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Millions of people face life-threatening storm surge and heavy winds and rains as Tropical Storm Elsa moves north off the coast toward Florida’s Big Bend area

Elsa is churning off the western coast of Florida with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph as it moves north on a collision course with the Big Bend region, where it is expected to make landfall late Wednesday morning or early in the afternoon.
A Tampa resident covers his windows with hurricane shutters in preparation for Hurricane Elsa Tuesday.
The storm was about 50 miles southwest of Cedar Key Wednesday morning.
Hurricane warnings were in place from the Chassahowitzka River, just to the south of Homosassa, Florida, to the Steinhatchee River.  The hurricane warnings south of the Chassahowitzka River to Egmont Key, Florida, have been replaced by tropical storm warnings.
Bands of heavy rain and strong winds continue to spread inland across southwest and west-central Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center. A tornado watch has been issued for parts of Florida until 8 a.m., according to a tweet from the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office.
While the system weakened to a tropical storm early Wednesday after becoming a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday, hurricane warnings remain in place for more than four million people in Florida. More than 12 million people are under a tropical storm warning across three states.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded his state of emergency declaration Tuesday to include a total of 33 counties as local, state and utility resources continue to prepare for the incoming storm.
The Florida National Guard has activated 60 guardsmen to serve at the State Emergency Operations Center and Logistics Readiness Center, according to a release from the Guard. It is prepared to activate additional personnel as needed.
“We are well-equipped with assets including high-wheeled vehicles, helicopters, boats and generators, and are preparing for possible missions to include humanitarian assistance, security operations, search and rescue, aviation, and more,” the guard said in the release.
In Tampa, officials urged residents to stay off the roads as the storm approaches.

Counties and utilities preparing ahead of storm

Both the mayor and emergency coordinator for the city of Tampa posted on social media Tuesday to encourage residents to stay home and be prepared.
“We are prepared here in the city of Tampa but we need you to do your part as well,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said in a video posted to Twitter. “Don’t go outside tonight. If you don’t have to, do not go outside. Stay in.”
“We want everybody to be safe in Tampa and we’ll be up all night monitoring the storm so you don’t have to,” she added.
Earlier, Tampa Emergency Coordinator John Antapasis said it was time for residents to get to safety ahead of the expected landfall.
“Now is the time to get back home, get off the streets and stay safe for the rest of tonight,” he said. “You should be making and finalizing your hurricane plans and ensuring that you’re in a safe location while … Elsa makes it’s way through out community.”
Antapasis advised that people who need to be on the road should check the city’s flood map.
Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes also warned people to get ready for the storm during a press conference Tuesday.
“Please finalize your plans and secure your homes and get ready to sort of bunker down and ride out this storm,” Hopes said.
Shelters were opened in at least five counties Tuesday and two counties issued voluntary evacuation orders.
Duke Energy, which serves 1.8 million customers in Florida, according to its website, is preparing for anticipated outages from the storm.
The utility said in a press release Tuesday that it has staged 3,000 utility “crew members, contractors, tree specialists and other personnel” from Pinellas County to north Florida.
Additional line workers and support personnel have also been brought in from the Carolinas, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, according to the release.
The University of Florida in Gainesville has canceled classes for Wednesday in anticipation of the storm, the university said in a statement.

Tropical storm warnings and emergency declarations extended

Ahead of Elsa’s landfall in Florida, tropical storm watches and warnings have been issued in Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia.
The warnings extend along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.
A tropical storm watch has been issued for the entire coast of North Carolina and up to Chincoteague, Virginia, and for the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
On Tuesday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued a State of Emergency in preparation for the impact of Elsa.
“This storm system has the potential to produce destructive impacts to citizens throughout the central, southern, and coastal regions of the State of Georgia and due to the possibility of downed trees, power lines, and debris, Georgia’s network of roads may be rendered impassable in the affected counties, isolating residences and persons from access to essential public services,” Kemp said.
A State of Emergency has been declared in 91 of Georgia’s 159 counties, according to Kemp’s order. The order will expire Wednesday at midnight unless the governor decides to renew it.

