike Week, until Monday. But the final parade of bikers down Main Street Sunday was held before the skies opened.

Two people were killed during this year; last year, 13 died.

A 53-year-old man died, and his female passenger was critically injured after the man lost control of his motorcycle Saturday night.

Carl Buehn, 53, of Orange City was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger was not identified. Neither wore a helmet.

Thomas Stiffey, 55, of Kittanning, Pa., died March 1 after losing control of his bike.

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