As California firefighters get ahead of some wildfires, others still rage

Posted on: December 10th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Firefighters across Southern California are still battling wildfires under explosive fire conditions.

WWE wrestler Rich Swann suspended after arrest for allegedly battering wife

Posted on: December 10th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Swann is expected to be released from jail today.

Winter storm bids farewell to the snow-covered Northeast

Posted on: December 10th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — So long, snow.

After a winter storm dumped the white stuff on parts of the Gulf Coast and Southeast on Friday, the mid-Atlantic, Northeast and New England were hit with heavy snow on Saturday. But as of Sunday morning, the storm is leaving the Northeast.

Final snow totals in northern Georgia approached nearly 1 foot, while more than 10 inches of snowfall was reported in western North Carolina.

Farther north, in the Washington, D.C. area, 2 inches of snow was reported at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, 2.6 inches was reported at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and 4 inches was reported at Washington Dulles International Airport. All of the aforementioned figures are all new daily snow records.

While the storm may have left the South and East Coast, as of Sunday morning, 40,000 customers were still without power from Georgia to New Jersey. This is an improvement, though, from the nearly 275,000 outages on Saturday afternoon.

The South was hit with the first measurable snowfall to the region. In fact, there’s more snow on the ground in parts of the South than Minnesota’s Twin Cities have seen all season. There’s only been 3.1 inches to date in the Twin Cities.

Now, back to the Northeast. The storm is pulling away from the Northeast on Sunday morning. Snow will continue to taper off from west to east through the morning hours with much calmer weather expected through Sunday.

The main concern Sunday will be patches of ice from melting and re-freezing of snow. Behind this storm, lake-effect snow will continue again Sunday across the Great Lakes region.

Upstate New York, from Buffalo to Watertown, may experience significant lake-effect snow, with up to 18 inches in the forecast. Travel delays in parts of New York State and Michigan are possible as a result.

Cold air is locked in place for much of the eastern U.S. Sunday morning. The most notable area of cold air is Florida, where wind chills in the central part of the state over the next few mornings will be in the 30s.

Looking farther north — very farther north — a disturbance will develop in southern Canada by late Sunday and cross the border into the U.S. Northern Plains by Monday. This classic disturbance, called an Alberta Clipper, will bring some light snow from the Northern Plains to the Northeast from Monday to Tuesday. With the exception of enhanced lake-effect snow, accumulations from Alberta Clippers tend to be fairly light.

Expect a significant blast of cold air right behind the Clipper. Wind chills spanning an area from the Midwest to the Northeast will be the coldest so far this season, with it feeling like the temperature is in the low teens in the I-95 corridor by Wednesday morning.

Over on the West Coast, the Santa Ana winds are expected to ramp up again Sunday morning and through the day on Sunday.

Gusts locally will exceed 50 mph through the hillsides and mountains. Relative humidity will be as low as 3 percent in some areas over the next several days — not an ideal condition for battling the blazes.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Five years after Sandy Hook shooting, plans for a permanent memorial take shape

Posted on: December 10th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEWTOWN, Conn.) — Five years after 20 children and six educators were killed in a mass shooting at an elementary school that shocked the nation, the community of Newtown, Connecticut, is close to designing a permanent memorial that will honor them.

The process of constructing a memorial to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has been a long one. A commission was formed in 2013 to tackle the town’s unprecedented challenge. Since then, finding a site and a design in line with the wishes of the victims’ families and the town’s residents has proven to be a slow and delicate operation.

“We want to get this right,” Kyle Lyddy, the chairman of the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission, told ABC News.

While some decisions have already been made, the concept of the memorial is yet to be determined. The public has been invited to submit their design proposals for the memorial until Dec. 15.

In the meantime, those who have spent the past five years working toward the goal of a memorial to the victims said the process is finally on track.

‘The whole town stood still’

In 2012, the day of Dec. 14 “started out as a picture-perfect day with blue skies,” said Bonnie Fredericks, 50, a local hair salon owner and lifelong resident of the village of Sandy Hook.

Fredericks told ABC News she was heading into work when she heard the sound of emergency vehicles and helicopters.

“You could feel that something horrific had happened,” Fredericks said. “People running down the street. People trying to get up to the school who couldn’t. A lot of hearsay as to what happened. But then more news of what was unfolding became clear. And then disbelief — somewhat like 9/11. You’re there when it’s unfolding, but never could you comprehend what’s unfolding.”

On that December day, Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed his mother at the home they shared before heading to Sandy Hook Elementary School. He used an AR-15 to shoot and kill 20 first-graders and six educators. Lanza then turned the gun on himself.

“It felt like the whole town stood still,” said Lyddy, 30, a lifelong Newtown resident.

“You’d never think it would happen in Newtown,” he added. “It was shock.”

‘How can I help?’

Right after the shooting, Lyddy said, everyone was asking themselves, “‘What can I do?’ ‘How can I help?'”

For Lyddy, the answer was pouring himself into efforts for a memorial.

Temporary memorials that included teddy bears, balloons and signs from children immediately sprung up around the village of Sandy Hook after the shooting.

Then, in 2013, a dozen volunteers were appointed to the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission to determine if a permanent memorial should be created, and if so, what it should look like. The committee now consists of 10 people, including three people who lost a loved one in the shooting, Lyddy said.

“We did create guidelines based off of community feedback — most importantly, the 26 families’ feedback. What they thought should be present, what they thought should definitely not be present,” Lyddy said.

Lyddy also reached out to people who had been in his shoes before, people tasked with helping design memorials to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.

“They’ve been great assets to us,” he said.

Residents also pitched in to raise money for the permanent memorial, including Fredericks, who held a hair “cut-a-thon” fundraiser at her salon a few weeks after the shooting. She said her salon and the others who joined her raised $8,000 that day. The memorial will be paid for with a combination of private and public funds, Lyddy said.

Fredericks said that more than just raising money, the “cut-a-thon” was about helping people feel involved.

“I think it filled a void for so many people in my industry, with hair and beauty and making people feel better. It makes us feel better to help,” she said.

‘Honoring those lives lost’

Commissioners looked at several potential memorial sites over the years, but the location has now been confirmed. A Newtown resident donated 5 acres of land located about a quarter of a mile from the elementary school to the town for the memorial, Lyddy said.

But while the location has been decided, the concept for the memorial is still unknown. The commission invited members of the public to submit design proposals through Dec. 15.

“We didn’t want to limit the creativity,” Lyddy said. “We wanted a process in place that would fairly examine and evaluate the designs that came forward.”

