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Storms likely across parts of West Virginia this afternoon and evening.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia could see some significant storms Wednesday afternoon. The National Weather Service reported the best chance for severe weather was in the mid-Ohio Valley.

“The counties at the greatest risk are Wood, Jackson, Mason, Putnam, Cabell, and Wayne Counties,” said Simone Lewis, forecaster at the National Weather Service office in Charleston.

Further to the east, there is also a chance for storm activity in Boone, Kanawha, and in Harrison County to the north. However, the chances of storms there are diminished in those areas.

Any storms carry the possibility of severe rainfall and possible flooding, but Lewis added the probability of floods is minimal.

“We have a strong moisture feed from the Gulf of Mexico region that’s being pumped into the state, so any storm we have has the potential for a strong downpour, but one thing that will prevent significant flooding is any sort of storms are going to move along nicely. It’s really if any area gets repetitively hit that we’re going to have to keep an eye out for localized flooding issues,” she said.

The chance for shower and storm activity greatly diminishes on Friday and will give way to a pleasant holiday weekend with much hotter weather coming next week.

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West Virginia school counselor offers tips to parents talking to kids about gun violence

MARTISNBURG, W.Va. — A Berkeley County Schools counselor is offering advice on how to talk to your kids following a mass shooting.

This comes in response to the latest massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas where an 18 year old gunman killed 19 children and two adults Tuesday.

Berkeley County Schools Counselor of the Year Michele Ransom said she thought a lot about what students and staff needed Wednesday before heading back to school.

“With all the training you get with working professionally with children, it homes when it’s something like this that is just so tragic,” Ransom said.

Ransom, a counselor at Rosemont Elementary School, was guest on Wednesday’s Panhandle Live, heard weekday mornings on the Panhandle News Network. She said the the school system already looks out for students.

“We’re pretty lucky that we typically have a police officer who normally comes by and checks around the perimeter of the school. That’s been an ongoing thing in Berkeley County Schools,” she said. “We’re still trying to keep the day as normal as possible.”

Ransom said she hadn’t seen any students expressing awareness about the shooting, but she said some may be listening in to parents’ conversation or overhear media reports.

“I’m sure there will be a few who have picked up on something. Some of our third graders are pretty in tune and can pick up on things when somebody is upset or worried about a situation,” she said.

When it comes to making kids feel safe, Ransom said parents need to listen.

“I think parents need to just be there for their kids. You don’t want to get into a lot of details with smaller children, but just reassure them that they are safe, they are being taken care of and that the parent is there for them in whatever way they need,” she said.

Reporter Marsha Kavalek contributed to this story.

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Vandalia Gathering set to return to “full scale” following pandemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After being canceled in 2020 and scaled back in 2021, the Vandalia Gathering is set to return to normal operations this Memorial Day weekend.

Randall Reid-Smith

The event, which marks the 45th annual celebration of West Virginia’s traditional arts, music, dance, stories, crafts and food, runs from Friday to Sunday on the state Capitol grounds in Charleston.

Randall Reid-Smith, curator of the state Department of Arts, Culture and History, said there’s a little something for everyone.

“It’s all of our West Virginia music, crafts and foods. It’s so special that we celebrate who we are, what we are now and what we’re going to continue to be,” he said.

The festival offers a unique blend of ethnic and cultural heritage that Reid-Smith said young people can also learn about.

“I love seeing these young kids learn from the old masters. That’s my favorite thing, to watch people gather under a tree at the Capitol and teach songs to the next generation,” he said.

The event returns to its original, full weekend format following a downsized version last year which included a concert to honor the Vandalia Award winners and those who competed in the state’s popular quilt-making contest.

Reid-Smith said he has a personal connection to the quilt-making competition.

“Quilts tell our stories,” he said. “My grandmothers were quilt makers. My one grandmother did Dutch girl patterns which were always her dresses that she wore to church.”

The quilt winners will be announced Friday when the event kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

“We had the largest number of quilts we’ve ever had. It’s been great,” Reid-Smith said.

Quilts from the event will be on display at the state Culture Center beginning Friday through Sept. 13.

Also on Friday, there will be an opening concert at 7 p.m. featuring Tessa Dillon, Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller, Jenny Allinder, Pete Kosky and the Jimmy Gabehart Band.

Vendors and outside activities will open at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

There will be a Saturday evening concert that starts at 7 p.m. in the State Theater and will feature performances by the Mack Samples Band, Lady D, Dwight Diller, Kanawha Tradition, Gerry Milnes and Chance McCoy.

Sunday’s events begin at 11 a.m. with a one-hour gospel set by Angie Richardson, followed by old-time banjo, lap dulcimer, and flat-pick guitar contests, with half-hour concerts by Buck McCumbers & Company, Andy Fitzgibbon, the Lilly Mountaineers, Roger Bryant, Robin and Dan Kessinger and Sawyer Chapman.

