Review Category : National News

Residents Watch Burning Building Get Swept Away in WV Flood

Facebook/Amanda Carper(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) — Dramatic video shows a burning building getting swept away in fast-moving flood waters in West Virginia during flooding that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin called “among the worst in a century for some parts of the state.”

The footage shows shocked residents watching the building float by as the fire sends smoke into the air.

Four deaths have been reported from flooding in the state, three in Kanawha County and one in Ohio County, according to Tim Rock at the West Virginia Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. A toddler was also swept away in Jackson County, said Rock.

The video was taken in the town of White Sulphur Springs, in Greenbrier County. Officials in the county could not immediately be reached for comment.

A state of emergency has been declared in 44 of West Virginia’s 55 counties.

“I have authorized the deployment of up to 150 members of the West Virginia National Guard to assist local emergency responders as we continue to evaluate the situation,” Gov. Tomblin said Friday.

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Rescues Underway for Hundreds Trapped at West Virginia Mall After Deadly Flooding

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) — Rescue efforts were underway Friday to save hundreds of people who became stranded inside a West Virginia mall after a bridge connecting the shopping center to a main road collapsed and washed away during extreme flooding Thursday, officials told ABC News.

About 500 people including employees and customers became trapped inside the Crossings Mall in Elkview, about 12 miles from Charleston, around 4 p.m. Thursday, said Rick McElhaney, assistant deputy director with Metro 911 in Kanawha County.

On Friday morning, first responders were walking people from the mall around to a back road to board public transportation, an official with the Kanawha County Emergency Operations Center center told ABC News Friday morning.

Three people have died in Kanawha County from the flooding, the county official said Friday morning.

A view of a home in Clendenin from I-79 pic.twitter.com/LTFQnDm0nQ

— Spencer Daily (@Spencer_Daily) June 24, 2016

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin Friday called the flooding “among the worst in a century for some parts of the state.”

A state of emergency was declared in 44 of the state’s 55 counties.

“Our team in the emergency operations center worked through the night and continues to coordinate efforts with local officials,” Gov. Tomblin said Friday. “I have authorized the deployment of up to 150 members of the West Virginia National Guard to assist local emergency responders as we continue to evaluate the situation.”

Route 119 (Robinson Run Road), Roane Co. pic.twitter.com/wxQTBi2dVD

— Spencer Daily (@Spencer_Daily) June 24, 2016

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Wildfire Ravages Dozens of Homes in Central California, Evacuations Underway

Kern County Fire Department(BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) — A fast-moving wildfire in central California has destroyed several dozen homes and forced hundreds of evacuations in rural communities in Kern County Thursday.

Dubbed the Erskine Fire, the blaze quickly exploded in size since it began around 4 p.m., spreading to more than 4,000 acres as it was fueled by intense heat in the upper 90s, according to the Kern County Fire Department.

Officials say the fire is at 0 percent containment and so far no injuries have been reported.

“I’ve been a firefighter for 9 years. This is definitely the most destructive fire I’ve ever been to,” Caption Tyler Townsend with the Kern County Fire Department said during a Facebook Live broadcast from the area.

“This fire’s driven by winds, steep terrain,” Townsend said. “We have firefighters in here trying to protect as many homes as they can.”

Townsend said while the official estimate was 50-60 homes destroyed, he believed the actual count would eventually be much higher, as more than 1,500 structures are currently threatened.

There is a greater sense of urgency as many homes in the rural area have propane tanks and some could be seen exploding in Townsend’s video.

350 firefighters are on the scene while several hundred more are en route to combat the massive fires.

Evacuations are in place for neighborhoods of Bella Vista, South Fork, Weldon, Onyx, Lakeland Estates, Mountain Mesa, South Lake, Squirrel Valley, and Yankee Canyon.

Kern Valley hospital has also been evacuated.

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Rescue Effort Underway for Hundreds Trapped at WV Mall, Officials Say

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) — A rescue effort is underway for roughly 500 people who became trapped inside a West Virginia mall when the bridge connecting the shopping center to the adjacent main road collapsed and washed away, officials told ABC News.

Both employees and customers have been trapped inside the center — located in Charleston — since around 4 p.m. Thursday, according to Rick McElhaney, assistant deputy director with Metro 911 in Kanawha County.

Bridge to Elkview Crossings Mall has collapsed trapping shoppers and employees. #wvwx pic.twitter.com/hkR8Z6WOJT

— Spencer Daily (@Spencer_Daily) June 24, 2016

The river is currently cresting around the shopping center and first responders are planning to rescue those stranded once it is daylight, McElhaney said.

McElhaney said they most likely will have to rescue everyone by helicopter.

