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Hurricane Irma: Man braves waves to snap photos at Key West's Southernmost Point, instantly regrets it

If a hurricane is barreling toward you, it's obviously not the best time to visit a tourist attraction and take some photos.

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

But one man in Key West was caught on camera doing just that as Hurricane Irma approached.

>> Visit PalmBeachPost.com for more Hurricane Irma coverage

According to ABC News, a livestream at the Southernmost Point Buoy captured video of a man snapping pictures of the landmark as waves crashed around him – and then into him, soaking him and knocking him to the ground.

>> Watch the video here

Apparently, he wasn't the only one braving the surging waters. Other videos and screenshots purportedly from the same livestream circulated on social media.

>> Read more trending news

Although the stream has gone down, part of Saturday's footage has been posted on YouTube.

>> Check it out here

– News965.com and Rare.us contributed to this report.

Hurricane Irma: Florida sheriff's office shares beautiful rainbow photo ahead of storm

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office shared a beautiful photo of a rainbow as Florida prepares for Hurricane Irma.

>> See the photo here

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

>> On ActionNewsJax.com: Complete coverage of Hurricane Irma

The photo was taken at Jacksonville Beach, one of the areas under a mandatory evacuation.

>> Read more trending news

It quickly got thousands of likes and shares on Facebook.

Hurricane Irma: Florida girl, 8, saves family from storm-related fire

An 8-year-old Florida girl helped save her family from a fire that was started because of an electrical issue related to Hurricane Irma.

>> Watch the news report here

Jahnay Smith said she and her mother were sleeping in their home in West Park, near Miami, when she smelled smoke Saturday, according to WPLG.

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: Get the latest news and information on Hurricane Irma

Smith said they “escaped just in time” after she noticed the fire, but added, “Now our house is gone,” WPLG reported. 

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office posted images of the destruction to Twitter and said three families are displaced after the fire. 

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: Woman learns by text that husband survived Irma

“We’re getting two of the city vans to transport both families out to Lakeside Elementary — the new shelter that they just opened up,” Commissioner Kristine Judeikis told WPLG. “We're also coordinating with the Red Cross to make sure they get any necessary supplies, toiletries, that kind of stuff. We're trying to make it as easy a transition for them as we can.” 

>> Read more trending news

Read more at WPLG

Does Zello work without Wi-Fi? What you need to know about the walkie-talkie app ahead of Hurricane Irma

As Hurricane Irma slams the Caribbean and heads toward Florida, walkie-talkie app Zello has climbed to the top of the iTunes App Store chart, the Washington Post reports.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the app, which provided a crucial communication link between citizen rescuers and Houston residents stranded by rising floodwaters after Hurricane Harvey, is made by a little-known company in Austin, Texas.

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

Zello’s smartphone app essentially acts like a walkie-talkie, allowing users to send voice messages in real time to anyone listening to a channel. It requires Internet access via Wi-Fi or a cellular data network to work, contrary to false rumors spreading online.

During the flooding from Harvey, channels earmarked “Texas Search and Rescue” or “Cajun Navy SE” became popular with boat owners who used the app to find people in need of rescue.

>> Visit the Palm Beach Post's WeatherPlus blog for more Hurricane Irma coverage

In times of crisis, the app functions much like a police dispatch system, with crucial information relayed from volunteers who have spoken to flood victims in need of help. The app has a private chat function as well as open public channels. 

Zello CEO Bill Moore said the app is more popular outside the United States, where some people use it as a phone call replacement or as a political organizing tool. The app is free to download; the company makes money off its premium version that it markets to businesses.

>> Hurricane Irma price gouging complaints include $100 water delivery charge, soaring airfares

“Radio-style communication can be really efficient, and it’s such a great way to organize groups of people, which is the case with a lot of crises,” Moore said. 

The American-Statesman wrote about Zello in 2014, when it received media attention for its use in political protests in countries such as the Ukraine and Venezuela. 

>> Hurricane Irma: Here is a list of items for a last-minute preparation kit

That has made Zello an enemy of foreign governments on several occasions. At one point, the Venezuelan government blocked the app, and the government of Russia is currently trying to block the app, Moore said, though so far those efforts have been unsuccessful. 

