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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- For weeks at a time, various portions of the Washington Metro system will be shut down for maintenance, general manager Paul Wiedefeld is expected to announce Friday, according to a Metro official with knowledge of the plan.

It’s an unprecedented move that could cripple transit for commuters in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. On average, the system sees more than 700,000 boardings each weekday.

Wiedefeld’s comprehensive track work plan will include “safety surges” that include both long-duration track outages and long-duration continuous single tracking, which could last for several weeks at a time, and would remain in place even during rush hour, the official said.

The program will likely last almost a year, with crews alternating between various segments on five lines. Metro will work around major events, like July 4, the presidential inauguration and the cherry blossom festival.

The surges will focus on heavy-duty track work, like replacing wooden rail ties. “There just aren’t enough hours in the day” to complete the necessary repairs within Metro’s normal schedule, the official told ABC News.

As he acknowledged, though officials will deploy “dozens and dozens” of shuttle buses, Metro won’t be able to replace train capacity with buses. A single train can carry about 800 people, while a bus can carry about 50, meaning you’d need 16 buses every three minutes to match train capacity during rush hour.

“You can’t put 10 pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound bag,” the official said.

Instead, Metro officials are encouraging commuters to carpool, bike, walk, work from home or drive to a different metro line. They’re also working with local jurisdictions, which they hope will consider adjusting traffic-light timing and modify high-occupancy vehicle lane rules. And the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may also be able to make adjustments for federal workers.

“We’re going to have a lot of cranky people for a long time,” the official said.

This announcement comes less than two months after Wiedefeld shut down the entire system for 29 hours for emergency safety inspections.

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KTRK-TV(HOUSTON) -- A four-alarm fire Thursday at a warehouse complex in the Texas city of Spring Branch, located in the northwest Houston area, sent roaring flames and long plumes of black smoke into the sky, as canisters of hazardous materials exploded loudly throughout the morning.

More than 150 firefighters were deployed to put out the blaze, according to ABC's Houston affiliate KTRK-TV.

A resident of the area told KTRK that the explosions shook the foundation of her home.

The warehouse complex is situated near several schools. No students are believed to be in danger at this time.

It is unknown whether anyone has been injured or killed in the blaze.

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Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The oldest verified World War II veteran in the U.S. passed away Tuesday at the age of 110.

Frank Levingston enlisted in the U.S. Army on Oct. 6, 1942, according to the National Archives, less than one year after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor propelled the U.S. into World War II. Levingston has seen 19 presidents hold office during his lifetime.

"He felt the obligation to give to the country whatever he possibly could, and he was very excited about it," Jee Levingston, Frank's nephew, told ABC News Thursday. "He gave it his very best."

Levingston told ABC News that his uncle was born on Nov. 13, 1905, in Cotton Valley, Louisiana, and that both of Frank's parents died when Frank was very young.

"He was the backbone of this family," Levingston said. "He never married, had no children, but he took great pride in taking care of his sister's and brother's children. He was an individual who was able to mingle with people of all levels, from the uneducated to those with the highest of level of education."

Levingston received a letter from the White House thanking him for his service on his 110th birthday. Last year he visited Washington, D.C., for the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and laid a wreath at the National World War II Memorial.

Levingston said the funeral will be held next Tuesday at the Wesley Grove CME Church in his hometown of Cotton Valley, Louisiana.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BARNEGAT, N.J.) -- Police are still searching for a man convicted of manslaughter who escaped a New Jersey state correctional facility earlier this week.

Arthur Buckel, 38, had escaped from the Bayside State Prison on Tuesday, just weeks before being eligible for parole.

On Wednesday, authorities posted surveillance images of Buckel at a local CVS Pharmacy in Barnegat -- located about 50 miles south of the capital of Trenton -- where police located the stolen vehicle he was allegedly driving.

An image of Buckel was also released by police showing what he might look like with a shaved face.

