Review Category : Top Stories

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Blocked by Protesters from Entering DC Public School

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The country’s new education secretary has already hit a roadblock in her job.

Betsy DeVos, in her first visit to a public school as head of the education department, tried to enter a Washington, D.C., middle school Friday morning but was met with a small number of protesters.

They created a barrier to the entrance of Jefferson Middle School, leading DeVos to turn around and return to her vehicle.

“She doesn’t represent anything that they stand for,” one protester said.

“Shame. Shame. Shame,” chanted another protester, who followed DeVos to her car.

The protesters also hindered DeVos’ vehicle from quickly driving away. According to a police officer, DeVos did eventually enter the school building.

The former Michigan education activist was confirmed Tuesday as education secretary in a tie breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. DeVos has been a vocal supporter of charter schools and vouchers. During her contentious confirmation hearing, DeVos left open the possibility that she would allow public school funding to be directed to private options.

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Panama Police Investigate US Woman’s Unexplained Death as Family Prepares for NY Funeral

Obtained by ABC News(NEW YORK) — As Panama authorities investigate the unexplained death of 23-year-old American Catherine Johannet, her family in New York is planning for her funeral on Saturday.

Johannet, a 2015 graduate of Columbia University and a frequent world traveler, was described by sister Laura as “adventurous” and fun-loving.

Johannet was in Panama last Thursday when she set off alone on a day hike to a small, nearby island named Bastimentos, police say. When Johannet didn’t return, she was reported missing.

A police officer found her body Sunday along a secluded hiking trail.

Panama authorities have opened an investigation but have not said how she died or whether there was foul play. The effort to find suspects was ongoing, police in Bocas del Toro, Panama, said Thursday.

“We found her on a trail. It’s not an official trail,” Alexis Bethancourt, Panama’s minister of public security, said in Spanish Thursday. “It’s a savage place where there is a lot of vegetation.

“In the late hours, it is very dark. It’s a place that presents a lot of risks and we’ve asked the people to not take these trails because there is a risk of becoming a victim.”

Johannet chose to visit Panama to “see nature and the sea, which is what her family told us she liked,” Bethancourt said. “And based on the images she decided to send her family, she was very happy in Panama.”

“What I’ve heard from her family, she was practically an angel,” Bethancourt added.

Sister Laura Johannet wrote on Facebook, “my family is thinking of all our beautiful memories with our laughing, adventurous, warm little girl. She was always there to listen to you and just enjoy life with her loved ones.”

Johannet’s funeral is in Scarsdale, New York, at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“For her many friends around the world who cannot make it for our beloved Cat’s memorial please light a candle for her at 11am,” Laura wrote on Facebook. “I know she would love that.”

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Ohio Investigators Warn of Drug Overdoses

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Investigators in Ohio are warning of overdoses related to marijuana laced with an opioid.

On Wednesday, the Painesville Township Fire Department posted on its Facebook page that it had “been called to 3 unresponsive person calls in the last 12 hours.”

“The common denominator appears to be marijuana laced with an unknown opiate,” the fire department said. “The victims are unaware they are using anything other than marijuana but are overdosing like they had used heroin or fentanyl.”

Investigators are trying to determine if the recent rash of overdoses is related to 14 overdose deaths last weekend in Cuyahoga County — the result of cocaine mixed with heroin or fentanyl.

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Michigan Team of Surgeons Give Mutilated Dog a Second Chance at Life

ABC News(DETROIT) — Baron the Rottweiler was given a second chance at life thanks to a team of surgeons in Michigan.

On Jan. 17, the Michigan Human Society (MHS) received an anonymous phone call about a stray dog abandoned on a street corner in Detroit. Baron, estimated to be 8 years old, was found with lacerations on his legs and his nose, tail, and ears were chopped off. The likely cause? Dog fighting.

MHS offered a $2,500 reward for information about Baron’s previous owner.