Designers have been asked to avoid submissions with the numbers “12/14” or “26”, religious or political connotations, depictions of victims through images or sculptures, extensive use of metal or concepts with a playground.

The memorial’s goal is “honoring those lives lost,” Lyddy said.

“It’s not based on the events or the shooter. We never talk about that. It’s always based on the individual,” he added, saying that the commission hopes the designs “really depict the lives that were lost.”

“They were such individual unique lives. Some of them were educators. Some of them were students. That’s first and foremost — that we remember those lives,” Lyddy said.

College students and architects are among those who have already submitted designs, he said. The commission expects there to be a total of 100 to 200 designs to be evaluated.

‘No perfect answer’

But the process of creating a memorial has led to differences of opinion among Newtown residents.

Nick Heron, 23, who works at a liquor store in Sandy Hook, said he is in support of a memorial being built, but wishes it could have been built on the site of the school itself. A new building for Sandy Hook Elementary School was rebuilt on the same property.

He called the rebuilt school, which opened in 2016 and features state-of-the-art security systems, a “big waste of money for our town.” The school was funded by a state grant and cost $50 million.

“I thought that was something that should’ve been done a while ago,” Heron said of a permanent memorial. “I think it was something that’s long overdue.”

Fredericks said she is also in support of a permanent memorial.

“I believe that everything in our life that impacts us should never be forgotten,” she said. “I know, for the majority of people, this won’t be forgotten, but there will be generations to come that should know that these were special people and this is a tragedy that they went through.”

She conceded that a drawback of the memorial would be if it attracted visitors “for negative reasons.”

“People came to town right after it happened — you would see people from other areas and they’d have their kids and they’d be taking pictures next to all the memorial pieces,” she said. “That made me sad because it wasn’t like you were at Universal Studios. You tell someone to smile as you take a picture of something that’s really a tragedy.”

What’s most important to Bob Schmidt, a 35-year resident of Newtown, is that the commission has moved “slowly.”

He said he went to some of the memorial commission’s early meetings to see if the committee members “were going to go about it in a respectful, delicate way.”

“And I was pretty convinced that they were going to go slowly and try to listen to as many people that wanted to speak to them,” Schmidt told ABC News. “I think it’s necessary to have a memorial to show our respect and a place for people to go and pay their respects and grieve. I think it’s an important thing, but I still think we have to go slowly.”

He added that the memorial “may be hard” for some grieving families.

“I think there’s no perfect answer,” Schmidt said. “Because if we ignored it and didn’t have a memorial, that’d be offensive to the people who suffered the loss, to many of them. But I think we have to pursue this as slow as possible so that every voice can be heard, any objection can be heard.”

‘A beautiful place’

In January 2018, the commission and an advisory panel will begin evaluating the designs, a process Lyddy expects to take a month or two.

There’s no specific deadline for when the committee hopes the memorial will be built, but Lyddy said he expects it to be done in a year or a year and a half.

Lyddy stressed that the commission is not in a rush to complete it.

“We want to get this right,” he said, adding that such a process involves input from and open communication with the victims’ families.

Though the town is now five years removed from the tragedy, it is still fresh in the minds of many.

“You think about it and it hurts, because you know the hurt that so many other people still feel,” Fredericks said. “You can’t help but sense their pain or feel their pain.”

Newtown is a “beautiful place,” she added, “with genuine people who’ve loved and lost.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria death toll climbs to 64

Posted on: December 10th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Mario Tama/Getty Images(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — Puerto Rico’s official death toll from Hurricane Maria — which slammed into the U.S. territory as a Category 4 storm in late September — has risen to 64, the island’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced Saturday.

The announcement came the same day that the Federal Emergency Management Agency said federal assistance in Puerto Rico has topped $1 billion.

The death toll increased after the government on Saturday attributed two additional deaths to the storm.

“These deaths that are certified today as indirect deaths related to Hurricane Maria are the result of investigations into cases that have been brought to our consideration,” DPS secretary Hector M. Pesquera said in a statement.

The official death toll remains heavily scrutinized by critics, who believe the figure is significantly higher.

The New York Times on Friday published a review it conducted of daily mortality data from Puerto Rico’s vital statistics bureau. It discovered that 1,052 more people than usual died on the island following Hurricane Maria’s landfall. Figures like this — in addition to reports that there was an increase in cremations and bodies at morgues — have many people questioning the official death toll.

One of the two deaths certified Saturday occurred in Orocovis, located in the interior Central Mountain Range, the DPS said.

“The person died the day of the hurricane, and the body did not pass through the Department of Forensic Sciences (NCF) because a doctor in the death certificate certified as natural his death,” according to the DPS statement. “The deceased had multiple health conditions and relied on an oxygen machine. In the early hours of the day of the hurricane, the power went out in the residence, and when the relatives went to see the person, they found him dead.”

The statement continued, “In a review of the case by the NCF and by the interview with the relatives, it was determined that the death is indirectly related to the hurricane.”

The other death was reported in Morovis, located in the island’s central region. The individual died the day the hurricane hit the island, according to the DPS. A doctor initially certified the death as natural on the death certificate, but the NCF said it later evaluated the documentation to authorize the cremation requested by the family members.

“The person had health problems, but suffered complications during the day of the hurricane,” reads the statement. “Due to the inclement weather conditions, the ambulance took a long time to reach the residence. This death is added as indirectly related to the hurricane.”

Also on Saturday, FEMA said federal assistance to Puerto Rico as a result of hurricanes Irma and Maria has topped $1 billion.

FEMA said more than a million Puerto Rican residents registered for FEMA assistance. FEMA also said it has provided funds to more than 366,000 families in Puerto Rico, including:

– More than $259 million in financial assistance for rental and repair, or to rebuild residences

– More than $251 million for grants to repair or replace damaged personal property or to pay for disaster-related necessary expenses and other serious needs

Other FEMA assistance provided also includes:

– More than $39 million of low-interest disaster loans provided to more than 880 survivors and 50 business owners through the U.S. Small Business Administration

– More than $58,000 approved for Disaster Unemployment Assistance to 12,000 residents

– More than 19,000 Blue Roofs installed

– More than $1 million in flood insurance claims

In addition, more than $470 million has been obligated in FEMA Public Assistance grants to provide emergency generators for critical facilities, and to reimburse municipalities for debris removal and other necessary government expenses related to “life-safety missions.”

Puerto Rico’s electrical grid remains problematic: Its electrical grid generation took a hit Friday into Saturday, dropping nearly 20 percent to just 49 percent, according to the Puerto Rico Power Energy Authority (PREPA). That figure later increased to 56.6 percent. PREPA said Friday that the electrical grid was generating 68 percent of its capabilities.