Buckel was serving a two year sentence for assault and burglary, but records indicate Buckel previously served 14 years for manslaughter. He was paroled in 2010, and went back to prison on assault and burglary charges in 2015.

Residents in Barnegat were told to say indoors Wednesday while schools were placed on lockdown. Police said they will open Thursday, with increased police presence at every school.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A small plane that crashed in Alaska last month struck a bald eagle before bursting into flames, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Cessna 172 was conducting aerial surveying just west of the Birchwood Airport on the morning of April 20 when the plane went down into an area of dense woods, killing all four on board, according to a preliminary report published by the NTSB.

The pilot of the aircraft was a former NTSB investigator, according to the agency’s lead investigator on the crash, Shaun Williams.

“Remains of a bald eagle was found on the tail of the aircraft,” Williams told ABC News. “Remains were sent to the Feather Identification Lab at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.”

He said at this point they don’t know if the bird entered the cabin of the aircraft.

Williams said there have been other accidents caused by bald eagle strikes, but according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this would be the first fatal crash of its kind.

Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control data shows the plane making several sharp turns in the area of the airport before the data indicated its last altitude at just under 1,000 feet.

“We’re still going back and try to review past flights to see how this flight path compared to previous flights,” Williams told ABC News.

Investigators from the NTSB and FAA on scene later that morning discovered a fuselage mostly incinerated by a post-crash fire.

Williams said the investigation is still in its infancy.

A probable cause of the crash has not yet been determined.

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tupungato/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Times Higher Education's World Reputation Rankings has released 2016's list of the world's top 100 universities, and while U.S. mainstays like Harvard and MIT top the top 10 list, Asia's institutions of higher education are climbing the charts.

The rankings are entirely subjective, Times Higher Education points out, but they are based on annual opinion survey taken by some 10 thousand academics from all over the world.

The University of Tokyo maintained its 12th place ranking, though China's Tsinghua University jumped eight places to place 18 on the list, and Peking University leaped 11 places, to reach 21st place.

The full list can be found here.

World's Most Prestigious Universities - 2016

  1. Harvard University
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. Stanford University
  4. University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  5. University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  6. University of California, Berkeley
  7. Princeton University
  8. Yale University
  9. Columbia University
10. California Institute of Technology

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ABC News(KIRTLAND, Ohio) -- After weeks of searching for a stray dog's owner, members of an Ohio police department decided to adopt the pup themselves.

On March 31, the Kirtland, Ohio, police department posted a photo of a stray dog to its Facebook page. "Missing your dog?" the post read.

But no one came forward. Fast forward several weeks, and John Doe, as the dog came to be known, was still without a home. The officers and police personnel wanted "JD" to go to a good home, so they decided to give him one themselves.

With the permission of the mayor and the police chief, the department adopted "JD." He'll spend time with the officers, of course, but the pup will also work alongside the others who serve the people of Kirtland.

"The folks here at the Police Department wanted a good home for JD (this is now his name) so with the permission of the Chief and the Mayor JD has been adopted by the Kirtland Police Association but they also share the warmth this stoic animal has brought with City Hall and the Fire Department," reads a post on the Kirtland PD Facebook page.

"JD has fit into the environment as though he were here always. We are happy to have him in our department and our lives," the post continues. "He loves everyone and we love him."

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ABC News(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) -- A North Carolina man is now fighting for his life after he was bitten by a king cobra snake he apparently kept as a pet, according to officials.

After he sustained the snake bite on Monday evening, Ali Iyoob tried to drive to a hospital for help. But he didn't make it very far, according to the 911 call he made, obtained by ABC News.

"My vision’s kinda blurry," Iyoob said on the call. "I’m sweating like crazy. I’m like panicking. I feel nauseous."

Iyoob then apparently pulled over on a highway, where paramedics found him nearly unconscious, officials for Orange County Emergency Services told ABC station WTVD-TV in Raleigh-Durham. He was rushed to University of North Carolina (UNC) Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition, officials added.

