National News

Colorado River Basin reservoir levels drop to record lows amid drought

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

(DENVER, Colo.) -- Federal government officials announced a more severe water shortage level in the Colorado River Basin Tuesday, saying it is essential that states like Arizona dramatically reduce water use before drinking water supplies or power production are affected.

"The system is approaching a tipping point and, without action, we cannot protect the system and the millions of Americans who rely on this critical resource," Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton said in a briefing with reporters.

Reservoirs in the Colorado Basin, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are both at historically low levels after 23 years in drought conditions. Currently, Lake Powell is at 26% capacity, and Lake Mead is at 27% capacity. Combined storage of the two reservoirs is 28% of capacity.

More than 70% of the western U.S. is experiencing extreme or severe drought conditions, amplified by climate change.

But the federal government is stopping short of forcing water cuts under its emergency authorities, saying that although state action has been insufficient, they would rather work together to find a solution that avoids harming people that rely on Colorado River water.

Arizona's water allocation must be reduced by 21% in 2023, one of the largest cuts of the seven basin states.

California currently has no required water savings planned for the upcoming year. But the country of Mexico, which also receives an allotment, will need to reduce their allocation by 7% in 2023.

The Bureau of Reclamation could announce additional actions down the line if states don't reach these targets. Officials said the drought threatens the entire future of the Colorado River Basin, including drinking water supplies, power generation, wildlife and the river itself.

"Without prompt, responsive actions and investments now, the Colorado River and the citizens that rely on it will face a future of uncertainty and conflict," Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo told reporters.

Lake Powell is projected to be at 3,521.84 feet by the end of the year, which is 23% capacity. Glen Canyon Dam stops generating power at 3490 feet. Future projections show that under the driest scenario, Lake Powell may drop below 3,490 feet in the middle of 2023. ABC News is working to see if modifications can be made to Glen Canyon Dam to operate below this critical threshold.

Lake Mead is projected to be at 1047.61 feet by the end of the calendar year. Under the driest scenario, Lake Mead could drop below Level 3 shortage as early as the summer of 2023 and reach below 1000 feet as early as 2024.

ABC News is also looking to see if modifications can be made at Hoover Dam to operate below current minimum elevations.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

New York City Department of Education relaxes COVID-19 rules for public schools

mixetto/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The New York City Department of Education will no longer randomly test students for COVID-19 when the new school year begins Sept. 8, the department said Tuesday.

Instead, test kits will be sent home for students, parents and teachers to use if they are exposed to the virus.

As part of the department's new COVID-19 protocols, students will no longer be required to submit a daily health screening form.

Masks will no longer be required but are strongly recommended if or when a student is exposed.

The department said that students and staff who test positive or exhibit symptoms must quarantine for five days and then wear a mask on the sixth through 10th day upon their return to school.

Masks are also required when entering a medical office in a school or exhibiting coronavirus symptoms.

Schools are now required to report positive cases to "The Situation Room," a group within the department that tracks COVID-19 cases within the schools.

Recent New York City Education Department data shows that between Sept. 13, 2021 and Aug. 15, 2022, there have been over 250,000 positive COVID-19 cases within the schools, with students making up 190,301 of those cases.

New York City schools will still require all adults, including teachers and contracted employees, entering public school buildings to be vaccinated, the department said. Any other adult entering a building must show proof of at least one vaccination dose.

Students will still not need to be vaccinated to attend classes but will once again need to show proof of vaccination to participate in extracurricular activities, including high-risk public schools athletic league sports.

The city's department of education will distribute over 160,000 air purifiers to schools, track ventilation in buildings daily and upgrade HVAC systems aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Last week, the CDC laid out new guidance regarding COVID-19 as millions of students return to school.

Some rules include: unvaccinated kids no longer having to quarantine; test-to-stay, which allows students who are in contact with someone who has COVID-19 to continue to attend in-person school as long as they stayed asymptomatic and tested negative; and loosening the 6 feet social distancing requirement.

"We're in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools -- like vaccination, boosters, and treatments -- to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19," the CDC's Dr. Greta Massetti, one of the authors of the updated guidance, told ABC News in a statement last week. "This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives."