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Second Body Found in Search for 4 Family Members Missing off Florida Coast

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(SARASOTA, Fla.) — A second body was recovered today as the Coast Guard continued searching for four family members who disappeared Sunday on their sailboat off the western coast of Florida.

The first body, who the grieving family said is 17-year-old Becca Lynn, was found Wednesday in the search area in the Gulf of Mexico. The two bodies found were four miles away from each other, but neither has been officially identified by the Coast Guard.

A sailboat mast was also recovered today, 101 miles offshore from Fort Myers, Florida — the family’s planned destination.

A bucket with a wallet and a GPS device was found 5 miles from the first body, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard began searching Tuesday for Ace Kimberly and his teenage children — Becca Lynn, Donald and Roger — after a concerned relative contacted authorities.

Kimberly’s brother told the Coast Guard that the four family members had at least seven life jackets on their 29-foot sailboat, on which they live. They were towing two kayaks when they left Sarasota, Florida, at 7 a.m. Sunday, en route to Fort Myers for boat repairs.

At about 3 p.m. Sunday, the now-missing man called his brother to say the boat was in 6-foot seas near Englewood, 30 miles from Sarasota, and the family was trying to survive.

Items — including six life jackets, two kayaks and a flare — believed to belong to the family have been found during the search.

At about 2:30 a.m. Thursday, helicopter and boat crews saw something in the search area that looked like a flare rising into the air for three seconds. But when the area was further searched, no flare was found, the Coast Guard said today.

“We still have hope,” a Coast Guard official said today, calling it a “dire” situation, but adding, “We want to get out there and save them.”

The father has full custody of the children and is separated from their mother, said her sister, Sadie Dilts. She told ABC News on Wednesday that her sister lives in Indiana and was on her way to Florida.

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Toddler Swept Away in West Virginia Flash Floods

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A child was swept away in flood waters in Jackson County, West Virginia, Thursday afternoon, after much of the state’s southeastern region had been issued a flash food warning due to heavy rain, according to officials.

A 2- to 4-year-old boy was swept away by swift waters behind homes on Utah Road, outside the city of Ravenswood, said Walter Smittle, Director of 911 and emergency management for Jackson County. His disappearance was reported at 4:25 p.m.

Three fire departments were dispatched to look for the boy, as well as other law enforcement and emergency service agencies, Smittle said. The child has not been located and authorities have suspended the search for the night.

Rescue efforts will resume in the morning.

The news came as authorities in Kanawha County said that they found a drowning victim in a separate incident. No further details were available and authorities were trying to recover the body.

Rescue efforts and evacuations were underway in West Virginia Thursday afternoon after flash floods ravaged several counties. Up to 10 inches of rain has fallen in Greenbrier County since this morning, while Richwood was expected to receive up to 6 inches of rain through 9 p.m. Both areas are already seeing significant flash flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

A flash flood warning was issued in East Central Nicholas County, Richwood and Clendenin until midnight, the NWS said, with flood waters moving down the north fork of the Cherry River from Summit Lake to Richwood. Residents were advised to seek higher ground immediately due to the “particularly dangerous situation.” A tornado watch and severe thunderstorm watch was also issued until about 10 p.m.

The NWS originally reported that the dam at Summit Lake was breached by flood waters, but the dam remained intact.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a state of emergency for Nicholas County and Greenbrier County, adding that mudslides, rockslides and flooding caused by the severe storms has damaged homes, businesses roads and bridges.

“… Certain portions of Greenbrier and Nicholas Counties have been rendered inaccessible because of public infrastructure damage,” a statement from the governor’s office read.

The flooding marks the worst in history for Greenbrier and Nicholas counties, said Kim Gross, a representative for Gov. Tomblin.

NEWS: Gov. Tomblin issues State of Emergency (#SOE) for Greenbrier, Nicholas counties in response to flooding. https://t.co/8di7Csarw9

— Governor Tomblin (@GovTomblin) June 23, 2016

Photos taken in Richmond and Greenbrier County show buildings and roads immersed in flood waters.

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What the Supreme Court Ruling on University of Texas Admissions Means for Affirmative Action

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court ruled today in favor of the University of Texas’ admissions plan, leaving in place the school’s affirmative action policy.

In a 4-3 vote, the justices upheld the judgment of the court of appeals, which ruled in favor of allowing the university to use race as a factor in its admissions process.

“Still, it remains an enduring challenge to our Nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity,” wrote Justice Kennedy for the majority opinion.

What this Means for the Future of Affirmative Action

Today’s ruling was a win for supporters of affirmative action programs and a major defeat for conservatives.