Iyoob remains in critical condition this afternoon, UNC Health Care spokesman Tom Hughes told ABC News.

King cobras are the world's longest venomous snakes and can grow up to 18 feet, according to National Geographic. They can deliver enough venom in a bite to kill 20 people or an elephant.

Officers with Orange County Animal Services are currently working in coordination with several other agencies to remove the king cobra and around 20 other snakes Iyoob apparently was keeping as his house, communications specialist with the agency, Andi Morgan, told ABC News. She said further information would be made available at a later time.

In a statement released Tuesday, the agency said that its staff was "working closely" with other agencies to to determine if any state statues were violated.

"If a violation is confirmed, Animal Services will coordinate with those organizations to identify, seize, and care for the reptiles," the statement said. "If no state violation is present, Animal Services will work internally to devise the best plan for the removal of the snakes. County ordinance does not permit the keeping of venomous or constricting snakes inside Orange County."

Animal Services officials added it had "no reason to believe there is a reason for public safety concerns."

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Sam Greenwood/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a new plan Wednesday that would allow energy companies to operate with permits lasting up to 30 years, while also raising the number of bald eagles they can kill or injure per year without incurring hefty penalties to 4,200, which is nearly four times the current limit.

A source within the Obama administration said this is the best plan put forward to actually help conservation efforts, maintaining this new proposal is a “strong protection” for bald and golden eagles.

Currently, wind power companies can hold permits for five years at a time, which, according to the source, doesn’t give companies good financial footing. By extending the permit to 30 years, it can encourage the development of wind energy, a key source of renewable power that has increased exponentially in recent years. The 30-year permits would still have to be reviewed every five years, and companies would have to submit reports of how many eagles they kill or injure.

The proposal will grant access to critical data about eagles, the source said. It will also allow the administration to work with companies in where the companies place their machines -- hopefully to help avoid possible eagle populations.

“The permitting system gives us access to eagles and eagle mortalities that we wouldn’t otherwise have,” the source said. “It’s a great mechanism for us to work proactively to prevent eagle deaths.”

Under the new proposal, companies would pay a $36,000 fee for a permit, which exempts them from the hefty penalties for killing or injuring eagles. Companies would have to commit to take additional measures if they kill or injure more eagles than estimated, or if new information suggests eagle populations are being affected.

Wednesday's announcement kicks off a 60-day comment period. The source said the administration will consider public comments and issue a final rule by the end of the year.

The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are about 143,000 bald eagles and 40,000 golden eagles in the United States.

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ABC News(KETCHIKAN, Alaska) -- Up close and personal with a humpback whale.

Dramatic footage captured at an Alaskan fishing ground shows the majestic mammal emerging from the water in all its glory, much to the delight, or perhaps fright, of onlookers.

Whale sightings are not uncommon in Alaska, where whale-watching tours are easy to find. But seeing one at a dock was the real shocker.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game points out that humpbacks returning from their winter migrations -- as many as 500 at a time -- tend to converge along the state's southeastern coast where food is in vast supply.

The Knudson Cove Marina in the coastal city of Ketchikan, where the whale was spotted, is reportedly home to large schools of herring. As the herring move closer to the docks to hide from their prey, the hungry humpbacks, in hot pursuit, follow.

"Feeding occurs almost exclusively during the summer months," the department adds, explaining that the animal rarely feeds while migrating to tropical waters during the winter season.

"Each humpback whale eats up to 1.5 tons of food per day that consists mainly of euphausiids (krill), and various small schooling fishes."

Over its lifespan of 40 to 50 years, the department estimates, the endangered species may grow up to 49 feet and weigh as much as 35 tons.

 

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Peter Dazeley/Getty Images(DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ga.) -- A Georgia familysays that the movers they hired to ship their possessions on Friday disappeared, taking with them nearly everything they own.