After news about Baron went viral, people from around the U.S. and the world donated money to MHS. The money was used to increase the amount of the reward to $40,000.

“We knew that sharing Barron’s story on social media would probably be recognized outside of Detroit,” Kathy Bilitzki, director of marketing and communications at MHS, told ABC News. “But I didn’t think I’d be getting phone calls from Japan, Australia, Denmark, Germany.”

MHS staffers knew they had to act fast to save Baron’s life. They reached out to Dr. Bryden Stanley, head of surgery at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, to reconstruct Baron’s tail and nose.

Stanley, Dr. Maria Posiedlik and Dr. Robert Fisher, MHS’ chief medical officer, performed the three hour surgery. According to Stanley, a surgery like Baron’s can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $3,500. Stanley’s team decided to do the surgery free of charge.

Stanley told ABC News that Baron should not require any further surgery. Once he recovers, he will be ready for adoption. Bilitzki said MHS has already received 30 applications from all over the U.S.

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NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Helps Driver Stranded on Snowy Road

@Melissadderosa/Twitter(NEW YORK) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo helped a driver stranded along a New York parkway Thursday afternoon after a snowstorm blanketed much of the Northeast.

Cuomo’s chief of staff, Melissa DeRosa, posted photos to Twitter of the governor standing in the snow, pitching in to help the driver stuck on the side of the Sprain Brook Parkway, north of New York City.
DeRosa wrote, “NY’ers help each other in times of need. Look out for each other today.”

The photos were posted around 4 p.m. Thursday, after Cuomo told reporters around 2 p.m. that, while the snow in New York City appeared to be tapering off, the storm should not be taken lightly.

The major storm system was expected to bring the Northeast its heaviest snowfall of the season thus far. Winter storm warnings were in effect in Boston and Philadelphia as well as New York City Thursday, where city public schools were closed and gusty winds blew snow sideways down the streets of Manhattan.

Officials are predicting a snow total between 10 and 14 inches in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday, as he urged people to stay off the streets during what he called “super-intense snow.”
New York City’s winter storming warning is expected to be in effect until 6 p.m., the mayor said.

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Family Vows to Fight for Arizona Mom Deported Under Trump’s Order

iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) — The family of a woman deported as a result of one of President Donald Trump’s executive orders has vowed to keep fighting for her case.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was detained at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix, Arizona, Wednesday night reportedly after presenting herself for a previously scheduled check-in appointment. ICE officers “removed Ms. Garcia to Mexico” Thursday morning in coordination with Mexican officials, according to a statement from the agency.

Garcia de Rayos’ two teenage children, whose names were not released publicly, spoke Thursday afternoon at a press conference outside of the ICE office.

“No one, no one should ever go through the pain of having their mom taken away from them or the pain of packing her suitcase. No one should go through their mother’s clothes, seeing, ‘Oh is she going to need this? Oh is she going to need that?’ Nobody should be packing their mother’s suitcase,” Garcia de Rayos’ daughter said Thursday before breaking down in tears.

“She belongs with us,” Garcia de Rayos’ son said at the press conference. “And we’re going to keep on fighting, we’re not going to stop.”

Undocumented immigrants who were a lower priority for deportation during the Obama administration may now be some of the first to be deported as a result of one of President Trump’s executive orders. Garcia de Rayos is the most publicized case to date.

The priority system used by ICE during the Obama administration was put in place because, according to Nina Rabin, a clinical professor of law at the University of Arizona, they wanted to prioritize more violent undocumented immigrants for deportation instead of those who were not deemed as serious of offenders.

Rabin told ABC News that such check-ins were “very common” for certain undocumented immigrants during the previous administration, including Garcia, who has a previous conviction for a non-violent offense.

“Partly because of the priorities under the Obama administration, ICE would administratively close a large number of cases and some of those involved continual check-in requirements,” Rabin said.
Rabin said that there were a “variety of reasons” why ICE officials may not have prioritized certain cases for deportation during the Obama administration, most notably if they thought there “wasn’t evidence of any serious threat” posed by the individual in question.

