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Hurricane Irma: What not to do while your electrical power is out

It’s a sad side story to nearly every storm event, including Hurricane Irma. People are hurt, or even die, either before or after the storm in incidents that are indirectly related. Irma added to the grim legacy.

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In Orlando, a family of three died of carbon monoxide poisoning; authorities suspect they ran a generator inside their home.

And in northern Broward County, a couple decided to swim in the condo pool. Back at their unit, the power finally came back on, and an appliance that apparently had not been powered down started a fire.

And that doesn’t include the many cuts, bruises and intestinal crises that will torment residents if they haven’t already.

Some post-Irma do’s and don’ts:

Never operate a generator or barbecue grill inside the home. Carbon monoxide is deadly, odorless, colorless and can kill in minutes, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports. Do not use generators or grills even in open garages or porches unless they are at least 20 feet from the home.

Never connect a generator directly to your home’s electrical system. Don’t plug a gasoline-powered generator into your household AC circuits. The electricity will travel outside your house to the downed power line. You could electrocute yourself or start a fire. Also, utility workers, believing the line is dead, could be electrocuted. Plug appliances directly into the generator.

Be careful with gasoline cans and propane tanks. There’s a danger of both fumes and possible fire and explosion. Don’t pour unwanted gasoline down a storm drain. Don’t leave cans at a curb; they won’t be picked up. Instead, take to a processing facility.

Stay away from downed power lines and poles. The line might still be electrified. And if a pole has been pulled down, the electrical line might have been pulled frighteningly taut; cutting up that pole could cause a fatal reaction.

Check all the electrical items in your home. Some might have been turned on when power was lost, and when power is restored, you’ll get a surge that could damage electronics.

If you’re not familiar with power tools, especially chainsaws, hire a professional rather than risking your life or, literally, your limb.

Don’t walk barefoot. The ground can be minefields of broken glass, wood shards and boards with nails still in them, sharp points facing up.

Willie Nelson, Paul Simon and more to play Harvey benefit concert in Texas

Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Leon Bridges, Lyle Lovett and Edie Brickell & New Bohemians are heading up “Harvey Can’t Mess With Texas: A Benefit Concert for Hurricane Harvey Relief,” an all-star event and telethon set for Sept. 22 at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.

>> Read more trending news

Tickets to the four-hour concert, which runs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and will air live on TEGNA stations, go on sale at 3 p.m. CDT Wednesday via RebuildTX.org for $30 to $199.

Billed as “the largest live concert benefit in Texas” for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, the event follows Tuesday night’s “Hand in Hand” national telethon event that included performances by George Strait, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton and others.

Others scheduled to appear at the Erwin Center event include Matthew McConaughey, Dan Rather, Renee Zellweger, Luke Wilson, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Houston Chief of Police Art Acevedo. Additional musical performers include Ryan Bingham, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and the Mexican pop duo Ha*Ash.

The concert will feature “exclusive performances and rare collaborations,” according to a press release announcing the event. Asleep at the Wheel will be the house band, and Charlie Sexton will serve as music director.

Proceeds will benefit the Rebuild Texas Fund, created by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in collaboration with the OneStar Foundation. According to the Rebuild Texas website, the fund “will support community partners in four focus areas — health and housing; schools and child care; workforce and transportation; and capital for rebuilding small businesses.” The concert is part of the Dell Foundation’s effort to raise $100 million toward hurricane recovery efforts.

“This fund was created to help rebuild all of the communities, big and small, that have been devastated by Hurricane Harvey,” Houston native Michael Dell said in the event’s press release. “We will be rebuilding for years to come.” His wife, native Texan Susan Dell, added, “For us, this is personal.”

The telecast will air without commercials. In addition, an hour of the event will stream internationally on YouTube.com/TexasStrong from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. CDT. Google will match $500,000 in telethon donations, with volunteers from Google’s Austin office and employees of TEGNA working the telethon phone banks. Donations also will be accepted at the RebuildTX.org website.

“The outpouring of support from the local community and communities across the nation is a testament to the spirit, grit and determination of the people of Texas,” said TEGNA president/CEO Dave Lougee.

The concert is the biggest fundraiser to be held at the Erwin Center since a 2011 benefit for victims of Bastrop wildfires that included performances by Nelson, Strait, the Dixie Chicks, Lovett and others.

Others who have donated “efforts and services” to the event, according to the press release, include the Erwin Center, Springboard Productions, Solomon Group, Big House Sounds, Soundcheck Austin, Hotel Van Zandt, Sodexo, GSD&M, Andy Langer, the Texas Music Office and the City of Austin. TEGNA is producing the broadcast in partnership with Debra Davis Productions. Austin company C3 Presents is producing the live event and also is donating all its services.