The event is free to the public. A full schedule can be viewed HERE.

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John Marshall advances to the Class AAA championship round with a 10-5 win over Lincoln County

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Highlights from John Marshall’s 10-5 win over Lincoln County in a Class AAA elimination game. The Monarchs (23-9) will face Jefferson (29-5) in the championship round. Play begins at 1 p.m. and the Monarchs must defeat Jefferson twice to win the title.

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Run for the Wall thunders back into West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Several hundred motorcyclists, many being military veterans, came thundering onto state Capitol grounds in Charleston on Thursday morning.

The bikers are part of the Run For The Wall XXXII 2022, the largest organized motorcycle run in the USA that goes from coast-to-coast to honor all veterans, current military, and fallen military members. Around 400 motorcycles were in Charleston.

The ride began in Ontario, California May 18 and is scheduled to end May 29 from the Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington D.C.

“We have all different backgrounds. We ride different brands of bikes. We have grandmas and grandpas and sons and daughters that ride. We have Gold Star moms and we have patriots. It’s just great to meet people from all four corners of the United States,” Ted Kapner with Run for the Wall and rider from Prescott, Arizona told MetroNews.

While at the state Capitol, riders walked around the complex with many taking photos of the military memorials and meeting local residents who were standing on the sidewalks waving when the run rode in.

Krista Ertel, a rider from Inman, South Carolina told MetroNews her favorite part of the trip is meeting veterans.

“My favorite highlights are getting to see the veterans that come out and watch us. So they know that they are not forgotten and they are still loved,” she said.

Ertel, who was emotional talking about her father who served in the military, said she’s been riding since 2013 to honor him. She said it was good to be back on the route after the entire event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.

“I missed the people, missed the ride and the community, and just what it does for our veterans,” Ertel said.

After visiting Charleston, the riders then rolled to Rainelle Elementary School in Greenbrier County for a program with students and a special donation of funds. Kapner said through the trip across the country the bikers raise money in different ways.

Kapner said there is a ‘Patriot Bucket’ that riders donate to, to honor veterans they know. Kapner gave money to honor his father who is an Air Force veteran. He also said the different platoons on the route have platoon challenges and military challenges to raise money.

On Wednesday night, the riders were at Nitro’s Living Memorial Park for a ceremony.

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Man dies after opening fire at apartment party in Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Charleston police say a man who died after firing at party goers at an apartment complex Wednesday night was known to law enforcement.

Tyke Hunt

Charleston Police Chief Tyke Hunt said Dennis Butler, 37, is a convicted felon and that’s he’s had several run ins with him before.

“As a young police officer, I was a rookie and had about a year on, one of the most knocked-down dragged out fights I had was with Mr. Butler and he had a firearm on him at that time in 2006,” Hunt said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Butler was killed after he pulled an AR-15 style rifle at a group of people attending a birthday/graduation party at the Vista View Apartments located along 1300 Renaissance Circle.

A woman at the party drew a pistol and shot Butler at around 10:45 p.m. No one else was hurt.

Hunt said it’s too early to tell if it was a case of self-defense, but no charges have been filed at this time.

“It looks like the person who fired upon Mr. Butler does not have any reason to prohibit them from carrying a firearm lawfully,” he said.

Butler was approached earlier in the evening about speeding in the apartment complex while children were playing. Hunt said Butler then left the complex in a vehicle and returned a short time later when the shooting occurred.

“He returned with a firearm, an AR style rifle, and fired in the direction of the crowd,” he said.

It’s unknown if there was intent of where to shoot, Hunt said.

“We are still investigating the direction of the firearm and where the rounds went, all the trajectory, and pulling video from that,” he said.

The investigation has been turned over to the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office for review.

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MetroNews This Morning 5-26-22

Governor Jim Justice is being treated for possible Lyme disease after he fell ill after a couple of events in the northern part of the state earlier this week. West Virginia officials and others react to the Tuesday mass shooting at a Texas elementary school. The state has settled out of court with two opioid makers just hours ahead of the final day of a lengthy trial in Charleston over those companies’ role in the opioid epidemic in West Virginia. The ” Run for the Wall” stops in Charleston and travels to Greenbrier County today. The cross country motorcycle ride is a tribute to fallen soldiers culminating on Memorial Day in Washington D.C. In Sports, state championships are on the line at the state softball tourney in South Charleston and more teams punch their tickets to next week’s state high school baseball tournament in Charleston. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.
Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 5-26-22” on Spreaker.

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Search for man threatening to shoot, beat and set Fauci on fire leads to W.Va. resort rental cabin

A man who has been living at Snowshoe, Pocahontas County, pleaded guilty this week to making threats against public officials, saying Dr. Anthony Fauci and his family would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire.”

