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Cities in Central Florida among fastest growing in US

When it came to population growth last year, Central Florida cities were some of the fastest growing in the U.S.

According to the figures which were released last Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau, last year, metro Orlando grew by up to 60,000 residents, as large as the number of people that can fit into the Camping World Stadium of this city – the place where college football bowl teams face off in winter of each year. That gave Orlando the fifth-biggest increase in pure numbers of any U.S metro area.

Meanwhile, last year, the Tampa area grew by 51,000 residents, more than the number of fans that can fit into Tropicana Field, where the Tampa Bay Rays of the city play baseball. This number placed its numeric increase at No. 9

Thanks to their growth from mid-2017 to mid-2018, these two metropolises were propelled into the top tier of the fastest growing metro areas of the whole nation.

It was also released by the U.S. Census Bureau that only Texas grew by more people than Florida last year. Moreover, the addition of tens of thousands of new residents to the cities in central Florida will increase the importance of the Interstate 4 corridor’s next election, already the swingiest part of the biggest swing state of the nation. That explosive growth also offers Florida the chances of getting additional congressional seats as well as presidential electors after the 2020 census.

Among these cities, Orlando had the fifth largest increase of the country for metro areas in pure numbers, surpassed by only Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and Phoenix. Tampa came in at No. 9.

In Tampa, the population growth was totally driven by new arrivals. If there weren’t this inbound migration, Tampa would have lost population because its deaths outnumbered births by almost 900 people. Mostly new arrivals came from U.S. states.

Republican governor appoints Florida’s first chief science officer

Ron DeSantis, Republican Florida Governor, appointed the first chief science officer on Monday, marking what he called the “commitment to science-based solutions” of the state.

DeSantis appointed the biologist Thomas Frazer, who has been the director of the School of Natural Resources and Environment of University of Florida since 2012 and previously worked as the UF Water Institute’s acting director.

In this new position, he will coordinate Florida’s research and scientific work and make sure that the officials have the scientific analysis which they need to tackle the environmental problems of the state.

Frazer’s research has looked at the effects on water of pollution. He has also worked on research about climate change. He has served as the Climate Science Faculty Committee’s chairman. Therefore, climate change will be a part of his mission.

Frazer said that “We have to look at the facts of what is going on in the environment and can we bring science to bear on those changes happening now and in the future?”

Under the predecessor of DeSantis, fellow Republican Rick Scott, some state employees said that they were discouraged from using the terms “global warming” and “climate change.”

When being asked whether he thought that climate change was a threat to the state, DeSantis said the issue was “politicized” but he considered sea-level rise a serious threat.

“My environmental policy is just to do things that benefit Floridians. And the idea that you’re signing up for some type of agenda — I don’t want to … send a signal that that’s what I’m doing because I’m not doing that,” DeSantis said. “This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to do what works.” DeSantis also said that the appointment kept with his promise to make “sound science” a Florida priority.

And Frazer will have his work cut out for him and said he was honored by the appointment. “Our environment and waterways make Florida unique,” he said. “I look forward to working with the governor and the Department of Environmental Protection on ways we can use sound science and research to improve our state’s water quality and protect the environment.”

Tourism Marketing Agency of Florida needs good marketing to dodge House axe

In the year 2018, there are more than 126 million people visited Florida, that marks the eight years in a row this State saw a record number of tourists.

Visitors spent up to more than $115 billion during their stays in Florida, confirming tourism remains the state’s No. 1 industry and supporting about 1.5 million jobs.

Florida has an agency within Enterprise Florida, Inc., – EFI – a non-profit corporation which was created to act as the state’s economic development organization, which serves as a tourism-marketing agency, named Visit Florida.

Visit Florida was created by the Legislature in 1996. It receives an annual allocation from lawmakers and has to be reauthorized every three years. The state Senate and Gov. Ron DeSantis want to refund and reauthorize Visit Florida, however, the House, apparently, has other ideas.

