Hurricane Maria:

Islands brace for ‘most destructive” hurricane in Puerto Rico history

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Latest from Josh Miranda

    Early into the morning, Florida Highway Patrol troopers got started cleaning up debris and signage knocked over by Hurricane Irma. Sergeant Steve Gaskins shared photos on Twitter of several troopers, patrol vehicles, and an all-terrain vehicle lifting up a large sign that fell on Interstate 4 near mile marker 44. Florida Highway Patrol is advising residents to stay inside and obey each county’s curfew. “We need to give first responders a chance to get to the people who may need assistance. To get those roads cleared for their safety,” FHP Sergeant Kim Montes explained. Seminole County lifted their curfew at 11 a.m. other counties remain under a curfew until Monday evening.
  • Ahead of Hurricane Irma’s direct impact, many Floridians are downloading the Zello app to reach out to others. Residents are using the walkie-talkie app to ask questions about storm damage and available resources. Users can often receive an immediate response if asking where the storm is located and what regions are at the highest risk. Zello broke records for app downloads and gained notoriety for its use by the “Cajun Navy” crews helping with Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts.  Several channels exist for a variety of regions including the Florida Keys, Tampa and all of South Florida. Zello is not a replacement for emergency services. Anyone in an emergency situation should call 911. Click here to download Zello for iPhone. Click here to download Zello for Android.
  • We all have that far-distant relative who doesn’t quite understand the mechanics of Facebook and other social media platforms. The latest questionable news article to come from that realm of the Internet questions the possibility of Hurricane Irma becoming a category 6 – but it’s total fake news. As Dennis Feltgen from the National Hurricane Center puts it, “The Cat 6 is a nice title for a movie, but operationally, it doesn’t make any sense.”  The National Hurricane Center only ranks hurricanes on a scale of 1 to 5. But why is that?  “At 5, which is 157 miles per hour or higher, you already have catastrophic damage,” Feltgen explains, “It’s done.”  The NHC uses what is called the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to measure tropical cyclones that become stronger than a tropical depression or tropical storm. According to the Associated Press, Robert Simpson designed the scale to mirror the Richter scale that measures earthquakes.  In an interview, Simpson said there is no reason for a Category 6 on his scale because it was created to measure damage to man-made structures. “when you get up into winds in excess of 155 mph (249 km/h) you have enough damage if that extreme wind sustains itself for as much as six seconds on a building it's going to cause rupturing damages that are serious no matter how well it's engineered.
  • Deputies in St. Augustine arrested a man after he shared an explicit photo with a child online and set up a meeting. Unfortunately for 28-year-old Michael Lee Simmons, the “child” turned out to be an undercover detective from the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.  Investigators found Simmons on a bicycle at the meet-up point where officers took him into custody, according to the Sheriff’s Office.  The man is facing a long list of sex charges including “use of a computer to seduce, solicit, lure or entice a child or person believed to be a child to commit an unlawful sexual act with a child, travel to meet a child after using the computer to lure a child, transmit harmful materials to a minor, lews and lascivious behavior, and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.” (News 96.5 WDBO App users can click here to see the man’s mugshot.)
  • Former Orlando attorney Augustus Invictus will make a second run for U.S. Senate as a Republican. The self-proclaimed goat-blood drinker aims to replace Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. In a YouTube video recorded outside Senator Nelson’s Orlando office, he accused the mainstream media of refusing to report on “leftist violence” in order to defame Republicans.  Invictus goes on to blame Congressmen from both parties of being complicit in promoting the mainstream media narrative.  The former lawyer once ran for Senate in 2016 as a Libertarian, but was defeated in the primary vote.  One of his most infamous quotes was an admission in 2015. “I sacrificed an animal to the god of the wilderness ... Yes, I drank the goat’s blood.” (News 96.5 WDBO App users can click here to watch the video.)
  • Walmart is rolling out its grocery delivery service to four locations in the busiest parts of Orlando. The company partnered with Uber to make the service a reality. With a $10 fee and $30 minimum purchase, shoppers can order groceries online and get them shipped to their front door. The following locations are included in the test run: • Walmart Supercenter Store #3782, 5991 S. Goldenrod Road, Orlando, FL 32822  • Walmart Supercenter Store #4588, 3101 Princeton St., Orlando, FL 32808  • Walmart Neighborhood Market Store #5741, 9047 Curry Ford Road, Orlando, FL 32825  • Walmart Supercenter Store #890, 11250 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32817 The service is also rolling out today in Tampa, according to the company’s blog. Walmart was already delivering groceries in Dallas and Phoenix. The latest expansion makes a total of 22 stores delivering groceries.