ABC News' Katie Kindelan contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Authorities announce new phase in search for missing teen Kiely Rodni

Placer County Sheriff's Office/Facebook

(LAKE TAHOE, Nev.) -- Authorities in Northern California have announced a new phase in the ongoing search for a teenager who disappeared after a party 11 days ago.

"We are moving into a more limited but continuous search-and-rescue effort," Capt. Sam Brown of the Nevada County Sheriff's Office said during a press briefing on Monday. "We are going to have to switch modes and kind of focus on the investigative end and try to figure out where do we go from there."

Kiely Rodni, 16, was last seen on Aug. 6 around 12:30 a.m. local time near the Prosser Family Campground in the small town of Truckee, some 20 miles north of Lake Tahoe. She was at a party with upwards of 300 people when she vanished along with her vehicle, a silver 2013 Honda CRV with California license plates and a sticker of a ram below the rear wiper blade, according to the Placer County Sheriff's Office, which is leading the search and investigation.

Rodni's cellphone has been out of service since then.

"Her cellphone went dead and became virtually untraceable shortly after," Angela Musallam, public information officer for the Placer County Sheriff's Office, told ABC News during an interview that aired Aug. 9 on "Good Morning America."

With no trace of Rodni or her car, detectives are not ruling out a possible abduction, Musallam had said. Though, "right now we don't have any evidence that supports an abduction," Placer County Sgt. Scott Alford told reporters during a press briefing on Aug. 9.

"We're considering everything," Alford said. "This is a missing person's case, this is a search-and-rescue effort."

Dozens of law enforcement personnel have been involved in the search, including foot patrol, aircraft, canine and dive teams. Other local, state and federal agencies, including the Truckee Police Department, the Nevada County Sheriff's Office, the California Highway Patrol and the FBI, are assisting the Placer County Sheriff's Office in the investigation, according to Musallam.

Rodni has also been added to the FBI's missing persons database. Among the more than 1,200 tips the FBI said it has received and combed through, investigators have pursued several leads, including digging up a burial site near the Prosser Family Campground -- only to find the remains of a dog.

"It's important to hold onto hope," Rodni's mother, Lindsey Rodni-Nieman, told ABC News during an interview Tuesday on "GMA." She then added: "It's OK to feel sad and frustrated, it's OK to feel this anguish."

Rodni-Nieman told ABC News the last text message she received from her daughter said she was planning to leave the party in about 45 minutes and would be coming "straight home." That was about an hour before Rodni's cellphone last pinged near a lake.

Authorities, as well as Rodni's family, are urging anyone who saw her the night she vanished to come forward as well as anyone who attended the party to cooperate with the investigation. In particular, investigators are asking for any photographs or videos from that night to help them piece together a timeline. A $50,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to Rodni's safe return.

Last week, the Placer County Sheriff's Office said its detectives have located surveillance footage from a local business in Truckee where Rodni was spotted on Aug. 5 at 6:08 p.m. local time, prior to her disappearance. She was last seen wearing a black spaghetti-strap bodysuit, green Dickies pants with a black belt and black Vans shoes. She also may have a dark gray Lana Del Ray hoodie with the lyrics: "You don't want to be forgotten. You just want to disappear."

However, on Sunday, the Placer County Sheriff's Office said its detectives "have developed information" that Rodni was seen in another video, taken that night at the party, wearing a white sweatshirt with the pink writing "odd future." It remains unclear whether she was wearing that sweatshirt when she vanished.

"I recognize both sweatshirts," Rodni's mother told ABC News. "The darker one belongs to her best friend. The lighter one is something that I've seen her wear time and time again."

Anyone with information about Rodni or her whereabouts can call the Placer County Sheriff's Office's tip line at 530-581-6320 and select option seven. Callers can remain anonymous.

ABC News' Meredith Deliso and Veronica Miracle contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

You can fly in a seaplane between New York City and Washington, DC, starting this fall

Michael A. McCoy/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Anyone looking to ditch Amtrak or the long commutes to and from La Guardia, JFK, or Newark Airport when traveling between New York City and Washington, D.C., will now have another option—a float plane.

