AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EST


Blizzard packing mighty winds cripples East Coast; 18 dead

NEW YORK (AP) — A blizzard with hurricane-force winds brought much of the East Coast to a standstill Saturday, dumping as much as 3 feet of snow, stranding tens of thousands of travelers and shutting down the nation’s capital and its largest city.

After days of weather warnings, most of the 80 million people in the storm’s path heeded requests to stay home and off the roads, which were largely deserted. Yet at least 18 deaths were blamed on the weather, resulting from car crashes, shoveling snow and hypothermia. And more snow was to come, with dangerous conditions expected to persist until early Sunday, forecasters warned.

“This is going to be one of those generational events, where your parents talk about how bad it was,” Ryan Maue, a meteorologist for WeatherBell Analytics, said from Tallahassee, Florida, which also saw some flakes.

The system was mammoth, dropping snow from the Gulf Coast to New England. By afternoon, areas near Washington had surpassed 30 inches. The heaviest unofficial report was in a rural area of West Virginia, not far from Harper’s Ferry, with 40 inches.

As the storm picked up, forecasters increased their snow predictions for New York and points north and warned areas nearly as far north as Boston to expect heavy snow.

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Snowstorm socks US East: A look at the effects by state

A massive winter storm buried much of the U.S. East Coast in a foot or more of snow by Saturday, shutting down transit in major cities, stranding drivers on snowbound highways, knocking out power to tens of thousands of people. A look at some of the impacts by state:

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DELAWARE

Firefighters helped about a dozen people evacuate Oak Orchard, a low-lying community in southern Delaware that often floods during storms. Part of Route 1, a costal artery, was closed because of sand and water. Officials reported numerous dune breaches along the coast and significant flooding of low-lying communities around inland bays. More than 5,000 homes and businesses lost electricity. A power failure shuttered the Delaware City Refinery and released pollutants, but environmental officials said no harmful levels of pollutants were detected at the facility’s fence line or downwind from it.

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AP PHOTOS: Images from winter storm slamming the East Coast

Millions of people in the U.S. are enduring a weekend storm hammering the East Coast, where some places will see more than 2 feet of snow by the time it ends. High winds and snow stranded drivers on highways in states including Kentucky and Pennsylvania, canceled thousands of flights and knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers. Mass transit systems closed and officials warned of the potential for ice in the Carolinas and coastal flooding in the mid-Atlantic.

Here is a selection of Associated Press images of the storm:

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Air Force withheld nuclear mishap from Pentagon review team

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the spring of 2014, as a team of experts was examining what ailed the U.S. nuclear force, the Air Force withheld from them the fact that it was simultaneously investigating damage to a nuclear-armed missile in its launch silo caused by three airmen.

The Air Force on Friday gave The Associated Press the first substantive description of the accident after being questioned about it by the AP for more than a year.

The accident happened May 17, 2014, at an underground launch silo containing a Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM. The silo, designated Juliet-07, is situated among wheat fields and wind turbines about 9 miles west of Peetz, Colorado. It is controlled by launch officers of the 320th Missile Squadron and administered by the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren Air Force Base at Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The Air Force said that while three airmen were troubleshooting the missile, a “mishap” occurred, causing $1.8 million in damage to the missile. The service declined to explain the nature of the mishap, such as whether it caused physical damage, saying the information is too sensitive to be made public.

The three airmen were immediately stripped of their certification to perform nuclear weapons duty. The missile was taken offline and removed from its silo. No one was injured and the Air Force said the accident posed no risk to public safety.

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Trump welcomes a senator, bashes Beck’s support of Cruz

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa (AP) — Donald Trump is so confident about the loyalty of his supporters that he predicted Saturday they would stick with him even if he shot someone.

The Republican presidential front-runner bashed conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s support of rival Ted Cruz and welcomed a figure from the GOP establishment, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, in rallies nine days before the Iowa caucuses open voting in the 2016 campaign.

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” Trump told an enthusiastic audience at a Christian school, Dordt College. “It’s like incredible.”

Beck campaigned for Ted Cruz and held little back in going after Trump. “The time for silliness and reality show tactics has passed,” Beck charged at a Cruz rally. He warned that a Trump victory in the Feb. 1 caucuses could have lasting consequences: “If Donald Trump wins, it’s going to be a snowball to hell.”

Trump demonstrated the extent to which some in the Republican establishment have begun to accept a potential Trump nomination when Grassley introduced him at a later event in Pella.

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AP sources: Bloomberg eyeing independent White House bid

NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking early steps toward launching an independent campaign for president, seeing a potential path to the White House amid the rise of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders.

Bloomberg has retained advisers and plans to conduct a poll after the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary to assess the state of the race and judge whether there is an opening for him to mount an independent campaign, according to three people familiar with his thinking. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about his plans, which were first reported Saturday by The New York Times.

