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Florida's 10 safest cities in a hurricane

There’s really no place that’s 100 percent safe in Florida when it comes to hurricanes.

Even Orlando got hit twice in 2004 by hurricanes Charley and Frances.

>> Read more trending news

And, although Florida enjoyed a more than 10-year hurricane drought after 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Florida Panhandle in 2016. 

Still, Homeinsurance.com has ranked Florida’s cities based on their evaluation of NOAA-identified storms from 1965 to October 2014, doling out scores based on the number of storm events, number of storm-related deaths, property damage and storm-related injuries.

The top 10 safest cities in Florida during a hurricane, according to the insurance study, are:

  1. Leesburg
  2. Orlando
  3. Sanford
  4. Kissimmee
  5. Palatka
  6. Lake City
  7. Naples
  8. Ocala
  9. Gainesville
  10. Fernandina Beach

The entire ranking is below.

Read more about the Home Insurance study here.

Hurricane Maria: Airlines cap fares for flights out of affected cities

Update 1:30 p.m. Sept. 19: American Airlines and United Airlines announced that they are capping some of their fares as Hurricane Maria churns over the Caribbean.

>> Read more trending news

American Airlines said it will cap until Sept. 24 one-way, nonstop fares from airports in Antigua, Haiti, the Turks and Caicos islands, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis. Fares for travel in the airline’s main cabin will be capped at $99, while premium cabin fares will be capped at $199.

United Airlines officials said the company is adding additional seats for its flights leaving Puerto Rico. The airline capped its nonstop flights in economy class at $384.

>> Hurricane Jose and Hurricane Maria: Live updates

The announcements came in response to a letter sent to nearly a dozen airliners from Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, requesting that the airlines cap fees for people fleeing from Maria.

“Individuals and families should not be forced to delay or cancel their evacuation efforts because of confusion over the cost of airfare,” Nelson said.

Original report: Delta Air Lines said it is capping main cabin one-way fares at $199 for flights out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Punta Cana, Santo Domingo and Santiago in the Dominican Republic as Hurricane Maria approaches.

Atlanta-based Delta is also adding two extra flights from San Juan to Atlanta for those who want to get out of the hurricane’s path.

>> More hurricane coverage from WFTVAction News Jax and the Palm Beach Post

Delta is waiving change fees for travelers with flights booked to, from or through San Juan, Punta Cana, Santo Domingo and Santiago from Sept. 19-26.

Southwest Airlines is canceling its flights scheduled to and from San Juan for Tuesday after 6 p.m. and Wednesday, and to and from Punta Cana on Wednesday.

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

9 weather terms you should know when preparing for a hurricane

Whenever a hurricane is poised to strike a region, there are several terms meteorologists use that might not be familiar.

>> Read more trending news

Here are common ones you should know as you keep your eye on the storm’s path: 

Feeder band

Lines or bands of low-level clouds that move (feed) into the upper region of a thunderstorm, usually from the east through south.

This term also is used in tropical meteorology to describe spiral-shaped bands of convection surrounding, and moving toward, the center of a tropical cyclone.

Squalls

When the wind speed increases to at least 16 knots and is sustained at 22 knots or more for at least one minute.

Storm surge

An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm. The height is the difference between the normal level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic high tide from the observed storm tide.

>> Related: What is storm surge and why is it dangerous? 

Eye wall

An organized band or ring of clouds that surround the eye, or light-wind center, of a tropical cyclone. Eye wall and wall cloud are used synonymously.

Sustained winds

Wind speed determined by averaging observed values over a two-minute period.

Computer models

Meteorologists use computer models to figure out a storm’s path and its potential path. The models are based on typical weather patterns.

Advisory

Official information describing all tropical cyclone watches and warnings in effect along with details concerning tropical cyclone locations, intensity and movement, and precautions that should be taken.

Hurricane watch

An announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are possible. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

Hurricane warning

An announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected somewhere within the specified area in association with a cyclone. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the warning is issued 36 hours in advance. The warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or high water and waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.