“Many times it’s longtime residents who have U.S. citizen children or it could be that it was a very old conviction from a long time ago and since then they’ve shown rehabilitation or positive contributors to their community, and so for any of those reasons ICE was deciding not to use their resources on deporting people that qualified and instead focusing their resources on people who are serious criminal threats,” Rabin said.

According to the Arizona Republic, Garcia de Rayos was convicted in 2009 for impersonation. She was charged with a felony, but her lawyers told ABC15-TV that raid was subsequently ruled unconstitutional. Court documents obtained by ABC15-TV also show that Garcia had previously been ordered to self-deport.

“Ms. Garcia, who has a prior felony conviction in Arizona for criminal impersonation, was the subject of a court-issued removal order that became final in July 2013. Ms. Garcia’s immigration case underwent review at multiple levels of the immigration court system, including the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the judges held she did not have a legal basis to remain in the U.S. ICE will continue to focus on identifying and removing individuals with felony convictions who have final orders of removal issued by the nation’s immigration courts,” ICE said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

The new executive order in question, called “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” was issued on Jan. 25.

“Many aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas present a significant threat to national security and public safety. This is particularly so for aliens who engage in criminal conduct in the United States,” the executive order states.

“We cannot faithfully execute the immigration laws of the United States if we exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement. The purpose of this order is to direct executive departments and agencies (agencies) to employ all lawful means to enforce the immigration laws of the United States,” it reads.

Rabin said that the executive order makes it seem like President Trump and his administration “wants to go after everyone with equal fervor.”

“I think it’s very clear that the intent behind the executive order is for this to result in the deportation of many people like her,” Rabin said of Garcia de Rayos.

Puente Arizona, an activist group that describes itself as a migrant justice organization, organized a demonstration in front of the ICE office in Phoenix Wednesday night, and a group spokesman confirmed to ABC News that they also had people demonstrating Thursday. Phoenix Police Sgt. John Howard confirmed that seven people were arrested and charged with obstructing governmental operations and obstructing a public thoroughfare.

At Thursday’s White House press briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer said Garcia de Rayos’ case is “an ICE matter.”

“The issue is developing in Arizona right now and I would refer you back to ICE,” he said.

ABC News has reached out to Garcia de Rayos’ attorney and the Arizona branch of the ACLU for comment, but did not immediately receive responses.

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Woman Turns Friend’s Wedding Gown Into Baby’s Baptism Outfit

Emily Walsh(JUPITER, Fla.) — One baby boy got the ultimate “something borrowed.”

Little Bennett Sexton’s baptism outfit was made from his mom’s wedding gown.

(To see more pictures of the gown – before and after the transformation – click here.)

“My husband and I got married on Nov. 27, 2010. It was our sacrament of marriage so I wanted a way to incorporate it with our first child on his special day,” Shayna Sexton, of Jupiter, Florida, told ABC News.
“It’s his baptism welcoming him into God’s family and this was his sacrament, so I wanted a way to tie it all together. I couldn’t think of a better way to use it in the future.”

Sexton’s friend, Emily Walsh, an amateur seamstress with surprising talent, spent a month turning the dress into the precious outfit. She said one of her biggest concerns was making sure she didn’t run out of the bridal fabric.

“I didn’t want to have to get something that was a different color,” she explained. “I had to measure everything perfectly because I couldn’t get any more, obviously. If I messed up, she’d lose her wedding dress and there’d be no baptism outfit. The hardest part was taking it apart very gingerly and then cutting it just perfectly. I have just a few inches of the fabric left.”

Fortunately, the repurposed outfit turned out perfectly. The beautiful lace embellishments on the wedding gown’s train was incorporated into the tiny baptism vest.

The bonnet also incorporated special features from the gown.

