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Florida couple find Scottish children’s message in a bottle from 1980s

A Florida couple surveying damage after Hurricane Irma last September found a message in a bottle, sent more than three decades ago by a class of children in Scotland, FlKeysNews reported.

>> Read more trending news

On Sept. 29 last year, Ruth and Lee Huenniger were walking near their Key Largo home, inspecting street lamps. Ruth found a plastic bottle lying near a chain link fence and noticed there was a note inside.

“We are learning all about pirates. We would like to see how far this message goes. Please write and tell us where you found this bottle,” the note said.

The note was signed by Class 2/3, Chapelpark School, Forfar, Angus, Scotland, FlKeysNews reported.

The Huennigers decided to write back to the school, whose class sent the bottle hurtling into the North Sea in the 1980s, WSVN reported.

“I thought, ‘Let’s see if this gets all the way back to Scotland,'” Ruth Huenniger told WSVN. “I mean, I’d never heard of Forfar.”

“Your message was found in Key Largo, Florida, USA, on Sept. 29, 2017,” the new note read. “Hope this was a fun experience for your class.”

This time, the note was sent through the mail. On Oct. 23, the Huenningers received a letter from Fiona Cargill in Scotland. The retired teacher said her class had written the note sometime in the 1980s, FlKeysNews reported.

“We forgot to put a date on the letter, but would you believe it, that bottle was sent on its journey more than 30 years ago,” Cargill wrote. “The pupils who took part in this will now be in their mid-thirties!”

Chapelpark Primary School closed in 2008 and is now an apartment building. The postman who was given the Huennigers’ letter for his route knew this and delivered it to the town’s new school, Whitehills Primary, FlKeysNews reported.

“The staff did an investigation and discovered it was my class,” Cargill wrote. “I retired from there just over a year ago and was so, so excited about this wonderful true life story.”

Cargill said her class of children ages 6 to 8, had studied pirates and decided to send several bottles.

“They covered them with sticky plastic to keep them from getting wet, put them in bottles and then got a fisherman to put them in the North Sea,” said Cargill, who added there are at least three more bottles that were thrown into the ocean.

Cigarette butt leads to arrest after robbery during Hurricane Irma

A cigarette butt left at a home that was burglarized during Hurricane Irma led to the arrest of a Florida woman and her alleged accomplice, sheriff officials said.

>> Read more trending news

Cassandra Taylor, 32, was arrested after deputies said she burglarized and ransacked a DeLeon Springs home on Billings Avenue in Volusia County last Sept. during the emergency evacuation caused by Hurricane Irma.

The victim told deputies they’d evacuated their home ahead of Irma on Sept. 9 and when he returned home he found couches in the living room overturned and sliced open, his bedroom drawers opened and several items missing from the house. 

Among the stolen items were six purses, 31 pairs of jeans, six pairs of sneakers, 50 chair covers, a DVD player and a piggy bank full of money. 

Deputies couldn't figure out who committed the burglary until investigators received information during a different burglary investigation that Taylor and another possible suspect may have burglarized the home. 

Investigators recently received DNA results from a cigarette butt found on the bedroom floor, which matched Taylor. 

Sheriff officials said Taylor confessed to the burglary. 

Because the incident occurred during a state of emergency, Taylor faces an enhanced charge of burglary to a dwelling during a state of emergency, as well as a charge of grand theft.

>> Related: Police: 4 children shot at park near Florida high school

Deputies said Oscar Bravo, 25, was arrested Sunday evening and was also charged with burglary.

Trump golfs, meets with Florida's governor before hosting gala event

President Donald Trump predicted a “fantastic 2018” as he arrived at Mar-a-Lago on Sunday night for a pricey New Year’s Eve party with hundreds of his supporters.

>> Read more trending news

“We’re off to a very good start with the great tax cuts … getting rid of the individual mandate, which was very, very unpopular, as you know,” Trump said while pausing on the red carpet with first lady Melania Trump and son Barron just before 9:30 p.m.

“We’re going to have a tremendous year. The stock market, I think, is going to continue to go up. Companies are going to continue to come into the country. And they’re doing it now, soon to be a record clip.”

Asked about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s claim that his country’s nuclear capabilities are complete and he has a nuclear “button” on his desk, Trump said: “We’ll see. We’ll see.”