“We built a life here, memories. We have items that are irreplaceable on that truck,” the homeowner, who wishes to remain anonymous, told ABC News affiliate WSB-TV.

Lieutenant Glenn Daniel of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to ABC News that they are investigating the incident as a theft, and said that Atlanta police recovered the U-Haul in a Southwest Atlanta neighborhood a few hours after it was reported missing, only to find a barren truck.

“They showed up and loaded the furnishings onto the truck and told the victims they’d meet them at their new residence,” Daniel told ABC News. “But then they never showed up.”

The victims say that their missing belongings are valued at approximately $75,000. The only items to have been recovered so far are “personal items,” which were found in a box.

“If I don’t get anything back, I want that box, because it has all of our social security, birth certificates in it. It has death records from my mom and son,” the homeowner said. “Of course, I had iPads and phones that were gone, but all the birth certificates, and all the records that I really needed were in that box, including my Bible, thank God.”

The family hired the moving company through Craigslist, according to Daniel. Craigslist did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association, told ABC News, “It’s important to not to believe everything you see on the Internet." He advised that movers do research before hiring a company, "especially since you’re hiring someone to take all your worldly possessions across town or cross country."

"You should get at least three, free written estimates," he said. "Avoid any that are too high or too low. Show the movers everything that needs to be moved, from the attic to the basement, and including any sheds, garages and storage areas. Stay away from any companies that require a large deposit or payment up front. Choose a mover with a physical location near you, and consider visiting their facility. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something."

He added: "A reputable mover will want to make sure you get all the answers you need. Read all documents carefully, make sure you get a copy of everything you sign, and never sign any blank forms. Keep all personal papers, including birth certificates, with you, as well as your phone."


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iStock/Thinkstock(KATY, Texas) — Texas law enforcement officials say an active shooter situation at a trucking company outside of Houston is now under control.

Police responded Wednesday morning to a call at Knight Transportation in Katy, Texas, where a former employee reportedly took his own life and wounded two others. Officials say the gunman had been fired two weeks prior to Wednesday's incident, despite the sheriff's statement that he was fired Wednesday morning.

“It appears it may have been a disgruntled employee that was terminated earlier today,” Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said Wednesday morning. “Preliminary reports are that we have one employee who was shot and one who is wounded. The shooter, I believe has taken his own life.”

Police later said two other employees were injured from shrapnel or debris as a result of the shooting.

Police have not released the names of the gunman or the victims.


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iStock/Thinkstock(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- Two North American river otter pups at the Buffalo Zoo in New York have been named Luke and Leia to celebrate "Star Wars Day," the zoo announced Wednesday.

On "behalf of the otter pups, the Zoo would like to say, 'May the 4th be with you,'" the zoo told ABC News in a news release.

Luke and Leia were born earlier this year on Feb. 28, the zoo said. Their mother is an 11-year-old river otter named Ellie, and their father is a 9-year-old river otter named Rascal, the zoo added.

"Since their birth two months ago, Ellie has once again demonstrated attentive maternal care, including teaching them to swim in an inside pool adjacent to their den," the zoo said. "Based on positive observations, Zoo staff is pleased to report that the public may get a glimpse of the pups in Otter Creek between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. daily, weather-dependent."

According to the zoo, conservation efforts in the 1990s "have brought the North American river otter population to a stable status in the wild, after being on the verge of extinction."

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Design Pics/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) — This week, women are turning their girls' nights out into chances to help families in need by building them homes.

Good Morning America correspondent Abbie Boudreau recently joined more than 100 women in San Diego to kick off a 10-city “Girls' Night Out” tour in which women grabbed hammers and tools to build homes for those in need.

The tour is part of National Women Build Week, a partnership between Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s, a GMA sponsor.

"It's a special night because you have women who are empowered to build,” said Lori Pfeiler, the president of San Diego Habitat for Humanity.

The San Diego “Girls' Night Out” event saw the women start a frame for a two-story home for a local veteran and learn construction lessons like what size hammer to use and how to get the perfect cut when sawing.