PREPA spokesman Carlos Monroig told ABC News Saturday night that the generation number is “dynamic and changeable.” Monroig said the generation fluctuated based on time, weather and the use of power by government, residential, commercial and industrial spaces.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Firefighters taming Southern California wildfires as Gov. Brown warns of state’s ‘new reality’

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Firefighters across Southern California made dramatic headway on Saturday to gain the upper hand in the week’s battle against six major wildfires powered by brutal Santa Ana winds that have dragged the state’s fire season well into Christmas.

On Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown surveyed the remains of Ventura’s Thomas fire which has charred 148,000 acres and 231 square miles is now 15 percent contained, fire officials said.

The governor advised that these fires and prolonged fire season stretching well into December is becoming the norm.

“[We’re] facing a new reality in the state,” he said. “It’s a horror and a horror we need to recover from.”

He also noted that the years of drought and climate change the result, he said experts say is that “California is burning up.”

From here on in California, Brown noted, fires are going to be more “intense” and penetrate lives and property.

“Individuals need to come together to make our communities livable,” he added.

The breakdown of the blazes and shift in winds have afforded firefighters in the region with much-needed respite.

The newest blazes, the Lilac fire in San Diego County and the Liberty fire in Riverside County which is 20 percent contained as of Saturday afternoon, are also being fueled by continued Santa Ana winds and low humidity, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

With the good news on the horizon, ABC News meteorologist Daniel Manzo stressed that the forecast for those fire-ravaged areas remains serious. Extreme fire danger will remain in the region through the weekend. Red Flag Warnings have remained in effect for much of Southern California with peak wind gusts of 30 to 50 mph. Low relative humidity –- as low as 5 percent — is likely through this period, as well, Manzo said.

Winds could exceed 50 mph in the mountains east of San Diego. This area will be of particular concern for fire growth on Saturday night and Sunday.

Red flag warnings have been extended across much of Southern California through Saturday, and high wind warnings are in effect for mountain and valley areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Winds gusted to over 60 mph in Ventura and Los Angeles counties on Thursday, causing embers to spread even more. Gusts were in the 30 to 50 mph range in San Diego County. Much of Southern California is also experiencing humidity levels in the teens or even single digits. Relative humidity in San Diego on Thursday afternoon was just 5 percent.

As nearly 8,500 firefighters battled the first four large wildfires, two new ones erupted Thursday and spread rapidly, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Overall, the six blazes have burned more than 175,000 acres and forced over 212,000 residents from their homes.

A 70-year-old woman was identified Friday as the first victim of the fires.

The Thomas fire in Ventura County, the first to ignite, has burned well over 100,000 acres and is expected to intensify because of the increasing winds. The Skirball fire is small, but its threat to heavily populated areas of Los Angeles has drawn widespread attention.

All Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley and 17 schools on Los Angeles’ west side were shuttered through Friday. At least 265 schools have been closed. UCLA canceled classes Thursday because of the Skirball fire.

Thomas fire

The Thomas fire in Ventura County, the largest of the six blazes, started Monday night as a 50-acre brush fire in foothills east of Santa Paula and grew to 10,000 acres in just four hours, authorities said.

The fire had burned 148,000 acres of land by Saturday morning and was just 15 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

More than 88,000 residents were evacuated, and 15,000 structures are threatened by the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Thomas fire spread to Santa Barbara County late Thursday, prompting California Gov. Jerry Brown to issue a state of emergency for the county, the third to be designated.

There were 3,993 firefighting personnel on the scene of the massive blaze.

Authorities said 537 structures were destroyed in the blaze and 118 more were damaged.

Officials were concerned about part of the Thomas fire heading northeast and threatening a nursing home in Ojai. The 25 residents and staffers there were evacuated as a precaution, authorities said.

Creek fire

The Creek fire, in the Kagel Canyon area above Los Angeles’ Sylmar neighborhood, has scorched 15,619 acres of land, destroyed at least 105 buildings and damaged another 70. Over 150,000 residents were evacuated and some 2,500 structures are threatened, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The blaze was 80 percent contained as of Saturday morning, and 1,964 personnel are fighting the flames.

The Creek fire was responsible for the death of almost 40 horses at Rancho Padilla, according to ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles. The horses were trapped in a barn that burned to the ground as the owners were evacuated with no warning.

All evacuation orders and warnings were lifted by Saturday morning.

Rye fire

The Rye fire has scorched 6,049 acres in Santa Clarita, west of Valencia. The blaze was 65 percent contained as of Saturday morning, though 5,460 structures are still threatened by the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

About 2,000 residents were evacuated, though mandatory evacuation orders in the area have been lifted.

There were 813 personnel on scene battling the Rye fire Saturday morning.

Skirball fire

The Skirball fire has burned just 475 acres of land so far, but its proximity to Los Angeles and responsibility for briefly shutting down the infamously crowded 405 Freeway has drawn national attention.

The fire is threatening the Getty Center, a museum in western Los Angeles. Officials were focused on keeping the flames from jumping the freeway and heading east. The blaze was 50 percent contained as of Saturday morning, and firefighters have managed to keep it from breaching containment lines.

Six structures were lost in the fire, with an additional 12 damaged. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries while battling the flames, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Los Angeles County declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon because of the Skirball fire in the city’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

Lilac fire

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said Friday that flames from the Lilac fire were growing at a “dangerous rate” in San Diego County, where 4,100 acres of land have been burned thus far. At least 105 structures were destroyed and 15 were damaged by the blaze, while an additional 1,500 are threatened.

The fire was 20 percent contained as of Saturday morning.

AlertSanDiego, the region’s cellphone emergency alert system, had sent out 23,000 evacuation messages as of Friday morning, including for new evacuations in Oceanside.

Officials said the Lilac fire began late Thursday morning near Fallbrook and had grown to 50 acres in just an hour. Peak gusts had reached 66 mph Thursday afternoon in Pala, California, near the blaze, contributing to the rapid spread of flames.

Four civilians had suffered injuries and were taken to local hospitals, though authorities could not confirm the severity of the injuries.

Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency in San Diego County due to the Lilac fire, his office announced Thursday afternoon.

Liberty fire

The Liberty fire, located in Riverside County near Murrieta, north of Temecula, has scorched 300 acres of land. It was 90 percent contained as of Friday night, according to the Murrieta Fire and Rescue.

Seven structures were destroyed in the flames, but authorities have lifted all evacuation orders for the area.

One woman, Lauren Fuga, said she watched in shock as the Liberty fire burned down part of her home in Murrieta.

