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U.S. Marine Corps(QUANTICO, Va.) -- For the first time in its nearly 250-year history, the U.S. Marine Corps has a female infantry officer.

The woman, who wishes to keep her identity private, graduated from the Marines' Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Virginia, on Monday.

Now a lieutenant, she is the first woman to finish the challenging course and the fourth to attempt it since the Marines opened all military occupational specialties, known as MOS, to women in April 2016.

“I am proud of this officer and those in her class who have earned the infantry officer MOS,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in a press release Monday.

The female infantry officer will now head to the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California, for her first assignment.

Today, the first female Marine graduated from Infantry Officer Course.

Ooh-rah to the future infantry leaders. pic.twitter.com/iL1a8jsDsR

— U.S. Marines (@USMC) September 25, 2017

"Infantry Officer Course is the MOS-producing school for Marine Corps infantry officers and the prerequisite course for ground intelligence officers," the release said. "The grueling 13-week course trains and educates newly selected infantry and ground intelligence officers in leadership, infantry skills, and character required to serve as infantry platoon commanders in the operating forces."

Of the 131 Marines who began the course in July, only 88 graduated.

Proud of this officer & her fellow leaders. Now they focus on what's important: preparing to lead Marines in combat https://t.co/rwWjXKOAf9 pic.twitter.com/RvzTAkuLLI

— Robert B. Neller (@GenRobertNeller) September 25, 2017

In 2015, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the decision to open all military combat roles to women, ending a ban on women's serving on the front lines. At the time, the Marine Corps formally advised that women should continue to be prevented from working in combat units, despite recommendations from the Army, Navy, Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command that they be permitted to serve.

"We are a joint force, and I have decided to make a decision which applies to the entire force," explained Carter in 2015.

Earlier that year, two female soldiers became the first women to graduate from Army Ranger training camp but were not immediately permitted to serve in a Ranger regiment as the decision on combat roles had yet to be made.

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@brennanmgilmore/Twitter(NEW YORK) -- Since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in the 2016 pre-season, several veterans who fought for the U.S. military have been expressing their support for Kaepernick's protest.

President Donald Trump may have helped turn Kaepernick's silent demonstration into a bonafide movement when he suggested that NFL owners fire players who protest the national anthem during a Friday rally in Huntsville, Alabama.

"Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now?'" Trump said.

On Twitter, Trump defended his comments, saying that "Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag."

Trump retweeted a photo of Pat Tillman, the former NFL player turned Army Ranger who died in Afghanistan in 2004 after enlisting in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Trump's comments spurred a backlash that included protest against the "Star Spangled Banner" across several NFL teams on Sunday. Several veterans who fought in the U.S. armed forces echoed the players' sentiments.

A photo of 97-year-old World War II veteran John Middlemas taking a knee went viral, after the man's grandson Brendan Gilmore posted it to Twitter.

The tweet -- which included a photo of the farmer from Willard, Missouri, kneeling on the ground accompanied by what Gilmore said was his grandfather's phrase "those kids have every right to protest" -- was retweeted nearly 130,000 times in just a day.

My grandpa is a 97 year-old WWII vet & Missouri farmer who wanted to join w/ those who #TakeaKnee: "those kids have every right to protest." pic.twitter.com/LurCj7SLUB

— Brennan Gilmore (@brennanmgilmore) September 24, 2017

Gilmore wrote that his grandfather "has been an ally to the civil rights movement for many years."

The hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick began trending after people took notice that the former quarterback, who currently isn't signed to a NFL team, was not standing for the national anthem. After Sunday's gameday protests, veterans took to Twitter again using the hashtag along with a new one, #TakeAKnee.

I’m a vet and I’ll #TakeaKnee #VeteransForKaepernick pic.twitter.com/1861Wvnee0

— BasicCaucus🎃🍵🌹 (@comradejedi) September 24, 2017

I took an oath to defend the Constitution, not the flag. @realDonaldTrump, point your tiny fingers elsewhere. #VeteransForKaepernick pic.twitter.com/z5APVELH9y

— Jason (@ArktinenJenkki) September 25, 2017

I didn’t serve to defend America’s systems of white supremacy and police brutality. Solidarity with #TakeTheKnee and #VeteransForKaepernick pic.twitter.com/sTk7v7imtg

— tim 🌹 (@TimTakesTime) September 24, 2017

Some NFL players decided to stand for the anthem on Sunday. Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva -- a former Army Ranger -- took to the field and placed his hand on his heart during the "Star Spangled Banner," despite his team's decision to skip the national anthem altogether.

However, in the past, Villanueva has expressed solidarity with Kaepernick, saying in a 2016 interview, "I will be the first one to hold hands with Colin Kaepernick and do something about the way minorities are being treated in the United States, the injustice that is happening with police brutality, the justice system, inequalities in pay," according to ESPN.

Even as the protests he inspired become more widepsread, Kaepernick remains unsigned in the NFL. He opted out of his contract with the 49ers after last season.

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Aaron Katersky/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former New York congressman and soon-to-be ex-husband of top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, broke down in federal court Monday as he was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sending obscene material to a 15-year-old high school student in North Carolina.

Weiner, 53, who pleaded guilty last May to a single count of transferring obscene material to a minor, was also sentenced to three years of supervised release.

When Judge Denise Cote announced her decision, Weiner, who was seeking probation, dropped his head and started to cry.

"This is a serious crime that deserves serious punishment," Cote said in court.

Federal prosecutors had asked a judge to send Weiner to prison for 21 to 27 months. Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement Monday, "Anthony Weiner, a former Congressman and candidate for Mayor, asked a girl who he knew to be 15 years old to display her naked body and engage in sexually explicit behavior for him online. Justice demands that this type of conduct be prosecuted and punished with time in prison. Monday, Anthony Weiner received a just sentence that was appropriate for his crime."

