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Maynard Returns to State Senate After Injury


State Sen. Andrew Maynard received a standing ovation when he returned to the senate chambers in Hartford for the first time since suffering a serious injury over the summer summer.

The lawmaker was badly hurt in July when he fell from an outdoor staircase at his home in Stonington, hitting his head.

"It was a very moving moment when Sen. Maynard joined us in the chamber today," said Majority Leader Martin Looney. "We had spoken with him a few days ago and he believed that he had recovered sufficiently to be here and to take the oath, so we're pleased that he was. It was probably the highlight of the morning."

Looney said Maynard is still recovering after being treated at Rhode Island Hospital, where he remained inpatient for weeks. He was later transferred to the Hospital of Special Care in New Britain for physical and occupational therapy.

Although the state senator opted not to campaign or make public appearances ahead of Election day, Maynard was re-elected in November against a Republican challenger.

He was sworn in for a new two-year term on Wednesday.

“Andy insisted that he return to the senate circle and join his colleagues in taking the oath of office,” said Maynard's sister, Denise Mahoney, in a statement.

She said her brother's recovery has “been nothing short of remarkable” and thanked Maynard’s friends and well-wishers, along with the doctors, nurses and therapists who have helped along the way.

Maynard continues to undergo physical and occupational therapy to work on his balance, strengthen his right arm and improve the use of his right hand, according to a statement from his office.

"He does have some speech aphasia, where he does have some trouble finding the right word for the thought that he has," Looney explained, adding that he has full confidence in the senator's ability to serve.

"He was here, he took the oath," Looney said. "He will probably not be present full time for a while, while he continues therapy, but I think his presence here shows his competence."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Cat Found Shot With Arrow in Head


A Tampa-area family's cat is recovering after she was found with an arrow shot through her head.

Owner Tyra Bulluck said Akila got out of the family's home Tuesday. The family searched for her for hours before finding her in a neighbor's yard with the arrow through the top of her head.

Akila was taken to the Animal Coalition of Tampa and underwent emergency surgery to remove the arrow. The surgery was successful and Akila was allowed to go home.

It's unknown who shot the arrow into Akila's head.

Former Home Health Aide Accused of Stealing Checks From Client


A former home health aide has been arrested in Southbury, accused of stealing almost $50,000 from a client.

Marie Wuhrer, a former home health aide worker for Companions & Homemakers, was arrested on Dec. 28 and charged with first-degree larceny and first-degree forgery.

Wuhrer was working for a resident in Heritage Village when she was accused of taking checks without permission and cashing them in the amount of $48,700, according to a news release from police.

Companions & Homemakers, a home care company that with several offices in Connecticut, released the following statement about the arrest:

“We are saddened to learn of any allegation that a Connecticut senior was victimized. Our care staff are screened prior to employment, subjected to two background checks and calls to personal and employment references. The accused was hired many years ago, and no part of their employment record, public record or references presented cause for concern that person or property might be jeopardized. We support prosecution of any crime against a senior, and have cooperated with the investigation.”

Wuhrer posted a $25,000 court-set bond and is due in court on Jan. 14.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Dramatic Photos: World Reaction After Paris Terror Attack


Vigils have begun around the world in tribute to the 12 victims that were fatally shot by masked gunmen who stormed the Paris office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Photo Credit: AP

Suspects Arraigned in NYPD Shooting


One of the two police officers shot by a gunman while responding to a robbery call in the Bronx earlier this week was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon, hours before the accused suspects in the case were arraigned in a Bronx court. 

Wearing a blue jumpsuit and a grin, 38-year-old Aliro Pellerano was escorted outside in a wheelchair to a bagpipe salute and a sea of applause from his colleagues in blue. He shook hands with dozens of uniformed officers as he was wheeled out of the hospital. Then he stood up and walked on his own to a waiting police van as his fellow officers cheered once more.

PBA union president Pat Lynch, who's been embroiled in a battle with City Hall, joined the cheering crowd outside the hospital.

"Only weeks after two officers were assassinated, you can imagine what went through everyone's mind," he said. "It's a difficult time. But it's a time when family comes together." 

