After an initial prediction in May for a near-average season, experts recently downgraded their expectations to a "below-average" Atlantic hurricane season in 2018. The change was based on unusually cold temperatures in portions of the Atlantic Ocean which provides less fuel for developing storms.
The July outlook includes a total of 11 named storms which is down from the original prediction of 14. Of those 11 storms, four are expected to become hurricanes, including one major hurricane which is classified as Category 3 or higher. The first of the 11 storms was Subtropical Storm Albert that occurred in May. The early prediction in May by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was for 10 to 16 named storms, five to nine hurricanes, and one to four major hurricanes.
The updated prediction was released by Colorado State University's Department of Atmospheric Science and researchers for its Tropical Meteorology Project. According to their report, the probability of a major hurricane making landfall on the U.S. coastline this year is 39 percent. The annual average is 52 percent probability.
Despite the new "below average" storm predictions, the report warns that residents should still prepare for storm season because even one hurricane making landfall could be a disaster.
In addition to having a good hurricane kit, residents should keep their insurance policy up-to-date and stored in a safe place.
"2017 was a year filled with record-setting disasters,” said Lynette Barba of Allstate Insurance in Mount Dora. “Now is a good time for an annual insurance review with your agent to better understand your coverages specific to hurricanes and floods."
When storms form in the Atlantic, residents can also follow these helpful websites and social media accounts: Ready.gov - This site provides natural disaster tips. Getagameplan.org - This site offers four different plans for enduring a natural disaster: family preparation, business preparation, mitigation and a kid-friendly checklist. • National Hurricane Center (also Twitter & Facebook) - Stay plugged into the NHC whenever you are in the ‘cone of uncertainty’ for storm updates. • National Weather Service (also on Twitter & Facebook) - This is a good source to keep up to date on all weather news and monitoring.
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. To get area's news in your inbox once a month, subscribe to the free month issue of Mount Dora Buzz here.
Florida Black Bears have long been residents of Mount Dora and the surrounding areas. However, bear sightings have been a more frequent occurrence in recent months. In addition to nearby construction projects in bear habitats, it’s also the season when older cubs are pushed out on their own so their mothers can find a new mate. However, the sighting of a Florida Black Bear doesn’t necessarily represent a threat. In mid-July, a young, non-aggressive, 105 pound female bear was tranquilized, transported and euthanized by officials after it climbed two trees near downtown Mount Dora. WIth the help of the Fish and WIldlife Conservation Commission (FWC), here are some tips to help residents understand and safely co-exist with these bears:
1. Fraidy Cat Florida Black Bears are typically not an aggressive species. They avoid humans and eat mostly plant-based foods like berries and seeds. Bear attacks on people in Florida are rare, but bears will defend themselves, cubs and their food. Mother bears will take defensive measures if they feel their cubs are threatened. Always be aware of your surroundings and maintain a safe distance. Keep dogs away from bears who may have cubs nearby. 2. Face-to-Face with a Bear If you end up in close contact with a bear, remain standing and don't make any sudden movement. Speak to the bear in a calm assertive voice, back up slowly toward a secure area and make sure you leave the bear a clear escape route. Avoid direct eye contact - bears and other animals may view this as aggressive behavior. If your movement away seems to irritate the bear instead of calm it, stop and hold your ground. Don't run, don’t play dead and don’t climb a tree.
3. Think Before You Call When bears are spotted they are often just passing through in search of food or a mate. Unless you have attractants (food), they will move along to other parts of their large range. Calling authorities just for sighting a bear, even a young bear, often results in the animal’s death rather than its relocation. FWC found that relocating bears to other areas isn’t an effective strategy to reduce human-bear conflicts. Additionally, locations in Florida that experience bear conflicts are in bear range, and so the chance of another bear finding that same food source is very high. 4. Scare the Bear! Bears have very acute hearing and don’t like loud noises. If you spot a bear in your yard, get to a safe place, make sure the bear has a clear escape route, and then make tons of noise. Use car horns, sports whistles, bang pot and pans, or blare air horns to encourage the bear to continue on its way.