Tailwind Air will start flying two daily flights between the Skyport Marina near East 23rd Street in Manhattan and College Park Airport just outside D.C. The plane will take off from the water in New York and land on the runway at the Suburban D.C. airport in College Park, Maryland.

Tailwind said the flights will operate using eight-seat Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft. The flight time will be between 80-90 minutes and cost $395 one-way.

The airline is touting the ease of the smaller planes, saying passengers have up until 10 minutes before departure to check in for the flight.

"When factoring in the full journey—one hour and twenty minutes in the air (comparable to DCA-LGA service except with no need to access crowded and congested airports on both ends) or the three hours fifty minutes for the Acela—Tailwind Air will offer the fastest, least stressful, premium way to travel between DC and Manhattan. That, paired with the unforgettable views, makes this a compelling experience," Tailwind Air co-founder Peter Manice said in a press release.

College Park Airport is 30-minute drive from Downtown D.C. and connects directly to Metro’s Green Line.

The first departure is Sept. 13.

"Bypassing the congestion of the northeast corridor between New York and Washington, DC remains the core mission of Tailwind Air," Alan Ram, CEO and co-founder of Tailwind Air, said in a statement.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Former prosecutor, advocate for criminal justice reform, facing rape charges

krisanapong detraphiphat/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Adam Foss, a former prosecutor in Boston whose TED Talk brought him into partnership with singer John Legend on criminal justice reform, raped a woman in a New York City hotel, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said Tuesday.

According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, Foss, 42, met the 25-year-old woman at a Midtown Manhattan hotel after exchanging calls and texts for approximately one month. After the survivor repeatedly said no to Foss’s sexual advances, the two fell asleep, before he allegedly raped the woman as she slept.

Foss pleaded not guilty.

Bragg urged other potential victims of Foss to come forward.

“Our Special Victims Division is survivor-centered and trauma-informed, and we encourage anyone who believes they have been the victim of a sex crime to call our Hotline at 212-335-9373. Our prosecutors, investigators, and service providers are available to help.”

Foss was an assistant district attorney in Suffolk County, Massachusetts. The National Law Journal named him among the 40 most up-and-coming lawyers in the US. In 2013, the Massachusetts Bar Association voted Foss prosecutor of the year.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Feds bust alleged Mafia gambling operations posing as shoe repair, coffee shop

Google Maps Street View

(MERRICK, N.Y.) -- Sal's Shoe Repair in Merrick, New York, was doing more than fixing heels and worn soles.

The Genovese organized crime family operated an illegal gambling operation out of the shop, generating "substantial revenue," which was then laundered through cash transfers, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said.

Nine purported members and associates of the Genovese and Bonanno organized crime families were charged Tuesday with racketeering and illegal gambling offenses for running gambling parlors out of other legitimate-seeming establishments in Queens and on Long Island, including a coffee bar and La Nazionale Soccer Club.

Salvatore Rubino, 58, known as "Sal the Shoemaker," was among those arrested, prosecutors said.

A Nassau County police detective, Hector Rosario, is also among the defendants. He allegedly accepted money from the Bonanno family in exchange for offering to arrange police raids of competing gambling locations, according to the indictment. He is charged with obstructing a grand jury investigation and lying to the FBI.

"Current members of the five families demonstrate every day they are not adverse to working together to further their illicit schemes, using the same tired methods to squeeze money from their victims. Enlisting alleged assistance from a member of law enforcement also proves they are willing to do all they can to hide their illegal behavior," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael Driscoll said in a statement.

Beginning in May 2012, the Genovese and Bonanno families jointly operated a lucrative illegal gambling operation in Lynbrook, New York, called the Gran Caffe. The profits earned through this and other gambling locations generated substantial revenue, which was then laundered through cash transfers to the defendants and through "kicking up" to the crime families' leaders, the indictment said.

"Today's arrests of members from two La Cosa Nostra crime families demonstrate that the Mafia continues to pollute our communities with illegal gambling, extortion, and violence while using our financial system in service to their criminal schemes," U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace said in a statement.

