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    Move over murder hornets!  Giant, lethal cane toads are back in South Florida. The good news is they are harmless to humans, the bad news is the large triangular glands behind the toads eyes contain a high load of a milky-white toxin that can kill dogs. The other thing we have to mention is the toads are not unique to 2020. The 4-6 inch yellowish brown toad is considered an invasive species and was brought to Florida as a form of pest control between the 1930s and 1950s. They appear every summer to bread when heavy rains stir them up from their burrows.  “We have dozens out on the street at night. They are not even scared of people anymore, it’s like there are gangs of them out this year,” Elizabeth Bonilla , who lives near a canal in Homestead, told the Miami Herald. If a dog bites or licks one it can suffer convulsions, loss of coordination and cardiac arrest. Get your dog to the vet ASAP if it shows symptoms such as excessive drooling, red gums, vomiting, disorientation, circling, stumbling and falling, and seizures. You are urged to kill a cane toad if you come across one.  The University of Florida Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation says you can identify the toad using the following criteria: Body is tan to reddish-brown, dark brown, or gray; back is marked with dark spots. Skin is warty. Large, triangular parotoid glands are prominent on the shoulders; parotoid glands of native 'true' toads are oval. Unlike native Southern Toads, they DO NOT have ridges or 'crests' on top of the head. The experts offer a way to humanely euthanize the toads by  “rubbing or spraying 20% benzocaine toothache gel or sunburn spray (not 5% lidocaine) on the toad's lower belly.” They say the reptile will become unconscious within minutes -  then to be sure you should put the frog in a sealed plastic bag it in the freezer for 24-48 hours.  Ugh! Not the most inviting thing to place next to the ice cream.  
  • With the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season in full swing, Floridians can buy storm related supplies tax-free until the end of Thursday.  No taxes will be charged for items like flashlights, batteries, coolers, radios and generators.  Here’s a full list of items exempt from tax until 11:59 p.m. June 4: Selling for $10 or less:  Reusable ice (reusable ice packs)  Selling for $20 or less:  Any portable self-powered light source (powered by battery, solar, hand-crank or gas)  Candles  Flashlights  Lanterns  Selling for $25 or less:  Any gas or diesel fuel container, including LP gas and kerosene containers  Selling for $30 or less:  Batteries, including rechargeable batteries, only these sizes:  AAA-cell  AA-cell  C-cell  D-cell  6-volt  9-volt  Coolers and ice chests (food storage; nonelectrical)  Selling for $50 or less:   Bungee cords  Ground anchor systems  Radios (powered by battery, solar or hand-crank)  Two-way  Weather band  Ratchet straps  Tarpaulins (tarps)  Tie-down kits  Visqueen, plastic sheeting, plastic drop cloths and other flexible waterproof sheeting  Selling for $750 or less:  Portable generators used to provide light or communications or to preserve food in the event of a power outage  The sales tax exemption does not apply to the rental or repair or any of the above items. It also does not apply to sales in a theme park, entertainment complex, public lodging establishment or airport.  If qualifying items listed above are sold in a set with non-qualifying items, the price of the set will be subject to sales tax.
  • 12:30 p.m. UPDATE: Tropical depression 3 has strengthened into Tropical Storm Cristobal in southwestern Gulf of Mexico Monday afternoon.  Over the last 24 hours, the National Hurricane Center tracked its organization over the Bay of Campeche as it slowly drifted to the West.  By Sunday, the storm is expected to have 65 mile per hour winds, but it is not expected to move very far, very fast.  The forecast for Central Florida calls for increased rain chances toward the end of the work week.
  • Given the choice to stay at home and risk a hurricane or be at risk of COVID-19 - many Floridians say they will consider staying home. Forty two percent of Floridians surveyed by AAA said that they are less likely to evacuate for a storm this year over fears of contracting the new coronavirus. In fact, 29% said they would not leave their homes if they were warned to evacuate, but that number decreased with the intensity of the storm.  Eighty percent said they would leave for a Category 2 hurricane or greater. A third of those questioned did tell pollsters they are more concerned about hurricanes this season than they were last year, but the survey showed more than half (52%) of residents do not have an emergency plan. You can prepare by downloading the News 96.5 WDBO hurricane guide by clicking here. 