>> Kim Jong Un: Nuclear button is always on his desk

Earlier, Trump marked the final day of 2017 with a visit to his golf course and a meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a frequent presidential dining partner whom Trump has encouraged to run for the Senate in 2018 against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.

A White House readout of the lunch didn’t mention politics but said Trump and Scott discussed “ongoing hurricane recovery efforts, the need to improve the nation’s aging infrastructure, and many other matters important to the people of Florida.”

Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said the Senate race did not come up during the lunch.

Scott spokesman John Tupps said the governor and president “spoke about issues that are important to Florida including the President’s commitment to speeding the repairs to the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee and the need for federal aid for the recovery of Florida’s citrus industry following Hurricane Irma. The governor looks forward to continuing to work with the federal government in 2018 so the issues important to Floridians are made a priority.”

Trump’s New Year’s Eve preparations also included a security briefing, the White House said.

“The president has been briefed on security measures that are being taken by federal, state and local authorities to help ensure a safe and festive New Year’s Eve. We will continue to monitor throughout the night,” White House spokeswoman Helen Ferre said.

>> Trump in Palm Beach: VIPs attend party at Mar-a-Lago

Through Sunday, Trump had spent nearly 10 percent of his presidency at or near Mar-a-Lago. In 10 visits since taking office on Jan. 20, he has logged a little more than 33 days in Palm Beach County.

On Sunday morning, with a tent and plastic-covered red carpet in place on Mar-a-Lago’s western lawn for the evening’s festivities, Trump got in his presidential limousine for the 4½-mile trip to his Trump International Golf Club. He arrived at about 9:45 a.m.

Since arriving for his current visit on Dec. 22, Trump has visited the golf course on every morning except Christmas. He hosted about 60 members of the U.S. Coast Guard at the course on Friday, played with U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and two professional golfers on Tuesday, and played with three PGA Tour members on Dec. 23.

Trump and Scott — who have broken bread together at least three other times in Washington and in Bedminster, New Jersey, since Trump took office — met for lunch at 1 p.m. at Trump’s golf club.

Trump pledged in October to speed up dike repairs for Lake Okeechobee, a top Scott priority, although the White House has not provided a specific timetable or attached a dollar figure to the pledge.

Scott was one of the first elected officials to praise Trump in early 2016 and Trump publicly called for Scott to challenge Nelson during a June visit to Miami and a September visit to Southwest Florida to survey Hurricane Irma damage.

Trump had the 2018 elections in mind early Sunday. Polls suggest Democrats could make big gains, and historical trends favor the party that is out of the White House in non-presidential election years.

“Why would smart voters want to put Democrats in Congress in 2018 Election when their policies will totally kill the great wealth created during the months since the Election. People are much better off now not to mention ISIS, VA, Judges, Strong Border, 2nd A, Tax Cuts & more?” Trump tweeted from Mar-a-Lago about an hour before heading to the golf course.

Trump also tweeted on Sunday — as he did Saturday — about the wave of anti-government protests in Iran.

“Big protests in Iran,” Trump told Twitter followers early Sunday. “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”

Trump is expected to return to Washington on New Year’s Day.

Hurricane Irma brings romance to Florida senior citizens

Hurricane Irma created romance for two Florida senior citizens, whose whirlwind courtship after the storm led to their marriage, USA Today reported.

>> Read more trending news

Denise Praz and Joseph Mazur were married in Naples on Dec. 15, three months after Irma smashed into their independent living facility in Collier County. 

“If it hadn’t been for Irma, I don’t know if we’d be getting married,” Mazur told The Naples Daily News. “Irma created this situation for romance.”

Before Irma made landfall on Sept. 10, Praz, Mazur and about 400 fellow residents of Bentley Village were evacuated to Orlando, USA Today reported.

Praz and Mazur, both 79 and widowed, knew one another only casually before the storm. But as they hunkered down in an Orlando hotel, the couple joined a group for happy hour and got to know each other.

Over the next few weeks, they talked, they swam together, exercised together, took walks, went to Sunday Mass.

“We had a lot of personal time and realized we had a lot in common,” Mazur said. “It developed rather quickly. We are very comfortable. It feels very natural to be together.”