“I just, I’m at a loss for words,” Fuga told KABC-TV through tears. “It’s so horrible. You never think that it’s going to happen to you, and it can.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

California family loses 2 homes in 2 months to wildfires

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

One California family has lost two homes within two months to devastating wildfires across the state.

In Chicago, there was a 100 percent chance of Chance the Weatherman

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC/Image Group LA(CHICAGO) — Hip-Hop heavyweight Chance the Rapper debuted Friday as Chance the Weatherman on small screens around the Windy City.

The 24-year-old Chicago native served as the Friday Forecaster for WGN9’s good cause, 15th annual Morning News Toy Drive, and delivered the weather with style, while causing the studio to heave in laughter with his improvisation.

Chance started rattling off temperatures slated to freeze various cities and towns; at one point, when numerous 19-degrees Fahrenheit readings were mentioned, he waxed, “a lot of 19s going on.”

Then the newbie meteorologist took notice of how “St. Louis” was featured on the map and made innocent hay about how Peru, Illinois was also included.

He bent down on one knee, and opined, “Oh, and due to the Peruvian pressure, apparently Peru is in here, too.”

The long-sleeved, black-gloved, baseball hat-wearing artist, whose real name is Chancelor Bennett, even managed to pull a disappearing trick for a few seconds when he waved around a jacket that he called his “invisibility cloak.”

And finally, as the animated snow came down, the frost-smitten rapper again made light of it and said, “Every snowflake is different; they actually have their own DNA, like people.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Snow exits South, marches toward Northeast

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

A winter storm has shrouded the Deep South in snow and threatened more overnight as it advances eastward

Firefighters start to contain California wildfires as governor warns of ‘new reality’

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Firefighters across Southern California are battling six major wildfires with brutal Santa Ana winds expected to continue fanning the flames through Saturday.

Priest who used to be KKK member apologizes 40 years later

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

He finally wrote an apology to black couple for burning a cross on their lawn.

California family loses two homes in two months to wildfires

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times (SAN FRANCISCO) — One California family has lost two homes within two months to devastating wildfires across the state.

Antonio and Pratima Wong, along with their 19-year-old son, were among thousands of people forced to evacuate their homes in Northern California two months ago when deadly wildfires erupted in Sonoma County. The family’s house in Santa Rosa’s Fountain Grove neighborhood burned to the ground, according to ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco.

“It’s hard to see the front view where you just see the stairs going up to nothing,” Antonio Wong said in a recent interview with KGO-TV.

The Wongs moved to Santa Rosa from Southern California just six months ago. They decided to rent out their house in Ventura rather than sell it, thinking perhaps they’d return someday.

But on Tuesday, that house burned down in a massive wildfire that has rapidly engulfed 148,000 acres of land in Ventura County this week.

“It was surreal, more like numb you know. Did this really happen to us?” Pratima Wong told KGO-TV, through tears. “For the second time, it’s a lot harder.”

The so-called Thomas fire in Ventura County has destroyed at least 537 structures and damaged another 118, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. An additional 15,000 structures remain threatened by the flames, which continued to burn Saturday and are expected to intensify because of increasing winds.

The Wongs are now trying to determine whether they can afford to rebuild either house, after realizing they were under-insured in both places.

“That’s the first thing I thought of when the Ventura fire happened, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t increased my insurance down there,'” Antonio Wong told KGO-TV.

“The road to recovery is long,” Pratima Wong added. “It might be hard, but we’ll get there.”

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High winds pick up, fueling intensity of Southern California wildfires

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Firefighters across Southern California continued Saturday to battle six major wildfires with brutal Santa Ana winds expected to keep fanning the flames throughout the day.

The newest blazes — the Lilac fire in San Diego County and the Liberty fire in Riverside County — are now being fueled by continued Santa Ana winds and low humidity, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

ABC News meteorologist Daniel Manzo said there’s not much relief in the forecast for those fire-ravaged areas. Extreme fire danger will remain in the region through the weekend. Red-flag warnings have remained in effect for much of Southern California with peak wind gusts of 30 to 50 mph. Low relative humidity — as low as 5 percent — is likely through this period as well, Manzo said.

Winds could exceed 50 mph in the mountains east of San Diego. This area will be of particular concern for fire growth on Saturday night and Sunday.

Red-flag warnings have been extended across much of Southern California through Saturday, and high wind warnings are in effect for mountain and valley areas in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Winds gusted to over 60 mph in Ventura and Los Angeles counties on Thursday, causing embers to spread even more. Gusts were in the 30 to 50 mph range in San Diego County. Much of Southern California is also experiencing humidity levels in the teens or even single digits. Relative humidity in San Diego on Thursday afternoon was just 5 percent.

As nearly 8,700 firefighters battled the first four large wildfires, two new ones erupted Thursday and spread rapidly, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Overall, the six blazes have burned more than 141,000 acres and forced over 212,000 residents from their homes.

A 70-year-old woman was identified Friday as the first victim of the fires. Virginia Pesola, of Santa Paula, was killed in a car crash as she evacuated Wednesday, according to official reports.

The Thomas fire in Ventura County, the first to ignite, has burned well over 100,000 acres and is expected to intensify because of the increasing winds. The Skirball fire is small, but its threat to heavily populated areas of Los Angeles has drawn widespread attention. The other four blazes continued to burn Friday with little containment.

All Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley and 17 schools on Los Angeles’ west side were shuttered through Friday. At least 265 schools have been closed. UCLA canceled classes Thursday because of the Skirball fire.

Thomas fire

The Thomas fire in Ventura County, the largest of the six blazes, started Monday night as a 50-acre brush fire in foothills east of Santa Paula and grew to 10,000 acres in just four hours, authorities said.

The fire had burned 132,000 acres of land by Friday morning and was just 10 percent contained, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

More than 88,000 residents have been evacuated, and 15,000 homes are threatened by the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Authorities on Thursday morning upgraded voluntary evacuation orders to mandatory for parts of Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County. New evacuations were ordered overnight into Friday morning near Fillmore.

The Thomas fire spread to Santa Barbara County late Thursday, prompting California Gov. Gerry Brown to issue a state of emergency for the county, the third to be designated.

There were 3,216 firefighting personnel on the scene of the massive blaze.

Authorities said 401 structures have been destroyed in the blaze and 81 more have been damaged.

Officials were concerned about part of the Thomas fire heading northeast and threatening a nursing home in Ojai. The 25 residents and staffers there were evacuated as a precaution, authorities said.