Among those charged are Anthony "Little Anthony" Pipitone, a captain and soldier in the Bonanno family, and Carmelo "Carmine" Polito, acting captain in the Genovese family, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors detail one call Polito made in October 2019 to an associate asking him to relay a message to a debtor: "Tell him I’m going to put him under the f------- bridge."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Judge rejects plea deals for couple accused of trying to sell nuclear sub secrets

WV Regional Jail Authority

(NEW YORK) -- A federal judge in West Virginia on Tuesday rejected the plea deals of Jonathan Toebbe, a former nuclear engineer for the U.S. Navy, and his wife Diana, because she said they did not allow for enough prison time.

Jonathan Toebbe's plea agreement called for a sentence of 12-17 years and Diana Toebbe's plea agreement called for a sentence of three years after they pleaded guilty to offering to sell secrets about submarine nuclear propulsion systems to a foreign country.

Toebbe had faced life in prison for violating the Atomic Energy Act before reaching the agreement with federal prosecutors in West Virginia, where he put an SD card at a "dead drop," according to the charging documents.

"These are serious crimes but we are talking about serious punishment. Twelve-and-a-half years is not a slap on the wrist," defense attorney Nicholas Compton said.

The judge, though, said it was not in the best interest of the community to accept the plea agreements since the proposed sentences failed to account for the "grave harm" she said the Toebbes caused.

"Make no mistake these defendants have been charged with very serious crimes," Judge Gina Groh said. "I find the sentencing options available to me to be strikingly deficient."

The Toebbes, of Annapolis, Md., seemed to neighbors and co-workers as the typical suburban couple before they were arrested last October for allegedly scheming to sell secrets about Virginia-class nuclear submarines to a foreign country, which was not identified in court papers but was Brazil, a source told ABC News.

At the time of his plea, Toebbe conceded he sent a package to a foreign government, listing a return address in Pittsburgh that contained a sample of restricted data and instructions for establishing relationship to buy additional restricted data.

Toebbe said he began corresponding with someone he thought was a representative of the foreign government who was really an undercover FBI agent.

On June 8, 2021, the undercover agent sent $10,000 in cryptocurrency to Toebbe as "good faith" payment.

A few weeks later, Jonathan and Diana Toebbe traveled to a location in West Virginia, prosecutors said. There, with Diana Toebbe acting as a lookout, Jonathan Toebbe placed an SD card concealed within half a peanut butter sandwich at a pre-arranged "dead drop" location, they said.

After retrieving the SD card, the undercover agent sent Jonathan Toebbe a $20,000 cryptocurrency payment, prosecutors said. In return, Jonathan Toebbe emailed the undercover agent a decryption key for the SD card. A review of the SD card revealed that it contained restricted data related to submarine nuclear reactors, the indictment said.

Both the Toebbe's withdrew their plea agreement after a judge rejected the agreement.

"Yes, your honor, I'd like to withdraw my plea," Jonathan Toebbe said.

The judge on Tuesday set a trial date of Jan. 17, 2023, giving the parties time to negotiate a new plea agreement or proceed to trial.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Six people, including four teens, shot in Memphis

zodebala/Getty Images

(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- Six people, including four teenagers, were shot in related incidents in Memphis overnight, police said.

The first shooting was around midnight Tuesday, when officers heard multiple shots and saw a white SUV fleeing the scene, Memphis police said.

Officers responded to where the shots were fired and found an empty white Infiniti SUV in an apartment complex, police said. The SUV, which had been reported stolen, had bullet holes and part of a gas pump hanging from the tank, police said.

Police said they later learned that 19-year-old Reginald Felix, a 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy had been in the stolen SUV when they were shot around midnight.

A 25-year-old was also shot at the scene, police said.

A 14-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man took Felix, the 17-year-old and the 16-year-old from the apartment complex to Methodist North Hospital, police said.

While en route to the hospital they were shot by unknown suspects in a dark car, according to police.

The five of them abandoned the SUV and ran to the hospital, police said.

Officers responded to the scene at Methodist North Hospital at 12:47 a.m., according to police.

It’s not clear if the suspects in the dark car and the victims are known to each other, police said. No one from the dark car has been arrested.

Felix and the 16-year-old have since been released from the hospital and are charged with theft, police said.

The 17-year-old remains in the hospital and is expected to be charged with theft, police said.