Author: Hollie Silverman, Michael Guy and Rebekah Riess, CNN
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Son shot while fighting with dad in Whole Foods parking lot, Fort Bend Co. deputies say

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) — A man has been hospitalized and his father has been detained after authorities said a fight between them ended in a shooting in the parking lot of a Whole Foods Market.

A tweet from the Fort Bend County’s Precinct 3 Office states the shooting happened at 6600 S. Fry Road and the scene is secure.

The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office said a man and his son got into some kind of fight in the parking lot outside the store before the son was shot in the neck. The father was detained at the scene and the son is in stable condition at Katy Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Residents who live nearby are asked to try to avoid the area during the investigation.

We’ll bring more information as it becomes available.

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Author: Briana Conner
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Fort Bend Co. surpasses goal with over 70% of adults vaccinated

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) — Residents in the Fort Bend County area may now have bragging rights around the region after officials said they’ve surpassed the federal government’s targeted goal of vaccinated adults.

County Judge KP George released the numbers on Twitter Saturday afternoon, saying that over 70% of their citizens have had a dose.

George thanked every ‘Fort Bender’ who did their part and got at least one of the shots by the 4th of July.

“We have reached (and surpassed) the Federal Government’s aspirational goal of 70% of adults with at least one vaccine dose by July 4,” the post read.

RELATED: Fort Bend leads Texas in vaccination efforts according to state data, county says

At the end of June, Galveston County officials said their area was also nearing a notable threshold in the pursuit of herd immunity.

According to an analysis of data, about 44% of Galveston County’s total population were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at that time.

Video above is from previous post.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Author: KTRK
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5 people living in Fort Bend Co. contract COVID delta variant

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) — Five residents of Fort Bend County have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 delta variant, a version of the coronavirus that has been found in more than 80 countries since it was first detected in India and can spread more easily.

According to the Fort Bend County health department, all five people live in the county and were confirmed to have the variant on Wednesday, June 23.

Officials said three of the residents have received only one dose of the COVID vaccine and one had not been vaccinated at all prior to the start of symptoms.

READ ALSO: COVID delta variant is here: What can families do to stay safe?

The vaccination status of the fifth person hasn’t been determined yet, but officials said although they all experienced symptoms, no one had to be hospitalized.

“These cases underscore the importance of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, especially with the delta variant becoming more prevalent in the U.S.,” said Dr. Jacquelyn Minter, the director of the county’s health and human services department. “Current research shows that two doses of the mRNA vaccines are over 80% effective against the Delta variant.”

The delta variant got its name from the World Health Organization, which names notable variants after letters of the Greek alphabet.

Experts say it spreads more easily because of mutations that make it better at latching onto cells in our bodies. In the United Kingdom, the variant is now responsible for 90% of all new infections. In the U.S., it represents 20% of infections, and health officials say it could become the country’s dominant type as well.

Studies have shown that the available vaccines work against variants, including the delta variant.

“The best protection that we have against this disease is to be fully vaccinated,” said Minter. “If you are not fully vaccinated, we encourage you to wear your mask and to maintain a physical distance from others while in public.”

Free vaccines are still available in Fort Bend County.

Researchers in England studied how effective the two-dose AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were against it, compared with the alpha variant that was first detected in the U.K.

The vaccines were protective for those who got both doses, but were less so among those who got one dose.

It’s why experts say it’s important to be fully vaccinated. And it’s why they say making vaccines accessible globally is so critical.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Author: KTRK

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Flood Advisory in effect for Austin, Ft. Bend, Harris and Waller counties until 2:15 a.m.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — 12:06 a.m. update: Flood Advisory in effect for Austin, Fort Bend, Harris and Waller counties until 2:15 a.m.A severe Thunderstorm Watch has been issued through 2 a.m. Saturday for some of our viewers northwest of Houston (Brenham, College Station, Columbus, & Sealy areas.)

Storms should be near the coast by midnight and will quickly move off the coast early Saturday. Then a cool front will spark widespread storms on Saturday especially in the afternoon. Sunday and Monday should be mostly dry and pleasant.