Moore said there are 100 million registered Zello users throughout the world, so the extra usage during Harvey wasn’t significant for them. But Moore said there were “hundreds of thousands of people using it in the Houston area.”

>> Read more trending news

“The number of new users in the Houston area went up by a factor of 20,” he said, when compared to the week before Harvey hit. 

Moore said he listened in on some of the Harvey rescue channels. “It’s riveting,” he said, describing a conversation he had listened to involving the possible explosion of a Houston-area chemical plant. “Emotions are high,” Moore said.

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

Hurricane Irma: North Carolina governor declares state of emergency

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon for the entire state ahead of Hurricane Irma.

>> More Hurricane Irma coverage from WSOCTV.com

The state of emergency will go into effect at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Cooper said the state is preparing and coordinating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, local partners and surrounding states to get ready for the intense storm.

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

Emergency management leaders told WSOC-TV that they are looking at the different ways the storm could hit North Carolina and trying to plan for them.

“We're unsure if this is going to be a coastal event, a western event, or if it’s gonna go right up through the middle of our state, so we're urging all people in North Carolina to be prepared for the impacts of Hurricane Irma,” said deputy director of North Carolina Emergency Management Mike Spayberry.

>> Read more trending news

Officials said they want everyone to make sure they have enough food, water and prescription medication.

Hurricane Irma price gouging complaints include $100 water delivery charge, soaring airfares

Florida’s attorney general slammed as “sickening” Wednesday evening more than 1,500 reported incidents of price gouging with Category 5 Hurricane Irma bearing down on the state, including delivery charges of $100 for a case of water.

“You’ve got vendors trying to trick people,” Pam Bondi said.”It’s sickening and disgusting, and we’re not going to have it.”

Retailer Amazon has suspended 12 third-party vendors associated with questionable fees, including a seemingly reasonably-priced case of water that came with a surprise delivery fee of $100, Bondi said.

>> Visit the Palm Beach Post's WeatherPlus blog for more Hurricane Irma coverage

“Come on,” Bondi said.

She said she has been in touch with Amazon among other firms and praised their cooperation in cracking down on abuses.

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

“It not just about money being taken from people, it’s about water and commodities our people need to survive,” Bondi said.

The majority of complaints are coming from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, she said. Many deal with food, water and ice prices, and others with gasoline.

>> Hurricane Irma: Millions fleeing storm could bring highways to halt

Florida Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he urged federal authorities to help ensure gas is available for people trying to evacuate.

“As a growing number of Floridians are being ordered to evacuate, we need to ensure that these evacuees have access to the gasoline they need to escape this approaching storm,” Nelson wrote in a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long. “I strongly urge FEMA to use all available resources and authorities to assist those evacuating this potentially catastrophic storm, including pre-positioning fuel supplies near and along evacuation routes so those running low on fuel can obtain an emergency supply to get them out of harm’s way.”

>> Gas lines grow, pumps run dry: 8 tips to max out the fuel you have

Some complaints have addressed high airfares, Bondi said.

Delta said it will cap fares from Florida and other affected regions at $399 for direct nonstop flights, and American was also capping fares on flights from five South Florida airports and waiving pet fees, Bondi said.

>> PHOTOS: Hurricane Irma gets closer to U.S.

State law defines price gouging as a “gross disparity” between the current price and the average for the previous 30 days, but gives no strict statistical definition of how much is too much. Though there have been prosecuted cases or settlements after past storms, the broader effect frequently amounts to deterrence — making individual businesses think twice about jacking up prices.

More than 10,000 Floridians complained about price gouging after 2008’s Hurricane Ike, many about gas prices, but the approach of storms can shut down refineries or otherwise drive up fuel prices. In this case, Hurricane Harvey’s devastation of Texas had already affected supply and was sending prices up even before Irma entered the picture.

>> Read more trending news

What does Florida’s law cover? The price gouging statute mentions “essential commodities.” The Florida Attorney’s General’s Office says this includes food, water, ice, chemicals, petroleum products, and lumber to protect or fix properties. Not covered: Alcoholic drinks and cigarettes.

To report price gouging, call 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.

