Once again, we’re off to a cool (yet sunny!) start to our workweek. But according to News 3 Meteorologist Myles Henderson, we’ll see warmer weather move in tomorrow, followed by another round of rain and (possibly severe) storms on Thursday.
Many students are on spring break this week, and there are plenty of family-friendly things to do locally. If you missed this week’s list of upcoming events – which I published yesterday – be sure to view it here.
In response to reader feedback, I’ve also added a short new section highlighting the lowest gas prices in the area for today. You’ll find it right after the “Good News.”
As always, if you have any questions, feedback or a news tip, I’d love to hear from you. Just reply to this email to get in touch with me or share your thoughts.
Now to the news.
1. A 20-year-old college track athlete has died after being struck by a drunk driver in York County.
- The student-athlete, Eli Cramer, was part of the Milligan University cross country and track and field team. He was on a practice run alongside three other student runners and their assistant coach when an intoxicated driver plowed into the group, according to WTKR News 3.
- The accident happened on Williamsburg Pottery Road on Thursday, shortly after 6:00 pm.
- Cramer, a Sophomore, died from his injuries at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. Two other students, Eli Baldy and Alex Mortimer, were injured and transported to the hospital, Virginia State Police said. Both were treated and have since been released, according to officials from Milligan University.
- “The past 24 hours have been unimaginable for our campus and have left a hole in our community. Eli Cramer was our friend, classmate and teammate. Above all, Cramer was a stranger to no one. He held a contagious energy that was integral to his team and our campus community,” Milligan University Student Government President Chase McGlamery said in a statement shortly after the incident occurred. “Cramer was one of the best, but he never looked down on anyone. He saw people for people and loved them for who they were.”
- Mortimer, who underwent surgery at Sentara after suffering from a broken leg and dislocated shoulder, expressed gratitude for the public’s prayers and support in a Facebook video posted from his hospital bed Thursday night.
- “I want to say that moments like this make you realize what is and is not important in your life, and my exhortation to our school tonight from Williamsburg, Virginia, is do not forsake or discount the beauty and gift of life. It is like a vapor and it flashes before our eyes,” Mortimer said.
- Jose Efrain Hernandez Mancia, 26, of Williamsburg, allegedly fled the scene after the accident. He was apprehended by officers after he crashed into a nearby median on Route 199.
- Mancia was arrested and charged with a litany of offenses, including DUI-1st offense, DUI-involuntary manslaughter, felony hit and run, reckless driving, DUI-maiming and DUI-refusal to submit a breath/blood sample.
- The crash continues to be under investigation, according to reporting by USA Today.
Eli Cramer (center). Photo courtesy of Milligan University Athletics.
2. The Cheese Shop has resumed sandwich making.
- The popular Merchant’s Square shop made national headlines in December when it temporarily halted making its popular sandwiches due to pandemic-related staffing shortages.
- For the past several months, employees of The Cheese Shop have found creative ways to continue meeting consumer demand by selling make-your-own-sandwich kits featuring bundled ingredients, the Daily Press reports. But last week, the family-owned shop – which has been in business for 51 years – announced on its website that it would resume offering a limited selection of made-to-order sandwiches.
- “We’re making sandwiches again!” the announcement on The Cheese Shop’s website says. “Every day we feature two different sandwiches and make them fresh all day, from open to close.”
- In addition to the sandwiches, the shop will offer Fat Canary soup as well as sliced turkey; roast beef; ham; cheeses; chicken, tuna and egg salad; and sliced French bread so customers can make their own sandwiches.
- While online sandwich ordering is still not available due to ongoing staff shortages, the house dressing is back and can be ordered online. Cheese, wine, beer and specialty foods are also fully stocked.
The Cheese Shop, a family-owned business in Williamsburg, dealt with worker shortages by halting production of their much-loved sandwiches. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
3. Newport News is seeking resident input as part of a new initiative to reduce gun violence.
- Newport News has released a Community Assessment Survey as part of a new effort to develop policies and community-based programs designed to combat gun violence, the city said in a news release. The goal is to take “a community-based approach” to understanding pressing safety concerns, root causes of violence and the impacts of crime.
- The city partnered with Christopher Newport University’s Center for Crime, Equity, and Justice Research and Policy to develop the survey. A $25,000 state grant is funding the initiative.
