Good afternoon! Here's a look at how AP's general news coverage is shaping up in Florida. Questions about coverage plans are welcome and should be directed to the AP-Miami bureau at 305-594-5825 or miami@ap.org. Ian Mader is the news editor and can be reached at imader@ap.org. David Fischer is on the desk and can be reached at dfischer@ap.org. A reminder this information is not for publication or broadcast, and these coverage plans are subject to change. Expected stories may not develop, or late-breaking and more newsworthy events may take precedence. Advisories and digests will keep you up to date. All times are Eastern. Some TV and radio stations will receive shorter APNewsNow versions of the stories below, along with all updates.

TOP STORIES:

DEEP FREEZE

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A brutal winter storm smacked the coastal Southeast with a rare blast of snow and ice Wednesday, hitting parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina with their heaviest snowfall in nearly three decades. Forecasters warned that the same system could soon strengthen into a "bomb cyclone" as it rolls up the East Coast, bringing hurricane-force winds, coastal flooding and up to a foot of snow. By Russ Bynum.

—WITH:

DEEP FREEZE-THE LATEST

MENENDEZ PROBE-DOCTOR

WEST PALM BEACH — Even though a politically prominent Florida eye doctor was convicted of Medicare fraud, that doesn't mean the federal government lost more than $100 million as prosecutors contend, his attorneys argued Wednesday as they tried to save him from a lengthy prison sentence. Dr. Salomon Melgen may have told Medicare he was treating patients for diseases they didn't have but they did have other eye diseases and benefited from the treatment they received, attorneys Matthew Menchel and Josh Sheptow told U.S. District Judge Kenneth A. Marra. The 63-year-old doctor could face a life sentence on 67 fraud and related counts that he was convicted of last spring. Melgen and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez also face a possible retrial on bribery charges in Menendez's home state of New Jersey. By Terry Spencer.

2018-STATE ELECTIONS

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Buoyed by a string of electoral victories during President Donald Trump's first year in office, Democrats will wage a renewed battle this year to wrest control of Congress from Republicans. Yet the contests with the greatest long-term consequences could be listed elsewhere on the ballot —for governors and state lawmakers who will shape the boundaries of congressional districts for the decade to come. By David A. Lieb.

BOMB CYCLONE

WASHINGTON — When it comes to weather, it's hard to sound scarier than "bomb cyclone." It's a version of a real weather term that applies to a massive winter storm that pulled together Wednesday off the U.S. Southeast coast. But as fearsome as the storm is with high winds and some snow, it may not be quite as explosive as the term sounds. By Seth Borenstein.

TRAVEL-EVENTS AND OPENINGS

For travelers, the new year opens up a whole new world of places to go and things to do. Here are a few notable openings and events scheduled for 2018 around the U.S. By Beth J. Harpaz.

CHEETAH-EIGHT CUBS

ST. LOUIS — A cheetah named Bingwa at the St. Louis Zoo is a proud mother — eight times over. The zoo announced Wednesday that the 4-year-old cheetah gave birth Nov. 26 to eight cubs — three male and five female. It's the largest litter of cheetah cubs ever delivered at the zoo. The average litter size is three to four cubs. By Jim Salter.

JOHN BROWN UNIVERSITY-THREAT

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — A former student at John Brown University has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge involving the use of explosives. Timothy Constantin, 20, was charged Tuesday in Benton County with criminal acts involving explosives. He was released on a $75,000 bond, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. From Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

EXCHANGE-GALVESTON-PORT DIRECTOR

GALVESTON, Texas — When Rodger Rees arrives as the Port of Galveston's new director this month, he'll be greeted by a board and a community with high expectations he'll shape a broad vision for the public docks. But his first concern must be in the fine details, several wharves board trustees said. "Major projects are almost cost-prohibitive right now," Trustee Elizabeth Beeton said. "We really need to sharpen our game with everything within our ability right now and hope that helps us get into a position where we can do bigger projects." From The Galveston County Daily News.

IN BRIEF:

AIRMEN-CHILD SEX CHARGES — A former Dover Air Force Base airman been sentenced to 30 months in prison for sexually abusing a teenage runaway.

MOTHER KILLED — A 1-year-old's mother who was fatally shot outside a Florida gas station pleaded "Please don't let me die" to an attendant who came to her aid.

BOY RESCUED-CRUISE — The United States Coast Guard rescued a 12-year-old Canadian boy who was suffering from symptoms of appendicitis while on a cruise ship.

MISSING CAVE DIVER — Authorities have suspended the search for a 25-year-old Florida man who went missing while cave diving.

CIRCUS COLLECTION-ILLINOIS STATE — Illinois State University's famed Circus Collection just got a lot bigger thanks to a Florida man who has been collecting circus memorabilia for decades.

BUS CRASH — A car rear-ended a Florida commuter bus, sending nine people to the hospital with minor injuries.

CHILD BEATING DEATH — A Florida man has been charged with murder in the beating death of his girlfriend's 7-year-old son.

PALM BEACH ZOO-CEO — The Palm Beach Zoo has named an interim chief executive officer.

MARINA EXPLOSION — A fire caused by an explosion at a Miami marina has damaged two boats, and authorities say no one was hurt.

NEW YEAR'S EVE-FATAL CRASH — Police in Florida say a New Year's Eve crash killed two women and injured three other people.

IN SPORTS:

FBN-JAGUARS-DAREUS

JACKSONVILLE — Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus feels like he has two teams in the playoffs. Dareus spent the first six years of his NFL career in Buffalo and was traded to Jacksonville in late October. Now, he plays his former team in a wild-card game Sunday. By Mark Long. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 4 p.m.

_____

If you have stories of regional or statewide interest, please email them to miami@ap.org. If you have photos of regional or statewide interest, please send them to the AP state photo center in New York, 888-273-6867. For access to AP Exchange and other technical issues, contact AP Customer Support at apcustomersupport@ap.org or 877-836-9477. MARKETPLACE: Calling your attention to the Marketplace in AP Exchange, where you can find member-contributed content from Florida and other states. The Marketplace is accessible on the left navigational pane of the AP Exchange home page, near the bottom. For both national and state, you can click "All" or search for content by topics such as education, politics and business.

_____

The AP, Miami