Hurricane Irma: Disabled, abandoned vehicles clogging Florida Turnpike will be towed, officials say

As drivers evacuate South Florida ahead of Hurricane Irma, many have had to abandon their vehicles on the Florida Turnpike when they became disabled or ran out of gas, the Florida Highway Patrol said Wednesday night. 

>> Visit WFTV.com for complete coverage of Hurricane Irma

"Unfortunately, the increased number of disabled and abandoned vehicles has created a problem for emergency workers utilizing the shoulders to reach crash victims and other roadway issues," FHP said in a statement. 

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

Starting at 6 a.m. Thursday, any vehicle left disabled or abandoned along the Florida Turnpike will be towed from the roadway, FHP said. 

>> Hurricane Irma: Millions fleeing storm could bring highways to halt

"We also want to remind drivers that all service plazas along the Turnpike are open and troopers are assisting the movement of drivers needing to refuel," the FHP statement said. "Only vehicles are allowed to fuel at this time. No one will be permitted to fill other containers, as the goal is to get drivers back on the road as soon as possible.

>> Read more trending news

"Stopping along the Turnpike, except in designated areas, is prohibited unless your vehicle becomes disabled or there is an emergency."

Hurricane Irma: Millions fleeing storm could bring highways to halt

In 2005millions of people were ordered to evacuate the Houston area as Hurricane Rita loomed in the Gulf of Mexico.

The results were traffic jams stretching hundreds of miles and the deaths of dozens of evacuees, either in crashes or from heat-related causes.

>> Visit the Palm Beach Post's WeatherPlus blog for complete Hurricane Irma coverage

Florida could be facing an even bigger disaster if large numbers of the state’s 7 million people who live south of Jupiter decide to flee Hurricane Irma in the coming days, according to Florida Atlantic University associate professor John Renne.

That bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic snarl that you encounter daily on Interstate 95? Envision that all the way to Jacksonville and beyond.

>> JetBlue offering $99 flights for people evacuating Hurricane Irma

“If everybody decided to evacuate, it would probably be worse than what happened in Houston, because we only have two major north-south highways,” said Renne, director of FAU’s Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions. “There’s no way everybody can evacuate.”

The good news is that unlike Houston, evacuations plans in South Florida don’t call for entire cities to clear out. Only those people in flood zones — 300,000 residents in Palm Beach County, according to officials — face mandatory evacuations. Counties also coordinate so that calls for evacuations are spaced out enough that mandatory evacuees aren’t running into other mandatory evacuees north of them.

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

But with a monster storm like Hurricane Irma certain to harm anything in its path, many South Floridians who do not live in evacuation zones have either left the area or are seriously thinking about it.

Bill Johnson, director of the Emergency Operations Center in Palm Beach County, said that’s not a great idea.

“Seven million people live south of Jupiter, and north of Jupiter the two major thoroughfares drop down to two lanes, so we cannot move all these people,” Johnson said, referring to I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike. “Evacuate in miles, not hundreds of miles. We are encouraging everyone to stay within the county.”

>> Hurricane Irma: How to prepare for the storm with your children

Even if all 300,000 Palm Beach County residents in evacuation zones chose to leave town, it might not make a noticeable difference on the roadways. Johnson points out the county handles twice that number of motorists twice a day during rush hour.

The bigger concern are the hundreds of thousands who voluntarily decide to leave, crowding highways being used by those forced to abandon their homes.

>> Hurricane Irma: 10 safest cities in Florida in a hurricane

“The thinking from people is that they can outrun a hurricane, and that’s the farthest thing from the truth,” Johnson said. “They’re just running from the wind. Wind is not the killer.”

Johnson points out the vast majority of those killed last month in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey died in flooding. If you don’t live in a flood-prone area, Johnson advises, it’s best to hunker down at home or go to a nearby shelter.

>> Why Hurricane Irma will not and cannot be a Category 6

And as Hurricane Irma creeps closer to Florida, it may already be getting a little late to leave, especially for those who have no specific destination to wait out Irma.

“When a major storm is bearing down on you, people will definitely panic,” Renne said. “But it’s better to panic early than panic late.”

Visitors to the Florida Keys were told to leave Wednesday morning and its 70,000 residents must go Wednesday night, Gov. Rick Scott said.

