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Saturday
Dec092017

Chartered bus overturns on freeway, injuring dozens

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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Saturday
Dec092017

Winter storm that slammed into the South now heading north

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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Friday
Dec082017

Manhunt underway for suspect who shot and killed father of 16

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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Friday
Dec082017

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

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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Friday
Dec082017

Police put stray kitten to work as their newest staff member

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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Friday
Dec082017

Meet the CIA's newest 'Puppy Class' graduates

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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Friday
Dec082017

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

ABC News(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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Friday
Dec082017

Anonymous couple pays off $10K of toys on layaway

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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Friday
Dec082017

What's sparking the devastating California wildfires 

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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Friday
Dec082017

Southern California wildfires by the numbers

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: 47
  • 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: 60 percent
  • Structures destroyed: 2


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