The 14-year-old and two 25-year-olds remain hospitalized, according to police.

ABC News' Keith Harden contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Three men killed in hit-and-run outside Chicago gay bar, suspect at large

kali9/Getty Images

(CHICAGO) -- A suspect remains at large after three men were killed in a hit-and-run outside a Chicago gay bar, police said.

A fourth victim was struck and injured in the "horrific act" outside Jeffery Pub, which took place at about 5 a.m. Sunday, Chicago police said.

The attack "appears to be intentional" but is not being investigated as a hate crime, Chicago police said at a news conference Monday.

The incident began as an argument inside the bar, which then spilled into the street, police said. An "altercation" ensued, after which the suspect got in the car and drove into the pedestrians, police said.

The car involved was found abandoned four blocks from the scene, police said, but no one is in custody.

Police are looking to the public for help and asking anyone with information on the driver to come forward.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

North Atlantic hurricane season could soon shift earlier in the year, scientists say

Robert D. Barnes/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Communities on the East and Gulf coasts of the U.S. could soon be preparing for a longer hurricane season as the formation of tropical cyclones shifts to earlier in the year, according to a new study.

Researchers who analyzed changes in the onset of Atlantic tropical cyclone activity from 1979 to 2020 found that the first named storms of the North Atlantic hurricane season have been occurring five days earlier every decade since 1979, according to a study published in Nature Communications on Tuesday.

Currently, the North Atlantic hurricane season runs annually from June 1 to November 30 -- a definition that was established in 1965.

Last year marked seven consecutive seasons that the National Hurricane Center issued watches or warnings for the continental U.S. before the start of the season on June 1, which prompted the researchers to study the phenomenon further, Ryan Truchelut, chief meteorologist at Weather Tiger, a consulting and risk management firm, and author of the study, told ABC News.

"The concern here is that this is, you know, historically very unusual," Truchelut said.

This trend could soon change the current definition of the North Atlantic hurricane season, and a panel at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is currently weighing whether to adjust the current season to start earlier, Truchelut said.

"I think that that's going to be an important signal to coastal residents and people living well inland who are at risk from tropical storm-driven flooding events," Truchelut said of the potential change in season.

In addition, the findings also suggest that the first named storm to make landfall in the U.S. occurred earlier by about two days per decade since 1900, according to the study.

In 2021, climate factors such as La Niña, above-normal sea surface temperatures earlier in the season and above-normal West African monsoon rainfall were the primary contributors to the early start and the above-average season. But springtime warming in the western Atlantic Ocean, which has also shown an increasing trend during the same period, could be linked to the earlier onset of named storms, the authors said.

Additional increases in ocean temperatures may exacerbate the exposure of populated landmasses to tropical cyclones by shifting the onset of their formation earlier, according to the study.

While it does not appear that the timing of the peak or end of hurricane season has changed, information about the earlier onset of hurricanes will be important for communities to properly assess necessary risk management measures as hurricanes continue to intensify as a result of global warming, Truchelut said.

"Hopefully it'll help people be more prepared to respond to those watches and warnings, and respond and react if they receive an emergency flash flood warning," Truchelut said of the research.

ABC News' Melissa Griffin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Woman struck by lightning near White House talks her road to recovery with 'GMA'

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- In an exclusive interview with Good Morning America, Amber Escudero-Kontostathis sits down to talk for the first time about being the sole survivor of a lightning strike near the White House earlier this month, on her 28th birthday, and her road to recovery.

"I don't remember much of that day at all," Escudero-Kontostathis told GMA in her first interview since the incident.

On Aug. 4, Escudero-Kontostathis, 28, was canvassing outside the White House for Threshold Giving, a nonprofit organization through the International Rescue Committee that helps refugees, when she and three others took cover underneath a tree at Lafayette Square after it began to rain.

Six bolts of lightning struck the group within half a second, killing three others, including 76-year-old James Mueller and 75-year-old Donna Mueller, a married couple celebrating their anniversary, and Brooks Lambertson, a 29-year-old Los Angeles man who was in D.C. for business.

Escudero-Kontostathis said the lightning struck her through the ground and traveled through her body, resulting in significant burns on her body.