Praz agreed, saying: “I’m just always happy to see him. He’s very protective of me, which I like.”

Mazur, a 17-year resident of Naples, was previously married 53 years before his wife died in 2015. Praz was married for 57 years before her husband died in June, USA Today reported.

“I remember praying that the Lord would send me another good man, who was faithful in his life of the Lord and who wanted to marry again,” Praz said.

They have seven children between them, all in their 50s. There was a little grousing among the offspring over the speed with which their parents planned to marry.

“My daughter said, ‘I like him very much, Mother, but you just buried Daddy,’” Praz said about her daughter, Marisa. “I said, ‘This is right. I’m going to do it.’”

And they did, exchanging vows at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in North Naples.

“God, in his great wisdom, used Hurricane Irma to bring them together,” said the Rev. Paul D’Angelo, who officiated.

2017 in review: Google looks back at the year that was 

Google has documented all of the stuff that we have Googled this year and it is really showing what the world has put up with over the past 12 months. 

In the video that summarizes 2017, every search starts with a simple word -- how. 

Then the rest of the sentence is filled in with terms like: “do wildfires start,” “far can north korean missiles go,” “do hurricanes form,” “help flood victims.”

The questions about natural disasters, as well as man-made issues, go on and on for the two-minute video. 

>> Read more trending news 

And while it seems like it has been a year of tragedy, the video also showed that there is still hope left, from a sky show called an eclipse, to people beating the odds, and making a difference in society, and yes, even becoming a superhero.

The video ends with another simple query -- “how to move forward” -- and the answer -- “Search on.”

According to Google’s analytics, the most-searched terms in the U.S. were: 

  1. Hurricane Irma
  2. Matt Lauer
  3. Tom Petty
  4. Super Bowl
  5. Las Vegas shooting

Breaking it down to people, the U.S. searched for:

  1. Matt Lauer
  2. Meghan Markle
  3. Harvey Weinstein
  4. Michael Flynn
  5. Kevin Spacey

Click here to take a look at the complete list of searches for the U.S.

As for the entire world, the most-searched terms included:

  1. Hurricane Irma
  2. iPhone 8
  3. iPhone X
  4. Matt Lauer
  5. Meghan Markle

Click here to see the world-wide trends.

Sign language interpreter causes confusion at Florida news conference

A sign language interpreter at a news conference detailing the arrest of a suspected serial killer caused confusion last week, The Tampa Bay Times reported.

>> Read more trending news

On Nov. 28, the Tampa Police Department held a televised news conference about the arrest of Howell Emanuel Donaldson III, who is accused of four murders in the Seminole Heights neighborhood.

There was an American Sign Language interpreter on camera at the news conference, but little of what she signed made sense, the Times reported..

"She sat up there and waved her arms like she was singing ‘Jingle Bells,’” Rachelle Settambrino, who is deaf and teaches ASL at the University of South Florida, told the Times through an interpreter on Sunday.

“I was disappointed, confused, upset and really want to know why the city of Tampa’s chief of police who is responsible for my safety and the safety of the entire community did not check her out.”

Tampa Police Department spokeswoman Janelle McGregor, who identified the interpreter as Derlyn Roberts, said the department did not request an interpreter for the news conference. She said the Tampa police are conducting an internal review to determine “who sent this particular interpreter to the news conference to provide services,” the Times reported.

Roberts could not be reached Sunday for comment.

Settambrino said that according to Roberts, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan at one point said:

"Fifty-one hours ago, zero 12 22 (indecipherable) murder three minutes in 14 weeks ago in old (indecipherable) murder four five 55,000 plea 10 arrest murder bush (indecipherable) three age 24."

What he was explaining was a timeline of the four murders and how police received more than 5,000 tips in the case before they arrested the 24-year-old suspect.

It’s not the first time a signer has caused confusion in Florida. When Hurricane Irma threatened the state in September, an ASL interpreter at a Manatee County news conference was not qualified to provide needed safety precautions, the Times reported. That interpreter, at one point, signed the phrase “bear monster,” according to news reports.

The Tampa police had a new interpreter at its news conference the next day, the Times reported.