Creek fire

The Creek fire, in the Kagel Canyon area above Los Angeles’ Sylmar neighborhood, has scorched 15,323 acres of land, destroyed at least 32 buildings and damaged another 31. Over 150,000 residents have been evacuated and some 2,500 structures are threatened, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The blaze was 20 percent contained as of Thursday night, and 1,686 personnel are fighting the flames.

While no people have died in any of the fires, the Creek fire was responsible for the death of almost 40 horses at Rancho Padilla, according to ABC station KABC in Los Angeles. The horses were trapped in a barn that burned to the ground as the owners were evacuated with no warning.

All evacuations were lifted by Friday except for in the Limekiln Canyon.

Skirball fire

The Skirball fire has burned just 475 acres of land so far, but its proximity to Los Angeles and responsibility for briefly shutting down the infamously crowded 405 Freeway has garnered nationwide attention.

The fire is threatening the Getty Center, a museum in western Los Angeles. Officials were focused on keeping the flames from jumping the freeway and heading east. The blaze was 30 percent contained as of Friday morning — the highest containment of the six fires — and firefighters had managed to keep it from breaching containment lines.

Authorities said six structures have been lost in the blaze, with an additional 12 damaged. One firefighter suffered minor burns while fighting the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Los Angeles County declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon because of the Skirball fire in the city’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

Rye fire

The Rye fire has scorched 7,000 acres in Santa Clarita, west of Valencia. The blaze was 25 percent contained as of Thursday night, though 5,420 homes are still threatened by the flames, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

About 2,000 residents have been evacuated, though mandatory evacuation orders in the area have been lifted.

Some 775 firefighters were on the scene battling the Rye fire Wednesday afternoon.

Lilac fire

Flames from the Lilac fire are growing at a “dangerous rate” in San Diego County, where over 4,100 acres of land have been burned thus far. More than 1,000 structures are being threatened, at least 20 structures have been destroyed and an additional 12 structures have been damaged, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The blaze was zero percent contained as of Friday morning.

AlertSanDiego, the region’s cellphone emergency alert system, had sent out 23,000 evacuation messages as of Friday morning, including new evacuations in Oceanside.

Officials said the Lilac fire began late Thursday morning near Fallbrook and had grown to 50 acres in just an hour. Peak gusts had reached 66 mph Thursday afternoon in Pala, California, near the blaze, contributing to the rapid spread of flames.

Evacuation shelters have been set up at Fallbrook High School and Pala Casino.

Four civilians had suffered injuries and were taken to local hospitals, though authorities could not confirm their severity.

Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency in San Diego County due to the Lilac fire, his office announced Thursday afternoon.

Liberty fire

The Liberty fire, located in Riverside County near Murrieta, north of Temecula, has scorched 300 acres of land. It was 10 percent contained as of Friday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Two structures had been destroyed in the flames, but evacuation orders had been lifted for much of the area. Murrieta Mesa High School remained open as a shelter for some residents.

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Met Opera conductor won’t face criminal charges

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine, who said on Thursday that recent allegations of sexual misconduct dating back decades in Illinois are “unfounded,” will not face criminal charges, Illinois prosecutors said Friday.

The famed New York City arts institution announced last Sunday that it had suspended Levine as it investigates what it says are “multiple allegations of sexual misconduct” from the 1960s to the 1980s.

“While we await the results of the investigation, based on these new news reports, the Met has made the decision to act now,” said Peter Gelb, general manager at the Met. “This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected.”

The Met Opera launched an investigation of the conductor based on a 2016 police report filed in Illinois by a man who alleges he was molested as a teenager by Levine 30 years ago.

The New York Post first reported details of the police report.

According to the police report, the alleged abuse occurred when Levine, now 74, was a conductor at the Ravinia Music Festival in Illinois. Levine is now director emeritus at the Met Opera.

The alleged victim, whose name was not published by The New York Post, filed a report with the Lake Forest Police Department in October 2016.

“I began seeing a 41-year-old man when I was 15, without really understanding I was really ‘seeing’ him,” the alleged victim, now 48, said in a written statement to police. “It nearly destroyed my family and almost led me to suicide. I felt alone and afraid. He was trying to seduce me. I couldn’t see this. Now I can.”

But the Lake County state’s attorney’s office said in a statement Friday, “At the conclusion of the investigation, considering the specific conduct disclosed by the complainant, the age of the complainant at the time, all of the evidence in the case, and the applicable law … it is our decision that no criminal charges can be brought,” it said.

The statement notes the statutory age of consent in Illinois at the time of the alleged abuse was 16, though the state has since raised it to 17 and to 18 in cases where the accused was in a position of trust or authority over the victim.

“We are bound to apply the law that was in effect at the time the allegations occurred rather than the law as it currently exists,” the statement said.

The statement said none of the accuser’s statements to investigators “included any allegations of force.”

The prosecutors’ decision came a day after The New York Times published interviews with other alleged victims.

Levine responded to the allegations on Thursday night in a statement to The New York Times.

“As understandably troubling as the accusations noted in recent press accounts are, they are unfounded,” he said in the statement. “As anyone who truly knows me will attest, I have not lived my life as an oppressor or an aggressor.”

The Met Opera’s general manager, Peter Gelb, said in a statement that the organization was aware of the accusations.

“This first came to the Met’s attention when the Illinois police investigation was opened in October of 2016,” Gelb said. “At the time, Jim said that the charges were completely false, and we didn’t hear anything further from the police. We need to determine if these charges are true and, if they are, take appropriate action. We will now be conducting our own investigation with outside resources.”

Levine rose to prominence as the Met Opera’s music director. The lauded maestro has been with the Met for 40 years and led “more than 2,500 performances of 85 different operas since his company debut in 1971 leading Puccini’s Tosca.”

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Chartered bus overturns on freeway, injuring dozens

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

San Francisco Fire Department(SAN FRANCISCO) — A chartered bus overturned Friday night in San Francisco, injuring 29 passengers, four of them seriously, officials said.

The accident took place shortly after 8 p.m. on Highway 101 Southbound near Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco, forcing the closure of three southbound lanes and a traffic back-up that stretched for miles.

The bus — which was chartered for an event taking the passengers from San Francisco to the Bay area’s Peninsula region — hit the center median wall and ricocheted, crashing on the right side of Southbound 101, according to California Highway Patrol, reported ABC San Franciso affiliate KGO-TV.

Ambulances raced to the scene to tend to the injured, after the San Francisco Fire Department called a red alert to get hospitals ready for patients.

Of the 29 injured, four were seriously injured, nine were moderately injured and 16 suffered minor injuries. All but four of the injured were transported to San Francisco General Hospital, according to the San Francisco Fire Department.

