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Tips for coping with the stress after a hurricane

How will you cope? Authorities and mental health professionals offer these tips.  

There is the rush to prepare, the nervous anticipation, the unsettling period during the storm, the loss of property, scavenging gas, or just living without power for a few days.


A hurricane experience can be incredibly stressful. In the weeks after Hurricane Wilma in 2005, nearly 1,000 people called a state mental-health hot line looking for help with problems such as depression and anxiety.


Prepare early to avoid the stress of panic buying.


Storms are unpredictable, and their twists and turns can be maddening. Just prepare as if the storm will hit, and hope it doesn’t. Stay up on media reports and follow the instructions of local authorities so you’re not blindsided by developments.


Don’t go into denial. Don’t have a wild party. Storms are serious business.


If you live alone, plan to ride out the storm with friends or relatives, or consider volunteering at a shelter.


Try to exercise to burn off the nerves.


Now is the time to have a plan for how you will survive and recover after the storm so you aren’t overwhelmed by the task ahead.


Take the time now to get to know your neighbors. Share ideas about how you as a neighborhood will work together after the storm. Find out who has special physical or medical needs, who might need help preparing their house, and who might need assistance following the storm.


If you have a homeowners’ group, consider developing a plan or even holding neighborhood meetings in advance of the season. Consider following “Crimewatch” models.


Find out who might be out of town so you that can keep an eye on their place.

Category 5 Hurricane Matthew 'extraordinary,' new report says

The National Hurricane Center released its final analysis of monster storm Hurricane Matthew on Tuesday, marking it as “extraordinary” for its unexpected strength, and deadly for killing the most people since 2005’s Hurricane Stan.

>> Read more trending news

Matthew, which was a Category 5 storm with 166 mph winds at its peak, is directly responsible for the deaths of 585 people, including 34 in the U.S., according to the report.

Two Floridians died during Matthew. A Crescent City woman was killed when a tree fell on her camper, and a DeLand woman died when a tree fell on her while she was outside “feeding her animals,” the report said.

It reached hurricane strength at the lowest latitude in recorded history, and intensified by 86 mph in a 24-hour period.

“This intensity made Matthew the southernmost Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin, surpassing a record previously set by Hurricane Ivan in 2004,” the report notes.

Matthew rocked South Florida in October. It was the first major tropical cyclone residents had faced down since 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, and sent nearly 8,000 people to shelters.

But the region got lucky. Matthew turned north, sending no more than tropical storm-force gusts to Palm Beach County.

Palm Beach International Airport recorded a gust of 50 mph during the storm. Jupiter measured a gust of 66 mph.

Haiti suffered the most losses during Matthew with 546 deaths, 210,000 homes wrecked and an estimated $1.9 billion in total damage.

“During the aftermath, an outbreak of cholera developed due to the significant damage that Haiti’s life support infrastructure incurred, resulting in nearly 10,000 cases, according to the Pan American Health Organization,” the report says.

98-year-old man helps clean up yards after Hurricane Matthew

He may be close to 100, but that doesn’t stop Bill Wheeler from being an active member of society.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {</span><br /><span>  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];</span><br /><span>  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;</span><br /><span>  js = d.createElement(s); = id;</span><br /><span>  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";</span><br /><span>  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);</span><br /><span>}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> 98-year-old man cleans up yards

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The Georgia man has been using his tractors to grind up debris in his neighbors’ yards left over from Hurricane Matthew.

The 98-year-old told WJCL-TV that he is giving back after they helped him.

"I love them and I think they love me. I could say a lot more but that's about it," Wheeler told WJCL-TV. "They are wonderful people, you just don't know. I get choked up. They're great people."

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Gayla Bennett, Wheeler's neighbor, said she feels lucky to know him.

"For him to come out and mow his lawn and then our next door neighbor's, and now he's out here on our yard, and he's still going!" said Bennett. "If I could be like him when I'm that old, I'll be happy. He's amazing."

Wheeler said he's happy to do the work and happy to help his neighbors.

>> Read more trending stories

"First of all, I want to do it. I want to do. I wouldn't have it any other way," Wheeler said. "The young people learn from the old people, but anyway, I love it. I love to be outdoors. The good Lord blessed me, so I'll give a little back."

Read more here.

Complaints pour into BBB after residents can't return hurricane supplies

The Better Business Bureau has been getting complaints from consumers throughout Central Florida who have been trying to return hurricane supplies.

The agency said some people bought supplies for Hurricane Matthew, never used them and now can’t get their money back.

The BBB said it is mainly hearing complaints from people who bought larger and more expensive items.

A BBB worker said it all comes down to whether the store’s refund policy was clear when the items were sold.

>> Read more trending stories  

It comes a week after the storm, as people cleaned off store shelves to prepare for the worst.