23 kilos of cocaine wash ashore on Florida beach, deputies say

Deputies are trying to figure out where 50 pounds of cocaine that washed ashore Friday on Melbourne Beach came from, the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office said. 

>> Read more trending news

A woman walking the beach spotted the package and alerted deputies Friday morning. 

“Everything is washing ashore; I don’t know what it is,” said Bob Downs, who was also walking the beach.

Investigators said the nearly 23 kilograms, about 50 pounds, washed ashore just south of Melbourne Beach near where Hurricane Irma washed a sailboat ashore. 

“You would think that South Florida would get the cocaine washing up - not middle, or central Florida. It’s a surprise,” said Richard Threlfall, who was visiting the beach.

Heather Pepe-Dillon, who lives nearby, said it could have come from just about anywhere. 

“You could put together any story, but none of them are good,” she said. 

The special investigations unit was called out to retrieve the package near the 3000 block of AIA. 

Investigators said there aren’t any other reports of cocaine washing ashore they are investigating. 

Florida utility looking to charge customers $1.3 billion for Hurricane Irma-related costs

Executives with Florida Power & Light Co. said they plan to ask regulators for a $1.3 billion rate increase to cover costs incurred from Hurricane Irma. 

That increase translates into about an additional $5 a month for an average residential customer’s bill. 

>> Read more trending news

If the Public Service Commission approves the increase, customers will start seeing the storm surcharge in March, FPL chief financial officer John Ketchum said Thursday.

"We believe that the improvement in FPL’s storm restoration efforts shows that our ongoing transmission and distribution investments, together with our preparation and coordinated response, are providing significant value to our customers,” Ketchum said.

Hurricane Irma’s size and damage prompted the Public Service Commission to solicit comments from customers and other experts to assess the  storm readiness of utilities in the state

Since 2006, Florida Power & Light has spent $3 billion on storm-hardening efforts meant to reduce the damage to utility poles and the amount of time customers are without power following a storm. 

The utility has not yet filed a formal request with the Public Service Commission to recover costs for Hurricane Irma. 

Florida Power & Light also asked the PSC for overall rate increases in excess of $1 billion in 2008 and 2016.

Minnesota family asks for public's help in finding missing emu named Dork

A missing emu named Dork is gaining a Facebook following while an entire community in Minnesota searches for the wayward bird. 

Dork escaped from his backyard pen in Becker in April after a tree branch broke his pen, according to KARE11

>> Florida woman searching for escaped emu after Hurricane Irma

Since then, community members have been filling Dork’s Facebook page with pictures of him when he’s been spotted, the Palm Beach Post reported. A local hardware store even sells shirts that say, “Dork is the name, hiding is the game,” according to WCCO

>> Read more trending news

“It’s really taken on a life of its own,” Becker Police Chief Brent Baloun told WCCO. “It’s kind of a rallying point for the community.”

>> Deputy’s whistling stops wayward Florida emu

Dork’s owner, Tom Berry, is starting to get worried since it’s getting cold, but he believes his bird is still on the loose because he’s searching for a companion, WCCO reported. 

“Geek and Dork were male and female, and Geek died three years or so ago, so he is on his own now,” Berry said. “He’s a bachelor; he’s looking for a female emu.”

>> Emu leads police on highway pursuit

Dork is wildly loved by social media users, the Palm Beach Post reported. 

Read more WCCO and KARE11

Famous Florida Keys resort closed due to Irma; 260 workers lose their jobs

Employees at a resort in the Florida Keys were laid off just weeks after a major hurricane destroyed parts of the resort.

The 260 employees at Hawks Cay Resort in Duck Key were terminated via email on Oct. 13 just six weeks after Category 4 Hurricane Irma destroyed some of the resort, according to FLKeysNews.

>> Read more trending news

Due to the damage, the 60-acre resort will not reopen until at least summer 2018, which led to the decision to lay off employees.

“Our crew members are what make Hawks Cay Resort special. This decision was the most difficult one that we had to make,” managing director Sheldon Suga said in a statement obtained by FLKeysNews.

The lay-offs have irked some employees, who claim that the resort showed little regard for their employees’ safety or well-being following the hurricane.