>> Hurricane Irma: How do you stay safe in the storm?

Evacuation orders could be issued Thursday in coastal Miami-Dade County, and parts of Broward County have already begun evacuations.

A new evacuation plan rolled out this year by the Florida Department of Transportation can permit motorists to drive on the shoulders of highways with two lanes in each direction, including Interstate 75 along Alligator Alley. The turnpike can be turned into a one-way roadway beginning just north of the Boynton Beach interchange and ending in Orlando in the event of a Category 3 hurricane (111 mph) or stronger, officials said.

>> Read more trending news

“One of the things about evacuations that’s important for people to understand is that they’re not made to be a convenience, but to save lives,” said Brian Woshon, a professor of civil engineering at LSU who studies evacuations. “It’s not going to be comfortable and not everybody is going to be happy when you’re trying to move hundreds of thousands, if not, millions of people.”

– Palm Beach Post staff writer Joe Capozzi contributed to this story.

J.J. Watt’s Harvey fundraising pushes past $20 million

J.J. Watt’s rush to continue raising money for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and the historic flooding in and around Houston that followed the Aug. 25-30 storm broke the $20 million mark, as his online crowdfunding site pushed past that threshold about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to USA Today.

>> George Strait, Beyonce, others to hold Hurricane Harvey relief concert

Watt pledged $100,000 to the Red Cross fund when he started it with the goal of raising $200,000.

>> Read more trending news

“It’s such a testament to the people out there," Watt said Sunday after donations of $1 million from Tennessee Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk, $1 million from Walmart, $200,000 from hip-hop artist Drake and $50,000 from NBA star Chris Paul.

Watt, an all-pro defensive end for the Houston Texans, said Sunday when the total raised was at $17 million. “It’s such a testament to how much good there is in the world.’’

>> Complete Harvey coverage from the Austin American-Statesman

Many NFL owners and players have pledged money to Harvey victims, including Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who has committed $1 million.

Doctor, midwife brave Hurricane Harvey floodwaters to help their patients

A surgeon from Dickinson, Texas, left his flooded-out home Saturday and made the unlikeliest commute.

>> Hurricane Harvey: How you can help

According to KABC, Dr. Stephen Kimmel guided his canoe through waist-high water for at least a mile to get to a Clear Lake-area hospital to perform surgery on a 16-year-old with a life-threatening condition.

“Sometimes you have to do whatever it takes,” Kimmel provided in a press release. “This young man’s life would have been changed for the worse forever if we hadn’t been able to perform surgery when we did. In the end, it all turned out very well.”

>> On Rare.us: United Airlines provides relief to hurricane victims

The teen, who was suffering from a testicular torsion, will make a full recovery.

>> Watch an interview here

But Kimmel wasn’t the only hero braving the water for patients during Harvey.

According to the "Today" show, Cathy Rude, a midwife of 25 years, made a harrowing journey of her own to get to a patient experiencing labor pains leading up to the brunt of the storm.

>> 8 tips when donating to Hurricane Harvey recovery and relief efforts

“I was concerned, as she was, that if her water were to break, things would happen very quickly,” Rude said in an interview. “So we started asking how I was going to get out of the house if that happened.”

>> Harvey's aftermath: Houston perseveres through immense loss (live updates)

Rude was almost forced to give up after her truck could not make it through the flooded streets, but when her mother-to-be Andrea Haley saw a neighbor with an inflatable swan down her street, she asked the “white horse” if they would be willing to pick her up:

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

“Andrea called me and said, ‘A swan is coming to pick you up.’ I laughed and gathered all my stuff and opened the front door and sure enough there was an inflatable swan with my neighbor behind it,” Rude said. “So I climbed on and she pushed me down the street to the end of the street and I was able to climb off the swan and into the pick-up truck and off we went to the birth center. She had the baby later that evening.”

>> Read more trending news

Rude was anything but after her safe delivery.

“A midwife is not just a care provider, she’s your friend," Rude said. "So of course, she wanted me to be there. I think she was appreciative, but I don’t think she was very surprised, because as midwives, that’s just what we do.”

If you need or would like to help in Houston, read more here.

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