Weiner sobbed audibly in court for a few minutes after the proceeding ended. He did not speak as he left the courthouse.

Monday's sentencing marks the end of a six-year saga during which Weiner resigned from Congress, unsuccessfully ran for mayor of New York and separated from Abedin, who filed for divorce the day he was indicted. Weiner and Abedin are parents to a young son.

Weiner's crime may have played a role in Clinton's loss to Donald Trump. When the FBI found Abedin's email on his computer, then-FBI Director James Comey revisited the investigation into Clinton's use of a private server.

Defense attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown said Monday that Weiner's "repeated acts of self destruction are not those of a scheming criminal."

Weiner had asked for probation, citing his continual recovery from an illness that cost him his marriage and career.

“A term of imprisonment would bring Anthony’s indisputably successful treatment for the sickness underlying his crime to an immediate and complete halt and separate Anthony from the son who has motivated his recovery,” his defense attorneys wrote.

In an emotional statement in May, Weiner said he "compulsively sought attention from women," engaging many of them in sexual and non-sexual conversations. He said his behavior started when he entered Congress and it continued through the first six months of 2016.

"These destructive impulses brought great devastation to my family and friends, and destroyed my life's dream of public service," he said.

Weiner said he "came to grips for the first time with the depths of my sickness" last fall and entered "intensive treatment."

"I have a sickness," Weiner said, "but I do not have an excuse."


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ABC News(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- A 22-year-old church usher was heralded as a hero after he confronted a masked gunman who opened fire at a Tennessee parish on Sunday as services were ending.

Police said Robert Engle, an usher at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee, engaged in a struggle with the suspected shooter, Emanual Samson, 25, after he allegedly opened fire at the church on Sunday morning, killing one woman and wounding six others.

"He's the hero,” Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said at a news conference on Sunday. “He's the person who stopped this madness."

Samson allegedly entered the church’s parking lot around 11 a.m. and fatally shot 39-year-old Melanie Smith as she walked to her car after service, police said.

The suspect is believed to have been there for at least several minutes before church service let out, according to police.

Samson, who was wearing a neoprene half-mask, then entered the church and began to shoot "indiscriminately," wounding six people who were later treated for non-life-threatening injuries, according to police.

Engle confronted the gunman in an effort to keep him from shooting more people and was pistol-whipped in the process, police said, adding that the suspect accidentally shot himself in the chest while struggling with Engle.

Engle eventually ran out to his car to retrieve his own pistol, which he used to hold the suspect at gunpoint until police arrived, officials said.

The young usher, who said he has attended the church since he was a small child, does not consider himself a hero.

“I do not want to be labeled a hero," Engle said in a statement Sunday. "The real heroes are the police, first responders and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected.”

He also asked for people to pray for those who were affected by the shooting.

"I ask everyone to pray for the victims, family members of the victims, our church community. Please pray for healing,” Engle said in another statement. “Also, please pray for the shooter, the shooter’s family and friends. They are hurting as well.”

One witness, Minerva Rosa, said the situation could have been worse if Engle had not intervened.

"He's amazing," Rosa told reporters on Sunday. "Without him, I think it could be worse. He was the hero today."

Rosa, who has been a member of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ for eight years, said the suspect was silent as he fired shots inside the church. She said she heard the pastor shout "Run! Run! Gunshots!" as the gunman made his way down the aisle.

Engle's grandmother, 69-year-old Rheta Engle, told a local newspaper that she was proud of him.

"That’s like him. He’s just someone who cares about a lot of people. He has all their feelings at heart," she told the Tennessean on Sunday afternoon. "It would make any parent, grandparent very, very proud of him."

Blake Langford, Robert Engle's friend, described him as a “gentle giant.”

“He's just a great guy,” Langford told the Tennessean. “Just one of the kindest human beings you'll ever meet.”

Robert Engle was released from a local hospital on Sunday night and is back home with his family, according to local news outlets.

Samson, who police said had attended the church within the past two years, was treated at a local hospital for a gunshot wound and is expected to be charged with one count of murder, with additional charges pending, according to police.

The motive for the shooting is unclear.

The Memphis FBI Field Office's Nashville Resident Agency, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting.

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ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) -- President Trump has issued a presidential proclamation banning or restricting travel from eight countries, adding Chad and Venezuela and North Korea to the original list of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

The administration is taking a tailored approach, providing a variety of conditions, ranging from suspended immigrant and non-immigrant travel to allowing travel for nonimmigrants with additional scrutiny.

Since the travel ban is condition-based, if and when the conditions change for any of the eight countries, the proclamation can be changed. Also, at any time, the Secretary of Homeland Security can recommend that countries be added. The restrictions are indefinite, however, since they don't have a 90- or 120-day limit like the previous travel bans Trump issued in January and in March.

The new travel restrictions are effective immediately for those subject to the two earlier travel bans, and take effect Octoberr 18 for those subject to these new provisions.

This ban does not apply to lawful permanent residents, those already in the United States on the effective date, those with valid visas on the effective date, dual citizens who are traveling on passports of a non-banned country, or those already granted asylum.

The ban is tailored slightly differently for each country. Also, like the last ban issued in March, there is a provision for case-by-case waivers, which helps the administration's legal arguments that the ban is Constitutional.

"The travel ban -- the tougher the better," the president said Sunday before boarding Air Force One on his way back to Washington, D.C., from Bedminster, New Jersey.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Metro Nashville PD(ANTIOCH, Tenn.) -- Police have identified the gunman who shot a woman dead and injured six other churchgoers after he opened fire Sunday morning at a Tennessee church as services were ending.

The shooting at Burnett's Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee, started in the church's parking lot, according to police and the Nashville Fire Department. Nashville Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said emergency calls came in around 11:15 a.m. as services were letting out.

The gunman, identified by police as 25-year-old Emanual Kidega Samson, arrived in the parking lot and first fatally fired at 39-year-old Melanie Smith, who was walking to her car, police said. Samson was wearing a neoprene half-mask and drove an SUV, Aaron said.

