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West Virginia, Ohio kick off high school football season
Ironton, Spring Valley, Cabell Midland win season openers

One of the most anticipated nights of early fall kicked off on Friday night as West Virginia and Ohio ushered in the 2019 high school football season.

In West Virginia, MSAC favorite Spring Valley renewed its county rivalry with Wayne. The Class AAA Timberwolves beat the Class AA Pioneers 38-0.

Cabell Midland opened its season on the road at St. Albans where the Knights rolled to a 56-13 win over the Red Dragons.

Ironton played host to Wheelersburg in a clash of Ohio powers. The Fighting Tigers topped the visiting Pirates 30-6.

Officials: Area's dry conditions abnormal
No concerns for a drought just yet, meteorologists say

HUNTINGTON — Despite what may seem like a rainy few weeks, Cabell County is actually experiencing abnormally dry conditions this month.

Heading into September and October, which are traditionally dry months, the area will need to get more rain for the soil moisture to be what it should be for this time of year.

Although abnormally dry, conditions do not exist to be considered a drought, said Nick Webb, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Charleston. Droughts are declared after 15 days with prolonged shortages in the water supply, whether in the atmosphere or in groundwater.

"Before we got the rain from last week, it had been really dry for the past 10 to 14 days, and in some cases, 21 days," Webb said. "Particularly when you go east of Huntington into Charleston and into the coalfields, the soil moisture isn't quite what it should be for this time of the year."

According to a drought monitor released Thursday, portions of McDowell, Cabell, Jackson, Roane, Logan, Mingo, Lincoln and Mason counties are experiencing abnormally dry conditions. Most of Putnam, Kanawha, Boone and Wyoming counties were under those same conditions.

"We're just a little dry. We could still use some rain, even though most of us got much needed rain within the past seven to 10 days," Webb said.

Webb said it's not time to be concerned for a moderate or severe drought, although people with gardens should take extra steps to make sure their soil is moist enough.

"Probably folks will start thinking about turning on some sprinklers and keeping their gardens watered," he said, "particularly as we get temperatures in the mid-to upper 80s and 90s in the beginning of next week."

He said keeping the soil moist will be especially necessary as the area heads into September and October, which are some of the driest months of the year on average.

"We kind of want to get all the rain we can get right now before we get into September and October," he said. "Unfortunately, the next best chance of organized precipitation won't be until the middle or latter part of next week, with a cold front coming through."

2018 was the second-wettest year on record in Huntington, with the area receiving 60.25 inches of rainfall, just shy of the record 62.44 inches set in 2011. In Charleston, a record-breaking amount of rainfall was measured that year. The capital city experienced 66.56 inches to break a 2003 record of 61.14 inches.

It does not appear those records will be broken in 2019.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

"When you go east of Huntington into Charleston and into the coalfields, the soil moisture isn't quite what it should be for this time of the year."

Nick Webb

Meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Charleston

US attorney: Probe into VA deaths a 'top priority'

CHARLESTON — Demand for answers escalated as federal officials promised Friday to conduct a sweeping investigation into suspicious deaths at a Veterans Affairs hospital in West Virginia.

U.S. Attorney Bill Powell confirmed that his office is involved in an "ongoing and comprehensive federal criminal investigation" into the deaths of up to 11 patients at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. At least two of the deaths have been ruled homicides, according to attorneys representing families of men who died.

Powell called the investigation a "top priority" and said the investigation began as soon as potential criminal activity was discovered.

"We fully understand the desire for a speedy resolution and need for closure," Powell said. "The VA will continue to coordinate with the affected families, but in order to protect the integrity of the investigation, we will not be making any additional comments until the investigation is complete."

The FBI and the VA Office of Inspector General are helping with the investigation.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie have each called for an expedited investigation.

Manchin, a Democrat, was headed to the facility for a tour and meetings with hospital staff and veterans Friday afternoon. He said Thursday that he spoke with U.S. Attorney General William Barr about the deaths and has been assured that the Department of Justice will provide resources during the investigation.

The FBI has referred questions to the U.S. attorney's office, which until Friday had declined to confirm the investigation. The VA's inspector general has confirmed he is investigating "potential wrongdoing resulting in patient deaths" at the hospital.

Manchin says the VA inspector general told his office about the opening of a medical and criminal investigation of the hospital in July 2018, after at least nine patients were diagnosed with unexplained low blood sugar. He said he told Barr in a letter that he has "grave concerns over the pace of the investigation."

Wilkie told Fox News on Thursday that he agrees with Manchin's call to speed things up.

"It is time for the inspector general ... to finally end this investigation to answer the questions that our grieving families have," he said.

Attorneys representing the families of two veterans say their deaths at the facility were ruled homicides.

Attorney Tony O'Dell represents the estate of Army Sgt. Felix Kirk McDermott. He's filed notice of a pending lawsuit that says the 82-year-old was wrongly injected with a fatal dose of insulin at the hospital in April 2018.

Attorney David Glover told The Associated Press on Thursday that George Nelson Shaw Sr., a retired member of the Air Force, also died at the hospital in April 2018 from a wrongful insulin injection. He was 81 years old.

"It is time for the inspector general ... to finally end this investigation to answer the questions that our grieving families have."

Robert Wilkie

Secretary of Veterans Affairs