  • Some kind of large cat wandered into a woman’s backyard in North Port, but she can’t seem to figure out what it is. A video posted by Michelle Myers-Kelling on Facebook shows the wild animal walking along the top of her backyard fence. It eventually climbs a tall tree to escape.  “My husband and I were sitting out back when we seen this beautiful cat,” she wrote in a Facebook post, “Is this a bobcat or a panther?”  Comments on the Facebook post seem split, with one person jokingly calling the animal a “bobcat skunk ape alien hybrid.” (News 96.5 WDBO App users can click here to watch the video.)
  • Surveillance video caught the moments a Wendy’s employee scrambled for cover after a firework went off at a Wendy’s in Deerfield Beach. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office released video of the incident on July 5th. The firework went off with such force that it made a 7-inch hole in the base of the wall, according to authorities.  Witnesses told deputies a group of young males was seen running away from the scene. (News 96.5 WDBO App users can watch the video by clicking here.)
  • Parents, students, and teachers can save some cash on school supplies this weekend as part of Florida’s tax free holiday. Shoppers could show up to all the big retailers in massive crowds because the holiday is shorter this year – just 3 days instead of 10. It runs Friday, August 4th through Sunday, August 6th.  All sales tax is waived this weekend on clothes, shoes, and backpacks less than $60, school supplies under $15, and computers up to $750.  The Florida Retail Federation estimates shoppers will spend $39 million on supplies over the weekend.  You can find the full list of tax free supplies here.
  • Officers arrested Stephanos Carellas, 22, after responding to reports of an armed man firing a gun from inside a car near the Lake Nona development, according to Orlando Police. It happened at Dowden Road and Randal Park Boulevard just before 8 a.m.  About two hours later, Orlando Police tweeted that the “situation is resolved.” There were no injuries reported. Officers using binoculars spotted Carellas having trouble with a handgun, so they fired gas canisters in his car to disorient him. “He finally opened up the door. He still had the gun in his hand,” said an OPD supervisor at the scene.  Police then used a device that fires beanbags at him before moving in for the arrest. The 22-year-old is charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm, one count of aggravated assault with a firearm, discharging a firearm in public and resisting an officer without violence.
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  •  A teenager is dead and police are searching for a suspect.   Sanford police say a 16 year old boy was fatally stabbed at Stonebrook Apartments in Sanford,  Tuesday afternoon. The victim was found in a car outside a building at the complex and police say he was not a resident of the apartment complex.  Police are searching for someone named Joshua, possibly driving a orange 2 door car in connection with the fatal stabbing. This is a developing story, no other information was avaialble.
  • Two employees of the transit system at Auburn University have been accused of raping an 18-year-old student on one of the buses Friday night.  Tony Martin Patillo, 51, of Columbus, Georgia, and James Don Johnson Jr., 32, of Auburn, are each charged with first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy, according to Lee County Jail records. Patillo is also charged with four counts of public lewdness.  The Opelika-Auburn News reported that the lewdness charges stem from an incident just before midnight on Friday in which witnesses spotted a man exposing himself while standing over a woman on the ground. Patillo was arrested when responding officers found him nearby. Detectives conducting additional investigation into the incident learned that Patillo had allegedly sexually assaulted the woman, who appeared to be incapacitated, while on the bus, the News reported. The woman, who was no longer present when Patillo was arrested, was identified and tracked down by police officers, whom she told about the alleged rape. According to investigators, Johnson drove the bus and “engaged in actions to perpetuate the crime while Patillo was in the rear of the bus, assaulting the victim,” the News reported.  Patillo exited the bus with the woman in the area where the passersby spotted him exposing himself a few minutes later, police officials said.  The Auburn Plainsman, the university’s student newspaper, reported that the alleged assault took place on a Tiger Ten bus that runs from the downtown area to multiple apartment complexes and student housing areas off-campus. The late-night buses are specifically designed to give students a safe ride home.  “Our top concern is the well-being of the victim, and we cannot stress in strong enough terms our shock and distress over this despicable act,” officials with Auburn’s Department of Campus Safety and Security said in a statement. “We immediately provided support and all available resources to the victim and continue to do so.” >> Read more trending news The Plainsman reported that the university operates campus security shuttles to take students to on-campus locations late at night. Tiger Transit and Tiger Ten buses are operated by outside contractor First Transit. First Transit is required in its contract with Auburn University to perform background checks on all of its drivers, the campus newspaper said. Company officials told the Plainsman it is performing its own internal investigation of the alleged assault.  “At First Transit, we are greatly troubled by the events of Friday night,” officials said in a statement. “The safe and reliable transportation of our passengers is our highest priority. It is a responsibility we take very seriously.” Both Patillo and Johnson were immediately removed from service and First Transit has begun termination proceedings, the statement read. Company officials said they are working with campus and city police in the investigation.  Auburn University is re-evaluating its contract with First Transit, the Plainsman reported.  Patillo was being held in the Lee County Jail in lieu of $127,000 bail, the News reported. Johnson was being held in lieu of $125,000 bail. 