After gunning down the woman in the parking lot, Samson went inside through the rear of the church and began “indiscriminately shooting at people,” police said, wounding six people.

A church usher, identified as 22-year-old Robert Engle, ran up and confronted Samson and was subsequently pistol-whipped by him, police said. Samson was at some point shot in the left pectoral, though police still don’t know if the gun discharged on its own during Engle’s struggle with the suspect.

At that point, Engle went to his car, where he got his weapon to confront the shooter again.

Police said Samson had attended the church within the past two years. He has been released from a local hospital and will be charged with one count of murder, with additional charges to come.

 

BREAKING: Samson will be charged with one count of murder tonight. Multiple additional charges will be placed later. pic.twitter.com/RBNv1qY3yk

— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) September 24, 2017

 

The Memphis FBI Field Office's Nashville Resident Agency, the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Tennessee have opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Sunday.

All seven of the wounded were taken to area hospitals. Five of them were sent to Vanderbilt Medical Center and one to Skyline Medical Center.

Vanderbilt Medical Center said in a statement after the shooting that its emergency medicine physicians and trauma center surgeons are caring for two critically injured gunshot victims, and another four individuals who are currently in stable condition.

Nashville Christian School released a statement on Sunday, saying, “As you may already know, one of our Bible teachers, Joey Spann, and his wife were both injured in the church shooting this morning at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch. We do not have any additional information at this time but want to boldly ask you to pray. Please lift up Coach Joey Spann and his wife Peggy and all who have been injured or impacted by this tragic event.”

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry released a statement on Sunday: “This is a terrible tragedy for our city,” she said. “My heart aches for the family and friends of the deceased as well as for the wounded victims and their loved ones. Their lives have been forever changed, as has the life of their faith community at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ.

“My administration, especially the Metro Nashville Police Department, will continue to work with community members to stop crime before it starts, encourage peaceful conflict resolution, and promote non-violence,” she added.

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John Leyba/The Denver Post/ Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Trump's lashing out at NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem and the resulting backlash is playing out in part on social media, including under a Twitter hashtag trending Sunday morning, #TakeAKnee, and also another variation, #TakeTheKnee.

The hashtag drew sharp responses from people both opposed and supportive of players protesting by kneeling during the pregame national anthem, a practice that drew attention beginning in the 2016 preseason when Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, quietly knelt. Kaepernick told the press that he was protesting the treatment of blacks in the United States.

One supporter of the protests said critics should "wake up" because the players are exercising their rights.

So it’s disrespectful for sports players to #TakeTheKnee in silent protest but ok for white supremacists to walk about with swastikas...

— Dave Rowe (@daverko6) September 24, 2017

..and have violent protests. Wake up people the players r well within their rights

— Dave Rowe (@daverko6) September 24, 2017

Katie Hopkins, a controversial British columnist and a former reality star, focused her criticism on Kaepernick.

Breaking news for Kaepernick. You don't have to kneel for the cameras to make a difference. You can register and vote. #TakeTheKnee

— Katie Hopkins (@KTHopkins) September 24, 2017

California Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat who has been critical of Trump, said the president has "no moral standing" to call for NFL players to be fired for kneeling in protest.

As someone who took deferments to avoid military service, @realDonaldTrump has no moral standing to tell anyone to stand or to #TakeTheKnee. https://t.co/HJkStvR8n8

— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) September 24, 2017

Jack Posobiec, a right-wing activist who has promoted conspiracy theories such as "Pizzagate," argued that 80 percent of Americans tuning into NFL football on Sunday would turn off the TV if players kneel during the anthem.

If #TakeTheKnee goes down today, 80% will turn off the TV. Sports fans hate politics, they just want to watch the game.

— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) September 24, 2017

Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative political pundit, called for fellow opposers to "boo" the teams and players who refuse to stand during the anthem.

It's time to loudly boo teams & players who refuse to respect the national anthem--we too can exercise our right to protest #TakeAKnee

— Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) September 24, 2017

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- Fears in storm-battered Puerto Rico have shifted to a failing dam as the U.S. territory reels from the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria.

Early Saturday morning, the National Weather Service said failure of the Guajataca Dam in northwest Puerto Rico is "imminent" and could cause "life-threatening flash flooding" downstream on the Guajataca River. Dam operators said it began to show signs of failing, causing flash flooding, on Friday around 2:10 p.m. ET.

"Move to higher ground now," the National Weather Service urged residents in the area. "This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation."

At a press conference Friday afternoon, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said all available resources were sent to evacuate people near Lake Guajataca, where the dam at the northern end is in danger of breaking. The National Weather Service in San Juan tweeted that nearly 8,000 people who live in the area could be affected. The number previously given had been an estimated 70,000 people.

Maria weakened to a Category 2 hurricane on Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph as of 5 a.m. ET. The storm at the time was moving toward the north at 9 mph, and its eye was located about 530 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm is still projected to stay off the East Coast, but tropical storm or hurricane watches could be put in effect for the Carolina or Mid-Atlantic coasts on Sunday with tropical storm-force winds currently extending 240 miles from the eye.

The death toll in storm-hit areas is rising as Maria continued to barrel through the Caribbean on Saturday, three days after its landfall in Puerto Rico left the island in the dark.

At least 24 people have died in the storm, including 15 in Dominica, seven in Puerto Rico and two in Guadeloupe.

The hurricane came ashore in Puerto Rico early Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds -- the first Category 4 to hit the island since 1932. The storm wiped out the island's power grid and dumped 20 to 30 inches of rain in 24 hours, with some areas seeing 40 inches locally.

There is potential for the death toll in Puerto Rico to rise, the island's secretary of the department of safety said on Friday.

