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Mexico earthquake: 'Frida Sofia,' girl supposedly trapped in rubble, never existed, officials say

As rescue workers tirelessly searched and the world waited breathlessly for them to find a 12-year-old girl believed to be trapped under the rubble of a caved-in school toppled by the devastating earthquake in Mexico City, it became apparent that the little girl never existed, Mexican officials said.

>> PHOTOS: Major earthquake strikes Mexico City

According to the New York Post, the girl, called “Frida Sofia,” was a case of a story that ran wild in the frantic aftermath of the disaster.

>> How you can help Mexico and people affected by the Mexico earthquake

“We are certain that it was not an actuality,” Adm. Angel Enrique Sarmiento, assistant secretary of the Mexican navy, told local paper El Universal. “We don’t have any knowledge, we never had any knowledge of the account.”

>> Frida, the hero rescue dog, saves 12 following Mexico earthquake

In the face of unimaginable destruction and hundreds killed, the story took on a life of its own as a symbol of much-needed help. A report first surfaced Wednesday that a little girl had signaled to rescuers from under the rubble of the Enrique Rebsámen school.

>> On Rare.us: A family is devastated after this baptism turned tragic during the Mexican earthquake

From that report came a series of details that included the girl’s name and age, and even reports of communication with the girl. Rescuers said they managed to slide a hose to her for her to drink, and other workers told MSNBC that they handed the little girl a phone and that she reported two other children were trapped with her under a granite table.

>> On Rare.us: Salma Hayek generously pledges $100,000 to Mexican earthquake victims

However, no parents came to claim the girl, which led some to believe she was misidentified. And, then Thursday, Sarmiento announced that after 11 children had been rescued, and 19 other children, plus six adults found dead, there were no other children beneath the collapsed school.

>> Read more trending news

“We have carried out a full count with the directors of the school, and we are sure that all the children are either safe at home, in the hospital or, unfortunately, died,” Sarmiento said.

Autumn Equinox: 5 things to know about the first day of fall

Today is the first day of the fall season, as the autumnal equinox signals the beginning of astronomical fall. This year, that happens across North America on Friday afternoon. So as the weather begins to cool across the country, here are some things to know about that season when the leaves change color and the temperature begins to drop.

>> Read more trending news 

What exactly is an equinox?Twice a year, either on March 20 or 21 and Sept. 22 or 23, the sun’s rays shine directly over the earth’s equator. March is known as the vernal equinox, or spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. September is known as the autumnal equinox.

What occurs during the autumnal equinox?During the autumnal equinox, day and night are balanced to about 12 hours each all over the world. Earth’s axis of rotation is perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the Earth and the sun.

What is the definition of equinox?The word equinox was formed by two Latin words: "Equi" is the Latin prefix for "equal" and "nox" is the Latin word for "night."

Fall back: When does daylight saving time end?This year, daylight saving time began on March 12. It will end on Sunday, Nov. 5.

What time is the official start of fall season?It depends on where you live, of course. Autumn officially arrives at 4:02 Eastern Daylight Time. Central Daylight Time is at 3:02 p.m., followed by Mountain Daylight Time (2:02) and Pacific Daylight Time (1:02).For everywhere else around the world, convert your time here.

It’s almost autumn. Can you tell in South Florida?

Editor’s Note: Like fall, this story comes around annually. Parts of it have run previously, but it captures that elusive feeling of Florida fall so well that we thought we’d share it again.

 

Every year, there’s one day in mid-September when Florida’s fall arrives.

 

Officially, that day is Friday, Sept. 22, but I noticed it early one morning last week.

 

Stepping outside at about 6:30, it felt, well, not cool but slightly less oppressive. There was a breeze and the low that morning had dropped to an almost glacial 77.

 

It felt like hope.

 

When I left work that evening, it was again tolerable. Pleasant, even. And that’s when I saw fall.

 

The sky was blue instead of wearing summer white.

 

The light suddenly looked different because the sun is tracking lower in the sky. A soft golden hue had replaced summer’s kleig-light glare.

 

It looks like fall because the sun has swung noticeably south of its solstice in the northern latitudes. For a moment, day and night are almost of equal length, before the nights greedily gain on the day.

 

That’s how you know it’s fall in South Florida. The light changes long before the temperature.

 

Rejoice. The rest is coming.

 

Soon.

 

We Floridians get defensive about fall in the face of Northern fall aggression.

 

There are no colorful leaves. No brisk wind blowing chimney smoke around. No need for flannel, or down or wool.