5. What’s the Bear Telling You? Contrary to popular thought, a bear that feels threatened does not roar or growl. It may slap the ground, "huff" or blow air forcefully through their nose or mouth, and/or snap its teeth together. If these behaviors don't scare off the source of their unease, the bear may bluff charge, running toward the source and then veering away. Yes, that would be quite scary. Rather than growl or make a noise, a bear that is aggressive toward humans will stare, protrude their lower lip, and flatten their ears. Standing on their hind legs also isn’t a sign of aggression. Black bears are curious creatures and this is merely a way to get a better vantage point of their surroundings. Females communicate with their young by grunts or moans to send their cubs up trees for safety, or to have them follow her. Cubs bawl and moan when distressed, and make a grunting purr sound when suckling.
6. “A Fed Bear Is a Dead Bear” It may seems obvious; however, residents often don’t realize bird feeders, trash cans, and pet food left outside provide a buffet for bears. Think a bird feeder isn’t a big deal? Think again. Eighty percent of a Florida black bear’s diet is from nuts and berries, not meat. Bears quickly learn to associate people with food, so when food-conditioning occurs, a bear can lose its life-preserving fear of humans and will return to the area as long as food is available. FWC states there is little that can be done to make these bears wild again, and they are often killed by illegal shooting, euthanasia, and vehicle collisions.
7. Bears Being Bears Remember, the mere sighting of a bear isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. Male and female black bears have a 60-mile and 15-mile range respectively. Without finding food, they will keep passing through. However, after the bear leaves the area, be sure to double-check that there are no attractants in the area. 8. Close the Buffet About 80 percent of a black bear’s diet comes from plants, 15 percent from insects, 5 percent from meat (opossums, armadillos, etc.). Bears and other wildlife linger in residential neighborhoods because of easy access to human-provided foods. If the unsecured food sources—garbage, bird feeders, compost piles, un-picked fruit, livestock, and pet/livestock/bird foods—are eliminated, the problem is eliminated. Bears will move out of the neighborhood to search out another food source. Find out about getting one of Lake County's bear-resistant trash cans here.
9. Patience Is a Virtue Once a bear has identified a food source, it can take several weeks after removing attractants before a bear understands that the source of food is no longer available. 10. Obey the Law Intentionally placing food or garbage out to attract bears is illegal. What attracts dogs, cats and racoons will also get the attention of bears. If you see someone feeding bears, call the Wildlife Hotline at 888-404-3922. It’s also illegal to kill a bear without an FWC issued hunting or depredation permit, unless it is to protect human life. A viable alternative to shooting a bear perceived as a threat is the use of bear spray. It’s an extremely effective deterrent and can be used at a distance of 20-30 feet.
10 Facts About Florida Black Bears: - They are the only bear species in Florida with a population estimated at 4050 statewide. - Adult male black bears usually weigh between 250 to 350 lbs. (the largest was 760 lbs.). - Adult female black bears typically weigh between 130 and 180 lbs. (the largest was 400 lbs.). - Bears see in color, but don’t see a lot of details after 30 yards. - Mating season runs from June to August and cubs are born around late January or early February. - Female bears have their first litter at about 3 ½ years old and can have a litter every other year. - Bears often climb trees when they are frightened. - A bear’s strongest sense is smell, thought to be the strongest of any land animal. They also have hearing that is almost twice as sensitive as humans. - Black bears can sprint up to 35 mph.
For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. To get area's news in your inbox once a month, subscribe to the free month issue of Mount Dora Buzz here.
Below is a FWC video of a bear vs. a bear resistant trash can full of treats.
The dense woods of Central Florida are an unforgiving environment. Riddled with nature’s obstacles of vines, dense scrub brush and an abundance of hungry insects, let alone larger animals. Those were the daunting surroundings Elizabeth Parker, 98, disappeared into yesterday.
When her daughter Katie Wayne and Katie’s husband Gary arrived home in the early evening, they discovered the elderly woman was nowhere to be found. Parker is frail, doesn’t drive and uses a walker, so the couple immediately called 911.
Lake County Sheriff’s officers and assisting first responders fanned out to scour the nine acres on Lake Joanna with bloodhounds and a helicopter. The intense effort went non-stop until 2:30 a.m., when the search was suspended until daybreak. The family spent an emotional night fearing for Parker’s safety. “It was not a good night, to say the least.” said Gary. Early this morning deputies returned to the property and added divers to the search. Rescuers found Parker, who has no history of dementia, at approximately 10 a.m. this morning, lying under a large palm frond in a densely wooded area with only minor cuts and scrapes.