Hulk Hogan calls Hurricane Irma victims complaining about no power, water 'crybabies'

In two since-deleted tweets, Hulk Hogan called Hurricane Irma survivors who are complaining about the loss of water and power “crybabies."

>> Hurricane Irma damage: What to do during, after a power outage

On Thursday, the professional wrestling star wrote: “No water, no power, crybabies, everyone’s complaining, these people have no clue how bad it could be. Praying for those that got hit hard, lost homes, lives, businesses, lost everything, thank you God for helping those with divine highly blessings, God speed only love.”

>> On Rare.us: Getting to know Hulk Hogan

Hogan rode out the storm at his home in Clearwater, Florida — a city on the west coast of the state. His tweets sparked a firestorm on social media, with many criticizing Hogan. While still a larger-than-life celebrity in the professional wrestling circuit, the star returned to fame a few years ago when he effectively put gossip and news website Gawker out of business.

>> More Irma coverage from WFTVAction News Jax and the Palm Beach Post

The tweets have been taken down but were captured by The Washington Post before they were deleted. Hogan has not returned requests for comment on the statements.

>> Read more trending news

Hogan also noted on Twitter that he spent Friday with linemen restoring power to Orlando, which was ravaged by Irma.

WATCH: Nurses won't let Hurricane Irma ruin birthday for 3-year-old with leukemia

A 3-year-old Florida girl nearly had her birthday celebration ruined.

>> Watch the news report here

>> Read more trending news

She was diagnosed with leukemia on Sept. 8, just two days before her birthday — and the day Hurricane Irma was poised to strike her home.

>> See the photos here

>> Key West suffers as rays of hope emerge after Hurricane Irma

Willow Stine, who lives in Wesley Chapel, rode out the storm with her mother at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, but because of Irma it meant no birthday celebration for Willow — or so her mother thought, according to CNN

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: Deputy calms elderly woman’s nerves during Hurricane Irma with a dance

“I was like, I don't know how much more I can take,” Willow's mother, Jennifer Stine, told CNN. “My baby's turning 3 and has cancer and on top of that, my 4-year-old daughter and husband are an hour and a half away in a hurricane. I'm just trying to process all this.” 

>> Watch the video clip here

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

But then nurses from the hospital surprised Willow with a birthday party. They wrapped up newly donated toys and got Willow a cake, CNN reported. 

>> More Irma coverage from WFTVAction News Jax and the Palm Beach Post

“The nurses were amazing. They're so wonderful,” Stine told CNN. “[Willow] got to be a toddler again.”

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: Tim Tebow visits those impacted by Hurricane Irma

Read more at CNN

Key West suffers as rays of hope emerge after Hurricane Irma

After 25 years in Key West, Jim Gilleran knows residents need a cold beer, a hot meal and a place to reconnect after a hurricane.

While most bars and restaurants remain shuttered on Duval Street, Gilleran opened his 801 Bar hours after Hurricane Irma smashed past the island. He’s kept his generator operating since, serving nearly 700-800 free meals a day.

>> Read more trending news

On Thursday, the bar stools were packed with sweaty, unshowered, hungry residents anticipating a steak lunch while staff gave out bags of donated food and toiletries.

“Honey, you need anything?” asked a worker carrying a basket of facial wipes, toothpaste and tampons.

“My father taught me to take care of myself and my family so I can take care of my community,” Gilleran said on the day civilization slowly crept back into Key West, or at least as much as this idiosyncratic city at the very southern tip of the U.S. will allow.

Read the full story on Irma’s aftermath in Key West on MyPalmBeachPost.com

After Irma: Alleged Secret Service impostor arrested trying to sneak onto wealthy Florida island

A man who attempted to gain access to Palm Beach, Florida, by telling police he worked for the U.S. Secret Service and needed access to protect a diplomat was arrested Tuesday evening at a 24-hour police checkpoint, according to a Palm Beach police report. The security checkpoint was put in place in the wake of Hurricane Irma to control access to the wealthy island.