Although Maria has hurtled past the island, Puerto Rico will see heavy rainfall through Saturday from the storm's trailing rain bands, likely an additional 3 to 6 inches, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Water supplies on the island are lacking because of the lack of power, Rossello said. In addition, the water agency suffered "severe damage," he said.

Rossello has also extended a curfew and ban on alcohol sales on the island from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. ET through Sunday.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo departed for Puerto Rico on Friday to bring donated supplies to the island and assess the need, after Puerto Rico's governor made a request for aid. Cuomo traveled with members of the National Guard as well as New York Congresswoman and Puerto Rico native Nydia Velázquez.

Residents of Puerto Rico's hard-hit north coast were seen wading through floodwater inside what's left of their homes.

ABC News correspondents observed widespread destruction in the town of Guaynabo, about 10 miles south of San Juan where trees and power lines were downed and storefronts and building facades had crumbled. Neighborhoods in Guaynabo were filled with waist-deep floodwaters and destroyed homes that were apparently not built to any kind of code.

Guaynabo resident Ramon Caldero and his family hunkered down in their kitchen during the storm, which caused part of the ceiling to collapse in his sister's room.

"I was worried," Caldero told ABC News. "My sister was screaming."

Christy Caban of Nashville, Tennessee, rode out the storm with her husband and 13-month-old baby in their hotel room just east of San Juan.

"We don't have power, we don't have water," Caban told ABC News.

Puerto Rico's emergency management agency confirmed that 100 percent of the island had lost power by Wednesday afternoon, noting that anyone with electricity was using a generator.

Abner Gomez Cortes, executive director of the agency, told ABC News more than 12,000 people are currently in shelters, and hospitals are running on generators. Two hospitals -- one in Caguas and one in Bayamon -- were damaged in the storm.

A spokesperson with the Puerto Rico governor's office confirmed to ABC News at least one person has died in the storm. The person was killed in Bayamon, just southwest of San Juan, after being hit in the head by a wooden panel.

Meanwhile, telecommunications throughout the island have "collapsed," Cortes said, describing the storm as unprecedented.

Multiple transmission lines sustained damage, according to Ricardo Ramos, director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Ramos said he hopes to start launching helicopters by this weekend to begin inspecting the lines.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello has imposed a curfew on the island Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. ET through Saturday.

Puerto Rico narrowly missed landfall by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago, with the Category 5 storm traveling just north of the U.S. territory. The island suffered heavy rain and wind, but nothing near the widespread damage incurred by Maria.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Thursday, President Donald Trump said Hurricane Maria "absolutely obliterated" the U.S. territory and "totally destroyed" its power grid, but that the recovery process will begin soon with "great gusto."

Puerto Rico “got hit with winds, they say they’ve never seen winds like this anywhere," Trump added.

On the forecast track


Maria is expected to turn toward the north-northwest later Friday, then turn toward the north by late Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center. That means the storm's core will move away from Turks and Caicos on Friday and pass near the Southeast Bahamas through Sunday.

The National Hurricane Center on Friday warned a "dangerous storm surge" coupled with "large and destructive waves" will raise water levels by as much as 9 to 12 feet above normal tide levels in parts of Turks and Caicos and the Southeast Bahamas. And through Saturday, Maria is expected to produce up to 20 inches of rain in parts of Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos.

But Maria is forecast to gradually weaken during the next 48 hours and beyond due to higher wind shear as the hurricane moves into the cooler waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The diminishing storm will move between Bermuda and the eastern coast of the United States before heading further east and out to sea sometime next week, according to the latest forecast models.

The storm's path is still expected to steer clear of the U.S. mainland.

"At this point, I don’t think Maria will have any major impacts to the mainland besides the high surf and rip currents," ABC News senior meteorologist Max Golembo said Friday morning.

Other Caribbean islands devastated

Maria also did severe damage to other Caribbean islands without making landfall.

Dominica's prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, told ABS Television on Thursday that at least 15 people have died and many homes are destroyed beyond repair. The death toll in the island nation is likely to rise and search and rescue missions are ongoing. At least 16 additional people are missing in some communities, he said.

“We have many deaths, but it is a miracle that we do not have hundreds of deaths in the country,” Skerrit told ABS Television.

According to Skerrit, the island has no electricity and only limited telecommunications have been restored since the storm. Some villages are now only accessible by sea or via helicopter

The prime minister told ABS Television that his home's roof was ripped off during the storm and he had to take cover under a bed to protect himself from falling debris.

While wiping away tears during the emotional interview, Skerrit issued an urgent appeal for desperately needed aid, namely water, tarps and baby supplies.

“It’s going to take us a very long time to get back,” he said.

Hartley Henry, an adviser to Dominica's prime minister, told reporters via WhatsApp on Wednesday that his country has suffered a "tremendous loss of housing and public buildings" since the storm hit, ripping off roofs and tearing doors from hinges. Dominica's main general hospital "took a beating" and "patient care has been compromised," he said.

"The country is in a daze -- no electricity, no running water," Henry said via a WhatsApp message. "In summary, the island has been devastated."

The Ross University School of Medicine, based in Portsmouth, Dominica, announced Wednesday on Facebook that it is attempting to make contact with all of its students. More than 1,400 students and faculty have signed the registration sheet so far, and the school has reached out to the family members of more than 700 others, who informed them that they are safe.

In Guadeloupe, officials announced Wednesday two people were killed and two others were missing in the storm's wake.

France's Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said some 80,000 people in Guadeloupe -- around 40 percent of the population -- were without electricity Wednesday. Many roads there are impassible due to flooding and French Navy planes have not been able to assess the damage on the island due to bad weather conditions.

In Martinique, about 70,000 homes were without electricity and 50,000 homes did not have access to safe drinking water Wednesday. Fallen trees and downed power poles have blocked many roads there, Collomb said.

Police and soldiers have been deployed in both Martinique and Guadeloupe to ensure security. More than 3,000 first responders are on the French Caribbean islands, according to Collomb.