"I don't know why I survived," she said. "I don't feel good about being the only survivor, that's for sure. I'm grateful, but I just don't feel good about being the only one."

She doesn't recall much of her stay at the hospital, where she was placed in the Intensive Care Unit, but does remember the nurses trying to keep her calm and telling her things would be OK.

Escudero-Kontostathis praised the burn and ICU nurses for checking on her and providing constant care.

"You would hit the little things saying you were in pain and they'd be like 'we're coming,' and they walk in and their name was always on the board," she said. "I had more of a personal relationship and memory with the burn center nurses, but I'm excited to eventually get to meet the ICU nurses in person again now that I'm more conscious of that."

She said her path to recovery has been frustrating both physically and mentally. "I forget that I can't just get up and do stuff. I have to use a walker, for example," she said.

"You wake up and you think that you can just get up and go and brush your teeth or get a cup of coffee yourself and I can't, my whole left sides like pretty charred," Escudero-Kontostathis said. "Mentally, also a little frustrated because I want to be working and doing things."

Escudero, who's the director of Threshold Giving's canvassing team, said she enjoyed the work she did and that being unable to work while she recovers is one of the more painful parts of this experience.

"I get to help people find their inner activist and bridge them to the work they want to see in the world," Escudero-Kontostathis said. "Not getting to do that every day is probably more painful than cleaning the burns, which is pretty painful."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Uvalde parents demand financial transparency over school security grants

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

(UVALDE, Texas) -- During Monday night's school board meeting, Uvalde citizens demanded financial transparency regarding the millions of dollars in grants announced last week aimed at strengthening school security before children return to the classroom this September.

"We just saw lump sum $100,000 here, $500,000 here," one community member said during the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District meeting. "Now what I would like to see is further breakdown. OK, who is that money going to?"

The school board announced last week that it plans to spend more than $3.5 million on projects such as replacing locks, installing fences and hiring more counselors. The school district received grants from the state of Texas, the Department of Justice and the Las Vegas Raiders football team to fund these projects.

Uvalde:365 is a continuing ABC News series reported from Uvalde and focused on the Texas community and how it forges on in the shadow of tragedy.

The district also outlined its plan to offer remote classes this year in response to parents' concerns that their children do not feel comfortable returning to school in person.

Becky Reinhardt, the administrator for virtual learning, said there would not be a limit on the number of students who can be virtual, and that students could switch back to in-person learning whenever they wanted.

For their part, the school board members did not speak much about the massacre that killed 21 people in May. They did not answer when asked about the progress of fence-building at the other schools, the likelihood they would conduct their own investigation or the timing of Police Chief Pete Arredondo's termination hearing, which has been delayed twice.

The board will meet next Monday to hear community grievances.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Why archbishop turned to sign language to talk to Uvalde survivors

Nick Wagner/Xinhua via Getty Images

(UVALDE, Texas) -- Archbishop of San Antonio Gustavo García-Siller has been traveling to Uvalde, Texas, to "walk with the community" as it grapples with the horrific shooting this past May.

García-Siller spends time with the residents and leads Mass services for the community. For the past two and a half months, he has borne witness to the town's "collective wound," he said.

When faced with the magnitude of emotions that accompanies tragedy, words often fail, which is why he's utilizing another way to make a connection with the children of Uvalde.

The archbishop said he has met with children from the community to encourage them, but when he tried to ask them to express their feelings, they had trouble, likely due to emotional distress. But when he used sign language for words such as "sad," "happy," or "peace," they were receptive and responsive, helping him and their families understand what they were feeling, García-Siller told ABC News Correspondent John Quinones.

The archbishop said one of his first concerns was that children he met weren't able to communicate their feelings verbally. "It's hard for people to talk... to express a feeling," he said. But after sensing fourth and fifth graders' participation during a partially signed homily, he went home to brush up on his American Sign Language skills. What they could not previously communicate verbally, they were able to through hand motions.

The archbishop could gauge the children's emotional states, and how they felt sad but desired to feel peace, he said. "It was a breakthrough. I felt so happy that I was able to connect with them," said García-Siller, who has now integrated the practice into his work with children.