Pellerano was shot in the abdomen and arm near East 184th Street and Tiebout Avenue in Fordham late Monday. The nine-year NYPD veteran with more than 500 arrests during his time on the force was at St. Barnabas Hospital for nearly three days before he was released around 2 p.m.

Officer Andrew Dossi, 30, was more seriously injured in the shooting; he was hit in the arm and lower back. The NYPD's chief surgeon said Wednesday that the eight-year NYPD veteran -- who has notched more than 125 arrests -- will need extensive physical therapy. It's not clear when or if he will be moved from the hospital to a rehabilitation center for treatment.

Both officers were described in "excellent" spirits. 

Pellerano's police sergeant, Angel Gonzalez, who was there when the officers were shot, was also among those cheering outside the hospital. 

"I'm happy that he was able to walk on his own two feet and go home the next day," he said. 

The two officers, who were in plain clothes and about to end their shifts, were part of a group of five cops responding to a call about a robbery at a deli on East 180th Street in the Bronx when they were shot outside a Chinese food restaurant not far from the robbery scene, Bratton said.

The suspects fled after the shooting, sparking a manhunt. The alleged gunman, Jason Polanco, was picked up in the Bronx Tuesday afternoon, hours after he was allegedly captured on a restaurant's surveillance video opening fire on the group of officers responding to the robbery call.

His alleged accomplice, Joshua Kemp, was struck in the bicep by a bullet Polanco allegedly fired through the window of the restaurant. The bullet went straight through Kemp, Bratton said, and hit one of the police officers. Polanco allegedly fired two more shots and one of the five officers responded, firing three shots back at the suspects. The suspects then fled and carjacked a vehicle.

Kemp was taken into custody after he went to a Manhattan hospital with a gunshot wound. The person who drove him to the hospital told police about the robbery and shooting, Bratton said.

They were arraigned Wednesday evening, Polanco on attempted murder, robbery, assault and weapons charges, and Kemp on robbery and burglary charges. They did not enter pleas. 

Polanco was remanded without bail and is scheduled to appear in court again on Jan. 12. Bail for Kemp has been set at $200,000, and he's also next scheduled to appear in court Jan. 12. 

Their attorneys -- Marvin Raskin for Kemp, and Joel Peyster for Polanco -- had no comment Wednesday.

Polanco, who has three prior convictions on weapons charges, faces charges of attempted murder of a police officer, carjacking and commercial robbery. Kemp, who is on parole for robbery and has 10 prior convictions, according to authorities, faces charges of commercial robbery.

The city's top cop also said authorities are looking into whether Polanco and Kemp may be connected to a pattern of commercial robbery in the Bronx and northern Manhattan. 

The officers were shot hours after the mayor and the police commissioner held a joint news conference to tout record low crime levels, with overall crime down 4 percent from last year. But shootings were up 13 percent, which NYPD officials admitted were "an area of concern."

Last month, NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed while sitting in a patrol car in Brooklyn, fueling tension between police and City Hall. Police unions have blamed de Blasio for permitting protests over police conduct that has, in turn, fostered an anti-NYPD atmosphere they believe contributed to the killings of the officers. The family of the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, said he was emotionally disturbed and that the shootings had nothing to do with police retaliation. 

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York

50 Firefighters Battle Blaze, Bitter Cold in Avon


More than 50 firefighters from flocked to Sweetbriar Lane in Avon to beat back flames that tore through a condo unit late Wednesday afternoon.

Emergency responders hailing from the Avon, Farmington, East Farmington and Tunxis Hose fire companies braved the elements, working in shifts to stay safe in the bitter cold.

"We've needed more personnel. We had to cycle people out," explained Mary-Ellen Harper, director of Farmington Fire & Rescue Services. "The firefighters that were immediately first on scene were covered in ice, and obviously they can't stay like that for a long time, so we've been cycling them in and out to thaw them while keeping water on the fire."

Flames tore through the roof around 2 p.m., causing the first floor to cave in. As of 5:45 p.m., crews were still stamping out hot spots in the basement of 6 Sweetbriar Lane, and all that all that remained was a charred frame and smoldering embers.