Kennedy, who is often the swing justice, held that UT could continue to use race in a holistic way when considering applicants.

However, he also pointed out that there are restrictions on the school’s freedom to use race. The university must continue to use data to scrutinize the fairness of its admissions program and to assess whether changing demographics upend the need for the race-conscious policy.

The administration will also need to revisit the program to make sure it is in fact working to diversify the student body.

Despite the ruling, it’s unclear exactly how this will impact race-based admissions policies around the country.

There are at least two pending challenges to the use of race at both Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC). While today’s opinion certainly boosts the university standpoint, lawyers for the challengers will argue that the ruling should apply only to Texas.

Justice Samuel Alito, who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote a 51-page dissent, writing that the university wasn’t able to prove how using “systematic racial discrimination” was achieving its goals for diversity.

Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, so only 7 justices decided the outcome.

How We Got Here

This is the second time Abigail Fisher, the white woman who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin and filed a lawsuit challenging the university’s use of race in admissions, has had her case decided at the Supreme Court.

In Fisher’s first case, the Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts were too deferential to school administrators and were required to look more closely at the evidence. The 5th Circuit Court stood by its earlier decision, and the case ended up back before the justices.

Texas has a unique admissions program, which first accepts approximately the top 10 percent of graduating seniors from each school in the state and then uses race as part of a holistic analysis (which also includes factors like community service, leadership and family circumstances) in filling the remaining spots.

Reaction

Speaking outside the Court on behalf of the university, UT Vice President Gregory Vincent said that they were “so very thrilled” about the Supreme Court decision rendered today.

“We believe that the educational benefits of diversity are an important part of our educational experience. We believe that all students benefit from a diverse learning environment. We also were encouraged by the language in the case that spoke to the discretion of the university in making these kinds of admissions decisions,” he said.

Fisher and her attorneys were clearly disappointed with the outcome.

Edward Blum, president of the Project on Fair Representation, argued that racial classifications are one of the “most polarizing policies in America today.”

“As long as universities like the Univ. of Texas continue to treat applicants differently by race and ethnicity, the social fabric that holds us together as a nation will be weakened,” he said in a statement.

The Department of Justice, who argued in support of UT, also weighed in on the decision, saying that a diverse student enrollment is vital to education in the United States.

Going forward, the Department of Justice will continue to stand up for these principles, and to work with colleges and universities to promote diversity in a way that is consistent with the law,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a statement.

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Court Orders Virginia School Board to Let Transgender Teen Use Boys’ Bathroom

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A federal district court in Virginia ordered a school board to let a 16-year-old transgender teen use the boys restroom, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Gloucester High School student Gavin Grimm filed a lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board, alleging that its policy that requires transgender students to either use a restroom that corresponds with their biological gender or a private, single-stall is illegal.

A federal judge for the Eastern District of Virginia ordered the school board today to permit Grimm to use the boys’ restroom at his high school, pursuant to Title IX, court documents show.

“I am elated to hear that I’ll be able to attend my senior year of high school with my full rights restored,” Grimm said. “After nearly two years of humiliation and intense struggle, equality has finally prevailed. Now hopefully other transgender people will not have to face this type of discrimination.”

In April, a federal appeals court in Virginia ruled that Grimm and the ACLU could proceed with the lawsuit after a lower court dismissed the case. But, Grimm was still barred from using the boys bathroom as the case moved through the courts.

ABC News could not immediately reach the Gloucester County School Board for comment.

Grimm was born female but identifies as male. He was allowed to use the boys’ restroom at Gloucester High School in 2014 for several weeks after informing the school about his transition and receiving permission from the school principal, he said.

After some parents complained, the school board adopted a policy in December of that year requiring students to use either the restroom that corresponds with their biological gender or a private single-stall. The school board voted 6-1 in favor of the new policy, according to the public meeting minutes posted online.

Grimm told ABC News he had been adhering to the school board’s policy at school, but called the situation “stressful and humiliating” in a June 2015 interview.

Last July, the U.S. Justice Department filed a “statement of interest” in Grimm’s case, declaring that a failure to allow transgender students to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity amount to sex discrimination, the AP reported.

“We are thrilled that Gavin finally has equal access to his school restrooms and will no longer experience the stigmatizing and unfair treatment imposed on him by the Gloucester School Board’s discriminatory restroom policy,” said Gail Deady, The Secular Society women’s rights legal fellow at the ACLU of Virginia.