"Because the children trust me," he said, when asked why he attended a local private school's back-to-school student-teacher meet-and-greet Monday morning.

Meanwhile, the parents of victims have presented the church leader with deep questions regarding faith and forgiveness, he said. What surprised him was how many parents asked not about why God would take their children away, but rather, if God was with their little girls and boys. "They wanted to know that God was taking care of their child," he said.

The archbishop described a community aching for trust. He said that while children often gain trust by "just sitting [at] the same table eating cookies," the adults in Uvalde need "servant leaders" who will reestablish "mutual trust." The archbishop also said he has a message for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

"We don't need to show power at this time. Power, at this time, and it will be for a while, diminishes people. We need you to accompany them. To walk with them," he said. "If mistakes were made, walk with them to resolve them. Don't bring all that power and all those arms and all that control."

In the meantime, García-Siller plans to continue to do just that: walk with Uvalde.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

88-year-old woman was gardening when attacked, killed by alligator

Tom Wozniak / 500px / Getty Images

(SUN CITY HILTON HEAD, S.C.) -- An 88-year-old woman was killed in an apparent alligator attack in South Carolina on Monday, officials said.

It appears the victim, Nancy Becker, was gardening near a pond in Sun City Hilton Head, an adult-only community, and slipped in, according to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Natural Resources.

Responders found the gator "guarding" Becker, officials said.

The gator, a 9-foot, 8-inch male, has been euthanized, officials said.

Becker's autopsy will be conducted Tuesday, officials said.

This marks the fifth alligator death in South Carolina since 2000, according to the Department of Natural Resources and the sheriff's office.

Alligators are active during spring and summer because when temperatures rise, their metabolism increases and they look for food, Melody Kilborn, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told ABC News last month.

Kilborn urged people to follow these safety tips: alligators are most active at night, so only swim in designated swimming areas during daylight hours; never feed an alligator; and keep your pets on a leash and away from the water's edge.

ABC News' Darren Reynolds contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Millions of people in Midwest to experience 'extreme heat belt' by 2053: Report

Bloomberg via Getty Images/FILE

(NEW YORK) -- Millions of Americans are at risk of experiencing an "extreme heat belt" that would affect parts of the Midwest over the next three decades, according to a new report from the nonprofit research group First Street Foundation.

By 2053, 1,023 counties, an area home to more than 107 million Americans and covers a quarter of U.S. land, are expected to see the heat index, or the feels-like temperature, surpass 125 degrees Fahrenheit at least one day a year, according to the report, which was released Monday.

According to the First Street Foundation's study, those high temperatures, considered extremely dangerous by the National Weather Service, are expected to affect 8 million Americans this year and increase 13 times over 30 years.

The "extreme heat belt" extends from Texas' northern border and Louisiana north through Iowa, Indiana and Illinois, the report shows.

Other parts of the country are expected to see hotter temperatures, harming people living in areas not used to excessive heat, the report found.

"This reality suggests that a 10% temperature increase in Maine can be as dangerous as a 10% increase in Texas, even as the absolute temperature increase in Texas is much higher," researchers wrote in the report.

The researchers cited the changing condition in the environment that's leading to higher temperatures and more humid conditions.

"When everyone thinks of this extreme summer we [are having], this is probably one of the best summers over the next 30 years," Matthew Eby, founder and CEO of the First Street Foundation, told ABC News. "It's going to get much worse."

Extreme temperatures can cause health issues, from fatigue to life-threatening problems such as heat strokes.

Scientists have said that prolonged heat waves result from climate change, particularly in different countries at the same time, as was the case last month in parts of the continental U.S. and Europe.

Jason Smerdon, a climate scientist for the Columbia Climate School's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, told ABC News last month that extreme heat is a "basic consequence of climate change."

"While each heat wave itself is different and has individual dynamics behind it, the probability of these events is a direct consequence of the warming planet," Smerdon said.

The First Street Foundation is a Brooklyn, New York-based nonprofit research and technology group that quantifies climate risks.

ABC News' Julia Jacobo contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Recently Played

Follow us on Facebook

Visitor Polls

Do You Like the New Website?
Add a Comment
(Fields are Optional)

Your email address is never published.

Upcoming Events

    No upcoming events.