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Top 11 Moments of 2011 in the Permian Basin

MIDLAND/ODESSA -- 2011 was a year filled with moments we enjoyed and moments we'd rather forget in the Basin. Big 2's Jackie Smith, in her final report, takes us back to the events that shaped our community. Here are the top eleven moments of the year.

2011 was a historical year in the Basin.

Starting with the number 11 moment of the year. Back in June, the man accussed of killing three Odessa Police Officers in 2007, died. Larry Neil White lost his battle with cancer. His death also killed the case against him, but the family of the three police officers who were shot and killed that day are left with a void.

Number 10 lifted our spirits this holiday season. Six inches of snow fell across the Basin on christmas weekend. Leaving behind a winter wonderland and some much needed moisture.

The issue of bullying came to light this year. At our number nine spot: Three midland students, one each from Lee, Midland and Midland Christian, committed suicide in a seven week period. And bullies are to blame. After the rumor of a fourth, MISD Superintendent Ryder Warren spoke out. Warren said he will partner with other schools, churches and community organizations to try and save students' lives.

The Sand Dune Lizard is number 8 on our list. The favorite habitat for our little "frien-ememy' is also the Basins favorite place to search for oil. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering declaring it an endangered species. A move that could slow oil production, and kill jobs. We'll have to wait and see who wins this epic battle in 2012.

Planes barreling down into homes and neighborhoods takes our number 7 spot. The first plane went down in November. It slammed into a home in a neighborhood close to the Airpark. Luckily, no-one was seriously injured. Two weeks later, the second crash. A small plane had engine failure and crash landed near the Airpark. Everyone got out unharmed.

The number 6 spot, murders. 2011 saw murder numbers increase in both Midland and Odessa. Midland saw four this year, Odessa five. You might re-call the double homicide in may after a well-known elderly couple was found dead in their Odessa home. The suspect, 27-year-old James Burwell now faces capital murder charges. Meanwhile, the fourth murder in Midland happened just last week at the Parks at Caldera Apartments. Two unidentified suspects broke into the apartment of Tovorian Carter and shot him twice. Police are still looking for the suspects.

Winkler County got national headlines. Taking our number 5 spot, The Winkler County nurses whistleblower scandal. It took down former county sttorney Scott Tidwell and former Sheriff Robert Roberts, after they were found guilty of retaliating against two nurses at the county hospital. The nurses were fired after making an anonymous complaint to the Texas Medical Board about the practices of Dr. Rolando Arafiles. Arafiles pleaded guilty to retaliation and misuse of official information and was sentenced to two months in jail.

The countdown just got hotter. At our number four spot, it was the year of the wildfires in the Basin. Even with burn bans in place it didn't stop winds from helping these wildfires spread. The Texas Forest Service says more than 27,000 fires have burned more than 3,000,000 acres, and destroyed dozens of homes.

With the oil boom comes more people, but where those people are going to live makes our number 3 spot. One West Texas city in particular is having the hardest time. Monahans has thriving oil fields but nowhere to put there workers. Workers currently are living in hotels and cars. Right now, monahans is at 100% occupancy rate.

The Ector County Jail security came under fire this year. Our number 2 spot goes to those inmates who somehow escaped from the Ector County Jail back in January. Robert Steven Dudley, Rickey Lavell Taylor and Russell Graham Rice were indicted for their escape that happened on January 29th. But once wasn't enough, Dudley and Taylor broke out again in March and they were also indicted for that incident.

If you haven't guessed it by now, our number one spot goes to something we've gotten used to in West Texas. The drought. The state of Texas has has received the lowest amount of rainfall in four decades. Temperatures also hit record highs. With lake levels getting dangerously low. Water restrictions were put in place and our still in place all across our area. Experts say this drought is going to continue into well into the next year.

THE BIG 2 FAMILY WOULD LIKE TO WISH OUR VIEWERS A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Jackie Smith can be reached via email at jsmith@kmid.tv.

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