The bus driver was the last person to get on an ambulance; he wanted to ensure that all of his passengers were accounted for.

At the outset of the accident, San Francisco Fire Department spokesman Jonathan Baxter said, “Currently, the San Francisco fire department has responded with eight ground ambulances, a total of seven engines and our rescue squads. We have probably over 60 firefighters and paramedics on the scene to assess the damage.”

Mechanical experts arrived at the scene to try to figure out the cause of the accident, reported KGO-TV, adding that the driver was not impaired.

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Winter storm that slammed into the South now heading north

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Image Source/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The South was turned into a winter wonderland on Friday when a storm moved through the region, shrouding it in snow.

While children may have enjoyed playing in the white stuff, the storm caused thousands of power outages, hundreds of flight delays and cancellations, and roadways to be littered with automobile accidents.

Snow reached as far south as Brownsville, Texas, which experienced its first measurable snow since December 2004. Also in Texas, 7 inches of snow was reported in Corpus Christi. The last time the city saw measurable snow was also in 2004. The snow caused more than 15,000 power outages there. Houston also received its first measurable snow since 2009.

One inch of snow was reported in Mobile, Alabama — the earliest measurable snow there since records began in 1842. In Louisiana’s Tangipahoa Parish, there were over 29,000 power outages. In Mississippi, local states of emergency were put into effect for Hattiesburg and Petal.

In Georgia, over 46,000 power outages were reported, and one person was killed after stepping on downed power lines.

But as of Saturday morning, the storm system was moving off to the north and east — but some parts of the South will still be very chilly.

There is still a lingering swath of snow over parts of Alabama and Georgia, as well as into the Appalachians of Virginia and North Carolina. Snow is beginning to move into parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast Saturday morning, with snow moving in from the South in an area spanning Maryland to Connecticut.

There are winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings stretching from parts of Mississippi to Maine Saturday morning. Freeze warnings have also been issued for the Gulf Coast.

The heaviest of the snow will fall during the day on Saturday from Philadelphia to Boston.

An axis of the heaviest accumulations will stretch from parts of the Delmarva Peninsula, through southern New Jersey, eastern Long Island and into parts of southern New England, including Boston. Three to 6 inches of snow is expected in these areas.

In the Great Lakes Region, lake-effect snow will develop in parts of Michigan and Northern Indiana on Saturday. Locally, heavy bands of snow could bring whiteout conditions.

On Sunday, the concern for lake-effect snow will shift toward Buffalo and Watertown, New York. A weak clipper system will arrive late on Sunday into Monday, but at this point, the system does not appear to be significant.

Over on the West Coast, the so-called Thomas Fire is now at 143,000 acres in Ventura County with containment at 10 percent. The blaze has become the 16th largest wildfire in the state and has been burning since Monday evening.

The Lilac Fire has burned 4,100 acres, and is zero percent contained. More than 5,000 structures are threatened there, with 85 structures already burned.

Unfortunately, there is not much relief in the forecast for those fire-ravaged areas. Extreme fire danger will remain in the region through the weekend. Red-flag warnings have remained in effect for much of Southern California with peak wind gusts of 30 to 50 mph. Low relative humidity — as low as 5 percent — is likely through this period.

Winds could exceed 50 mph in the mountains east of San Diego. This area will be of particular concern for fire growth on Saturday night and Sunday.

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High winds pick up, fueling intensity of Southern California wildfires

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

The fires have prompted thousands of evacuations across the region.

High winds pick up, fueling intensity of Southern California wildfires

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

The fires have prompted thousands of evacuations across the region.

Winter storm that slammed into the South now heading toward mid-Atlantic, Northeast

Posted on: December 9th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Snow is beginning to move into parts of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

70-year-old woman dies fleeing Southern California wildfires

Posted on: December 8th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

The fires have prompted thousands of evacuations across the region.

After FBI agent removed from Mueller’s team, FBI utility man steps in

Posted on: December 8th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

FBI veteran David W. Archey is now working for Mueller on the Russia probe.

Manhunt underway for suspect who shot and killed father of 16

Posted on: December 8th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Missouri resident Steven Combs, 41, had another child on the way, police said.

Manhunt underway for suspect who shot and killed father of 16

Posted on: December 8th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WELLSTON, Mo.) — A manhunt is underway for the unknown assailant who shot and killed a Missouri father of 16 while washing his car in Wellston on Sunday.

Steven Combs, 41, can be seen on surveillance video bent down washing his car in a driveway as the suspect walks by. The suspect, dressed in all black, then turns around and approaches Combs and shoots him as he stands up. Combs was shot six times, according to the North County Police Cooperative.

The suspect walks away from the scene at first, then takes off running, the video shows. Investigators do not know his identity, police said.

Minutes after he was shot, a man walks out to find Combs on the ground. The witness is seen running around the driveway and administering aid to Combs before flagging down a police car as it turns the corner with its siren on.

North County Police Major Steve Runge described Combs’ death as a “calculated murder,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Combs had another child on the way in addition to his 16 children, police said. A GoFundMe campaign created for Combs by the police cooperative says he left behind a “wonderful loving family.”

The funeral procession for Combs will include tow trucks and at least one police car because he was a tow truck driver and friends with some officers, the Post reported.

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Women donate thousands of ounces of breast milk for woman battling breast cancer

Posted on: December 8th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(OMAHA, Neb.) — A breast cancer survivor organized a breast milk donation drive that has so far netted more than 4,000 ounces of breast milk for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer just weeks after giving birth.

Ashli Brehm, of Omaha, Nebraska, put out a call to her Facebook followers last month for women who wanted to donate breast milk. Within one week, Brehm had collected 4,500 ounces of breast milk.

Brehm, a mother of three who underwent a double mastectomy last year, donated the milk to Jackie Holscher, a mother of three who underwent a double mastectomy on Nov. 3.

Holscher, 33, of Ankeny, Iowa, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in May, just weeks after she gave birth to her daughter, Genevieve. Holscher breastfed Genevieve until her cancer was diagnosed and it was no longer an option.

“Breastfeeding was something that I had done with my other two kids for two years each,” Holscher told ABC News. “I felt devastated that that was being taken away from me. I had to basically mourn a loss of not being able to nurse.”

Holscher’s best friend and other local women stepped up to donate breast milk, but the supply quickly ran low.

When Holscher, who met Brehm through a mutual friend, confided to Brehm her disappointment in not being able to breastfeed Genevieve, Brehm stepped into action.

“I just figured I can ask [on Facebook] and maybe I’ll get her a few hundred ounces,” said Brehm, a blogger. “I was so overwhelmed within the first 24 hours by what people were offering and doing, I just was crying. It was like some sort of miracle.”