“The only communication I really had from them after I got back from evacuating was a phone call and it wasn’t, ‘Hi, how are you?’ It was ‘Do you have any of our uniforms?’ I went, ‘Are you serious? My house was flooded and I’m not really worried if I have any of your uniforms,’” an anonymous laid-off employee told FLKeysNews.

The former resort worker also mentioned that nearly 50 of his co-workers moved from the islands and don’t have plans to return after the storm.

“We ensured crew members received hurricane pay up to Oct. 14,” Suga told FLKeysNews. “With a reopening date still unknown, we had to give them notice.” 

Suga also noted that the company will make efforts to help their staff members find employment elsewhere. 

Read more at FLKeysNews

WATCH: Former President Barack Obama Giggles At George W. Bush's Joke

WATCH: Former President Barack Obama Giggles At George W. Bush's Joke

Jim Larranaga: 'I am Coach-3' in FBI college basketball probe

University of Miami coach Jim Larranaga said his legal team believes he is “Coach-3,” as noted in the Department of Justice report about the FBI investigation into college basketball’s underbelly.

>> Read more trending news

“I am grateful we have come to that conclusion,” said Larranaga, “as I know I did nothing wrong, and it is comforting to know none of my assistants are connected in any way.” He added that the U.S. attorney’s office has not confirmed the identity of “Coach-3.”

In a news conference at the Watsco Center, Larranaga addressed the media for the first time since the Sept. 26 complaint was unveiled in New York. Uncharacteristically, he read from a prepared statement. He fielded questions afterward from reporters about the emotional impact, but referred all inquiries about the investigation to his statement, which said he appreciated that the media had a job to do, but that he would not offer comment.

Larranaga’s full statement: 

“I cannot state more emphatically that I absolutely have no knowledge of any wrongdoing by any member of our staff and I certainly have never engaged in the conduct that some have speculated about,” Larranaga said, holding a piece of paper with both hands.

“I have tried to live every single one of my 68 years on this earth with integrity, character, and humility. … To have those values that I cherish so dearly even questioned, is disheartening and disappointing.”

“Coach-3,” in the FBI report, was said to know about an Adidas executive and others conspiring to funnel some $150,000 to a 2018 recruit, later learned to be Orlando-based five-star wing Nassir Little. Little and his father signed statements, provided to The Post by Larranaga’s legal team, saying they accepted no money, never discussed payment with any of the men charged, and they and Miami did nothing wrong.

>> Related: Auburn, Oklahoma State, USC coaches among 10 charged with corruption

Asked about his relationship with former Adidas executive Jim Gatto, who was one of 10 men indicted by the FBI on conspiracy and fraud charges, Larranaga declined to comment, referring to the statement.

“It’s been a strain, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Larranaga said. “It’s something that’s there. I have to deal with it. I have the support of my wife and a wonderful family. I have the support of the university, my staff and players.”

Both Ja’Quan Newton and Bruce Brown, the two players Miami made available to the media, said they were not aware of the details of the investigation. They said practice has been as usual, and they’ve noticed no change in their coach.

“Around us, ‘Coach L’ isn’t going to show he’s hurt,” Newton said. “He’s so happy to be around us.”

Larranaga said he briefed his players on Sept. 26, along with UM Athletics Director Blake James.

“They have nothing to do with this,” Larranaga said. “It hasn’t been talked about since.”

Asked how the investigation has affected recruiting, Larranaga said it has been a negative, but his staff is “very strong and resilient, and we’ll figure out a way to recruit successfully.”

UM does not have a verbal commitment for 2018. It had an official visit set up the weekend of Sept. 9 with five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley, but it was canceled when Hurricane Irma forced UM to evacuate the campus.

Asked if he has received messages of support from colleagues, Larranaga answered, “Yes.”

Asked if that has helped, Larranaga answered with the same flat, “Yes.”

It’s been a month and Puerto Rico still needs your help — where to donate your money, how to volunteer and more

Puerto Ricans are still in need of aid nearly one month after Hurricane Maria’s devastation.

» RELATED: What it’s like in Puerto Rico, a month after Hurricane Maria hit

The official death toll on the U.S. island territory has increased to 48, but more than 100 people are still missing, officials said.

According to CNN, as of Wednesday, about 1 million people are still without running water and 3 million people are without power.

Only 45 of 70 hospitals are currently operating with electricity, and according to FEMA officials, there is a severe food shortage.