In 2017, House Republicans attempted to abolish EFI as well as Visit Florida. The agency was under fire due to issuing questionable contracts, including a $2.875 million contract with Visit Florida Racing – an auto racing team, a $1 million promotion contract for rapper Pitbull, and an $11.6 million deal to sponsor a cooking show which was hosted by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

After a contentious debate, legislators revised the agency’s reporting requirements such as imposing new rules which dissolved partnerships with local tourism organizations.

Florida Republican Party Chairman Sen. Joe Gruters said that “What Visit Florida does for our economy as challenges come up in all of our local areas, it’s critically important for our success. And when Florida is at its lowest points, they’re there helping prop us back and letting people know we’re back in business.”

Visit Florida is particularly needed these days when the tourism industry of Southwest Florida attempts to recover from its high-publicized bout of red tide and the Panhandle builds out from the devastation of the Hurricane Michael, he also said.



Florida’s Best 18 Golf Holes (part 1)


Florida has more than 1,000 golf courses and picking the best 18 golf holes is no easy task. And playing them might be even harder!

It is not difficult to construct a course with 18 longest holes in Florida, however, a good golf course must have a balance between good long and short holes – those with tricky doglegs or deep bunkers and those with lots of water. There is the list of Florida’s Best 18 Golf Holes in my opinion.

  1. New Course, Grand Cypress Resort

Jack Nicklaus designed this resort to the famed Old Course of Scotland at St. Andrews. Although it’s difficult to recreate North Sea conditions in the center of Florida, this first hole is a faithful rendition. Wide and short open, it’s the second shot across Swilcan Burn’s local variation which calls for precision.

  1. Belleview Biltmore Golf Club

Designed by Donald Ross, this jewel of a course is a centerpiece of the historic resort. This second hole, narrow, long, and tightly guarded by ponds and trees, set the tone. The tiny crowned green will repel all but the best accurate approach shots.

  1. Wanamaker course at PGA Village

The PGA of America’s excellent golf facility boasts up to three Championship courses by Pete Dye and Tom Fazio at PGA Golf Club. It has a six-hole short course, the PGA Museum of Golf, and the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance. Wanamaker course is a classic layout of Florida: rolling terrain with a lot of palms, palmettos, and wetlands. This third hole calls for carrying over water from the tee to a heavily bunkered, rolling green and divided fairway.

  1. Pine Barrens at World Woods

Pine Barrens at World Woods is a great design of Tom Fazio. It utilizes scrubby, sandy waste areas like Pine Valley of New Jersey. This par-five allows a safe route, but golf players who would like to challenge the sandy wasteland can get home in two for an eagle with 2 strong shots.


Florida waters are testing entirely free of red tide organism


The coastal waters of Florida are testing of the organism which causes red tide completely free for the first time since September 2017.

According to the report of The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission of Florida (FWC), Karenia Brevis algae was not present in any water samples which were collected around the state in the past week.

A patchy, continuous bloom of red tide which lasted more than one year impacted the state’s wildlife, coastal industries, and tourism.

The bloom of red tide has tapered off since the recent months but only remained at high concentrations in the isolated areas. The last algae’s bloom concentrations were detected on Jan. 31 in Monroe County’s waters off.

A background concentration (1,000 cells of Karenia Brevis per liter of water) was detected in one water sample of Collier County last week. There were reports about fish kills in Collier County over the past week but not anywhere else in the state of Florida. The most recent sample map of FWC shows that red tide is not present at all water test sites in the state.

All waters off Anna Maria and Manatee County tested free of red tide again. The last red tide trace in the area was a background concentration of Longboat Pass on 28 of Jan. Respiratory irritation was reported in Pinellas County as well as Lee and Manatee counties.

Short-term red tide tracking maps which were produced by the Florida Wildlife Research Institute and the College of Marine Science at the South Florida University predict that waters in the west Florida shelf and the Tampa Bay region will remain red-tide-free over the next two days. FWC will deliver the next statewide red tide status report on Friday.

For more information, please call 866-300-9399 whenever and wherever in Florida to be issued the latest red tide status report. Please call 727-552-2448 if you are outside Florida.