Bloomberg has set a March deadline to decide on whether to enter the race, to ensure his access to the ballot in all 50 states.

The billionaire media executive, who served three terms as mayor of New York, is said to be concerned by Trump’s lasting hold on the Republican field and is worried about the impact of Sanders’ campaign on Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic nomination.

Bloomberg’s efforts underscore the unsettled nature of the presidential race a little more than a week before the first round of primary voting. The months-long rise of Sanders and Trump has shaken up the political establishment in both parties and on Wall Street, who’ve struggled to combat their climb in primary polls.

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Inmates rappelled from roof to escape California jail

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Three inmates escaped from a Southern California maximum-security jail by cutting through half-inch steel bars and rappelling from the roof by a makeshift rope, authorities said Saturday as they continued hunting for the men, who include an alleged killer.

“It was very well-thought-out and planned,” Orange County sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Hallock said Saturday at a news conference.

The inmates were last seen at 5 a.m. Friday at the Orange County Central Men’s Jail in Santa Ana, about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles. They could have escaped any time between then and late Friday night.

“The inmates cut through half-inch steel bars to facilitate their escape,” Hallock said.

They also cut through plumbing tunnels and finally made it to an unguarded area of the roof where they were able to rappel to the ground using some kind of makeshift rope, Hallock said.

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Michigan questions some US demands regarding Flint water

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan’s top environmental officer was by turns cooperative and confrontational with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a letter pledging to work with the federal government to ensure the safety of Flint’s drinking water but challenging the legality and scope of some federal demands.

The interim director of the Department of Environmental Quality wrote Friday in a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy that the state “is committed to working” with her department and Flint to deal with the city’s lead-contamination problem. But Keith Creagh said the state has “legal and factual concerns” with an EPA order a day earlier taking state and city officials to task for their efforts so far and requiring them to take specific actions.

Creagh said Michigan “has complied with every recent demand” of the EPA and that Thursday’s federal order “does not reference the tens of millions of dollars expended by … the state for water filters, drinking water, testing and medical services.”

“The order demands that the state take certain actions, but fails to note that many of those actions … have already been taken,” Creagh, who recently replaced an official who resigned over the water crisis, wrote in his required response to the EPA’s order.

Flint’s water became contaminated with lead when the city switched from the Detroit municipal system and began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014 to save the financially struggling city money. The water was not properly treated to keep lead from pipes from leaching into the supply. Some children’s blood has tested positive for lead, a potent neurotoxin linked to learning disabilities, lower IQ and behavioral problems.

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Lead pipes lurk in older neighborhoods across the nation

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Lead pipes like the ones that led to contamination of the tap water in Flint, Michigan, carry water into millions of older homes across the U.S. every day, a legacy of an era before scientists realized the severe long-term health consequences of exposure to the heavy metal.

Replacing these buried pipes would be costly in many cases, so chemicals often are added to prevent the plumbing from corroding and leaching lead and other dangerous metals into the drinking water. That’s a step authorities in Flint failed to take, for reasons that are being investigated.

Some researchers question whether chemical treatment and routine testing for lead in the water are enough, arguing that the only way to remove the threat is to replace the pipes.

Utility operators say what happened in Flint — a largely poor and predominantly black city of about 100,000 people that was once an automobile manufacturing powerhouse — is unlikely to be repeated, pointing to a series of mistakes at every level of government.

The city began drawing drinking water from the Flint River, and state environmental regulators failed to make sure the corrosive water was treated to prevent leaching from old pipes. The result: Flint children have been found with high blood levels of lead that could cause lifelong health problems, and parents and others are furious at public officials.

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Police charge 17-year old in Canada after 4 shot dead

TORONTO (AP) — Police on Saturday charged a 17-year-old boy with four counts of first-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder in a mass shooting at a school and home in a remote aboriginal community in western Canada, officials said.

Police said the male suspect can’t be named under Canada’s Youth Criminal Justice Act. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Supt. Grant St. Germaine said nine people were shot in the school, including a female teacher’s aide who died at the scene and a male teacher who died in a hospital. He said seven people wounded in Friday’s shooting at the school are hospitalized.

Police said two brothers, 17-year-old Dayne Fountaine and 13-year-old Drayden, were shot dead in a home before the gunman headed to the grade 7-12 La Loche Community School. Police responded to a call of shots fired at the school shortly after the lunch hour.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commanding Officer Brenda Butterworth-Carr said when officers arrived at the school they saw the front door had been shot open. They entered the school, spotted the suspect and gave chase before apprehending him. He is due in court next week.

Police said they were not aware of a motive and declined to say what type of gun was used.

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