The U.S. Department of State sent a message of solidarity Wednesday to the people of Dominica and all across the Caribbean who were affected by Maria.

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iStock/Thinkstock(COLUMBIA, Tenn.) -- A suspect armed with a machete was taken into custody late Friday after he took nine people hostage at a Tennessee bank earlier in the day.

According to ABC affiliate WKRN-TV, the man was tackled by police after he emerged from the bank. Police had yet to confirm the man was taken into custody early Saturday.

All of the hostages had been released Friday afternoon prior to the man being taken into custody, according to police.

The 54-year-old man initially took nine people hostage at the Community First Bank & Trust in Columbia, Tennessee, before releasing four people, a spokesperson for the Columbia Police Department said. Hours later, the remaining five hostages were released, according to Columbia Police Capt. Jeremy Alsup.

None of the hostages were injured during the ordeal, Alsup said.

Emergency dispatchers responded to a call for an armed robbery in progress, police said, though officials later clarified that the hostage situation "does not appear to be a robbery at this time."

The motive is unknown, Alsup said.

Further details on the incident were not immediately available.

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ABC News(MIAMI) -- ABC News reporters helped assure a worried daughter that her family in Puerto Rico is safe after she could not reach them in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Miami resident Tere Blanca sent ABC News reporters a video message Friday saying she was desperate to hear from her family in Ponce, on the island's southern coast. In the video, she said she had not been able to contact her father and brother.

Puerto Rico is virtually without power or cell service after Maria made landfall on the island as a powerful Category 4 storm early Wednesday morning. People in the United States have been struggling to reach loved ones after the hurricane decimated the island.

Debris, downed power lines and trees littered the streets as ABC News reporters drove from San Juan to Ponce.

Once they arrived in Ponce, ABC News reporters on the ground found Tere Blanca's father, Antonio Blanca, alive and well at his home.

Antonio Blanca told ABC News that he and his wife, Julie Blanca, are safe. They have food and water, but no electricity, he said.

The father also said that his son, Tony Blanca, is OK and had stopped by their home on Thursday.

Julie Blanca said she and her husband had last spoken to his daughter on Tuesday, hours before the storm hit Puerto Rico. At that point, "nothing was happening," Julie Blanca said.

After 1 a.m. Wednesday, conditions began to worsen, Julia Blanca said.

"It was terrible," she said.

Antonio Blanca recorded a message for his daughter, telling her he loves her and his two granddaughters and instructing her not to worry about them.

"I love you, Tere -- a lot," Antonio Blanca said.

At least seven people in Puerto Rico were killed by the storm, officials said. The entire island is without electricity after its power grid was destroyed in the storm.

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YakobchukOlena/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The authority tasked with regulating the nation's aviation industry is facing a partial shutdown as its authorization to do so expires next Saturday.

To avoid such a shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, Congress must pass either an extension of the old piece of legislation or pass an entirely new bill.

But how did we get here? What does it mean? Would air travel come to a halt? ABC News breaks it all down:

Your flights would still operate, but many FAA employees would be furloughed

If Congress fails to pass any kind of reauthorization by Sept. 30, thousands of nonessential FAA employees will face a temporary leave of absence and airport construction workers.

While the construction workers are furloughed, government-contracted projects at airports and FAA facilities intended to increase traffic capabilities will be delayed.

The government will also be unable to collect on airfare taxes, potentially surrendering hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue in a matter of weeks.

Airlines will continue to fly safely and passengers are unlikely to see any tangible difference in their flying experience if Congress doesn't pass a reauthorization before October.

Many FAA employees, like air traffic controllers and safety inspectors, would continue to work through the partial shutdown.

Nevertheless, representatives and those in the industry alike are calling the reauthorization a "must-pass" piece of legislation. In addition to furloughing thousands of Americans, it would significantly hinder the FAA's modernization program called NextGen, a project the agency has already spent $7 billion on.

The last time the FAA operated without congressional reauthorization, The Washington Post reported the agency was losing an estimated $30 million a day.

A short-term extension is needed after lawmakers couldn't agree on a long-term plan

The FAA currently operates under a 2016 extension of a 2012 three-year reauthorization, which expires Sept. 30.

The house is scheduled to vote on a six-month extension next week after senators and representatives could not agree on a long-term total reauthorization.

President Donald Trump declared privatizing the FAA's air traffic control responsibilities a formal legislative priority back in June; an agenda for years pushed by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster.

Shuster and Trump claim their push to spin the country's air navigation system into a nonprofit corporation is part of their broader plan to modernize infrastructure across the board, but they've struggled to get enough of Shuster's colleagues on the hill onboard.

Democrats have formed a united front in opposition to the privatization plan, but it's Republicans giving Shuster the biggest headache.

Members of Congress and the Senate from more rural areas of the United States believe such a corporation would favor the country's largest airports and airlines, ignoring the needs of the general aviation community and smaller airports.

“This is a tough sell in states like my state of Mississippi, where small airports are very concerned about where this will leave them," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., at a hearing.

While Shuster wants to push a short-term path extending through the end of 2017, Democrats on the hill are demanding a slightly longer version.

“We will not support less than six months,” ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said last week.

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aradaphotography/iStock/Thinkstock(RIVER OAKS, Texas) -- Using an iPad, Valerie McDaniel started an audio diary to record her deepest thoughts. In her entries, the 48-year-old talked about her daughter, her dating adventures as a new divorcee -- and a dark secret.

“I hate the idea that everybody thinks I’m a monster,” McDaniel says in the recording she made on March 15, 2017.

And in her last recording made on March 25, McDaniel says, “I never wanted to hurt anyone.”

McDaniel was a veterinarian living in a two-bedroom condo at a luxury high-rise in the wealthy Houston neighborhood of River Oaks. When she wasn’t treating animals at the veterinary clinic she owned, friends and colleagues said McDaniel spent weekends on Tiki Island near Galveston, where she regularly hosted friends at her beach home.