“Our baby is so special to us,” Sexton said of her and her husband. “And obviously our wedding was so special, and he’s a new member of our family and it was a way to have him as an extension of our family and God’s family. It’s really hard for me to put into words. It fills my heart with such happiness to have him here with us. His birth was a humongous day for us, and his baptism was a humongous celebration for us, and so was our wedding, and it was like bringing our wedding back full circle for our baby.”
She absolutely plans to use the baptism outfit for their future children, too.

“Emily is so ridiculously talented and I am blessed to have her as a friend,” said the proud mother. “Having her make my dress into my son’s baptism outfit was so special because my dress was a representation of the love my husband and I share and a reminder of our wedding day six years ago. It was amazing to have my son’s baptismal gown made from my dress because he is a reflection of our love for each other and for him.”

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Boy, 7, Saves $10K for College After Starting Recycling Business

Damion Hickman(ORANGE COUNTY, Calif.) — A 7-year-old California boy has already saved more than $10,000 for college after starting a recycling business at the age of 3.

Ryan Hickman, of Orange County, California, became passionate about recycling four years ago after accompanying his dad on an everyday errand to a local recycling center.

“It was a Saturday and my wife was getting something done at the house, so I took him with me,” Damion Hickman told ABC News. “It was more of just a task that I had to get done that I brought him with me to do.”

He continued, “He loved it so much and then shortly thereafter they were talking about environmental concerns at preschool and he latched on to it.”

Ryan informed his dad not long after their first recycling trip that he had started a business. While Hickman was at work, Ryan and his mom, Andrea Hickman, went to homes in their neighborhood distributing plastic bags to neighbors to collect their plastic and glass bottles and cans.

Now at the age of 7, Ryan oversees an operation that spans close to five neighborhoods, a golf course and multiple local businesses. The locals drop their recyclables off at the Hickmans’ home or Ryan and his parents pick them up.

The Hickmans, led by Ryan, then drop the recyclables off at the local recycling center and Ryan saves the money he collects from the plastic bottles.

“I’m his driver and I have to lift the heavy stuff but, to be honest, the focus is him,” Hickman said of his son. “If he decided tomorrow, ‘I’m done with this,’ it’d be over.”

He added, “That’s what’s been so amazing to us is just his focus on this.”

Ryan, a second-grader, told local ABC station KABC-TV that he has recycled 200,000 cans and bottles to date and gave credit to his family for their help, and speed.

“If it’s me, my dad and my mom and my grandma doing it at the same time, one bag will be gone like in, let’s say, two minutes,” Ryan told the station.

Ryan’s efforts were recognized Tuesday by members of the San Juan Capistrano, California, city council, who presented Ryan with a conservation award.

On his website, Ryan has now also started selling T-shirts designed by Hickman, a graphic designer. All proceeds from sales of the T-shirts are donated to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, according to Hickman.

Though Ryan loves animals, his career goal, for now, is to become a trash collector.
“If we have to go somewhere and it is trash day it’s a struggle,” said Hickman. “He wants to be around to see the trash pickup.”

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Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Files First Legal Challenge over Dakota Access Pipeline Easement

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A Native American tribe has filed the first legal challenge to block the nearly finished Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota, just hours after the federal government gave the green light for construction to proceed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday granted an easement to the developer of the four-state crude oil project, allowing it to install the final section of the 1,172-mile pipeline. Part of this 1.25-mile section will run under Lake Oahe just upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.

“The safety of those located on Corps-managed land remains our top priority, in addition to preventing contaminants from entering the waterway,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District Commander Col. John Henderson in a statement. “We appreciate the proactive efforts of the tribes to help clean the protest site ahead of potential flooding along the river, typical during the runoff season.”

