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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.

>> Read more trending news

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.

How disasters affect schoolchildren for years afterward

Clearing up physical damage is only part of recovering from a major disaster, according to researchers. Even when the power comes back on and roofs are fixed, a serious human-caused or natural disaster can negatively affect schoolchildren for years.

>> Read more trending news

David Schonfeld, head of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at the University of Southern California, said adults don’t always see how the effects of a disaster can linger with children. 

“People may have died, and there is grief related to that,” Schonfeld said. “Children don’t easily get over it. They don’t forget it. They don’t go back to the way they were before.” 

According to the research, graduation rates and academic performance tend to drop after a disaster. The amount of the drop varies from situation to situation. 

Schonfeld said he told one school administrator the effect of a large disaster was like a runner in a marathon sitting out awhile after hurting her ankle. The runner may keep running -- even running at the same pace -- but time has been lost from sitting out. 

Read more about how children are affected by major storms on myajc.com

Hurricane Irma: For undocumented immigrants, this isn’t the worst storm of their lives

There are storms of the earth and storms of the heart. Walter Villa Toro knows this too well. 

This is why the 30-year-old undocumented immigrant from Guatemala packed up his young family, boarded up their rental apartment in Lake Worth and sought shelter at Forest Hill High as Hurricane Irma loomed. 

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

Villa Toro says he doesn't want to lose a family again. He left his hometown, Santa Cruz Barillas, and moved to Florida 12 years ago, with dreams of becoming a musician.

“I haven’t seen my parents or four siblings ever since I moved from Guatemala,” says Villa Toro, who mows lawns for a living. “My mom tells me to come back, to have the family together again, but I have goals in America.” 

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

Hurricane Irma may be the unifying force for Villa Toro and the many who sought refuge at the storm shelter. But like other immigrants at this facility, with the cramped corridors and stinky bathrooms, it is American goals that thread their stories together. 

For Maria Resendiz, a 45-year-old mother from Hidalgo, Mexico, the goals are not about possessions, but security. 

>> More Hurricane Irma coverage from the Palm Beach Post

“I’m not afraid to lose material things," says Resendiz, who arrived at the shelter with her husband and three children Friday morning. “I pray everyday for the safety of my family.” 

There's another prayer as well. It is evident at lunchtime, when Resendiz intently reads from a book titled “Ciudadania Americana" (American Citizenship) between bites of applesauce and meat patty. 

>> Hurricane Irma: Florida woman delivers own baby at home as storm rages

Resendiz, who has worked for 10 years at a local cosmetics factory, is studying for her U.S. citizenship exam, which could be scheduled at any time now. She says she already knows most of the answers, though she's concerned about her accent and English pronunciations. 

She must focus on such details because a critical matter depends on her passing the test. Her mother is dying of complications from diabetes in Mexico. Resendiz can't travel there without citizenship. If she does, she may not be able to return. 

Other stories you may like from the Palm Beach Post:

>> Hurricane Irma: Live from the Palm Beach Central shelter 

>> Scenes of sadness, sharing in a Boca Raton shelter

>> Fleeing Hurricane Irma: A special needs family, and a survivor of Katrina and Harvey

For fellow immigrant Noe Aguilar, the concerns are less about homeland and more about here and now. The 32-year-old Guatemalan man came to the shelter with his wife and four kids, whom he supports by doing lawn work. 

On his mind as he chats with a Lake Worth neighbor outside the shelter: What to do with all this unexpected down time. 

>> Hurricane Irma: Georgia sheriff's office's snarky, viral post warns residents to avoid 'stupid factor'

"I wish I brought my soccer ball to kill time. I’m not used not doing anything an entire day.”

Meantime, Villa Toro uses the downtime to allow himself a glance back in time. He remembers a Guatemalan childhood so poor he would have to make his own swimming goggles with a piece of glass to fish underwater. He couldn’t afford fishing gear, much less fresh fish from the market.

>> Hurricane Irma: Florida deputy, corrections sergeant die in head-on crash during storm

“I still remember the taste of fresh fish from the river,” he says. 

That fish would be delicious now with tortillas and rice, he joked as he munched on a storm-shelter granola bar. 

Truth be told, he says, he's worked hard here to scrape together the little that he has. If he loses everything due to Irma, it would take him a long time to get back on his feet and support his family here.

>> Read more trending news

Still, he hangs on tightly to his dreams.

Villa Toro says he is saving to buy a piano. He hopes to return to Guatemala one day and play music for his mother.

Hurricane Irma: Georgia sheriff's office's snarky, viral post warns residents to avoid 'stupid factor'

A Georgia sheriff’s office has given an unusual warning about the remnants of Hurricane Irma, which will impact the state Monday. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency for every county ahead of the storm.

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

And the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office’s warning is going viral for its blunt, sarcastic nature.

>> More Hurricane Irma coverage from WFTV

“Please be prepared to be without electricity for a few days due to high winds and trees taking out utility lines. You might even lose your internet connection, which probably scares you more than being without TV or air conditioning,” it begins.

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

After some necessary warnings about wind and supplies, the post veers into “the stupid factor” with the force of a hurricane wind.

>> Read more trending news

“Try to avoid the stupid factor. Stupid makes more work for us, EMTs and ER personnel. In fact, stupid is the reason most of us have jobs,” the statement says. “If you have stupid friends, avoid them until the power comes back on. If YOU are the stupid one, then please sit this one out and wait til an ice storm [comes] along before you demonstrate your capabilities.”

>> Read the post here

Hurricane Irma: Florida woman delivers own baby at home as storm rages

A South Florida woman delivered a baby at home after being coached through the delivery by emergency personnel and doctors during Hurricane Irma

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

The Miami woman went into labor Sunday, but because the storm’s winds were too strong, fire rescue teams couldn’t get to her right away, according to the Miami Herald

>> Hurricane Irma: Follow the latest headlines from the Palm Beach Post

“We weren’t able to respond. So she delivered the placenta, also. Dispatch told her how to tie it off. She’s stable at home,” Assistant Fire Chief Eloy Garcia told the Herald. “We made contact with the assistant medical director here. Talked things through.”

>> Read more trending news

The mother and newborn girl were later taken to the hospital by emergency workers

>> On PalmBeachPost.com: Photos of Hurricane Irma

Read more at the Miami Herald

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.

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