She had been married to her business partner, Marion “Mack” McDaniel, but the two divorced after 17 years together and agreed to share custody of their now 9-year-old daughter. Friends said she was miserable in the marriage and her husband was never around.

“She would be very hurt by her husband,” said Dr. Brittany King, a veterinarian who worked for Valerie McDaniel. “It would be… a text or a phone call and then she would be in tears, and it’s so hard to watch someone in that much pain.”

She was largely unhappy until she was introduced to Leon Jacob, the now 40-year-old son of her neighbor and divorce attorney.

“I was completely turned off immediately by his attitude,” McDaniel recalled in a diary entry about meeting Jacob for the first time. “I was drawn to him but disgusted at the same time.”

But eventually, Jacob won her over. When they were first intimate, McDaniel recalled in a diary entry that, “it was like a movie moment… It was the most passionate, romantic moment in my life.”

Valerie McDaniel and Leon Jacob are pictured together in this undated photo.

Watch the full story on ABC News "20/20" TONIGHT at 10 p.m. ET


Jacob moved into her condo and the two began living together early this year. In an interview with “20/20,” Jacob said they cooked together, even shared bank accounts and told people they were getting married.

But on March 27, McDaniel jumped off her seventh-floor balcony to her death. She left behind multiple notes detailing her final wishes and recorded her final words on her iPad, saying, “I have two great loves in my life -- I have my daughter, I have Leon.”

“It was just as much of a shock to me as it was to everybody else around her,” Jacob said. “There was nothing wrong.”

McDaniel's friends said they had a bad feeling about Jacob.

"[He was] very arrogant and full of himself," said her longtime friend Maggie Whitley, "I've just never seen anything quite like that... I've got a pretty strong intuition about people, and I did not feel good about it. And I let her know that."

It turns out some of Jacob's past relationships were tumultuous, including the one he had with his ex-wife, Annie Jacob. Leon Jacob recalled that relationship as having many highs and lows.

“We would fight, fight, fight, and love, love, love, fight, fight, fight, love, love, love,” Jacob said of his ex-wife. “It was one of those relationships that people are like, ‘God, they're crazy, but they're their crazy, and we love that.’”

After 11 years of marriage, Annie Jacob filed for divorce in 2013 and later pressed charges against him for aggravated stalking and intimidation. Court documents obtained by ABC News say he made calls, sent texts and emails, threatening to inflict bodily harm. But Jacob said it was blown out of proportion.

“Attempted cyber harassment is what I plead guilty to,” Jacob said. “She went a little overboard with her complaints about me.”

Jacob served probation for attempted cyber stalking and the other charges were dismissed.

His professional life also had its ups and downs. In 2005, Jacob graduated from medical school on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Afterwards, he had surgical training in a series of residency programs at different hospitals, but never received a medical license and was let go from his last program in Texas.

Jacob moved to Ohio and entered another residency program there, but a superior said he lied about patient care following surgery and lacked medical knowledge overall. He was eventually terminated from the program.

Then in 2012, Jacob was arrested for allegedly burglarizing the home of a hospital administrator in Ohio. He pleaded guilty to criminal trespass.

By 2016, Jacob was in financial straits, filing for bankruptcy. He had also moved back to Houston and began dating a woman named Meghan.

This January, police were called to their home after an incident. Meghan claimed that during an argument, Jacob grabbed her face with enough force to wound her lip. According to the police report, Jacob admitted to putting his hand over her mouth.

Once again, Jacob recalled things differently.

“I didn’t put my hand on her physically,” he told “20/20.” “I never touched her, and subsequently, that charge has been dropped because there was no evidence.”

The assault charge was eventually dropped, but in February, Jacob was charged with stalking Meghan at her workplace after she had ended their relationship. He admitted to “20/20” that at the time, he had “kept on pursuing her for a little bit” and claimed he was “waiting” for Meghan when police were called.

At the same time he was being charged with stalking his ex-girlfriend, Jacob was already living with Valerie McDaniel.

If he were to be convicted of the stalking charge, it might very well jeopardize his chances of getting a license to practice medicine. According to authorities, Jacob allegedly came up with a plot to make Meghan disappear in order to have the stalking charge dropped.

Police said Jacob gave $5,000, two Cartier watches and a laptop to a former U.S. Army sergeant and Purple Heart recipient, who went by the alias “Zach,” as payment for a hit on Meghan.

Police say Zach did take the money and disappeared, never carrying out the hit.

When Jacob could not find Zach, police say Jacob reached out to bail bondsman Michael Kubosh for help in locating him. Kubosh had not only gotten Jacob out of jail on bond after the stalking charge, but once put up bond for Zach on an unrelated matter.

“He [Jacob] said, ‘I’ve paid him [Zach] a lot of money to take care of a matter,’” Kubosh told “20/20.” “And I said, ‘To take care of what?’ He said, ‘I want her out of the picture.’ … and he wanted to send her out of town.”

“The way he talked to me, I felt like I was talking to Satan himself,” Kubosh added. “All of this alarmed me.”

Kubosh, who is also a city councilmember in Houston, said he immediately called his police contacts and Meghan was taken to a safe house.
Police tracked down Zach, who they said admitted that Jacob hired him to kill Meghan, and they convinced him to cooperate with their investigation. With police listening in and instructing him on what to say, Zach called Jacob and -- following a storyline provided by police -- told him he had outsourced the hit job to another hitman. That so-called hitman was actually an undercover officer named Javier.

“The reason that we wanted Zach out of the picture and for me to replace Zach as the "hitman" was just to … collect evidence and be able to capture the conversation on audio and or video,” Javier told “20/20.”

But as Zach was talking with Jacob on that phone call, authorities say Jacob raised the stakes.