Harper said residents of the burning condo are out of town. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and firefighters corralled the flames to keep them from spreading to neighboring units.

It's not clear what caused the blaze. A fire marshal is investigating.

Check back for updates.

Full Text of Gov. Dannel Malloy's Inaugural Address


Gov. Dannel Malloy took the oath of office and gave his 2015 inaugural address Wednesday afternoon after being sworn in as governor, marking the official start of his second term. The following is the full text of his inaugural address, as prepared:

My fellow Connecticut residents – thank you.

Thank you to all of the distinguished public servants, clergy members, and other honored guests joining us today.

Thank you to the best Lt. Governor in the United States of America, Nancy Wyman.

Thank you to everyone here whose hard work and dedication have made this day possible.

And thank you most of all to my beloved wife, Cathy, and our three terrific boys, Dannel, Ben, and Sam.

Today marks a new chapter. A chapter in a story that began long before any of us were here, and one that will continue on long after our contributions end.

It’s the story of who we are as a state, and as a people. It’s about the challenges we face, and how we face them. It’s about where we’ve been, and where we’re going next.

Our unyielding belief in the story of Connecticut is why so many of us here today first chose to run for public office.

It’s why our police and firefighters put themselves in harm’s way keeping Connecticut neighborhoods safe.

It’s why teachers teach, and working mothers and fathers still find time to volunteer at their children’s school.

It’s why, in this past election, Connecticut voters turned out to the polls in higher numbers than almost any other state.

This past chapter – these four years now behind us – were not easy.

We faced difficult choices, with few simple answers. We had contentious debates, even among friends. We weathered historic storms from which we had to rebuild. We were shaken by unthinkable tragedy in Newtown, and we found consolation within one another.

In the face of adversity, we also made progress.

We saw the creation of more than 75,000 new private sector jobs, the largest job growth Connecticut has seen in decades.

Thousands more children were given the opportunity of a quality pre-K experience. Graduation rates soared to new heights, while crime declined to historic lows.

We improved working conditions, and we raised the minimum wage.

None of this progress came easily. But history has taught us that meaningful change rarely comes with the full-throated support of every public official, or every state resident.

President James Madison said that “democracies have ever-been spectacles of turbulence and contention.” Lord knows we’ve proven that true here in Connecticut. We’ve won our progress through hard work and spirited debate, by pushing forward even when it would have been so much easier to stand still.

My fellow citizens, let that be our badge of honor – that during difficult times, while others shied away from hard decisions, we made them. That in the face of fierce obstacles, we did not retreat. That during crises, we banded together.

We chose to believe that there is more that unites us in Connecticut, than divides us.

We all want a strong economy that rewards hard work with a fair wage. Where no one who works full time ever has to live in poverty, and where every family can feel economically secure.

We all want a better future for our children – strong schools and a great education that takes our kids from pre-k all the way through college and beyond.

We all want our streets and neighborhoods to be safe places to work and to live, where we enforce our laws strictly, and allow those who run afoul of them to earn a second chance, because we are all our brother’s keeper.

We all want cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable energy for our citizens and for our businesses.

And we all want roads, highways, buses, trains, ports, and airports that work for every city and town, for every business, and for every person in our state.

My friends, let these shared beliefs be our guide as we pen this next chapter in our state’s history.

Today, I say to my fellow citizens – Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike – that no one party or one policy maker holds a monopoly on good ideas. We might not always agree on the details, but we can agree that we want our children to inherit a better Connecticut than we were given.

Over the next four years we will face new challenges, but we will also be presented with new opportunities.

Together, let us continue to buck the national trends of obstruction and gridlock. Let us confront hard realities, tackle old problems with renewed vigor, and set aside short-term convenience in favor of long-term prosperity. Let us dismiss petty partisanship that divides us, and focus instead on what binds us to one another.

If we can do that – if we can work together – we can grow our economy and grow more good paying jobs with good benefits.

We can make sure all our children get a great education in a great public school.

We can build a transportation system that better connects us to one another and to the rest of the world.

And we can continue to lift more and more of our neighbors into a bigger, more inclusive middle class.

That is our challenge.