Florida evacuee who fled to Georgia dies days after her baby

With Hurricane Irma threatening Florida last week, Kaitlin Hunt and her 3-month-old daughter left their home to stay with relatives in Georgia.

But within hours of arriving at her parents’ home, a split-second tragedy changed everything. 

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Hunt, 28, was holding baby Riley as she and other family members and friends attempted to cross a Woodstock road shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday. That’s when Hunt, Riley and family friend Kathy Deming were struck by an SUV on Arnold Mill Road.

Riley died Saturday night following the crash. On Wednesday, a Cherokee Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said Hunt died, too.

“Kaitlin Hunt passed away Tuesday evening, September 12, 2017 as a result of her injuries,” Sgt. Marianne Kelley said in a statement. 

Deming, 61, of Marietta, is still in the hospital as a result of her injuries and is slowly recovering, according to the sheriff’s office.

>> Related: Baby killed in Georgia crash was a Florida evacuee

Hunt and her husband, Brandon, were high school sweethearts who married in March 2016 and now called Port St. Lucie, Fla., home. An online GoFundMe page was created to assist the family. 

No charges have been filed in the crash, which remains under investigation.

Number of dead rises to 8 after Florida nursing home left without power by Irma

A criminal investigation was launched as the number of deaths in a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida, increased to eight on Wednesday afternoon. The home was evacuated Wednesday morning, days after Hurricane Irma knocked out power, creating dangerous conditions for the elderly residents.

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Paramedics were called around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday to the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, WPLG reported.

The center is a 152-bed, skilled nurse facility located across the street from the Memorial Regional Hospital, according to the center’s website.

Hurricane Irma aftermath: Don't have internet, cable or cell service? Here's why

Wi-Fi and cellphone coverage remain spotty throughout South Florida and other locations along Hurricane Irma's path. There’s a simple reason: Like everyone else, the companies that provide it don’t have power, thanks to the storm.

Cell towers across Florida have been cut off from the power grid and are relying on generators to keep going, spokespeople for two of the four major wireless carriers said.

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: FPL begins full-scale post-Irma restoration, rebuild

“The faster the power comes back on, the faster all telecommunication services can get back on,” a T-Mobile spokeswoman said Tuesday. “The power outages are just everywhere. It’s definitely causing a lot of effect across the board.”

For Comcast, the main provider of Wi-Fi in Palm Beach County, it’s a similar story.

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: PHOTOS: Hurricane Irma and aftermath

“Many of our facilities in Palm Beach County, and virtually all of them in Broward County and further south in Miami-Dade, are functioning on generators due to the complete loss of commercial power,” Comcast spokeswoman Mindy Kramer said.

Physical damage to cell towers doesn’t appear to be an issue. Towers are meant to withstand high winds.

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

“It’s really rare to see a tower topple over,” said Roni Singleton, a Sprint spokeswoman for Florida.

But because of the power outages, the lack of coverage right now is worse in South Florida, and — bizarrely — much worse than Houston recently experienced despite that city’s massive flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

>> Hurricane Irma damage: How to stay safe from tree, water damage in your home

“There was really very little loss of mobile service in Houston, across all carriers,” the T-Mobile spokeswoman said. “Houston was able to maintain power the entire time.”

Cell towers are required to have batteries that provide eight to 12 hours of power for first responders, the T-Mobile spokeswoman said. After that, they rely on generators for power. But fallen trees and debris have made it difficult to refuel some of the generators, she said.

>> How to keep your kids entertained and your sanity when trapped at home by severe weather

Verizon said close to 90 percent of its facilities were working, with many running on backup generators.

“Massive refueling operations are underway to ensure those sites without commercial power continue in service for our customers and first responders,” the company said in a statement.

>> Hurricane Irma aftermath: Power may be out for days, over a week for some in Georgia

Sprint and Comcast said they’re sending satellite trucks and mobile platforms to South Florida to provide temporary coverage until power returns. AT&T said it was sending portable cell sites to the Keys, Miami and Tallahassee.

>> Read more trending news

None of the companies would give a time frame for when full coverage would return, but T-Mobile and Sprint said coverage was getting better by the hour.

“I think by [Wednesday], we’ll see a huge improvement in the number of sites that are back up,” Singleton said. 

Hurricane Irma damage in Daytona Beach: Tourist favorite meets Atlantic's largest storm

Volusia County, Florida, residents on Monday morning awoke to toppled trees, downed power lines, flooded streets and damaged property.

>> Watch the news report here

Hurricane Irma brought howling winds and pounding rains to the county.