How much rain has your part of town received so far? Harris County provides rainfall totals across the city with a map from the Flood Warning System.

Stay weather aware by downloading the ABC13 app to have the latest breaking news and weather alerts sent straight to your phone.Will Friday be a rain-out?

Not an all day washout, no. We are seeing some showers forming this morning on an outflow boundary moving through the area, and we could see thunderstorms develop along that same boundary. We’ll see less rain this afternoon, with another batch possible this evening.What about Memorial Day weekend?
Rain chances will spike to 60% on Saturday as a cool front moves in. After that, rain chances and humidity levels fall. The weather will be nice for Memorial Day.

Southeast Texas
Harris County

Galveston County
Montgomery/Walker/San Jacinto/Polk/Grimes Counties
Fort Bend/Wharton/Colorado Counties
Brazoria/Matagorda CountiesSHARE YOUR WEATHER PHOTOS: Send us pics and videos of weather in your area to [email protected] and at #ABC13Eyewitness on social media.

Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Author: KTRK

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Former Fort Bend ISD teacher charged with animal cruelty for allegedly killing kittens

SUGAR LAND, Texas (KTRK) — A 29-year-old Sugar Land man has been arrested and charged with four counts of animal cruelty after authorities say he killed his pet kittens.Graham William Reid is a former teacher for Fort Bend ISD. According to the school district, he is no longer employed by them, and counseling is being made available to the students he taught.

Reid is accused of killing his cats, primarily by beating the young felines to death. The pets, reportedly named Cabbage, Parsnip, Carrot and Broccoli, all died violent deaths in a short period of time, investigators say.According to court documents, Reid admitted to killing the kittens as a means to feel powerful when he was otherwise stressed or frustrated. Reid reportedly said that he was bullied and oppressed as a child, relating to his need to feel powerful.

The kittens, ranging in age from about 8 weeks to 1 year, were allegedly beaten with a variety of objects, including a metal bar, a cat scratching post and a litter box scooper.The animal deaths came to light following a tip to an animal cruelty task force.

Fort Bend ISD issued the following statement:

“We have been made aware of a disturbing animal cruelty allegation against a teacher who is no longer employed with the District. We are unable to comment further as the matter involves an ongoing criminal investigation. Please know the safety and security of our students is our top priority and we are taking steps to safeguard the emotional well-being of our students by making well-trained counselors available to the teacher’s former students.”

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Copyright © 2021 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.

Author: KTRK

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Lawyers of Chet Hanks' ex to address lawsuit against him in Fort Bend Co.

RICHMOND, Texas (KTRK) — The lawyers of a woman who claimed Tom Hanks’ son put her through a pattern of abuse, including one incident at a Sugar Land home, are slated to address a lawsuit they filed against him on her behalf.Last month, ABC13 reported a protective order was filed in Fort Bend County against Chet Hanks, one of the sons of the Academy Award actor.

The woman suing the 30-year-old Hanks was in a dating relationship with him since 2019. The two shared homes in Sugar Land and in California.Editor’s note: Eyewitness News is not revealing the woman’s identity.

The woman’s lawyers, Kevin Murray and D’Angelo Lowe, claim Hanks assaulted their client while they’ve been in a relationship. They pointed at examples of the alleged abuse, including an incident last October when she visited Hanks in New Orleans while he filmed a TV series.

The protective order also points at an incident in Sugar Land back in January that led her to contact authorities and file charges against him.

In response, Hanks, through his attorney Marty D. Singer, stated the claims are false, deciding to file a lawsuit in return against her.

SEE MORE: Tom Hanks’ son Chet accused of abusing, threatening girlfriend in Sugar Land homeStill, the woman’s lawyers insist Hanks must answer for the alleged abuse.

“Chet Hanks has repeatedly been seen abusing our client and needs to be held accountable for his actions, regardless of his family and their name recognition,” her attorneys said in a joint statement.

A brief news conference is scheduled at about 3 p.m. to take place Tuesday in front of the Fort Bend County Justice Center in Richmond.

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