Thank you, may God bless you, and may God bless the great State of Connecticut.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

United Bank Customer Says Glitch Leaves Account in the Red


An unidentified glitch has rattled some United Bank customers in Connecticut today, one of whom said the problem left her account in the red.

United Bank, which took over Rockville Bank during a merger last year, has not told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters precisely what the problem entails, or released any information on the scope of the issue, except to say it’s working to resolve it.

The Troubleshooters have spoken with at least one customer who says the glitch created a negative balance in her account.

United, now based in Glastonbury, responded with the following statement:

“We are aware that some of our customers experienced issues with their accounts today as well as accessing our online banking system. We identified the issue and we have a team working very hard to resolve the matter quickly so their accounts are updated and accurate. We are very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused…”

Another customer mentioned concerns that the issue could cause checks to bounce, which the bank has not addressed.

It’s not clear how long it will take to remedy the problem.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

LifeStar Called to Meriden Crash


LifeStar has been called to a crash on North Broad Street in Meriden but was unable to fly a helicopter due to weather conditions, according to the medical helicopter service.

Police said the crash was reported Wednesday afternoon on North Broad Street between Golden Street and North Colony Road.

Authorities have not released any information on injuries.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Route 30 Reopens in Tolland


Route 30 has reopened in Tolland following a rollover crash that sent a driver to the hospital Wednesday afternoon.

Emergency dispatchers said Route 30 was closed near Hunter Road after a car rolled over. The driver was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

According to the Tolland Alert Twitter account, the driver suffered minor injuries.

No additional information was immediately available. Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: Tolland Alert

Malloy Delivers State of the State Address


After being sworn in for his second term, Gov. Dannel Malloy delivered his 2015 State of the State address Wednesday evening. The full text of the address is as follows:

Four years ago, I joined you in this chamber for the first time as Governor. I spoke about how Connecticut has always been a leader.

About how, for generations, we shaped and changed our nation and indeed the world.

Connecticut drafted North America’s first written constitution. We founded our nation’s first insurance company. Our inventors gave the world the can opener, the bicycle, and the artificial heart.

Connecticut has always been a birthplace of innovation. And over the past four years, we’ve continued to lead – and lead nationally – on some of the biggest issues of our time.

We increased the minimum wage – the first in the nation to commit to ten dollars and ten cents per hour.

We passed paid sick leave – the first in America to do it.

Working with Democrats and Republicans, we created the strongest, smartest gun violence prevention laws in the nation. Today crime in Connecticut is at a 40 year low.

Thanks to Nancy Wyman, we cut the number of uninsured Connecticut citizens in half and became a national model for a new kind of health care system.

We’ve built better schools, raised test scores, made college more affordable, and put Connecticut on a path toward universal pre-kindergarten.

We added more than 500 million dollars to our rainy day fund and responsibly cut our long term debt by 12 billion dollars.

And finally, because of the decisions we made together over the last four years, our economy is gaining traction. Together we’ve helped private employers create more than 75,000 new jobs.

None of these things would have happened if we avoided tough decisions or failed to face our problems. We have led Connecticut down a stronger path because we didn’t take the easy way out.

The question now before us: “what’s next?”

How do we honor our remarkable history and tradition? How do we fulfill our promise for a brighter tomorrow? How do we decide what kind of Connecticut we’re going to leave to our children?

We do it with courage. By having the tough-but-necessary debates about our long-term prosperity.

We do it by pushing ahead, even if it isn’t easy… especially when it isn’t easy.

We do it by building a Connecticut that is prepared not just for the next fiscal year, but for the next half-century.

In that spirit, I want to talk to you today about one of the largest challenges we face – something that has held us back for decades and that, left unfixed, would hamper our economy for decades to come.

I want to talk about how, for two generations, Connecticut fell short on transportation.

We know that transportation and economic growth are bound together. States that make long-term investments in their infrastructure can have vibrant economies for generations. States that don’t, will struggle. It’s that simple.

Transportation connects us – literally – community to community, state to state, nation to nation. It connects us to economic opportunity, and it connects us to one another.

First, here’s the good news: thanks to the efforts of so many here in this chamber, we’ve increased support for transportation – dramatically.