 

If you want a chill, be prepared to write FPL a bigger check. Tropical waves are still billowing up from the Gulf and the Cape Verde Islands are still birthing alarming low pressure systems. The weekly mowing hasn’t slowed.

 

By some standards, that’s faux fall.

 

In Florida, our plants and our weather are boisterously confrontational, but the seasonal changes are milquetoasts.

 

To see them, you must be attuned to nuance.

 

Like the light.

 

When it changes, that’s a Florida fall.

 

In the weeks to come, we’ll have more dry mornings, with a fresh breeze at dawn before the heat takes over. Quivers of high-flying birds have already begun winging overhead heading thousands of miles to the south, to Central America or the Southern Caribbean, some dropping down to our yards for a night or two.

 

That’s a Florida fall, too.

 

One night, we realize we can sit outside and not sweat through our clothes. Not long after that, we realized the pool is too cool for our thin tropical blood.

 

That too, is a Florida fall.

 

We search, usually in vain, for summer clothes in darker winter colors. And gaze longingly at boots. That’s the frustrating fashion version of a Florida fall.

 

But soon boots won’t feel quite so ridiculous.

 

The median end of the rainy season in South Florida is Oct. 17, according to the National Weather Service.

 

That’s the big seasonal switch that turns on a Florida fall.

 

Not yet, but soon.

 

In the next few weeks, a cold front will likely make its first stab at the peninsula. The first few don’t usually push far enough south to comfort us, but soon.

 

Weak early fall cold fronts seem to batter against the stubborn steamy heat until one with a little more oomph finally pushes past the Keys.

 

That’s a Florida fall.

 

Soon.

How to help Hurricane Maria victims: Where to donate, how to volunteer and more

After hitting the U.S. Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm, Hurricane Maria plowed through Puerto Rico, flooding streets, collapsing homes and leaving the entire territory without power Wednesday.

>> Read more trending news 

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosseló called Hurricane Maria the “most devastating storm to hit the island this century, if not in modern history.”

» RELATED: Hurricane Maria: Live updates

The dangerous hurricane is responsible for at least 15 deaths on the Caribbean island of Dominica alone, and, according to the National Hurricane Center, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos are expected to see a “life-threatening” storm surge of 9 to 12 feet between Thursday and early next week.

» RELATED: Where is Hurricane Maria now? Track the massive storm as it heads north

How you can help the victims of Hurricane Maria

Make monetary donations

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.

Here are some organizations to consider giving money to:

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)

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

Other crowdfunding campaigns:

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)

Check if your employer will match your donation

Doublethedonation.com 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 volunteer blood donors to give blood year-round, not only at the time of disaster. Currently, platelets and type O blood donations are especially needed, according to the organization website.

Visit redcrossblood.org 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 goods

Monetary donations are preferred for most aid organizations, but refer to your local nonprofits to see if there is an additional need for goods donations.

If you’re in the Florida area, the Miami Herald has listed several donation spots for locals to bring non-perishable food, diapers, bottled water and clothing starting Friday.

» RELATED: NASA astronaut captures eerie images of Hurricane Irma’s destruction from space

Volunteer

The American Red Cross is looking to dispatch volunteers in the next few weeks to aid areas affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Local residents in affected areas should use this form.

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

More information about volunteer expectations and requirements is at redcross.org.

Disaster declared in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastates island

President Donald Trump on Thursday declared a federal disaster in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria brought pounding rain and punishing winds to the island, knocking out power and causing widespread flooding and landslides.

>> Read more trending news

The declaration allows for federal resources to be used for Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts.

The island is reeling after Maria made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane. With maximum sustained winds measured at 155 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center, Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years.

"Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from this," Felix Delgado, mayor of the northern coastal city of Catano, told The Associated Press.

Videos posted on social media showed swift floodwaters and powerful winds brought to Puerto Rico by Maria.

Maria knocked out power to the entire island and its 3.4 million residents, officials said Wednesday.

Ricardo Ramos, CEO of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, told CNN that it could be as long as six months before power is restored.

“The system has been basically destroyed,” he said.

Maria continued to churn over the Atlantic Ocean as a major Category 3 hurricane on Thursday afternoon with maximum sustained winds measured at 115 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in an 11 a.m. advisory. Officials warned that the storm, which is expected to turn to the north early Friday, could still strengthen over the next day or two.

Photos: Hurricane Maria slams Caribbean

Hurricane Maria is bearing down on the Caribbean and is set to pass over much the same area devastated by Hurricane Irma.

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.

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