- “It is imperative that residents take the time to respond to the survey. The feedback we receive will be integral in our efforts to provide immediate interventions and long-term prevention strategies that address gun violence in our city,” said Newport News Mayor McKinley L. Price.
- Residents of all ages are asked to complete the survey, which consists of 36 questions and will take about 15-20 minutes to complete. It addresses a variety of topics including experiences with crime, perceptions of the causes of crime, input on police and experiences with discrimination.
- According to the city, the community survey is the first part of a two-phased approach. The second phase will involve allocating grants to qualified community-based organizations that offer solutions to reducing gun violence.
- The survey comes as leaders throughout the region have begun to prioritize tackling crime. The Daily Press reported last week that even the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission – a group of mayors and local administrators who usually work on infrastructure issues – has shifted its goals to focus on violence reduction.
4. A new magic theatre is coming to Williamsburg this summer.
- The theatre will be launched by Brandon and Hannah Wagster, according to The Peninsula Chronicle. The Wagsters are a husband-and-wife team who have performed their award-winning show tens of thousands of times in Myrtle Beach since 2012. Now residents of the Historic Triangle, the couple is looking forward to fulfilling their lifelong dream of performing in a theatre they can call their own.
- “This has been a dream of mine since I was six years old,” Brandon Wagster said. “I’ve wanted my own theatre since I was a little kid.”
- The Wagsters Magic Theatre is preliminarily set to open in June at its new location on Olde Towne Road.
- The family-friendly shows are set to be held every weekday, except for Wednesdays, at 7 pm throughout the summer. Christmas shows are also slated for the holiday season.
- Tickets will be on sale soon, according to the Wagsters Theatre website. Ticket prices will be $29.95 for guests ages 13+ and $14.95 for children 3-12.
5. An independent review of the I-95 traffic debacle that left hundreds of Virginia drivers stranded has been completed – and the final report found plenty of room for improvement.
- The investigation, conducted by CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, looked into the conditions and governmental response to the disastrous traffic ordeal that left some drivers stranded for more than 20 hours in sub-freezing temperatures in January.
- The lengthy, 41-page report focused on several key topics, including how the road conditions became so dangerous, why VDOT was unable to keep up with the snow removal, why state agency leadership was unaware of how bad conditions became and why direct assistance was not provided to stranded motorists.
- The primary purpose of the review was to reach conclusions about how the Commonwealth can avoid repeating this type of incident again in the future.
- Ultimately, the agency determined that the Northam administration failed to “properly prepare” and communicate with the public, both before and during the emergency, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Extreme weather shifts – including a rapid transition of rain into heavy, wet snow and a 40-degree temperature drop in just 24 hours – also contributed to the severity of the situation, the report found.
- The analysis also revealed that state agencies “collectively lost situational awareness” and did not realize the extent of the backup on I-95. Power outages, poor road conditions and staffing shortages exacerbated the situation further, the report found.
- Key recommendations: The report implored Virginia officials to take several important actions to prevent this type of scenario from happening again. The suggestions include developing additional resources to gain information during emergencies in the event that traditional technology fails, improving direct messaging to the public during hazardous weather events, analyzing the increased tractor-trailer traffic on Virginia’s interstates and improving existing interstate closure plans developed by VDOT and VSP.
- Gov. Youngkin responded to the report, emphasizing that his administration is working especially on enhancing public communication protocols during extreme weather events.
- “Since assuming office on January 15th, our administration has worked very closely with Virginia State Police, our Virginia National Guard, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, and the Virginia Department of Transportation responding quickly and adequately to each incoming weather-related event and I’ve been incredibly pleased with our execution,” Youngkin said in a statement. “Our focus is on preparation, communication and execution. Virginians can trust that we are working to keep them safe.”
STAFFORD COUNTY, VIRGINIA – JANUARY 04: In an aerial view, traffic creeps along Virginia Highway 1 after being diverted away from I-95 after it was closed due to a winter storm on January 04, 2022 near Fredericksburg in Stafford County, Virginia. A winter storm with record snowfall slammed into the Mid-Atlantic states, stranding thousands of motorists overnight on 50 miles of I-95 in Virginia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Jamestown High School students embarked on a 100+ mile journey to help fight against world hunger.
- Sophomores Jayden Cory, William Fullner, Davis Trogdon and Chris Winckler mobilized other students in their AP World Geography class to support them in an ambitious effort to help combat world hunger by purchasing goats for an organization, according to The Virginia Gazette. The students were compelled to take action after learning about food insecurity on both the global and local levels.