President Donald Trump met local and federal officials in Puerto Rico on Oct. 3 and praised his administration’s response to the storm.

» RELATED: Twitter users, politicians blast Trump's comments, behavior in Puerto Rico as ‘inappropriate’

"I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack," Trump said. "But that's fine.”

His remarks came amid harsh criticism that the administration’s response to the disaster was slow or insufficient.

Trump is set to meet with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello Thursday to discuss rebuilding efforts, White House officials said.

» RELATED: Trying to reach your loved ones in Puerto Rico? Who to call, email

The once-Category 5 storm hit the U.S. Virgin Islands in mid-September and eventually downgraded to a Category 4, but not before it plowed through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, flooded the streets, collapsed homes and left the entire territory without power.

According to the New York Times, the 155-mph winds also left 80 percent of the United States commonwealth’s crop value completely destroyed.

» RELATED: Hurricane Maria: Live updates

Families desperately trying to connect with their loved ones have also had trouble reaching them, as few of the island’s 1,600 cellphone towers were operational.

“What's out there is total devastation. Total annihilation. People literally gasping for air. I personally have taken people out and put them in ambulances because their generator has run out,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told ABC News.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the dangerous hurricane downgraded to a tropical storm and slowly moved away from the U.S. east coast after causing some storm surge flooding.

» RELATED: Trump promises visit, aid to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico

How you can help the victims of Hurricane Maria

Make monetary donations to charities or crowdfunding campaigns

According to the United States Agency for International Development, giving money to reputable relief agencies and nonprofits is the most effective way to help and to avoid using resources to transport or deliver donated goods.

Listed below are several charity organizations or crowdfunding campaigns to choose from. You can also use Charity Navigator to learn more about the organizations before donating.

Note that sending money via text message may seem convenient, but according to the Associated Press, that’s not the case. Charities often have to wait on phone companies to release the money.

Here are some organizations to consider giving money to:

United for Puerto Rico (direct aid and support for Puerto Rico spearheaded by the First Lady of Puerto Rico)

Hispanic Federation (text Unidos and an amount to 4-144 or visit the website)

Americares (emergency and medical supplies)

UNICEF (emergency relief and help for children affected)

Save the Children (emergency relief and help for children affected)

ConPRmetidos (Puerto Rico-based nonprofit to benefit “immediate needs of food, shelter, water” and more)

GlobalGiving Caribbean Hurricane Maria & Irma Relief Fund (from US-based nonprofit Global Giving)

SPCA International (help for animal rescue and care)

Habitat for Humanity (housing and shelter needs)

All Hands (specific for U.S. Virgin Islands)

Salvation Army (supplies and shelter needs)

» RELATED: How you can help Mexico and people affected by the Mexico earthquake

Other crowdfunding campaigns:

- GoFundMe’s Hurricane Maria relief homepage (a landing page with several crowdfunding efforts)

21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund (NBA star Tim Duncan hoping to raise $5 million for his home country)

Dominica Hurricane Maria Relief Fund (bringing relief to Dominica)

Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Hurricane Relief Fund (to help families and countries rebuild after hurricanes)

» RELATED: Hurricane Maria set Puerto Rico back decades, official says

Make monetary donations via Google search

If you do a Google search for “Hurricane Maria,” you’ll be able to donate money directly in the search results. Scroll down to donate $5, $25 or $50 to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Check if your employer will match your donation has a nifty tool that lets you enter your company name to find out whether or not your employer offers a matching gift program for donations.

Donate blood

The American Red Cross urges generous volunteer blood donors to give blood year-round, not only at the time of disaster. Currently, a need for platelet and type O blood donations are especially needed, according to the organization website.

Visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to begin the donation process.

» RELATED: Disaster declared in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastates island

Donate useful goods

Monetary donations are preferred, but this nationwide Google spreadsheet also has donation drop-off locations for essential items.

» RELATED: Puerto Rico mayor Cruz begs for solar-powered supplies on CNN; slams acting Homeland Security head

According to the spreadsheet, there’s not a great need for clothing, and transporting water and food may waste resources.

Instead, think about long-term supplies someone may need without electricity or food, such as asthma pumps, bug repellent, eye drops water purification products.