>> Read more trending news

Luan Gabriel Da Rocha Cruz, 22, was arrested at 7:42 p.m. on a federal charge of impersonating a Secret Service officer, according to the report. Town police assisted the West Palm Beach-based federal officers who made the arrest after determining Cruz did not work for the Secret Service.

Officers suspected Cruz was entering the island with criminal intent, and police acted appropriately, Palm Beach Director of Public Safety Kirk Blouin said today.

“We suspected he wanted to commit burglary,” Blouin said.

Cruz was driving a gray BMW with a New York City license plate from West Palm Beach to Palm Beach when he was stopped — for the second time that evening — at the checkpoint on the Royal Park Bridge.

“Cruz advised that he was with the U.S. Secret Service and needed to gain access to the island to report for his assignment to protect a diplomat” at an address on the North End, Palm Beach police Officer Steven O’Leary wrote in his report.

“Cruz appeared to be very nervous and would not make eye contact when I was asking him questions,” O’Leary wrote.

Before he was detained by police just east of the bridge, Cruz displayed “a U.S. Secret Service badge that was oddly placed in a brown leather wallet with a bright blue interior that did not contain a slot for the badge,” the report said.

O’Leary’s report said he escorted Cruz through the checkpoint for questioning and saw him lock the badge in his glove box. Cruz was talking on a cellphone during the encounter and told O’Leary he was working “undercover,” the report said. He also “kept reaching for something at the front left door panel of the vehicle,” according to the report. At that point, Cruz was asked to exit the car, and police contacted the West Palm Beach division of the Secret Service.

The role of the Secret Service in Palm Beach earned international attention after the election of President Donald Trump, whose Mar-a-Lago club serves as his winter White House.

Police determined that the North Lake Way address Cruz gave them was a house without electricity that had hurricane shutters in place, the report said. Officers were unable to contact its owner.

Cruz had already attempted to enter town in the same car at the same checkpoint about 25 minutes earlier, according to the report. At that time, Cruz was stopped by O’Leary and told him “he was working security” at the same North End address, but did not show him a badge, O’Leary’s report said. At that time, Cruz couldn’t provide proof of employment in Palm Beach or a voluntary town identification card, so O’Leary requested Cruz make a U-turn and return to West Palm Beach, which he did, according to the report.

According to his report, O’Leary was relieved of his post shortly afterward but noticed when Cruz returned to the checkpoint less than a half-hour later. O’Leary walked over to assist the officer questioning Cruz, which ultimately led to the suspect being detained and arrested, the report said. He is being held in Palm Beach County jail.

Under a long-established policy following hurricanes, police have tightly controlled access to the island via checkpoints at three bridges and on the coastal road leading into Palm Beach. The town was swept by the outer bands of Hurricane Irma Sunday afternoon and into Monday morning.

Much of the town was still without electricity when the arrest was made, and town officials have closely restricted access to the island because security systems at many homes and businesses have been inoperable.

Palm Beach is home to many affluent households. A number of former U.S. ambassadors and other diplomats have homes on the island. And more than 30 billionaires on Forbes’ latest list have residences or own other property on the 16-mile barrier island.

Massive Hurricane Irma, which barrelled up the state’s west coast Sunday, damaged landscaping but did little if any major structural damage to homes and buildings in Palm Beach. The winds that hit the town were less than hurricane strength, forecasters said.

The BMW wasn’t registered to Cruz but to a woman with a West Palm Beach address, records show.

Couple, stressed over Florida evacuation, crashes car into hotel swimming pool

Two Floridians who fled to metro Atlanta to escape Hurricane Irma credit a local police department with helping them recover from an accident that almost cost them their lives.

>> Read more trending news

Theodore and Gloria Karadimos, from Punta Gorda, Florida, were staying at the Best Western in Acworth over the weekend as Irma pummeled Florida.

While they were trying to pull into the parking space outside their hotel room, Theodore Karadimos accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake, sending the car flying into the hotel swimming pool.