ABOVE: Parker (center) with Gary Wayne (left).
"The area was so dense, even a gorilla would have a difficult time getting there," said Gary of Parker's location. After spending the night isolated in a precarious environment, Parker was remarkably unshaken by the experience. She exited the woods on her own feet with the help of rescuers and Gary. As she saw her son-in-law cry, Parker responded, “Don’t worry, it all turned out okay.” She was transported to the hospital for closer examination. “The rescuers were very concerned and took it real serious,” said Gary of all the first responders. “I credit them a hundred percent for saving her life. The officers were top notch.” There is no doubt that tomorrow will be a very special Mother’s Day for the Wayne family.
It's not the ending that everyone hoped. Tragically, Justis Garrett, the teen missing from Mount Dora, was found deceased in a remote wooded area about a quarter mile off of Gasline Road in DeLand.
Garret, 16, was dropped off at school in Mount Dora on April 13 and did not return home. She was believed to be in the New Smyrna Beach area at the time.
At about 7:50 p.m. April 18, DeLand Police were dispatched after joggers believed they saw human remains near a running path. Police responded to the area and confirmed the discovery which had appeared to have been in the area for some time, according to DeLand Police Chief Jason Umberger.
An autopsy was performed to identify Garrett and help determine the circumstances surrounding her death. Anyone with any information is asked to call DeLand Police Department at 386-626-7400 or leave an anonymous tip at www.volusia.crimewatchflorida.com .
It wasn't exactly a day like any other, even for Florida.
Last week, the peacefulness of a neighborhood in The Villages was interrupted by an welcome visit from a massive alligator. The reptile was discovered laying on a front lawn in the community about 30 miles northwest of Mount Dora. Reportedly, no one was home when the animal, which measured 11 feet, 7 inches, paid its visit.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission representatives 'worked' the spirited animal to tire it out before wrangling it to tape its mouth closed and haul it away.
Alligators are found in all 67 counties in Florida.
Mount Dora Police and Fire Rescue responded to the Lake Emergency Medical Services (Lake EMS) building at approximately 11:30 a.m. today in reference to a white, powdery substance contained in an envelope.
Upon MDPD's arrival, it was determined that the envelope had arrived via the United States Postal Service.
Twelve employees of Lake EMS, located at 2761 West Old Highway 441, were exposed to the unknown substance, but did not suffer any symptoms and were not transported to the hospital.
Lake County Hazmat Unit conducted an on-site test and it was determined the powder was non-toxic. The FBI and Post Master General were advised of the situation and Lake EMS and Tavares Fire Department assisted with the scene. The substance was sent to an FBI lab for further testing.
The scene was cleared around 1:30 p.m. and all employees have returned to work.
The Mount Dora Police Department is currently an armed robbery that occurred on Sunday, February 4. The victim was walking through the orange groves north of Spring Harbor apartment complex enroute to Perkins Restaurant. As he walked by the east side of Walmart, he reported two black males robbed him.
The victim described one of the suspects as approximately five feet and eight inches tall to six feet tall. His face was covered by a red and blue bandana. The suspect brandished a black pistol and demanded the victim's property. The suspects then fled the area toward the rear of Walmart.
Anyone with information is asked to call Dectective Pat Thomas at Mount Dora Police Department at 352-735-7133.
It’s perhaps a cautionary tale because the outcome could have been far worse.
A Mount Dora High School student was arrested on January 11 on suspicion of “disruption of a school facility.” The arrest came after the student, Charles Gould, allegedly attempted to obtain a gun to protect himself from bullies.
Two students overheard Gould, 20, on his cell phone saying that he needed a "9 or 45" to “protect himself and his family,” according to the arrest report. That person advised Gould he couldn’t get him a gun.
A third student confronted Gould to ask what he was doing. Gould responded "he was going to get ‘jumped’ and he was going to get a gun to shoot them," the report stated.
According to the same report, Gould waived his rights and told Mount Dora Police officers he was "being bullied by five students and was fearful he was going to be jumped by them."
As word quickly spread of the incident, concerned parents from the high school, as well as Mount Dora Middle School, placed calls to the schools about the welfare of their children, according the MDMS’s School Resource Officer, Mike Garcia.