Funding is up 65 percent during the past four years. During this period, we’ve sent more General Fund revenue to the Special Transportation Fund than ever before – nearly 1.2 billion dollars.

We’ve made sure more of the gross petroleum receipts tax goes directly toward supporting transportation.

We’ve taken action on long-overdue projects like widening I-84 in Waterbury, replacing the Walk Bridge in Norwalk, and adding new tracks and signal systems between New Haven and Hartford.

All told, we’ve invested more in transportation than any time dating back to Governor O’Neill. It’s more progress than Connecticut has made in decades.

But here’s the problem: it’s still not enough. We have so much more to do.

We have more to do because traffic congestion still costs the average person an extra 42 hours away from your family each year.

And for our economy, it’s the equivalent of 97 million dollars in lost time and wasted fuel, each and every day.

All told roads and bridges that are either deficient or overly-congested cost Connecticut drivers a total of 4.2 billion dollars annually.

It’s harming us and the health of our children with additional air pollution and smog.

Simply put, our investments have not kept pace with our needs, and our residents and businesses are paying the price.

It’s unacceptable. We need a new approach.

To be competitive regionally, nationally, and internationally, we need a transformation. For our roads, bridges, rails, and ports – even our walkways and our bikeways.

We need to change the ways we commute, the ways our businesses move their products, and the ways we get around our cities and towns. It’s time for Connecticut to establish a collective vision for the next thirty years. A vision for a best-in-class transportation system.

We can have an open and honest discussion of what needs to happen to transform our infrastructure to meet the challenges and demands of the 21st Century.

We can do it this year. In this session.

To make us more business friendly, to attract new companies and more jobs, to improve our quality of life, and make our state an even better place to raise a family.

We can change Connecticut, so that thirty years from now, here is what we will leave to our children:

A state with the safest highways, railways, buses, bicycle and pedestrian systems in New England;

A state where people can move back and forth to their jobs in a reasonable and predictable amount of time, so they can spend less time in traffic and more time with their family;

A state where we attract new businesses because our highways and rail networks can deliver goods efficiently, without delay;

A state where our children want to stay and raise new generations because they have a choice to live and work with a car… or without one;

A state with three vibrant, deep-water ports exporting more and more goods made right here in Connecticut;

A state with an international airport that serves as a hub for transportation across America and around the globe;

A state whose bus and rail systems interconnect all of Connecticut, linking us to cities up and down the east coast;

A state that is crisscrossed by bicycle and pedestrian trails that make our communities more sustainable, our towns more walkable, and our cities more livable.

These are lofty goals. They might seem unattainable to some. They’ll say it can’t be done. That it’s not even worth trying. They’ll say we can’t do it while also working to balance our budget.

I say we can’t afford not to do it. Together, we should refuse to give in to the cynics and the naysayers. This is the Connecticut we must strive for.

Over the coming weeks I will begin a dialogue on how best to face these challenges head on.

I will come back to you next month with more details, but in the meantime I want to offer two ideas as a good place to start.

First, we should ensure that our efforts are comprehensive in their size, their scope, and their geography.

That means widening I-95 statewide and fixing its entrance and exit ramps.

It means building new rail stations and upgrading our branch lines to provide real commuter rail service, including the Naugatuck Valley.

It means creating a statewide, 21st Century bus service with real-time updates commuters can check on their cell phones.

The bottom line is that we need to improve transportation of all kinds, in towns of all sizes, across all of our state.

Second, we must make sure every penny we raise for transportation goes toward our vision to transform Connecticut.

Today, I am proposing that Connecticut create a secure transportation lock box that will ensure every single dollar raised for transportation is spent on transportation, now and into the future.

No gimmicks. No diversions.

And we should include a covenant with bond holders and all people of Connecticut to ensure that money set aside for transportation projects is only used for that purpose.

Send me a bill that accomplishes these goals and I will sign it immediately.

Until that legislation is passed and signed, I will veto any attempt to levy additional sources of new revenue for transportation.

We also know that an honest conversation about our transportation future must include a dialogue on how we pay for new projects. While traffic congestion is getting worse, more efficient cars mean that our gas taxes will soon fail to cover current investments, let alone the new ones we need to make.