  • Latest update: Bertha continues to weaken as it travels over North Carolina Wednesday evening. Western Virginia could receive up to 4 inches of rain as the system continues to travel northward. Earlier version: Early this morning, the National Hurricane Center determined that the tropical system approaching the South Carolina coast had strengthened to a Tropical Storm, reaching maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. It then acquired a name: Bertha. SEE: Today’s Weather Forecast for Central Florida Find out: Why is Florida a good place to launch rockets from? Bertha becomes our second storm of this 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which has not yet officially started. This is the 6th consecutive year where at least one storm has developed ahead of schedule. Tropical storm warnings were placed along the South Carolina coast from Edisto Beach to South Santee River. Nota en español: Temporada de Huracanes 2020: Pronosticadores altamente confiados en una temporada activa DO YOU KNOW? What do they mean? Disturbance, depressions, tropical, subtropical storms, hurricanes At 9:30 a.m. ET, Bertha’s center made landfall just east of Charleston, South Carolina. It will continue to move slowly to the northwest onto land. At the 11 a.m. advisory, Bertha has strengthened, it has maximum sustained winds at 50 mph. It is expected to weaken as it moves over land. Bertha, or its remnants, will pick up speed this evening as it travels over eastern South Carolina and enters North Carolina. Bertha’s main threat is rain. Total rain accumulation of 2 to 4 inches with isolated totals of 8 inches across eastern and central South Carolina into west-central to far southeastern North Carolina and southwest Virginia. Given very saturated antecedent conditions, this rainfall may produce life-threatening flash flooding, aggravate and prolong ongoing river flooding, and produce rapid out of bank rises on smaller rivers. Read more: Hurricane Season 2020: How are they named? Who names them? Why? When? Why they retire names? Why isn’t Dorian retired yet? Hurricane Preparedness Week: New weather products for the 2020 season DOWNLOAD OUR FREE WFTV WEATHER APP TO RECEIVE ALERTS Follow our Severe Weather team on Twitter for live updates: Chief meteorologist Tom Terry Brian Shields Irene Sans Kassandra Crimi George Waldenberger Rusty McCranie
  • Florida shoppers will be in for a relief Friday, as they can begin to avoid paying sales taxes while organizing their disaster-preparation items for the 2020 hurricane season. Florida lawmakers included the disaster-preparation tax holiday in a $47.7 million tax package that was approved in March. Retail officials hope the seven-day tax “holiday” will help businesses by providing relief from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tax holiday will end on June 4. Read: Hurricane preparedness week: 9 ways to prepare for a hurricane “I think you’re going to see, again, additional incentives from the retailers to encourage sales for disaster preparation,” said Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Scott Shalley. 'You’ll continue to see, of course, all of the safe and smart shopping measures in terms of social distancing and sanitizing. But you’re going to see an emphasis on sales of batteries, coolers and those sorts of things that help people get prepared now.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s storm-preparation checklist includes: flashlights batteries portable radios multi-purpose tools emergency fuel personal hygiene items cell-phone chargers emergency contact lists and copies of personal documents water medication for three days to two weeks Hurricane season starts June 1. The News Service of Florida provided this report.
  • Just as forecasters at the National Hurricane Center have predicted, a trough of low pressure in the straights of Florida became tropical storm “Arthur” over the weekend, well ahead of hurricane season which begins June 1. At the time of this report, Arthur is spinning at a top speed of 45 miles per hour and is expected to drop one to two inches of rain along North Carolina’s coast as early as tonight, with storm conditions and minor flooding anticipated there by Monday morning. The tropical storm poses no similar threat to Florida, so there’s no need to shutter your windows and tie down your patio furniture, but the rough seas have created potentially dangerous rip currents along Florida’s beaches on the east coast.  According to a May 16 bulletin, the National Hurricane Center reminds us that “routine issuance of the Tropical Weather Outlook” will resume as hurricane season begins again on June 1, and that this is considered a “special” report as it falls out of typical, traditional hurricane expectancy. Be sure to bookmark us for the same reliable severe weather coverage that we provide every hurricane season. While you’re here, check out our News 96.5 WDBO Hurricane Guide.