Rumors that the suspect threatened to "shoot up the school" were not substantiated in the arrest report and there was no incident at the middle school.
The incident has safely passed. However, the teachable moment that comes with it still avails itself. Parents are encouraged to talk with their kids about the options available to students when they feel threatened or bullied at school. The goal is to let kids know help is available and violence isn’t the answer.
Charles Gould, 20
Lake County Public Schools has developed a bullying complaint form for individuals to report such incidents. Optionally, the report can be made anonymously. Students and parents can find the forms here https://www.lake.k12.fl.us/page/1243
If a parent or friend fears a student is in immediate danger, they should contact the school or police immediately. Parents can teach their children to say something if they hear or see anything. Open communication can help the victim, as well as help prevent desperate acts.
The signs of bullying can be observed at home as well as at school, according to LCPS. In order to assist a child that might be a target, parents and teachers need to recognize warning signs.
Reluctance to attend school activities
Unexplained drop in academic performance
Reluctance to walk to or from school
Reluctance to discuss school
Headaches, stomach aches, or other unexplained illnesses
Changes in sleep patterns
Sad or depressed demeanor
Loss of interest in activities formerly enjoyed
Parents of targets can assist their children by:
Encouraging their child to tell an adult
Asking the school for assistance
Explaining the difference between tattling and telling
Encouraging a "buddy" system if a child walks to and/or from school
Turning off a TV program or video game that reinforces the idea of aggression as a way to deal with conflict
The Mount Dora Police Department is currently investigating two recent incidents of theft in downtown's Renaissance Building on Donnelly Street. Both incidents involved thefts from small, family-owned businesses.
The first incident happened on December 12 at approximately 1:30 p.m. when a white female entered Mount Dora Memories gift store located on the first floor of the historic building. The woman allegedly selected several bracelets and a necklace, then concealed them in her purse and left without paying for them.
Anyone with information that can help identify the female in the photos, is asked to contact Detective Daryl McCormick at 352-735-7130. Callers can remain anonymous.
The second incident occurred sometime between 11:00 p.m. on December 16 and 6:30 a.m. on December 17. Unknown suspects stole six custom oak tables from outside a cafe under construction on the second floor of the building.
UPDATE: Two subjects were apprehended by Eustis Police Department on Nov. 6. Jaylen T. Dawkins, 22, of Mount Dora was charged with Grand Theft Auto, Fleeing & Attempting to Elude, and DWLS. Makai S. Budd, 19, of Mount Dora was arrested and charged with loitering and prowling. A third subject is being sought.
At approximately 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, a patron was carjacked at gunpoint after leaving a downtown Mount Dora restaurant. The incident happened on Edgerton Court near the Lawn Bowling Club.
As the victim got into his car, the door was yanked open and he was told to get on the ground by an unknown man. The victim emptied his pockets and grabbed the barrel of the gun, but quickly complied after realizing there were two additional unknown men behind the suspect. The suspect is believed to be a Hispanic male approximately twenty years old, 5’9” tall with a thin build.
After laying on the ground, the victim heard people flee on foot and then heard his 2007 Volkswagen start and travel north on Donnelly Street. He then returned to Magical Meat Boutique to call the police because he had turned his cell phone over to the suspect.
Later, some property from inside the car was recovered scattered near the roadway and grassy area. Early this morning the car was recovered in Eustis.
“The City, as always, will evaluate the area which could include a change or addition of lighting or even tree trimming to help improve the safety of our citizens and property,” said Robin Hayes, Mount Dora's city manager.
Carjacking is a crime of opportunity, typically occurring when drivers are parked or anywhere they are slowed down. Intersections, parking garages and parking lots, gas stations, ATMs, and driveways are common locations for this type of crime.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the risk of being a victim:
Park in a well-lit space.
Avoid isolated parking lots.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Do not park near a dumpster, van, big tree or other obstruction to your vision.
Don’t walk to your car alone.
Be alert, walk tall, with a mission and with your keys in your hand.
Look inside your car before entering.
Do not be distracted or looking at your cell phone while walking to your car.
Beware of any stranger approaching for any reason.
Lock your car doors upon entering and drive away.
At intersections, always leave enough space to maneuver away.
In the rare instance you are faced with an armed carjacking, give up your car freely. Life is much more important.