The budget I present to you next month will include first steps toward funding a long-term transportation vision. But subsequent steps will need to be taken in the years beyond that.

That’s why we must tie our hands and the hands of future generations. It’s why we must be specific about which current or future revenues will be set aside.

Let’s start this conversation with a real, working lock box.

My friends, we’ve accomplished many big things together over the past four years. But ultimately, the success of our economy over the next ten, twenty and even thirty years will be determined by one thing: our transportation infrastructure.

We need only look to Connecticut’s own history to know this is true. After all, transportation is why we’ve led since our founding.

From the Native American trails that helped a young colony develop and thrive;

To our seaports that brought commerce from across the globe and made our state a maritime hub;

To the turnpikes and parkways that allowed our state to develop into an industrial power;

To the railroads that connected each city and town across Connecticut to one another, and to Boston, New York, and beyond.

Today, we can open a new chapter in our state’s proud history, one where we begin rebuilding Connecticut, both figuratively and literally.

Let it be a chapter of smart investment and long-term thinking.

Let it be a down payment on the kind of state we want to leave to future generations.

Let it be a promise that Connecticut’s 88th Governor and the 2015 General Assembly were planning ahead.

Planning for our children and our children’s children. So that it was their interests that came first in our minds, and first in our hearts.

Thank you, may God bless you, and may God bless the great State of Connecticut.

Shoreline Residents Prep for Bitter Cold


The temperature in East Haven read 27 degrees Wednesday afternoon and it's only getting colder.

Shoreline residents are getting ready for what's head.

"It's time for us to get some bad weather, you know. Sneaking up on us right now. We just have to wait and see what happens," said Ronald Pernell, of West Haven.

Temperatures are expected to plummet overnight, and icy gusts will bring the wind chill down below zero. Those who live in the New Haven area said they were prepared for frigid temps to set in eventually.

"We've been lucky so far. We've gotten spoiled a little bit, you know, but it's January, and you have to expect it to get cold, and just got to do things in the cold," said West Haven resident Mark Levine, who joined a dozen others to skate on the ice in New Haven on Wednesday.

The ice skaters made sure to bundle up and took fireplace breaks every so often to stay warm.

"We're going through a lot of firewood; we have a fire every day. I cook a lot of hot soups," explained Wallingford resident Jenn Pappas, who brought her daughter out to skate. "We stay inside a lot, but coming out to go ice skating is a nice afternoon."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

More Cold Means More Snow at Woodbury Ski Area


With school in session and temperatures plummeting, it was a quiet afternoon at Woodbury Ski Area – but workers were very much in business making ice-free snow.

“You've got to love it; you can't beat it,” said the manager, Scott D’Amato. “Everything's freezing, no runoff, and the colder it is, it piles up faster.”

Although D'Amato's enthusiam was evident, he admitted the bitter cold keeps people away. Regardless, the cold snap could last long enough to coat the slopes with a base ready for the weekends.

“The colder it is, the more you can make. Get it going; this is it! It's great!” he said, gesturing toward a mound of snow produced Tuesday night.

Had temperatures been in the 20s, the pile would have been just 25 percent of what it is, D'Amato said, and it’s still growing.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Measles Cases Linked to Disneyland


At least nine people confirmed to have highly infectious measles visited Disneyland parks in Southern California last month, health officials said Wednesday.

The California Department of Public Health confirmed seven cases of measles in the state, and two others in Utah. Three more California residents are also suspected to have measles, but those cases are not confirmed.

The nine confirmed to have measles said they visited Disneyland and/or Disney California Adventure Park in Orange County between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20, 2014.

The source of the infection is still under investigation, but health officials said it's likely that a person with measles was at one of the theme parks during that time period.

"We are working with the health department to provide any information and assistance we can," said Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

A Disneyland spokesperson said further questions will be directed to the Department of Public Health.

The Borbons of San Jose visited the theme park during the infection window. No one in the family is showing any symptoms. The family also said all of their vaccinations are up to date.

"You don't ever want to get a virus," Kristine Borbons said. "It's a little scary, but I don't think it's to a hysterical point."