“It was pretty much chaos. I mean, everything was gone. There was no bread. There was no water,” said Orlando resident Diane Martens.

The BBB said some people who bought more expensive supplies, like generators, and didn’t use them are finding out they can’t get refunds.

“Better Business Bureau has heard from consumers in enough volume for us to believe that certainly there’s a pattern developing,” said Holly Salmons.

The BBB said in one complaint, a woman said she bought a $400 cooler and was told she couldn’t return it.

>> Read the latest on Hurricane Matthew 

The owner of the hardware store where she purchased it said a no refund policy was clearly posted at the time of her purchase.

The BBB said it’s a requirement by state statute for stores to make their policy clear and to stick to those terms.

“Consumers have certain expectations. You can’t then, in the middle of the transaction or in the middle of the return allowance period, change the ruled on them,” Salmons said.

Martens said she understand the financial burden for the customers who bought more than they ended up needing, but also for the small business owners who might not be able to afford the financial hit of a refund.

Anyone who believes they have wrongfully been denied a refund for hurricane supplies can contact the BBB for help.

The statute typically applied to items that have not been used.

Children's random act of kindness touches community's heart

When Jamie Dessert and her three children drove by the courthouse in New Smyrna Beach after a long day of cleaning up after Hurricane Matthew, they were upset by the amount of damage they saw.

“My heart was moved,” Dessert told Channel 9. “Here was the workplace for people who serve and protect our community on a daily basis, covered in debris.”

She kept driving though, until her 7-year-old son Emerson spoke up.

“He said, ‘Mom, we should turn around and clean it up. We need to take care of it,’” she said.

>> Read more trending stories  

So Dessert pulled back around to the courthouse and the four of them got out.

“We parked in front of the courthouse and pulled one branch at a time,” she said. “As the pile got bigger and bigger, we discussed the potential of getting into trouble for stacking them in the wrong place.”

As they continued to work, a Volusia County sheriff’s deputy saw what they were doing and walked up to them and the growing pile of branches.

Dessert was touched by what her children told the deputy when she asked what they were doing.

“They told her their little hearts about how we love our city and we want to take care of the police officers because they take care of us,” she said.

The deputy gave each boy a dollar and drove off, only to come back a few minutes later with a request.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news  

“About five minutes later, she pulled back up, got out, came back over and proceeded to tell us that she had been on the phone with her husband and they both thought this was one of the sweetest things, and she wanted to take their picture,” Dessert said.

The four had already talked about that and had decided they weren’t going to take any pictures, “because it is the right thing to do, not because we gain anything from it,” she said.

But they agreed and the deputy took a picture, which was later posted to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, where residents and non-residents alike praised the children for their random act of kindness.

For Dessert, it was a touching display of love from Emerson, Callan, 6, and Beckett, 4.

“We had amazing conversations under those trees as we pulled tree limbs and debris,” she said. “It genuinely was the hardest I had seen them work since we had been helping others.

<script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); = id;  js.src = "//;version=v2.8";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script> A deputy says: "I walked out of the New Smyrna Beach courthouse this afternoon and found these three young men cleaning...Posted by Volusia County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, October 12, 2016

“It was really beautiful to see how much their hearts were overjoyed to not just serve their community, but to serve the police officers. It was incredible.”

They kept going, even when it started raining, and that’s when she saw how a simple act like picking up branches in front of the courthouse could affect the community and the people who live there.

“All of a sudden, a random man waiting at the bus station walks over and says, ‘Since you all are going to keep doing it in the rain, I figured I would come help,’” Dessert said. “We finished up, I had my little men walk over and shake his hand and thank him for helping us.

“As we were driving away, the boys and I had a wonderful talk about how amazing it is that we were able to help, and because of our decision to act, it motivated other to act. That’s what we want.”

Daytona Beach hotel closures, storm damage cause concern for Biketoberfest

Every year about 150,000 descend on Daytona Beach for Biketoberfest, but damage caused by Hurricane Matthew has caused 20 hotels to close ahead of this weekend’s event.

Jennifer Cardwell made an 18-hour trip from Indiana to attend, but had no idea if her hotel was one of the ones affected.

>> Read more trending stories  

“It was a little bit nerve-wracking, just wondering if the hotel was going to be available when we got here,” she said. “Knowing that people were displaced the way it was in hotels.”

Cardwell said she spent a week trying to get through to the hotel by phone and online, but finally decided to risk it and packed up for the trip.

Fortunately her hotel, Tropical Winds Oceanfront, was not seriously damaged by the storm.

Of the 140 hotels and motels in the Daytona Beach area, 20 were closed by Hurricane Matthew, including the 740-room Hilton.

Local biker Rick Cole has been attending Biketoberfest for 20 years, but is concerned attendance could be down this year because of the storm.