Chief Wayne Dennard said the couple was terrified they would die in the car because neither one could swim.

“This couple was obviously fleeing from the storm and stressed from that,” Dennard said.

Hotel guests quickly jumped in to help, pushing the floating, bobbing Lexus to the pool’s shallow end. Bystanders were able to get the couple and their two dogs out of the car.

Theodore Karadimos told Sgt. Tamara Clayton that his foot slipped off the brake.

As his wife was taken to a hospital, Clayton helped Theodore Karadimos with getting a rental car, calling insurance, replacing medicine and then checking on Gloria Karadimos.

“She quickly realized he was not in a mental state to do that, so she went the extra 1 percent to help do that for this couple,” Dennard said.

The couple showed their appreciation to the department by feeding members of the shift twice.

Gloria Karadimos said all the officers were outstanding. “I can’t give them enough praise,” she said.

The couple’s home in Florida suffered some exterior damage from Irma, but they said it is OK on the inside.

The couple said they are now considering moving to Acworth.

"We really are seriously thinking about moving up there because we feel they are part of our family from now on," Theodore Karadimos said.

Florida car dealer under fire for parking vehicles in public garages to avoid Irma

Florida car dealer Ed Napleton on Tuesday defended his company’s decision to park its new cars at public parking garages in West Palm Beach and at a garage at Florida State University before Hurricane Irma’s arrival.

The part-time Ocean Ridge resident said in an interview that he made arrangements with both CityPlace garage and FSU to pay to park his dealership cars at the properties.

>> Read more trending news

But the social media backlash has been intense, and Napleton said Tuesday he never intended to harm the public, who also wanted to park their cars in garages as Hurricane Irma churned toward the state.

“We would never try to hurt our local constituents,” Napleton said from his offices in Illinois. “We made arrangements well in advance” of the storm.

Indeed, social media has been in an uproar since late last week, when people went to park in the garages and found brand-new Napleton vehicles taking up spots.

On Napleton Hyundai’s Facebook page Tuesday, people posted scathing comments, calling the CityPlace parking job “bad business practice” while others said using the garages for vehicle inventory was “abhorrent, immoral and disgusting.”

Making matters worse: After CityPlace on Wednesday said the public could park at its garages for $10 a day, Mayor Jeri Muoio on Thursday said that CityPlace and West Palm Beach would open their garages to the public for free starting at 5 p.m. Friday.

As it turned out, by 2:30 p.m. Friday all five downtown garages were full and CityPlace’s garages were filling fast.

The CityPlace garages have 3,000 spaces. A CityPlace spokeswoman said Napleton took up 350 spaces but Napleton officials said it was 400. Roger Dean Chevrolet also parked at CityPlace garages, taking up another 200 spots.

>> Related: Dealer faces fines, jail time after parking cars in public garage during Irma

Napleton said it was a Weather Channel report early last week that gave him the idea to park some of his inventory in garages, shielded from what seemed to be an unprecedented storm heading straight for the east coast of Florida.

Read more here.

Dealer faces fines, jail time after parking cars in public garage during Irma

The owner of a used car dealership in South Florida is facing thousands of dollars in fines and potential jail time after he was accused of using a downtown parking garage to store his cars during Hurricane Irma.

>> Read more trending news

Autoline on Federal Highway in Hallandale Beach parked 47 cars, with warranty stickers and no tags, in residents’ spaces in a city garage, according to WPLG.

The dealership’s alleged action forced residents, who were supposed to have reserved spots in the garage for their cars, to have to find another place for their vehicles during the storm.

Workers moved the fleet of vehicles back to the dealership on Wednesday and declined to comment on the impending fines and possible arrest, according to WPLG.

The owner of the dealership was issued 24 notices to appear in court from the city of Hollywood, claiming that Autoline violated a city ordinance that makes it illegal to use public property for private business.

The owner faces $12,000 in fines and a potential 60 days in jail.

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