The confirmed cases in California live in Alameda, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties and in Pasadena. They range in age from 8 months to 21 years.

Six of the seven California cases were not vaccinated for measles, including two who were too young to be vaccinated, officials said. One had been vaccinated with two doses of the MMR vaccine.

Both Utah cases were not vaccinated, a Utah Department of Health spokeswoman said.

People can be infectious with measles for nine days. Measles typically begins with fever, cough, runny nose and red eyes and within a few days a red rash appears, usually first on the face and then spreads downward to the rest of the body. Measles is a highly infectious, airborne disease.

Measles has been eliminated in the United States since 2000, but outbreaks have occurred in Western Europe, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines, health officials said. Disneyland and other theme parks are international attractions with visitors from all over the world, including areas where measles is an epidemic.

More information about measles can be found on the California Department of Public Health website.

NBC Bay Area's Jean Elle contributed to this report.

Schools Gear Up for Frigid Temps


Schools around the state are making every effort to keep students and staff members safe and warm and ensure that things go smoothly as temperatures dip into the single digits overnight and wind chills fall below zero.

East Haven superintendent Dr. Portia Bonner checked off items on a long to-do list at the high school Wednesday to ensure the town's schools will stand up to the brutal cold.

“In most cases, we do have more than one boiler in our old buildings, so if one goes down, we can also prevent any kind of cold temperatures from going on, but the key is to make sure those boilers are running overnight, so there's no freezing,” said Bonner.

She also put calls into the bus company and kept an eye on the forecast to determine whether to implement a delay Thursday morning. Bonner ultimately decided that, barring any emergencies, school will start on time, but said she wants to educate parents on the dangers the extreme cold poses to students.

“The waiting for the buses, making sure that the children are properly covered, so there are no skin areas exposed to the cold, cold temperatures, making sure there's hats and hoods and so on,” she explained.

School officials in New Haven are following suit.

Transportation Coordinator Teddi Barra said buses will start their engines around 3 a.m. to allow them ample time to warm up before students climb aboard.

Barra's office focuses on timely arrivals so that students, who may not be dressed properly, aren't waiting in cold conditions for long periods of time.

Meanwhile, the principal at Carrigan Intermediate School in West Haven plans to open the building early for students, who arrive early and would otherwise be waiting outside in the cold.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Bomb Threat Scrawled in Simsbury High School Bathroom


After-school activities at Simsbury High School were postponed Wednesday afternoon after a bomb threat was found scrawled in a bathroom, according to a letter from the principal.

Principal Neil Sullivan wrote to parents and guardians that someone discovered the threat shortly before the school's scheduled dismissal time at 2:10 p.m. Wednesday.

Students were dismissed according to plan and after-school activities were delayed as a precaution. Activities had resumed as of 3:45 p.m. after a K-9 from the Hartford Police Bomb Squad searched the building and deemed it safe, according to Sullivan.

"Needless to say, these kinds of threats are incredibly disruptive to our educational environment. The need to evacuate everyone and to postpone our afterschool activities causes unnecessary anxiety and inconveniece," Sullivan wrote.

Sullivan said school administrators notified police right away, and authorities are investigating the threat to figure out who is responsible.

"Our investigation into the matter has already begun. Please talk with your son or daughter about the seriousness of today's incident," Sullivan urged parents in a follow-up letter Wednesday afternoon. "If your child has any information that you think would be helpful to this investigation, please contact me directly."

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Hospital Restricts Visitors Over Flu Spike


Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London and Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island are limiting visitors in light of the recent spike in flu cases around the country, according to the hospital websites.

While the restrictions are in place, only healthy guests ages 18 and older will be permitted. Visitors will be checked to make sure they aren't showing any flu symptoms, hospital officials said.

“Patient and staff safety are our number one priorities,” said hospital infection prevention manager Rhonda Susman, in a statement. “This is a necessary step to ensure we are taking every possible measure to keep our patients and staff safe – and healthy.”

The number of flu cases nationwide soared at the beginning of the month, and the virus is now considered widespread in 43 states. A total of 21 children around the country have died of the flu so far this season, and 180 flu patients have been hospitalized in Connecticut.