“When they’re talking on the phone, Leon says, ‘Are they going to take care of both issues?’” said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Nathan Moss.

That’s when police say it was first revealed to them that a second hit was being requested -- one that targeted Valerie McDaniel’s ex-husband, Mack McDaniel.

“Upon hearing that, I was shocked that Leon wanted two people killed, and that his girlfriend Valerie would also be involved,” Javier said.
According to Moss, Jacob and Valerie McDaniel met up with Zach and Javier at an Olive Garden restaurant to finalize the plan.

“This is where I first get to meet Leon and Valerie,” Javier said. “This is where I get to read Leon, what type of person he is, and it was very obvious to me during that first meeting that Leon was serious about killing Meghan and Mack.”

“Leon told me that he believed that Valerie's ex-husband was a really bad person, he mistreated Valerie. He was bringing a lot of pressure on Valerie by attempting to take their daughter away,” Javier added.

At one point during the meal, authorities say Zach and Jacob stepped outside for a cigarette break, leaving McDaniel and Javier, the undercover officer, alone together at the table.

“He finally gets her to say that she does, in fact, want him [Mack] to be killed,” said prosecutor Samantha Knecht. “She actually turns over what kind of car he drives, where he can be found, where he lives, and gives some pretty personal details so that Javier knows where to find him.”

“And that's when he said, ‘Well, if you want that done, it's going to be another $10,000,’” she continued. “And Valerie said, ‘Ok, I have to pay you out in installments of it, but I'll pay you $10,000.’”

Prosecutors say Valerie McDaniel had taken out a $1.2 million loan to buy out her ex-husband’s share of the veterinarian clinic as part of their divorce settlement so money was tight for her at the time.

Police tipped off Mack McDaniel about the alleged hit. Working with authorities, Mack McDaniel agreed to pose for photos that would make it appear like he had been murdered in a carjacking gone wrong. A fake bullet wound was fashioned on his head and he was photographed slumped over the wheel of a car.

Authorities asked Jacob’s ex-girlfriend Meghan to pose for similar photos. She agreed and was photographed by officers as if she had been kidnapped -- tied up to a chair with zip ties binding her wrists and ankles with duct tape over her mouth.

“Leon would tell me he wanted Meghan kidnapped and scared to the point where she would leave town and never come back,” Javier said. “Leon kept using the word ‘disappear.’ He would say, ‘I want her gone. I want her to go away forever.’ And I took that to understand he wanted her dead.”

The photos were taken to prove to Jacob and Valerie McDaniel that the "hit" on Mack McDaniel had taken place. Javier said he called Jacob to tell him he had “news” for him. He said Jacob asked him to come over to Valerie McDaniel’s condo. Upon arriving, Javier said, “She [Valerie] gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I did find it a little unusual.”

After hearing from the "hitman" that Mack was “gone”, Javier says, “I then ask Leon if he wanted to see a picture and he told me he did not want to see anything.”

But then, police say Leon handed over $1,800 in cash to Javier – partial payment for the job.

Later that same night, Javier said he got back in touch with Leon to tell him that Meghan was dead as well.

The charade continued with officers showing up at Valerie McDaniel’s condo later that day to tell her that her ex-husband had been found dead. Jacob was also in the apartment at the time.

The officers were armed with body cameras to capture the couple’s reaction.

Body cam video shows police telling woman her ex-husband was found dead

According to police, the two feigned shock over the news and Jacob offered up an alibi about the couple’s whereabouts -- even before officers asked them. Having seen enough, they arrested McDaniel and Jacob on solicitation of capital murder charges.

Before Valerie McDaniel was taken into custody, officers allowed her to retrieve her daughter, who was in her bedroom at the condo at the time, and hand her off to her ex-husband waiting in the hallway, who, she had just been told, was in fact very much alive.

Three days after she was arrested, Valerie McDaniel was released on $50,000 bond. She visited some friends but mostly confined herself to her apartment, recording her final thoughts on her iPad.

“I didn’t wake up one day and just say, ‘Hey, I want to kill my ex-husband,’” McDaniel says in an entry. “I didn’t really want to do it.”

But prosecutors say McDaniel did want to go through with having her ex-husband killed and confessed to hiring the hitman after her arrest when she was with officers in the hallway of her condo.

“They keep having to tell her to speak up,” Moss said. “And they say things like, ‘So you wanted your husband killed? You can't nod. You have to say yes,’ and she'd be like, ‘Yes, that's what I wanted.’”

But her friend Maggie Whitley said she believes McDaniel never would have ordered an alleged hit without Jacob’s influence.

“It's something that happened to her. I truly believe that,” Whitley said. “This was not something that she would've ever done.”

According to Whitley, during Jacob and McDaniel's roughly eight weeks of dating, Whitley only saw her friend one time. She also said McDaniel told her there was a “constant barrage of hatred” from Jacob about McDaniel’s ex-husband. McDaniel’s former colleague Dr. Brittany King said Jacob used to answer McDaniel’s phone for her.

Jacob denies keeping McDaniel from her friends.

“When you’re first in a new relationship… you kind of isolate yourself… with each other,” he said.

Jacob has now been in the Harris County Jail in Houston for almost seven months, awaiting trial on charges of stalking and hiring a hitman. He has pleaded not guilty. He refused to talk about the details of the case during a jailhouse interview with “20/20” but denied all wrongdoing.

“I am innocent of these charges. I still maintain that throughout,” Jacob said. “I find them to be atrocious in manner because I'm not some monster that wanted my ex-girlfriend killed and her ex-husband… I’m a healer by nature.”

Jacob said he does not feel responsible for McDaniel’s suicide, saying “That was a decision she made on her own.”

“She had so much pressure on her,” he added. “And I wasn’t there to help support her.”

Jacob asked a judge to allow him to attend McDaniel’s funeral but his request was denied. His request to be released on bond was also denied.