Brehm figured out locations to store the breast milk and picked up the donations, including from one woman who was undergoing cancer treatment herself and drove two hours from Kansas to drop off 1,300 ounces of her daughter’s breast milk.

“I had people offering to send it on dry ice from Canada and people offering freezer space at different dropoff points,” said Brehm. “It’s overwhelmingly beautiful to me what humans will do for other humans.”

Brehm has stopped accepting donations for Holscher for now due to storage but plans to put out another call in the New Year.

She emphasized her motivation was less about making sure Genevieve had breast milk and more about making sure Holscher saw her wish fulfilled.

“I knew she could use formula. [Jackie] knew she could use formula. It was her wish to give Genevieve breast milk,” she said. “Cancer does enough to take away from people, so I wanted to give her this wish.”

Holscher, who got approval from Genevieve’s pediatrician to use donor breast milk, said knowing that she always had a supply on hand was a huge stress relief.

“It made me feel like cancer isn’t winning completely,” she said. “And the donor milk has alleviated financial stress because I don’t have to think about how I am going to pay for formula and my medical bills at the same time.”

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Police put stray kitten to work as their newest staff member

Posted on: December 8th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(TRYON, N.C.) —  Meet Sqweeks, the newest member of the police department in Tryon, North Carolina.

When the stray kitten wandered up to the dispatch center, an officer took her inside and away from the cold.

“I felt something brush up against my leg. It startled me a bit and I stepped back to see a dark fur ball looking at me,” police officer Alan Corn told ABC News of his discovery. “The cat followed me like a puppy walking right beside me everywhere I went. As I returned a few hours later and started to walk back inside, there was the kitty again at my feet. I thought for sure that it would leave and go home but it didn’t. It had started to get cold so I brought it inside near the end of my shift. I am in no way a cat person but I honestly almost took it home myself. This kitty had the best personality of any cat I’ve ever seen. It was very affectionate, fluffy, soft, and acted more like a little dog than a cat.”

The next day when employees started to arrive for work, they noticed the new fuzzy four-legged employee on staff.

“I came in shortly before 7 a.m. and someone said, ‘Heads up, there is a kitten running around,’” Tara Atkins, a dispatcher, told ABC News. “She is a friendly kitten and really warmed up to the staff quickly.”

“She is a very sweet kitten. She ran around from office to office making friends,” said Atkins. “The majority of her time was spent sleeping, playing with a small ball, and just investigating her new surroundings.”

 The dispatchers posted her photo to the town’s Facebook page in hopes of tracking down an owner, to no avail.

“She had no collars, no tags, and the local animal control officer came by and scanned her for a chip and found no evidence of one,” said Atkins.

Sqweeks is now staying with Atkins’ cousin and his wife, David and Tanya Morrow, and is “making herself right at home,” said Atkins.

So far no one has stepped forward to inquire about her, but Atkins said if they can prove ownership, they will happily return her.

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Meet the CIA’s newest ‘Puppy Class’ graduates

Posted on: December 8th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(LANGLEY, Va.) — After four months of arduous training, three K9s graduated from the CIA Fall 2017 “Puppy Class” this week.

Nicole, Indigo, and Freya passed the two required certification tests from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) that ensure the dogs can detect explosives.

Freya and her handler were awarded the class’ “Top Dog Award” for earning 298.68 out of a possible 300 points – the highest score on the USPCA test.

Two other K9s, Heide and Harry, also passed the certifications and will work for Virginia’s Frederick County Fire Marshal and the Fairfax County Police Department, respectively.

Harry joined this season’s “Puppy Class” five weeks late after another dog, Lulu, dropped out of the program.

Lulu “began to show signs that she wasn’t interested in detecting explosive odors,” the CIA said in a press release in October.

While sometimes dogs can act disinterested in odor detection temporarily, the CIA determined Lulu’s indifference was permanent.

“Even when they could motivate her with food and play to search, she was clearly not enjoying herself any longer,” the CIA said. “Our trainers’ top concern is the physical and mental well-being of our dogs, so they made the extremely difficult decision to do what’s best for Lulu and drop her from the program.”

Luckily, Lulu was adopted by her handler and now “enjoys her days playing with his kids, sniffing out rabbits and squirrels in the backyard, and eating meals and snacks out of a dog dish,” the CIA said.

One other K9 – Suni, described by the CIA as a “smart, silly, sassy Labrador” – did not graduate for reasons out of the dog’s control.

Suni’s prospective handler could not attend the second part of the training, so she was adopted by the family who raised her for the first 18 months of life.

Honoring K9s leaving service

The three CIA handlers who gained new dogs this week had to say goodbye to the K9s they’ve worked with over the past seven to eight years. New dogs typically enter service at about 18 months of age, and the CIA retires each dog by the age of nine.

At graduation, the dogs are honored with a CIA plaque and a shadowbox containing photos, their badge and other items.

“The retired dogs sat quietly, heads held high, a wise calm much different the boisterous puppy antics displayed by the younger, soon-to-be K9 graduates,” the CIA said. “The crowd, made up of family, friends, and colleagues – all those who made the K9 program possible – cheered for the veteran dogs as they were honored for their service.”

The CIA describes the ceremony as “bittersweet” for the handlers.

“After working with them seven days a week for eight years, it’s pretty hard to separate a team,” the CIA said. “Just about all of our dogs retire with their handlers and their families. If a handler cannot adopt their retiring dog due to a family situation or other reasons, then the option is given to another handler in the K9 unit. Since CIA’s K9 officers love these animals so much, you will hardly ever hear of a dog retiring outside of the unit.”

Each of the dogs that retired this week was adopted by the handler.

 The three retiring K9s – Gears, Lucy, and Osmond – “dedicated their lives to serving and protecting this country,” the CIA said.

Gears worked overseas for 750 days during his career and has swam in 30 different states.

Lucy started her career as an ambassador dog for Puppies Behind Bars before joining the CIA.

Osmond won numerous K9 Explosive Detection awards over the years.

Because Gears, Lucy, and Osmond have left service, their veterinary care is no longer covered by the government. It is provided by a non-profit group, Paws of Honor, that will provide medical care and routine physicals.

For more information about the Fall 2017 Puppy Class click here.

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Substitute teacher barricaded door with couch to protect kids during deadly shooting

Posted on: December 8th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/ Thinkstock(AZTEC, N.M)–  A 74-year-old substitute teacher and a custodian jumped into action and helped save lives during a shooting at a New Mexico high school Thursday that killed two students, authorities said today.