While the Army Corps says this area is federally owned land, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe cites an 1851 treaty that it says designates the land to Native American tribes. The tribe, which also claims its members were never meaningfully consulted before construction began, sued in July to block the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. That lawsuit is still pending, and the Army Corps, as well as the company behind the pipeline, have argued in court papers that they followed a standard review process.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which has joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit against the pipeline, filed a motion at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Thursday morning seeking a temporary restraining order “to halt construction and drilling” under and on either side of the land surrounding Lake Oahe. The tribe argues that the Dakota Access Pipeline “will desecrate the waters upon which Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members rely for their most important religious practices and therefore substantially burden the free exercise of their religion,” according to court documents obtained by ABC News.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which is a member of the Great Sioux Nation, is requesting that the judge immediately issue a temporary restraining order to stop construction, with a hearing to be held at the court’s earliest convenience.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed a separate motion seeking a preliminary injunction directing the Army Corps to withdraw the easement issued to the pipeline company Wednesday. The tribe alleges that the easement granted is “entirely unlawful” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to the court documents.

“The government has granted the easement and Dakota Access has begun to drill. This Court cannot wait until the harm begins to issue equitable relief. When the free exercise of religion is at stake, a threat certain to that right is enough to constitute irreparable harm,” the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe states in the court documents. “And in view of the threat to the Tribe’s and its members’ constitutional right, this Court may not wait until the oil is slithering under the Tribe’s sacred waters. The law entitles the Tribe to relief as soon as the government acts to threaten their rights.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is expected to file its own legal challenge to the easement by the end of the week.

The granting of the easement follows Tuesday’s decision by Robert Speer, acting secretary of the Army, to terminate the notice of intent to perform an Environmental Impact Statement and to notify Congress of the Army’s intent to grant permission for the Oahe crossing. Speer said the decision was made based on a sufficient amount of available information.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a statement Tuesday it will “challenge any easement decision” on the ground that the Environmental Impact Statement was “wrongfully terminated.” The tribe said it will also “demand a fair, accurate and lawful Environmental Impact Statement to identify true risks to its treaty rights, including its water supply and sacred places.”

If the Dakota Access Pipeline is successfully completed and begins operating, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said it will “seek to shut the pipeline operations down.”

After receiving the easement to build the pipeline across land on both sides of the reservoir, the Texas-based developer, Energy Transfer Partners, announced it would resume construction immediately. The Dakota Access Pipeline, which would connect oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois, is expected to be in service in the second quarter of 2017.

“We plan to begin drilling immediately,” a company spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Wednesday night. “The drill under Lake Oahe will take approximately 60 days. It will take an additional 23 days to fill the line to Patoka, Illinois; enabling Dakota Access to be in service in approximately 83 days.”

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been at the forefront of massive and prolonged protests that have stalled work on the pipeline for months. The demonstrations have drawn thousands of Native Americans, environmental activists and their allies to the Standing Rock reservation. The protesters, who call themselves “water protectors,” argue that the pipeline will threaten the reservation’s water supply and traverse culturally sacred sites.

Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, has said that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on local water supply are unfounded” and “multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route.”

In the final days of President Barack Obama’s administration, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy announced on Dec. 4 that an easement would not be granted for the pipeline to cross under the large reservoir on the Missouri River.

Darcy said at the time of the decision that the Army Corps “shall engage” in additional review and analysis to include a “robust consideration and discussion of alternative locations for the pipeline crossing the Missouri River.”

All these steps, Darcy determined, would best be accomplished by the Army Corps preparing a full Environmental Impact Statement allowing for public input, a process that could take years. Darcy is no longer in the position after the change in administrations.

The move to deny the easement was hailed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other pipeline opponents as a major victory. But on his second weekday in office, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum aimed at advancing the Dakota Access Pipeline, along with another one directed at the Keystone XL Pipeline.

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Blizzard Buries Northeast as Cities Shutter Schools, Airports Cancel Flights

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Snow is piling up in cities across the Northeast Thursday in what could be the biggest blizzard of the season, affecting about 50 million people.

