West Virginia floods: At least 20 dead in 'once-in-1,000-year' event

Major destruction was reported across the state, including the sight of a burning house floating down a creek in southern West Virginia.
By Ed Adamczyk and Doug G. Ware   |   Updated June 24, 2016 at 7:29 PM
Video: West Virginia Public Broadcasting/YouTube

RAVENSWOOD, W.Va., June 24 (UPI) -- The death toll from massive flooding in West Virginia continued to rise Friday.

Officials said Friday evening that at least 20 people were confirmed dead after torrential rains fell on the state and triggered widespread flash flooding.

Among the victims, officials said are a 4-year-old and 8-year-old boy.

The body of the 4-year-old, Edward McMillion, was found earlier Friday hours after he went missing near Ravenswood, a small town on the banks of the Ohio River.

The search for Edward, which involved state and local police and emergency crews from nearby communities, was suspended late Thursday due to severe lightning and hail but resumed early Friday.

The 8-year-old boy was killed in Ohio County, officials said.

Between 8 and 10 inches of rain fell in just a few hours. A forecaster with the National Weather Service said such substantial rainfall in that short a period is a "one-in-a-thousand-year event."

The flooding is the third-deadliest in West Virginia's history -- following similar events in 1972 and 1985.

"I am saddened to report that, at this point, we have confirmed 14 individuals who have lost their lives in the storm," West Virginia Gov. Earl Tomblin said at a news conference Friday.

"As West Virginians we are all praying for those who have lost loved ones," he added.

Tomblin, who's declared emergencies in 44 of the state's 55 counties, said he planned to survey the flooding from the air Friday but could not because every available aircraft was being used for rescue and relief efforts.

Up to 10 inches of rain fell in some counties, leading to significant flash flooding. Thousands also remain without power across the state, utility officials said.

A dramatic scene played out Friday in the southern part of the state when floodwaters pushed a burning house down the Howard Creek.

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Pentagon soon to lift ban on transgender service members, reports say

A Pentagon source said Friday the ban could be lifted as soon as July 1.
By Doug G. Ware   |   June 24, 2016 at 7:24 PM
| License Photo

ARLINGTON, Va., June 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Defense will soon lift its ban on transgender service members, perhaps within weeks, Pentagon officials reportedly said Friday.

The Defense officials, who spoke to the news media on condition of anonymity, said American military leaders will make the move to be in-step with recent actions taken by President Barack Obama's administration.

"Nothing has been set in stone on this," one official said, according to report by The Washington Post Friday.

The sources said the ban will be lifted by the end of July. USA Today reported Friday that the Pentagon will announce the move on July 1.

Such a move would culminate a debate over transgender individuals in the U.S. military that has been going for about a year. Last summer, Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered a panel to research transgender military service.

The decision to lift the ban is not surprising to many, since Carter said last year that the Pentagon will lift the ban unless the review showed it would adversely impact the Defense Department's "military effectiveness and readiness."

"What would be the projected cost of changing the transgender service policy?" Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked in a letter to Carter last July. "To what extent would military barracks, ship berths, gym shower facilities, latrines, and other facilities have to be modified to accommodate personnel in various stages of transition and what would be the projected cost of these modifications?"

Under the Pentagon's current policy, transgender people are considered sexual deviants who are subject to discharge. To make it more difficult to dismiss transgender members, Carter changed department rules to give that authority only to more senior military officials.

Lifting the military ban would become the latest step forward for equality in the LGBT community. In recent months, the federal government has ordered that transgender students be allowed to use whichever bathroom they are more comfortable with.

However, the movements have not been met with universal acclaim. Critics argue that making such accommodations raise privacy concerns.

Topics: Barack Obama
© 2016 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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