  • By the time a hurricane is born, it most likely already has a name. In fact, storms are named as soon as their sustained wind speeds reach 39 mph, in other words, when they reach tropical storm status. NAMING OF A STORM The practice of naming storms in the northern Atlantic Ocean started in 1959 by the National Hurricane Center, but the actual name lists are provided by the World Meteorological Organization based in Geneva. At first, only female names were used, but in 1979, male names were added to the list. Before 1959, the storms were given names based on a certain holiday it might have landed on or a region it affected. As you can imagine, name storms were left without a given name and unseen. After all, the first satellites were watching the tropics in the early 1960s. Currently, there are eight naming institutions that handle each region in the world. North Atlantic & Pacific - The National Hurricane Center (U.S.) handles the whole northern Atlantic Basin from the Caribbean to Europe. Central Pacific - The Central Pacific Hurricane Center U.S.) handles the area north of the equator to 140ºW - 180º Western Pacific - The Japan Meteorological Agency, PAGASA, handles the area from the equator to 60ºN, 180º-100ºE and 5ºN-21°N, 115°E – 135°E North Indian Ocean - The Indian Meteorological Department handles the area from the equator northward, 100ºE - 45ºE Southwest Indian Ocean - Mauritius Meteorological Services, Météo Madagascar and Météo France Reunion handles these areas, respectively: Equator – 40°S, 55°E – 90°E Equator – 40°S, African Coast – 55°E Equator – 40°S, African Coast – 90°E Australian region - Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics, Papua New Guinea National Weather Service, Australian Bureau of Meteorology handles these areas, respectively: Equator – 10°S, 90°E – 141°E Equator – 10°S, 141°E – 160°E 10°S – 36°S, 90°E – 160°E Southern Pacific - Fiji Meteorological Service, Meteorological Service of New Zealand handles these areas, respectively: Equator – 25°S, 160°E – 120°W 25°S – 40°S, 160°E – 120°W South Atlantic - Brazilian Navy Hydrographic Center handles from the equator to 35°S and from the Brazilian coast to 20°W For the northern Atlantic Basin, there are six lists of names in rotation. Even-numbered years start with male names and odd-numbered years start with female names. When is a name retired? A hurricane doesn’t necessarily need to be a Category 3, 4 or 5 to be retired. The name is retired if a storm leaves major damage or deaths to avoid future confusion among the public. Since 1959, there have been 89 names retired. The most names retired in a single season was for the very active 2005 season. There have been 19 seasons without a name retired, and 2014 was the most recent. Names starting with the letter 'I' have been the most retired, 19 in total, and 11 of those have occurred since 2001. Wilma has been the name retired with the latest letter in the alphabet. Curious fact: Every year the World Meteorological Organization meets for a week in the spring, which is usually when they announce any retired names from the previous hurricane season. The 2020 meeting was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, there won´t be any names retired from the 2019 season yet. The organization plans to meet again in spring 2021, and they will review the storms from 2019 before making a decision to retire names. This is when storms like “Dorian,” “Lorenzo” and “Imelda” will likely be retired.
  • In anticipation of Hurricane Dorian, many schools in Central Florida had to be closed until later in the week. As a result, students will now have to make up those days, which for some will conflict with their original scheduled vacation time. For students in Orange County, there are two make up days. One makeup day has been scheduled for November 25th, which is the Monday during the week of Thanksgiving. The last time a makeup day was scheduled during the Thanksgiving week was during Hurricane Irma, which saw an estimated 75,000 students absent that Monday. A spokesperson from the district says many factors go into which days they choose and they only have so many to choose from.  The other make up day lands on Friday, October 18th.  For students in Seminole County, their make up days are October 17 and 18th, which were supposed to be a professional development day and teacher work day.  As for students in Osceola and Lake Counties, the districts are working to see if they need to schedule any make-up days.