Other high-ticket items include solar powered USB chargers, lanterns, radios, batteries, baby items and duct tape.

Some locations on the Google spreadsheet only collected items through the end of September, but others are collecting them on an ongoing basis. 

Please check the spreadsheet for updated times and locations and give the site manager a call before dropping off supplies.


The American Red Cross is looking is dispatching volunteers to aid areas affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Local residents should use this form.

All non-local residents interested in volunteering should use this separate form.

More information about volunteer expectations and requirements at

You can also volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

» RELATED: Trump: “Big decisions” must be made about rebuilding Puerto Rico

The organization is assessing housing and shelter needs in impacted areas and is evaluating the support it receives from donors, volunteers and other partners before making any long-term decisions.

“We ask that your enthusiasm and interest stay long after the first few weeks as volunteers will be critically needed throughout the recovery and rebuilding phase, which may last months or even years,” the organization posted on its website.

Sign up for the Habitat for Humanity volunteer registry here.

The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) is allowing volunteers to register to help, but notes that Puerto Rico is asking for volunteers not to deploy to the communities affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Several VOAD volunteer opportunities from casework, cleanup and more are posted here.

Spread awareness on social media

Sometimes, word of mouth (or text) is all it takes. Take part in the relief campaign by retweeting news and alerts about shelters, donations and more from official accounts such as @PRFAA@FEMARegion2@ricardorossello@Univision PR@USNationalGuard and several news organizations.

Be sure to share your donation links, let people know how to donate and continue to spread awareness with hashtags (#PuertoRico, #MariaPR, #PrayForPuertoRico, #UnidosPorPR, #UnitedForPR are some examples).

Despite hurricanes, Caribbean still a popular travel destination

It’s been about a month since a trio of hurricanes barreled through the Caribbean and Florida, destroying many popular vacation spots.

Despite all the damage, the majority of destinations are open for business and need visitors to return.

A travel group just produced a video called “One Caribbean Family” that drives home the theme that the islands are still beautiful and welcoming.

>> Read more trending news 

Maryella Blundo, of Dream Come True Travel, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said there are 30 islands open for business and fully functional.

Every day, she receives updates from hotel vendors listing all the hotels that are accepting reservations.

The storms did devastate spots like Puerto Rico, St. Martin and the Virgin islands.

Many, however, fared much better.

“Aruba, Jamaica,” Blundo said. “You have places like Trinidad and Tobago that were virtually untouched. There’s Curacao. There’s Bonaire. There’s the Bahamas.”

Although parts of Florida are still cleaning up, many locations are ready for visitors.

Javier Rosenberg graduated from the hospitality program at Boston University and now runs three hotels in Florida.

One is in Naples, and two are in the Florida Keys.

"It's quite different where you look,” he said. “Miami, for example, I would say the East Coast is pretty much back to normal in many ways. On the West Coast, which suffered a more direct impact from Hurricane Irma, I think you will still see a number of hotels are closed.”

Rosenberg is happy with the pace of the cleanup and says tourist areas got priority.

“If you are planning to go down to Florida in December, January, or February, I think you have to ask a few great questions just to make sure you are comfortable,” Rosenberg said. “In some of the Keys, you want to make sure you have enough restaurant options that are open.”

There may be an opportunity to get a deal in the Sunshine State.

“In the next few months, you probably will see some specials as hotels, and I think destinations, try to get people comfortable with the idea of coming back, so I think there are some great deals and opportunities out there,” Rosenberg said.

At Boston Logan International Airport, most travelers said they’d be willing to go south in a few months to get a reprieve from a Boston winter.

One woman said, “Obviously, it’s pretty tragic what happened there, but I don’t think that I would have any reason not to go.”

“I would still go," one man said. "They are still safe to travel to. I would, but if you had the money to go to the Caribbean, then do it, but Florida is definitely a good option.”

Maryella Blunda told WFXT that she doesn’t expect to see deep discounts in the Caribbean.

She said some resorts are offering perks like spa discounts, but that’s about it.

If you aren’t interested in the Caribbean this year, she suggests checking out Costa Rica and Panama.