He could face up to 10 years in prison. Sentencing is set for 11:30 a.m. August 4 before U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis of Maryland.

Thomas Patrick Connally, 56, admitted in federal court to making threats against a federal official, specifically for sending emails threatening harm to Fauci, the current director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, which is located in Maryland.

Fauci has been one of the leading figures in America’s response to covid-19, advocating for precautions such as widespread vaccination. He has been subject of intense criticism from the right wing.

Connally is accused of using an encrypted email service to send threats to Fauci, as well as to additional public health officials from December 28, 2020 to July 25, 2021.

The first emails sent to Fauci were titled, “Hope you get a bullet in your compromised satanic skull today.” A later email was titled “6 mandatory shots to your disgusting elf skull.” And yet another was labeled “Cutting your scalp off and sewing it onto a rat.”

The emails were sent from an encrypted service based in Switzerland and came from [email protected] Investigators determined the account was first registered on Feb. 4, 2018.

Investigators tracked and identified Connally through the Protonmail account’s interactions with other services registered to him, including an Instagram account.

The investigators said that Instagram account, which had the similar user name “Naturtheater Alhena” was created on May 14, 2020, from an Internet Protocol address associated with a property Connally had been renting.

That was a cabin at Snowshoe, a West Virginia resort popular with skiers.

On April 27, 2020, Connally executed an extension of his cabin rental using the same IP address that had been used to create the Instagram account, another connection used to identify him.

Investigators identified additional, separate email accounts used by Connally that sent information like passwords back and forth to the same Protonmail account that was used to threaten Fauci.

In one case, the Protonmail account was used to forward a list of jobs in a search for technical writer positions.

“On July 27, 2021, law enforcement executed search warrants at Connally’s rental residence in Snowshoe, West Virginia, as well as on his vehicle,” according to his plea agreement.

There, investigators seized several electronic devices, including MacBook Pro laptops that had the [email protected] linked to an Apple user account.

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Justice receiving treatment for possible Lyme disease, cancels COVID-19 briefings for week

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice has canceled this week’s coronavirus briefing as he is receiving treatment for possible Lyme disease.

The governor’s office announced Wednesday that Justice began feeling sick after events Monday in Wheeling and Blacksville. He tested negative for the coronavirus, but Justice said his condition is “nowhere near 100%.”

“As of now, I am being treated for possible Lyme disease,” the governor said.

“With this weekend being Memorial Day weekend, I will be postponing my regularly scheduled COVID-19 briefings this week and will hold one as soon as possible after the holiday.”

Justice tested positive for the coronavirus in January. The governor’s office at the time noted he was experiencing moderate symptoms and received monoclonal antibody treatment.

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West Virginia International Yeager Airport board approves cost-of-living adjustment bonus for employees

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia International Yeager Airport’s board has approved the airport’s budget for the next fiscal year and a cost-of-living adjustment bonus for employees.

The actions were discussed and passed Wednesday during the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority meeting at the airport.

The one-time 5% payment to employees will take effect on June 9. Nick Keller, Airport Director & CEO of West Virginia International Yeager Airport (CRW) told MetroNews this will be a bonus for all 86 full-time and 19 part-time employees, and cost the airport $227,000.

“The board felt strongly that we need to show the employees they are appreciated and recognize the rate of inflation and how it negatively impacts our employees. We want to help them out,” Keller said.

Nick Keller

The board also approved the FY2023 budget. Included in the budget is a 4% cost of living adjustment in form of a pay raise. Keller said the plan is to look at inflation quarterly along with the financial situation of CRW and make adjustments when needed.

Keller said the 4% adjustment in the form of a pay raise would cost the airport $223,000. The salary increase would be effective July 1 of this year.

“Our employees are our greatest asset. We want to continue to show that through employee education, paying for advanced training and degrees, family scholarships, paid parental leave, and now this kind of stuff,” Keller added.

In terms of the FY2023 budget, $12.3 million is projected for total revenues and $13.9 million is projected for total expenses. Keller noted that the airport would use $1.7 million in federal relief, such as ARP and CARES, for next fiscal year to offset the total losses.

Keller said expenses were projected to be a decrease from the current fiscal year to the next fiscal year before the 4% pay raise for employees was approved. Now, there’s been a 2% increase in expenses. The budget projects a 10% increase in revenue.

VIEW: The FY2023 budget for the airport

Keller told MetroNews this week that the inflation crisis has impacted not only employees but consumers of the airport.

“The consumers are seeing what the airport is noticing – airfares have gone up. Recently last month, they have gone up 18%. The cost of jet fuel and aviation fuel has gone up,” Keller said.

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