  • Duke Energy and FPL will have two ways to pass on the storm recovery costs to its customers.   9 Investigates reporter Daralene Jones has been digging into this issue for two days and learned not only can the utility companies tack on a storm recovery surcharge, they can also sell bonds that the customers would be forced to pay for.   Read: Help after Hurricane Irma   The Florida Legislature approved the measure in 2005.   Duke has not issued bonds and has no current surcharges for storm costs. However, FPL customers are paying for bonds and a surcharge, which equals an extra $5 a month on a customer’s utility bill.   Duke and FPL customers will likely be paying another surcharge for Irma. Both will be allowed to petition the Public Service Commission for a surcharge to pay for the repairs following the hurricane.   >>> Read more Hurricane Irma stories <<<   That money would typically come from the utilities storm recovery fund, but records 9 Investigates obtained show Duke had only $60 million on hand before Irma.   FPL was in the red with $203 million because it wiped out $93 million after Hurricane Matthew, last year.   FPL filed a petition for a surcharge that shows costs related to Hurricane Matthew reached $318 million. The latest earnings reports show Duke Energy earned $686 million in the second quarter of this year while FPL earned $526 million. Both are increases of about 100 million from the same time last year.   >>> Download the free WFTV weather app <<<   Both utilities are in the early stages of hardening its systems against hurricanes, even though the Public Service Commission demanded changes in 2006.   Some state lawmakers said they’re committed to push harder through legislative action.   “Look at the past history of the rate cases that have been granted and what they've been doing with that money. Each storm recovery surcharge typically lasts about a year, but can be renewed,” said Rep. Jason Brodeur, (R) from Seminole County.   The bonds issued are long term. FP&L customers have been paying off the 2006 bond for 11 years and it will stay on the customer’s bill until 2019.   Public utilities like OUC and KUA are eligible to apply for storm recovery costs from FEMA.   A Duke Energy representative apologized Tuesday morning to the 37,000 customers who are still without power.   Duke had originally said it would have power restored Sunday at midnight.
  • Orange County is setting a timeline for debris clean-up from Hurricane Irma. According to county government spokeswoman Doreen Overstreet, Public Works set an “eight week timeline for substantial cleanup.” “We have met with our contractors and are working to meet this deadline,” Overstreet said.  “Citizens should move vegetative debris to the curb now.  Please do not block, gutters, inlets, fire hydrants and sidewalks.” Overstreet says the county estaimtes about 1.3 million cubic yards of debris still needs to be picked up. That’s comparable with the City of Miami, which estimated one million cubic yards still remains.  Miami-Dade County reportedly has triple that amount and set a clean-up deadline for four to six months.
  • Anyone in Central Florida who needs information on obtaining Hurricane Irma recovery assistance from FEMA is invited to a free workshop on Thursday. Orlando Democratic Congressman Darren Soto says it’s a “bi-partisan” workshop where FEMA representatives will go over benefits and help people with applications directly. “If you want to sit down with a FEMA representative and have them walk you through the application process, this would be a good opportunity for you,” Soto says. You can also apply for FEMA assistance at FEMA.gov.  All Central Florida counties were given the FEMA designation of individual assistance, so all constituents are eligible for potential FEMA relief. The workshop is at Polk State College’s Advanced Technology Center at 310 Technology Drive in Bartow, Florida from 3 to 5 p.m. (Tweet)