- Gifting a goat to a family in a food-insecure nation can have life-changing results, according to nonprofit organization Heifer International. Goats provide milk, cheese and butter for nourishment, allow families to boost their income through the sale of extra milk and support stronger crop yields by clearing and fertilizing land.
- With full support from the rest of the class, the four students who initiated the idea ultimately set out on a 104-mile bike trip, during which they collected $1,450 for the cause. The money made it possible for them to purchase 21 goats to be donated to international families in need.
- Jamestown High AP World Geography teacher Molly Sandling teaches students about local and global food security every year. Students have the opportunity to participate in two projects to fight against both local and global hunger at the conclusion of the lesson; however, Sandling said she’s never seen students participate in a project of this scale.
- “This is one of the largest in scope of projects I’ve seen children come up with, and this is not an easy thing for them to do,” she told The Virginia Gazette. “They really invested a lot of time, energy and enthusiasm into this project.”
- The students are also planning to work on a separate project to combat hunger on the local level. See the full story here.
Lowest Gas Prices Today⛽
- The lowest gas prices on the Peninsula have been found in Newport News at Costco ($3.85, as reported 16 hours ago) and Sam’s Club (also $3.85, as reported 14 hours ago). Both have consistently ranked among the 10 lowest-priced gas stations in all of Hampton Roads, per Gas Buddy.
- In Williamsburg, the lowest prices reported in the past 24 hours have been found at:
- Exxon (7337 Pocahontas Trl.; 908 Capitol Landing Rd.) for $3.95
- Harris Teeter (1530 Quarterpath Rd.) and Sunoco (1899 Pocahontas Trl.) for $3.99, also per Gas Buddy.
- To search recently-reported gas prices based on zip code, click here.
Local Covid-19 Update
New cases: ➕ VDH reports that an additional 3,809 people in Virginia tested positive for Covid-19 last week. That’s down from 5,372 last week. On the Peninsula, the highest numbers of cases were reported in Newport News (+33) and James City County (+33), according to WTVR.
Hospitalizations and deaths: An additional 214 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 in Virginia last week (down from 290 the week before), according to VHHA data. 86 Covid-19 related deaths also occurred in the state last week (down from 140 the week before), according to VDH.
Vaccination rate: 72.7% of Virginians are fully vaccinated (up from 72.5% last week).
National News to Know
World leaders are expressing outrage as evidence of atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine is mounting.
- Ukrainian officials said Sunday they found the bodies of at least 410 civilians strewn in the streets of towns surrounding the capital of Kyiv, the AP reports. Graphic photographs show some of the bodies with their hands tied behind their backs, and many appear to have been shot at close range.
- Witnesses were too traumatized to even speak, according to Reuters.
- The EU announced Monday it’s working on additional sanctions against Russia in light of the reports, Axios reports. Lithuania also became the first EU nation to cut off Russian gas exports and is urging the rest of the EU to do the same, according to ABC News.
- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the Russian actions as “brutality against civilians we haven’t seen in Europe for decades.” Stoltenberg and other world leaders, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are also calling for an investigation by the International Criminal Court.
- The United States is also reportedly weighing initiating additional sanctions, according to The Washington Post.
- “Hundreds of people were killed. Tortured, executed civilians. Corpses on the streets. Mined areas. Even the bodies of the dead were mined!,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video address. “Concentrated evil has come to our land. Murderers. Torturers. Rapists. Looters. Who call themselves the army. And who deserve only death after what they did.”
Other headlines in the nation
- Ukraine’s President Zelensky made a surprise video appearance during the Grammys Sunday night. He urged Americans to “fill the silence with your music” and “tell the truth about the war on your social networks, on TV.” (AP).
- Airlines were forced to cancel over 3,500 U.S flights over the weekend and delay thousands more. The disruptions were attributed to stormy weather conditions in Florida, technology issues and stalled contract negotiations with pilots. (ABC News)
- A new Covid variant, “XE,” is raising fresh concerns after the WHO announced it may be more transmissible than any previous variant. (WAVY)
- The Fed is warning of a “brewing U.S housing bubble.” (CBS News)
- MIT researchers have developed a new drug candidate that helps reverse hearing loss (Good News Network).
Events This Week
Missed this week’s community calendar? Find it here.
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