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Louisiana Mom Arrested After Disciplining Her Kids for Breaking Into a Neighbor’s Home

WBRZ/ABC(BATON ROUGE, La.) — A 30-year-old mother from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was arrested on Monday after allegedly whipping three of her kids as punishment for breaking into a neighbor’s residence, according to the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The mother, Schaquana Spears, was booked into jail this past Monday evening on a charge of cruelty to juveniles, according to a probable cause affidavit from the sheriff’s office obtained by ABC News Thursday.

According to the affidavit, Spears admitted to whipping her 13-year-old, 12-year-old and 10-year-old son after they allegedly “burglarized a residence down the street” last Friday.

East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore told ABC News in a statement that he would be reviewing all the material in the case before making a decision on whether to formally file criminal charges.

“Parents have the right and obligation to discipline and teach their children,” Moore said. “We often time see children who have no parental authority or discipline which eventually results in delinquency and criminal acts. We need more parents who discipline their children. Surely you would expect a parent to discipline a child who is burglarizing other people’s homes as this could be a deadly encounter for the child.”

The 13-year-old and 10-year-old told detectives they were whipped with an RCA cord, and the 12-year-old said he was whipped with a belt, the affidavit said. The 13-year-old admitted to breaking into someone’s residence, according to the affidavit.

Detectives found that the eldest son “had lacerations to both his arms and linear marks on his leg, shoulder, back and stomach,” the affidavit said. The 12-year-old had “lacerations to his left arm that did break his skin,” and the 10-year-old had “a small scratch on his hand.”

Spears told ABC affiliate WBRZ she felt like authorities had made her look like a “bad guy for trying to discipline my kids and showing them right from wrong.”

“It’s been hell,” Spears said. “I never could imagine that trying to be a good mother would end me up in jail with a criminal record like I’m a predator out to hurt my kids who I live for.”

According to online inmate booking records from East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, Spears has since been released.

Spears’ neighbor, Alisa Nicholson — who lives in the house allegedly broken into by Spears’ kids — told WBRZ that she felt “so bad” because she thought Spears “did what she was supposed to do.”

“Her kids broke into a house that they could’ve got killed at, or the police could’ve seen them going in and shot them,” Nicholson said. “And I feel so bad that all this had to happen from her whooping her kids for them breaking them into someone’s home –- which is very dangerous, especially these days.”

“The degree of physical discipline will be reviewed,” Moore, the District Attorney, said. “The law does not allow excessive pain or cruelty but does allow physical parental discipline. I only have the short synopsis which does indicate that the discipline resulted in marks on the child’s body and possibly an open wound. I will review all of the reports; meet with the DCFS office and review any history of this mother and her children to get a better picture of the entire family dynamics before making a decision.”

Spears and her attorney, Marcus Allen, told ABC News that they were not immediately available to provide additional comment.

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Rescue Efforts Underway for Toddler Carried Off in West Virginia Flash Floods

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A child was swept away in flood waters in Jackson County, West Virginia, this afternoon, after much of the state’s southeastern region had been issued a flash food warning due to heavy rain, according to officials.

A 2- to 4-year-old boy was swept away by swift waters behind homes on Utah Road, outside the city of Ravenswood, said Walter Smittle, Director of 911 and emergency management for Jackson County. His disappearance was reported at 4:25 p.m.

Three fire departments were dispatched to look for the boy, as well as other law enforcement and emergency service agencies, Smittle said. The child has not been located, but first responders have halted the search until the storm passes

Rescue efforts and evacuations were underway in West Virginia Thursday afternoon after flash floods ravaged several counties. Up to 5 inches of heavy rain fell in the area, causing flood waters to rise until 4 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

A flash flood warning was issued in East Central Nicholas County and Richwood until midnight, the NWS said, with flood waters moving down the north fork of the Cherry River from Summit Lake to Richwood. Residents were advised to seek higher ground immediately due to the “particularly dangerous situation.” A tornado watch was also issued until 10 p.m.

The NWS originally reported that the dam at Summit Lake was breached by flood waters, but the dam remained intact.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a state of emergency for Nicholas County and Greenbrier County, adding that mudslides, rockslides and flooding caused by the severe storms has damaged homes, businesses roads and bridges.

“… Certain portions of Greenbrier and Nicholas Counties have been rendered inaccessible because of public infrastructure damage,” a statement from the governor’s office read.

The flooding marks the worst in history for Greenbrier and Nicholas Counties, said Kim Gross, a representative for Gov. Tomblin.

NEWS: Gov. Tomblin issues State of Emergency (#SOE) for Greenbrier, Nicholas counties in response to flooding. https://t.co/8di7Csarw9

— Governor Tomblin (@GovTomblin) June 23, 2016

Photos taken in Richmond and Greenbrier County show buildings and roads immersed in flood waters.

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