Jacob’s defense attorney George Parnham say the police overstepped their bounds and accuses them of entrapment.

“They [the police] were active players in this whole solicitation of capital murder,” Parnham said.

Parnham also said Valerie McDaniel was to blame and that if it weren’t for her, his client wouldn’t be behind bars.

“Valerie was extremely instrumental in the… situation that lands my client in jail,” he said.

As for Jacob, he plans to keep fighting, as he has done all his life.

“I’ve been knocked down a bunch in my life, and I always got back up,” he said.

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HsinJuHSU/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Following months of controversy, the Education Department said on Thursday it would end Obama-era guidance on campus sexual assaults.

In a "dear colleague" letter, released in 2011, the Obama administration instructed schools to use a "preponderance of evidence" standard, rather than the more stringent "clear and convincing evidence standard, to prove sexual assault.

But the Trump administration argues using a lower standard of proof in sexual misconduct cases "suggests a discriminatory purpose."

Quoting a recent court decision, the newly-released interim guidance said the Obama administration policy represents "a deliberate choice by the university to make cases of sexual misconduct easier to prove -- and thus more difficult to defend, both for guilty and innocent students alike."

Under the new guidance, schools can choose which standard of proof they use, but it should be "consistent with the standard the school applies in other student misconduct cases," according to a document released on Thursday.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos first broadcast her intent to withdraw the "failed" Obama-era guidance in a press conference earlier this month, saying it was unfair to alleged perpetrators.

"One rape is too many ... And one person denied due process is too many," she said at George Mason Law School. "Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is no predetermined."

"It's no wonder so many call these proceedings kangaroo courts," she said, referencing the lack of due process for both victims and the accused in on-campus sexual assault proceedings.

Academic studies put the prevalence of false allegations between 2 and 10 percent.

Thursday’s announcement comes just months after DeVos sparked a controversy by meeting with so-called "men's rights" groups like the National Coalition for Men and groups that speak out on behalf of the accused, like Families Advocating for Campus Equality.

Volunteers for these groups say they just want to make sure all involved get a fair process.

"Victims for a long time weren't taken seriously, and President Obama tried to correct that -- but some of us think that he over-corrected, to the point where those who haven't committed any crimes, like myself, are at a risk of losing their futures, losing their lives, and being destroyed, essentially," Jonathan Andrews, a 23-year-old volunteer who says he was falsely accused of rape after he himself was sexually assaulted, told ABC News in July.

But survivor's advocates, with whom the secretary also met, say the groups push harmful, blame-the-victim stereotypes.

"She's meeting with groups and individuals today who believe that sexual assault is some sort of feminist plot to hurt men," said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality.

In response to today's announcement, the National Women's Law Center called the move "devastating."

"It will discourage students from reporting assaults," the group said in a statement, adding the standards set forth today represent "a huge step back to a time when sexual assault was a secret that was swept under the rug."

The American Association of University Women went even further, saying in a statement, "today’s announcement confirms our suspicions: the U.S. Department of Education’s intent is to roll back critical civil rights protections for students."

Obama Education Secretary John King tweeted that the move is "shameful and wrong" and "undermines student safety."

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ABC News(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- In Puerto Rico, nursing home caregiver Maria Ortiz is trying desperately to get ahead of the suffering her patients may face if she doesn't get aid and supplies quickly for them.

"We can't let them die. We can't let them die. And we need all the help we can get," said Ortiz as she stood in line for water. "We need help. We need diesel for the generator. We need electricity. We need water."

Hurricane Maria came ashore as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday, hitting the island with devastating winds and torrential rains. At least six people have been reported dead so far in the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico since 1932.

Ortiz brought ABC News to the nursing home, situated in a residential neighborhood. The grounds were still wet and littered with debris and flattened, dead trees. Ortiz also pointed out the lone generator, droning loudly, on the side of the home.

"This is terrible," she said.

Puerto Rico's emergency management agency said Wednesday that 100 percent of the island had lost power, noting that anyone with electricity was using a generator. Authorities said telecommunications throughout the island had also collapsed.

Ortiz told ABC News that she had no way to even communicate with her family on the island, though she said she could see her relatives' house from the nursing home.

As she walked through the nursing home checking on residents, Ortiz said she was worried about them and felt responsible for their livelihood.

"We're giving them what they need. ... We're taking care of them," she said. "All they have now is me and my personnel here. That's all they have."

Ortiz said that while no patients were suffering at the moment, the nursing home could face dire conditions eventually, especially if the generator went out or she couldn't get more fuel.



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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A pair of sinkholes have opened up in a central Florida neighborhood after hurricane Irma hit the state earlier this month.

Tuesday morning, a huge sinkhole swallowed part of a home in Apopka, Florida, a city 18 miles northwest of Orlando.

Luckily, the residents, Ellen and Garry Miller, were not injured in that sinkhole.

"We made it through the hurricane. We were really, really lucky, and then this," Miller told ABC-affiliate WFTV. "This is the only home I know. It's the only home my kids know."

Unfortunately, the Millers are not alone in their plight, as just down the street from them, another sinkhole formed yesterday.

The newest sinkhole is about 30 feet wide, according to an Orange County Fire Rescue spokesperson, and is about 100 feet from a house. Officials told WFTV the residents are not being asked to evacuate and should simply monitor the sinkhole situation.

 Dave Carpenter lives near the newest sinkhole and told WFTV he's distressed by it.

"You'd have to be crazy not to be worried about it if one opens right next door to you," Carpenter told WFTV.

It's not yet clear if Irma can be blamed for the sinkholes, but a local expert said they tend to show up after hurricanes.

“When you have heavy rains, the chances of sinkholes [appearing goes] up quite a bit,” Dr. Manoj Chopra, a University of Central Florida engineering professor, told WFTV.

Chopra told WFTV he expects more sinkholes will form throughout the state in the coming weeks.

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