For Brittney Anthony, a single mom of four boys, living in a cramped three-bedroom apartment in Indianapolis led her to dream of owning her own home with more space.

Anthony is now watching her dream turn into a reality thanks to Habitat for Humanity, which is building Anthony a five-bedroom home with a yard for her boys to play in.

“I'm just filled with so much joy,” said Anthony, one of 1,000 families that will receive a Habitat for Humanity home this year.

Anthony’s home began to take shape with the help of 60 volunteers giving four hours of their time.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Anthony said of the effort. “It just means the world to me and my boys and to support this dream of mine."

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(FLINT, Mich.) — The 8-year-old girl who received a letter from President Obama after writing to him about Flint, Michigan, will get a chance to meet the commander-in-chief Wednesday.

"Little Miss Flint" Mari Copeny wrote to the president before she traveled 12 hours by bus with a group of more than 200 Flint residents to a congressional hearing on the Flint water crisis. In the letter, Mari described herself as "one of the children [affected]" by Flint's lead-filled water and stressed that meeting him or the first lady "would really lift people's spirits."

The letter inspired the president to send Flint's mini-ambassador a letter of his own.

"You're right that Presidents are often busy, but the truth is, in America, there is no more important title than citizen," Obama wrote.

Before the trip to Washington, D.C., Mari was keen on meeting the president to tell him everything she's been doing to raise awareness for Flint, her mother, Lulu Brezzell, told ABC News.

Obama wrote in his letter to Mari that he wanted her to be the "first to know" about his upcoming trip to Flint. "Like you, I'll use my voice to call for change and help lift up your community," the president wrote.

The meeting will take place Wednesday afternoon at Northwestern High School, where Obama will deliver remarks to a crowd of about 1,000 people, the White House told ABC News.

"In the end, it was my 8-year-old who convinced him that maybe it was time to come," Brezzell said, describing her daughter as a "force of nature" who "loves to use her voice"

Mari told ABC News that meeting the president will be better than her birthday and Christmas and is the "most exciting thing to happen" to her.

"People need him to give us hope," she said of Obama, adding that the first thing she'll do is "give him a big hug."

Mari received the title "Little Miss Flint" last spring after winning a local pageant, Brezzell said. Although her reign is almost over, another pageant system has offered to let her keep the title for another year because of all the awareness she's raised with it, Brezzell added.

The pageant winner says her dream is to become "Miss America" and then become a police officer after that. She's been active in the efforts to help Flint, her mother said, participating in rallies and protests to raise awareness.

In addition, Mari said education is an important issue to her. She enjoys cheerleading, gymnastics, tap dancing, singing and playing the violin, she said, and plans to "keep on helping" her fellow Flint residents.

"Cause I'm a kid that cares," Mari said. "We do not drink [the water] 'cause it's poison."

Brezzell said her family is not able to cook or bathe with the water that comes out of their faucet, saying they get rashes similar to chemical burns when it touches their skin. The mother of three called Flint's water crisis "heartbreaking" and "avoidable."

Mari's final message: "Don't forget Flint."

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has called on Obama to drink the water in Flint during his visit.

“We are hopeful the president will drink the water in Flint, to help reinforce Gov. Snyder’s actions and the EPA’s message that filtered Flint water is safe to drink,” Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said in a statement to ABC.

Despite the Environmental Protection Agency's assessment that filtered water is safe to drink, Flint residents continue to drink only bottled water, Heaton said. Last month, Snyder vowed to drink Flint's water for at least 30 days.

In January, Obama addressed the water crisis in a visit to Detroit, saying he would be "beside" himself if his kids' health could be at risk. He declared a national emergency in Flint, directing funds to assist in relief efforts, following a request from Gov. Snyder.

It is unclear if the governor will meet will meet with the president during his visit. Snyder is not currently scheduled to be in Flint, according to his office.


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