The weather system developed in the Midwest before moving east across the country, bringing a light blanket of snow from Iowa to Ohio Wednesday. The system swept into the Northeast Thursday morning and quickly intensified as it hit the East Coast, according to ABC News meteorologists who are tracking the storm.

“This is what we call a nor’easter in meteorology,” ABC News senior meteorologist Max Golembo said. “That’s when winds primarily come out of the Northeast for the duration of the storm.”

Snow Accumulations

As of Thursday morning, the National Weather Service had issued blizzard warnings for Long Island, New York, and eastern Massachusetts, as well as winter storm warnings for Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and Portland, Maine.

Heavy snow started coming down in the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) Thursday morning with a snowfall rate of about 2 to 4 inches per hour, which could create whiteout conditions, according to ABC News meteorologists.

“We’re in the core of this now,” ABC News meteorologist Rob Marciano said while reporting from New York City for Good Morning America.

As of 7 a.m. ET, almost 2 inches were recorded at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport, while 2 inches had fallen in New Canaan and Bridgeport, Connecticut, according to the National Weather Service.

As of 8 a.m. ET, almost 8 inches of snow had fallen in Albany, New York, and about 3 inches of snow had collected in New York City’s Central Park, according to ABC News meteorologists.

As of 9 a.m. ET, 5 inches of snow had accumulated in Haskell, New Jersey, about 6.4 inches had fallen in Bronx, New York, and 6.4 inches had collected in Danbury and Newtown, Connecticut, according to the National Weather Service.

The snowfall is expected to end in New York City by 3 p.m. ET and between 9 and 10 p.m. ET in Boston and eastern New England, according to ABC News meteorologists.

ABC News meteorologists say Philadelphia could get up to 6 inches of snow, New York City could see up to a foot and Boston could have up to 15 inches of snow by the end of the day.

Temperatures

Thursday’s blizzard conditions are in stark contrast to Wednesday’s balmy weather, when some northeastern cities, like Philadelphia and New York City, enjoyed record-high temperatures in the low to mid-60s.

The snowstorm will be followed by freezing temperatures Thursday, according to ABC News meteorologists. Wind chills, or “feels like” temperatures, will bottom out for numerous cities in the Northeast and Midwest.

“Wind chills tomorrow morning will be near zero for many in the Northeast and the Midwest,” Golembo said.

Travel

The heavy snowfall is creating hazardous travel and whiteout conditions for many cities in the Northeast.

The National Weather Service advised against travel in New York City and the surrounding tri-state area Thursday morning because of the snowstorm. The federal agency urged people to have an “emergency kit” on hand if travel becomes absolutely necessary.

“Travel is NOT recommended tomorrow morning due to heavy snow. If you absolutely must venture out, have an emergency kit in your car,” the National Weather Service in New York City tweeted Wednesday.

ABC News’ Linzie Janis, reporting from the New Jersey Turnpike Thursday morning, said the roads were snow-covered and the travel conditions were “pretty treacherous.”

“These roads may only get worse. Of course, those extra-cold temperatures are on the way and it could all turn to ice,” Janis said on Good Morning America. “We’ve seen several accidents already.”

Thousands of flights were canceled out of airports in the Northeast region as the storm approached. As of Thursday morning, over 3,000 flights were canceled within, into or out of the United States Thursday.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said up to 1,800 flights have been canceled so far at Newark Liberty International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport.

“There is very minimal air traffic at this time primarily because there are so many cancellations,” Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman told ABC New York City station WABC-TV Thursday morning.

Area airports should be able to resume full operations by Friday morning, he said.

Meanwhile, Boston Logan International Airport had canceled 341 flights and Philadelphia International Airport had canceled 107 as of Thursday morning, according to officials.

School Closures

Many schools and administrative offices throughout Philadelphia, New York City and Boston were closed because of the storm Thursday.

Some government buildings, including the United Nations headquarters in New York City’s Manhattan, were also shuttered because of the inclement weather.

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