Residents are encouraged to get flu shots if they haven't already, and to maintain good hygiene like washing hands and covering coughs.

more information on the flu is available online through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Madison Teacher Sexually Assaulted Student Athlete: Officials


A teacher at Daniel Hand High School in Madison has been placed on administrative leave while police investigate allegations that the employee sexually assaulted a student athlete, according to the first selectman.

Police said the student is under the age of 18 and that the school system has “taken all appropriate measure to safeguard the safety of the students.”

The superintendent has assured full cooperation with any criminal investigation. The state Department of Children and Families is also involved in the investigation, according to the police department.

"The school people acted responsibly and the detectives got on it immediately," said Madison First Selectman Fillmore McPherson. "So I'm sure they will find out in due course whether to bring something forward."

Neither the teacher nor the student have been publicly identified.

Power Fails for Thousands in Ledyard, Enfield as Cold Sets In


More than 1,200 homes in Enfield and hundreds in Ledyard were in the dark Wednesday night while crews race to repair equipment malfunctions that took out two substations feeding the grids, according to Connecticut Light & Power.

The lights went out first in Ledyard as 43 percent of the population went dark around 7 p.m. Wednesday. According to the CL&P, the outages affected some 2,888 of the town's 6,660 customers.

By 10 p.m., the lights were back on for most, but more than 450 homes remained without power. A representative for CL&P said maintenance crews were working diligently and expected to have electricity fully restored by midnight.

According to the police department, the power problems triggered a siren at the Dow Chemical Company in the Gales Ferry section of town earlier Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, in Enfield, 1,238 houses lost power because of a similar issue, according to CL&P. A power company spokesman said the Enfield malfunction was a quicker fix and that everything should be up and running by 11 p.m.

Enfield Town Manager Matthew Coppler tweeted that the outages were concentrated in the area of Shaker Pines and Moody Road.

It's not clear what caused the problems. CL&P couldn't say whether tonight's single-digit temperatures played a part.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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Boa Constrictor in Clogged Toilet


When Stephanie Lacsa saw water mysteriously rising in her public relations office's toilet Tuesday, she chalked it up to the old pipes in their 1800s-era building. She never expected her plunger to pull up a flickering tongue and diamond-shaped head.

“I thought my eyes were deceiving me,” Lacsa said. “But as soon I saw the flicker of its tongue, I definitely knew that it was in fact a large snake heading straight towards me.”

Lacsa, who is terrified of the slippery reptiles, ran screaming as a 5-foot-6-inch boa constrictor slithered from the toilet onto the bathroom floor.

She taped the door shut and called her Vertical PR co-founder, Holly Wells, who was skeptical.

“She said, ‘It’s the size of my forearm,’” Wells told NBC 7, “and I was like, ‘No, it’s the probably the size of a pencil.’”

But when Wells joined Lacsa at their downtown office and cracked open the door, she saw the evidence for herself – an ophidiophobes’ worst nightmare.

“Business was done after that. It took an hour and a half for animal control to get out,” said Wells. “We were stuck in our office with our feet up on the desk.”

Even the county animal services officer was shocked. She told the women she had never seen anything like this in her career, calling it “the stuff of urban legends.”

The officer believed the Colombian rainbow boa may have been stuck in the pipes for a few days, for it was underweight and in the process of shedding its skin.

After the sneaky reptile was taken to the Gaines Street animal care facility for examination, Wells and Lacsa were left with the biggest mystery: where did the snake come from?

“I don’t think they’re natural to the Gaslamp area,” Wells joked. There are residential tenants in their Old San Diego City Hall building, but none have reported a missing snake.

Animal Services Deputy Director Dan DeSousa said he was uncertain if a snake could survive in a sewage system for long.

When it got into animal services care, DeSousa said it got “nippy” and bit its handler. It's a good thing Lacsa spotted it before sitting down. 

If no owner comes forward by Friday, the boa will go to a local reptile group.

"The snake scared the living daylights out of us, but we truly hope he gets the care he needs and can be placed in a good home,” said Wells.

“And I also hope that the new owners of that home know to keep their toilet seat lids down."

Photo Credit: Vertical PR
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