>> On WFTV.com: PHOTOS: Hurricane Irma damage in Volusia County

Officials urged residents to ascend to the highest floor of their homes. But for some, the rising water became too dangerous.

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

The Daytona Beach Fire Department said it had to evacuate people from flooded apartments along Beach Street.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said deputies rescued 14 people from the floodwaters.

>> Hurricane Irma damage: How to stay safe from tree, water damage in your home

The residents were taken to the city's Midtown Cultural and Education Center. No injuries were reported.

Elsewhere in the city, iconic attractions weren't spared from Irma's wrath.

>> PHOTOS: Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida, leaves damage behind

A large water slide at Daytona Lagoon, a popular water and amusement park, blew into an adjacent street.

Storm surge washed away beaches and left a Ponce Inlet boardwalk in ruins.

>> Read more trending news

The Daytona Beach Police Department said officers arrested a trio of burglars who were raiding a store.

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said that he has no tolerance for looting. He said that the county would be under curfew from 10 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday.

>> Irma: Live updates

Daytona Beach firefighters housed at Station 1 said the kitchen ceiling caved in. They said the bays harboring the fire trucks were so heavily flooded that the vehicles had to be moved to prevent damage.

>> Watch Volusia County deputies rescue Hurricane Irma victims

Hurricane Irma aftermath: Power may be out for days, over a week for some in Georgia

More than 700,000 Georgians remained without power Tuesday night because of Hurricane Irma, which weakened to a tropical storm by the time it reached the Peach State.

>> Watch the news report here

Georgia Power reported more than 425,000 customers in the dark. Georgia EMC said it had close to 300,000 customers without power. Both of those numbers are down significantly since the storm hit Monday, when 1.5 million were dealing with an outage.

The numbers are constantly changing as crews work to restore power in many neighborhoods.

>> For the latest numbers, head to WSBTV.com

“Every region in the state has been affected, and it's going to take time for us to get back to normal in terms of power restoration,” Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers said in a news conference Tuesday.

Crews are working around the clock to restore power. Georgia EMC utilities brought in 3,000 crew members from 13 states to help out.

>> Irma: Live updates

"We are doing everything we can to restore it," Jackson EMC lineman Jose Salgado said.

“This is where all people within the company really pull together. Everybody has an obligation and duty as a Georgia Power employee and everybody has a storm role and responsibility," Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins told WSB-TV's Aaron Diamant.

>> Read more trending news

Inside the company's command center in downtown Atlanta on Tuesday, staff worked to ensure the right resources were in the right places, but Hawkins said this won't be a quick process.

“As we go through today and tomorrow, we will have a better idea about the damage and the estimates. We will be bringing some customers back, but it may take a couple more days; it may take over a week to get customers back on," he said.

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

Georgia EMC's district engineering coordinator Bennie Bagwell said they're hoping to have all their power restored by Thursday.

If you are a Georgia Power customer, you can check on your outage or report an outage through their outage map on their website. Georgia EMC customers can find more information on their website.

>> On WSBTV.com: Georgia Gov. Deal to Hurricane Irma evacuees: Don't go home until it's safe

"This is one where the entire state of Georgia has been affected by this hurricane/tropical storm. And as a result of that, recovery is going to be a little more slow because there are greater territories that have to be covered before anything can be back to a normal environment,” Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday.

Hurricane Irma damage: How to stay safe from tree, water damage in your home

If you have damage to your home from a tree or water, there are certain steps you need to take to stay safe.

>> Watch the news report here

On Tuesday, WSB-TV’s Craig Lucie spoke with officials from a heating and electrical company who said there are hidden dangers like live wires in your home and carbon monoxide triggers that need to be dealt with immediately.

>> Irma: Live updates

There are trees down everywhere and while you know to stay away from downed power lines, there could also be live wires inside your home from trees falling.

>> Keep the butter, toss the eggs: What to keep, throw away if you lost power after Irma

“If you've had a tree come down on your home, nine out of 10 times you will have damage to the infrastructure on your home so wires could be pulled loose, certain connections could be broken (including) live wire you don't know about it,” said Daniel Jape, the president of Reliable Heating and Air.

>> How to keep your kids entertained and your sanity when trapped at home by severe weather

Jape met with Lucie in their call center where they were busy fielding calls from people with storm damage.

More Irma coverage from WSBTV.com:

>> Here is the damage Tropical Storm Irma has caused in Georgia>> 55-year-old man killed when tree falls on home>> VIDEO: Large tree nearly lands on woman driving down road

“If a part of your heating unit is located in the basement or in a crawl space, what you want to do is a visual inspection. You don’t need to go all the way in there but if you see there is some standing water, you need to call a heat and air conditioning company to come out there and inspect it,” Jape explained.