Substitute teacher Kathleen Potter had 16 students in a classroom with her at Aztec High School in Aztec, about 180 miles northwest of Albuquerque, when she heard the shooting, according to police.

She didn’t have a key to lock the door so she put all of the students in a storage area and the barricaded the door with a couch, authorities said.

The shooter — a former Aztec High School student — came in and started screaming and fired multiple rounds through the walls, hitting no one, authorities said.

When Thomas Hill, a custodian, heard the shots, he saw the shooter and followed him and shouted at him authorities said. The custodian also warned others and yelled at teachers to lock down, police said.

The suspect, identified as 21-year-old William Atchison, died after the shooting. A law enforcement source told ABC News that officers found the suspected gunman dead, a gun and multiple loaded magazines near him.

Authorities today called Atchison a “coward” and said the shooting was a “planned event,” which the suspect allegedly wrote out. Police said the suspect disguised himself as a student and went into the school as buses were letting people in. Authorities said he wanted to create “as much carnage as he possibly could.”

The 21-year-old went to a bathroom and was preparing to confront students, police said, and in that bathroom is where victim Francisco Fernandez was shot and killed; authorities said Fernandez had no chance to survive. The suspect then went to the hallway, where he encountered Casey Marquez and fatally shot her, police said. He then allegedly fired multiple rounds through the hallway.

Authorities said Atchison lived in Aztec with his parents and worked at a local gas station.

In March 2016, federal authorities learned of comments made by Atchison on an online gaming forum and he was interviewed, but the investigation was closed because no crime was committed, authorities said.

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Anonymous couple pays off $10K of toys on layaway

Posted on: December 8th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine) — Lucky customers unknowingly picked up presents set aside for layaway that had already been paid off by one anonymous couple.

A husband and wife walked into Toys “R” Us in South Portland, Maine, last Friday to pay it forward this holiday season.

The store supervisor Jennifer Collins told ABC News she was unsure what the couple came to discuss when they approached her about a unique idea.

The couple, who wish to remain anonymous, first asked Collins to speak in private, she said. “I was wondering what they wanted to discuss and they let me know they heard another story about a gentleman paying off layaways, which inspired them to do the same and be a blessing for more people,” Collins explained.

Collins worked with the generous pair to come up with a strategy and once they tallied up how much layaway inventory there was, Collins said they decided to pay $10,000 of the total amount.

“They hoped to get the public to raise another $15,000 and offered to take care of the remainder after that too,” Collins said.

Collins said she was lucky enough to see a few of the shocked and excited recipients.

“About 20 or so people have already come in to pick them up, some got emails and others found out on the spot. We’ve had people cry of happiness right here in the store,” Collins said. “One woman I helped check out was in tears and was with her sister who also had toys on hold. They both had no idea before I told them what was going on and were so happy.”

Collins said more customers will continue to find out about the couple’s good deed and they told her their hope is to spread their joy.

“Their main thing is they believe they’ve been blessed by God in their life and they want other people to be blessed.”

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What’s sparking the devastating California wildfires

Posted on: December 8th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — As multiple wildfires ravage Southern California this week, experts are pointing toward a dangerous combination of last winter’s rain, this year’s dry and hot conditions and the Santa Ana winds as a cause.

At least six fires are fanning across swaths of the southern part of the Golden State, spanning from San Diego to Ventura counties. The blazes have burned more than 141,000 acres and forced over 212,000 people from their homes.

Here is what’s making this year’s wildfires particularly fierce:

Heavy rain followed by hot temperatures led to dried-out vegetation

After five years of drought, California had a lot of rainfall last winter, leading to a lot of vegetation growth, said ABC News meteorologist Max Golembo. That was followed by very high temperatures in the summer and fall, including some record heat events, he said. Those hot temperatures dried out much of the vegetation that grew last winter and spring, which is now creating fuel for the wildfires, Golembo said.

That “specific sequence — of a wet winter followed by warm, hot conditions to dry the fuel out” is what’s needed to spark these larger fires, said Park Williams, a climate scientist and an assistant professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Add to that the fact that this fall and winter “there has not yet been any precipitation,” Williams said.

“Usually by now, Southern California has gotten a storm or two. And once the first rain comes that eliminates the chances of really big wildfires occurring.”

Santa Ana winds

Golembo and Williams also pointed to a major Santa Ana wind event for intensifying the flames.

Santa Ana windx occur when a high pressure system over Southern California pulls air out of “the desert of the Southwest, and brings that air to the west out over the coast,” Williams said.

“Because it’s coming from the desert, the air is really dry. Then that air has to come up and over the mountains … and then is brought all the way down to sea level,” Williams said. “When that air comes down to sea level, it gets compressed, and when dry air gets compressed, it warms. So this air that was out over the desert, when it hits L.A. and the areas around L.A., it is really warm and really dry.”

That warmth and dryness is key for fueling the fires, Golembo said.

December is the prime month for Santa Ana winds in Southern California, Golembo said.

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Southern California wildfires by the numbers

Posted on: December 8th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Six major wildfires have scorched over 141,000 acres across Southern California this week, forcing more than 212,000 residents from their homes.

Nearly 8,700 firefighters on Friday were still battling the flames, which have spread rapidly by fierce Santa Ana winds, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Here’s a breakdown of the major wildfires still raging in the region as of Friday morning:

Thomas fire in Ventura County

  • Acres burned: 132,000
  • Containment: 10 percent
  • Structures destroyed: 401
  • Structures damaged: 81
  • Structures threatened: 15,000
  • Evacuations: 88,000 residents
  • Personnel on site: 3,216

Creek fire in Los Angeles County

  • Acres burned: 15,323
  • Containment: 40 percent
  • Structures destroyed: 63
  • Structures damaged: 45
  • Structures threatened: 2,500
  • Evacuations: 150,000 residents
  • Personnel on site: 2,295

Rye fire in Los Angeles County

  • Acres burned: 6,049
  • Containment: 35 percent
  • Structures destroyed: 1
  • Structures damaged: 0
  • Structures threatened: 5,460
  • Evacuations: 2,000 residents
  • Personnel on site: 901

Skirball fire in Los Angeles County

  • Acres burned: 475
  • Containment: 30
  • Structures destroyed: 6
  • Structures damaged: 12
  • Evacuations: Over 700 homes in a 3.2-square-mile area

Lilac fire in San Diego County

  • Acres burned: 4,100
  • Containment: 0 percent
  • Structures destroyed: 65
  • Evacuations: 23,000 “evacuation messages” sent out

Liberty fire in Riverside County

  • Acres burned: 300
  • Containment: 59 percent
  • Structures destroyed: 2

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