Group Sex During Hurricane Irma Ends With a Murder

Group Sex During Hurricane Irma Ends With a Murder

Group sex during Hurricane Irma reportedly ends with decomposed body, police say

Police in Hollywood have arrested one of two men who they say are responsible for the death of a man whose decomposed body was found in a closet. 

>> Read more trending news

Police said that on Sept. 10 during Hurricane Irma, Travis Watson, 30, engaged in group sex with the victim, Ariel Gonzalez, and a man named Jacob Mitchell, who is still at large, the Miami Herald reports.

Watson told police that Mitchell was angry with Gonzalez for cheating on him with Watson alone after they had all engaged in sexual activity earlier, police said. Out of anger, Mitchell beat Gonzalez with a hanger and broomstick then poured hot grease on his head, according to the Herald. 

Watson admitted to police that he punched Gonzalez in the face, asking him where he kept his money. He said he also helped Mitchell tie Gonzalez’s hands behind his back with a belt as Mitchell poured the hot grease over him, but Watson claims he tried to stop him, according to the Herald. 

Officers found Gonzalez’s body on Sept. 13 after a friend reported his disappearance and “noticed a foul odor” at his apartment, the Herald reports. 

Police said Gonzalez’s body was wrapped in bedsheets “with a small portion of his head visible,” the Herald reports. Neighbors identified Watson and Mitchell to police when they saw them leaving Gonzalez’s apartment during Hurricane Irma. 

Watson remains at the Broward County Jail on charges of kidnapping in commission or facilitation of a felony, failure to report a death, and robbery without a firearm. He is being held on a $100,000 bond. 

Police have described Mitchell as about 5 feet and 6inches tall ad wearing a long, blond wig to hide his balding, the Herald reports. 

55 dogs, toddler removed from house of horrors, bad stench reached street

Florida authorities removed 55 dogs and a 3-year-old boy from a home described as “deplorable” and “unsanitary.” 

It happened at a home in Ocala on Thursday, according to police.

>> Read more trending news

Officers were dispatched to the house on Wednesday after a  report of a bad odor coming from the location. 

They spoke to a woman at the residence, but she would not let the officers enter the house, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page

When officials returned to the residence on Thursday, the woman told them she had 15 dogs and was preparing to take them to a kennel. 

Skeptical about the woman’s explanation, police called Marion County Animal Services and the city Code Enforcement. 

Code Enforcement officials said they saw urine dripping from underneath a side door, smelled a “strong odor” and heard many dogs barking. 

The woman allowed a district service officer to enter the home, and he said he noticed trash all over the floors and a strong smell of ammonia

The officer’s investigation revealed that the woman ran a kennel for poodles, and the 55 dogs were brought to her house a few days before Hurricane Irma hit the state, the Star Banner reported

Many of the dogs were crowded into crates. They had matted hair and appeared sick, the officer told the Star Banner.

>> Related” Florida woman finds missing dog posted on Craigslist

Animal control officers removed and transported all the dogs to a center to be treated by a veterinarian. 

Police said the a family member picked up the young boy after the Florida Department of Children and Families determined the home was unsafe for him. 

Officials said they are still investigating, and so far no charges have been filed against the woman. 

Nursing Home Where 12 Patients Died after Hurricane Irma Laid off all Employees

Nursing Home Were 12 Patients Died after Hurricane Irma Laid off all Employees

Nursing home where 12 died after Hurricane Irma lays off all employees

The Florida nursing home where 12 patients died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma has laid off all of its 245 employees.

>> Read more trending news

The layoffs include nurses, physical therapists and doctors at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

Nursing home residents were subjected to overly hot conditions in the days after Hurricane Irma when a tree fell on a transformer powering the air conditioning system. Twelve patients died when they were not evacuated after the storm passed.

State officials later suspended their license and the facility closed permanently.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

All living former U.S. presidents to attend hurricane relief concert

All five living former U.S. presidents will attend a newly announced hurricane relief concert at Texas A&M University on Oct. 21.

>> Read more trending news

“Deep From the Heart: The One America Appeal” will feature Alabama, the Gatlin Brothers, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Yolanda Adams and several other music acts, according to the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation. Country music star Lee Greenwood will emcee the event.

>> Related: Former presidents join forces for hurricane relief

The former presidents — Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter — recently launched One America Appeal to help victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

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