If you try to fix it yourself, it can be extremely dangerous.

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

“If you are standing in water and plug something in and the outlet is wet, you can create a direct short. Electricity will flow from the outlet, into you and into the water and you could essentially cause death,” he said.

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

Jape also said since wires to your home are hidden in the walls, if you try and plug something in an outlet, the wire could catch fire, setting the insulation on fire and next thing you know, your home could be engulfed in flames.

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He also says if a tree or branch came down near your HVAC system outside, call a professional.

“Things can hit those pipes and break them at home or inside house. They can even have carbon monoxide buildup in there,” he said.

6 scary, infectious illnesses you can catch from flood water 

Hurricanes can leave behind tons of damage, including flooding, but did you know treading through the wrong kind of water can cause illnesses and even death?

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Floodwaters and standing water are often contaminated, posing several risks, such as infectious diseases, chemical hazards and injuries.

Here are six sicknesses you should beware of in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma

Diarrheal diseases

Drinking or eating anything that has come in contact with floodwaters can lead to cryptosporidiosis, E. coli or giardiasis. While cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis are brought on by parasites, E. coli is caused by bacteria.

>> Related: Irma: Live updates

Symptoms from each include diarrhea, gas, nausea and vomiting. Cryptosporidiosis, however, can even be fatal for those with weakened immune systems, such as AIDS or cancer. 

Wound infections

Open wounds and rashes that are exposed to flood water can cause tetanus or Vibrio vulnificus. Tetanus is a bacterial infection, and it can enter the body through breaks in the skin like a cut.

Vibrio vulnificus, another bacteria, can be contracted the same way. Many people become infected by consuming undercooked shellfish or exposing an injury to brackish or salt water.

>> Related: First responder contracts deadly bacteria in Harvey floodwaters, ends up in ICU

Other illnesses 

People affected by flooded areas can also get trench foot. It occurs when your feet are wet for long periods of time. It can cause pain, swelling and numbness.

You should also be aware of chemical hazards from materials that may have spilled into the water. And be cautious of electrical hazards, since there are puddles that may be electrified due to fallen power lines.

Curious about other diseases you can catch. Take a look at the full list at CDC’s official website.

 

How to keep your kids entertained and your sanity when trapped at home by severe weather

When severe weather traps you inside your home with your children, whether in the aftermath of a hurricane or during less severe bad weather and power outages, there are things you can do to keep kids entertained while you keep your sanity.

>> Read more trending news

If you're home for the day, or a few days, here are a few things you can do to stay entertained without going crazy or running up your data plans.

If you still have power:

Do some family-friendly baking:

One way to keep kids occupied is with a slew of simple cooking tasks (cracking eggs, manning the mixing bowl) and the promise of sweets.

Cooking Light has a roundup of “kid-friendly desserts,” including gluten-free s'more bars, chewy caramel apple cookies and more. If you run through that list, the Food Network has another.

And not having kids is no reason not to bake in bad weather: for company, just sub in the closet available roommates, family, friends or pets. (This advice applies to the rest of the list.)

>> Related: Hurricane Irma: What to do about fallen trees and how to stop the danger

Check out these party games:

Jackbox's Drawful is a bizarre twist on Pictionary: players score points not just for drawing the best possible version of, say, "angry ants"; but also for getting other players to guess their answer for a given drawing instead of the correct one.

Drawful comes packaged as part of the Jackbox Party Pack and is available to buy and download here, and is compatible with the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Amazon Fire TV and others. All you need to play is a phone, tablet or controller. 

But if you're feeling more competitive and less artistic, consider QuizUp. Available for both iPhone and Android. This competitive trivia app pits two players against each other in seven rounds of questions in one of several hundred different categories, including pop culture and academia. And it's free. 

Get crafty:

Create a crafting area in your home. Fill it with crafting materials like tape, paper and boxes. When inspiration strikes your child, they can create fun things in their own “workshop.”

Without power:

Get clever:

When the house goes dark, kids’ imaginations light up. A trip to the bathroom with a flashlight can become an adventure, and reading stories by candlelight will stick with them more than just another movie night. 

Get ahead of a power outage:

Stock up on glow sticks. Kids can really have fun with these simple light sticks. Once you crack them, they provide a bright light for up to 12 hours and a dim light for as long as 36 hours. They come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors, and can provide hours of fun for children.

>> Related: Hurricane Irma aftermath: Drone video shows St. Augustine damage

Build a fort:

Kids love building forts just for fun anyway. So if you find yourself in the dark without power, gather up pillows and blankets, and plan on moving some furniture around to help your little ones build the perfect fortress. You can even make it more like an adventure. Plan to snuggle in for the night, and maybe tell a few ghost stories, too.

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