Cole was one of the Florida residents who fled their homes ahead of Hurricane Matthew, and when he returned he was shocked by the damage.

“Our home is half gone,” he said. “The wind damage and the water damage is extensive.”

Damage in Daytona Beach and the debris that still litters the city could dissuade bikers from making the trip this year, Cole said.

Die-hard Biketoberfest fans will make it regardless, he added.

“They are going to come,” Cole said. “It’s Daytona, baby.”

Biketoberfest starts Thursday and runs through Sunday.

Hurricane Matthew destroyed 800 sea turtle nests, scientists say

About 800 sea turtle nests along northern Palm Beach County beaches were lost to Hurricane Matthew, experts at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center said.

But during a record-breaking year for nesting, the impact is minimal, experts said.

>> Read more trending stories

Nearly 15,000 nests already have hatched along the 10-mile stretch of beach monitored by Loggerhead. That represents a 92 percent success rate for the season.

About 1,250 nests — mostly green turtle nests — weren’t hatched before the hurricane, meaning 63 percent of them were lost to the storm, according to Sarah Hirsch, the center’s data manager.

About 450 nests are still incubating, she said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations bar officials from moving nests, even with the threat of a hurricane, because the eggs are prone to movement-induced mortality.

Winds have minimal impact on the nests, as the eggs are buried under the sand. However, storm surge, and subsequent beach erosion, can leave nests exposed and lower their chances of surviving.

Sea eggs can be seen along the beaches in Matthew’s aftermath, but most of those Hirsch has seen already have hatched or weren’t viable when the storm exposed them.

Mom, special needs son turned away from shelter during storm

The mother of a man with special needs said she and they were turned away from a Volusia County hurricane shelter and were forced to ride out Hurricane Matthew in their home.

When the health of Susan Weir’s son suddenly deteriorated, he had to be hospitalized in the middle of the storm.

Weir had to wait hours for the storm to clear enough to enable her to drive her son to Halifax Health.

Her son was admitted and survived, but her fear was that it could've played out very differently.

>> Read more trending stories  

Weir was frantically trying to find a shelter on Thursday that would take in her 28-year-old son, Andrew, who has a traumatic brain injury.

"He can't be without electricity," said Weir.

On Thursday, Weir, said she packed their things and took Andrew to one of Volusia's County's designated special-needs shelters.

But she was refused and was told to “take him to the hospital."

Weir said hospitals wouldn't take him because there was no medical emergency.

But Andrew's body can't regulate its temperature, so he needs air conditioning and electricity for an essential pump.

>> Read the latest on Hurricane Matthew 

Weir knew if the power went out, it could be a matter of life or death.

"So I guess if they don't let us in there, we're just going to stay here and hope we don't lose power," said Weir.

They lost power during the storm and Andrew became ill.

"That's what was the danger was that we had no place to go and nothing we could do," she said.

Weir said she waited out the storm for hours until she could drive Andrew to Halifax Health, where he was admitted.

Weir said she saw other people turned away from the shelter and hospital because they didn't meet certain criteria.

Now, she wants to talk to emergency management officials about closing the shelter gap before it kills someone.

"Just pray they can work out these things before next time so that Andrew or anybody else doesn't have to go through it again," said Weir.

Volusia County said it does not accept special-needs patients who require care around the clock.

Weir's home-care provider said they tried to coordinate with hospitals, but they were denied.

Halifax Health did not release a statement.

'No donuts went missing' – Jacksonville Sheriff's Office posts some levity after the storm

With all the bad news that Florida has experienced in the past few days, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office decided to lighten the mood on Facebook over the weekend.

In a post that has gone viral with 7,000 likes and more than 1,000 shares, the office poked fun at itself with a photo of a deputy’s cruiser in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts after Hurricane Matthew.

>> Read more trending stories  

“JSO Officer Crnolic made sure that the Dunkin’ Donuts located at Beach Boulevard and Hodges Boulevard was secure,” the office’s post said. “We confirmed, no donuts went missing.”

Residents seemed to appreciate the post, thanking the JSO for its lighthearted nature.

“Thank you for the humorous post after the past few day,” one person wrote.

“So funny and needed right now,” another person posted. “Wonderful to see so many of JSO’s finest have a sense of humor and are willing to poke fun at themselves.”

“Nice to see that you all still have your humor intact after the stress of the last few days,” yet another person wrote. “JSO rocks!”

“We have to,” the JSO responded. “Stay safe.”

JSO Officer Crnolic made sure that the Dunkin' Donuts located at Beach Blvd and Hodges Blvd was secure.  We confirmed, no donuts went missing.  𾆡🏻𾮗🏼𾥸Posted by Jacksonville Sheriff's Office on Saturday, October 8, 2016

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