Panama City Beach to Become the Center of Soccer in the Southeast


Panama City Beach is looking ahead to the summer of 2019 with great plans to open the world-class Panama City Beach Sports Complex, which is managed by Sports Facilities Management (SFM). It is a brand-new $37 million complex, which will offer visitors a place to enjoy various sports and activities including soccer. Panama City Beach, destined to be the soccer center in the Southeast, will host more than 700 soccer teams for over 15 tournaments beginning in August.

This project was due to a study in 2008 and 2013, which regarded the need for rectangular fields. The complex’s market study and design began in 2015. The concept of the complex was approved in 2015. Then, 10 acres for the access road was purchased. St. Joe Company finalized the land transfer agreement for this project in 2016. The final design was completed in 2018. Land clearing and road construction began in April of 2018. Bay County approved the bid and the ceremonial groundbreaking for this complex was on June 13, 2018.

According to Mr. J.D. Wood, SFM General Manager of the Panama City Beach Sports Complex, this Sports Complex is a full-service venue with 13 brand-new fields, two of which are new championship fields. They are so excited to start with a big lineup of new soccer events and also look forward to the new teams and visitors coming to Panama City Beach in 2019 and beyond. And they are so lucky to have some good partners helping to develop an event calendar which will bring a lot of new visitors to the Panama City Beach and that will do so much for the city’s local economy with National, State and Regional soccer events in non-summer months.

Besides soccer, the flexible design of Panama City Beach Sports Complex will also allow for football, lacrosse, baseball, softball, rugby, and almost any other event. Details of the opening will be announced closer to August.

The coldest weather of the year is coming to South Florida

The lowest temperatures of the year are coming to South Florida, in time for the Supermoon lunar eclipse on this Sunday night and the Martin Luther King Jr. parade and holiday next Monday.

According to Paxton Fell, National Weather Service meteorologist in the Miami office, Broward, Miami-Dade, and the Florida east coast may have temperatures in the upper 40s on Monday morning. She said that the wind chill would make it become even more wintering.

Building seas and gusty winds will make weather conditions hazardous on the waters, with rip tides, too. However, the most polar bear of tourists may want to swim on Monday when the high is expected to increase to the mid-60s. Temperatures from 30s to 40s are expected in the Lake Okeechobee region.

All of this is added to Winter Storm Harvey, which has wrecked holiday weekend travel plans. According to the Weather Channel, Harvey has just led to winter storm warnings or watches for Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Providence, Hartford, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Albany, Des Moines, and Cleveland. The Weather Channel also said that major flight delays and some cancellations are expected this weekend at the major Northeast hubs such as Boston-Logan, JFK, Newark, LaGuardia, Dulles, Philadelphia, and Reagan National airports. Some other significant delays are also possible on Saturday at Kansas City, Chicago O’Hare Airport and other airports in the Ohio Valley, Midwest, and interior Northeast.

In fact, temperatures in the 40s don’t sound too bad in South Florida. Fell also said that in spite of what feels like a chillier January than usual for South Florida, they’re not setting any cold records. Even though there have been some colder days this month, they’re actually running 2.1 degrees above normal.

According to the National Weather Service, the average monthly temperature for January is about 70.1 degrees, and right now it is at 72.2 before the coming chill.


 Missing New York dog discovered 1,100 miles away in Florida after leaving home following owner’s death


A dog has been found recently more than 1,100 miles far from home after disappearing during 18 months following his owner’s death in a gun accident.

The dog is a brown and white husky, named Sinatra. It went missing from Brooklyn, New York, last year, then somehow got to the town of Seffner, Florida, where he was found by Rose Verill, a 13-year-old boy. The Verills family first looked for the dog’s owners by using an identification chip read by a vet with the help of a friend, Jeanne Baldi.

However, the vet could just identify some information: the name “Willis Les” and a phone number which was one digit short. Therefore, Ms. Baldi began searching online for anyone who slightly matched the information they had gleaned. She found a man named Lesmore Willis on Facebook and sent a message to him. To her shock, Mr. Willis replied that he had indeed lost a dog.

They quickly realized that both the dog found in Florida and the one he had lost had the same problem with the right foot and confirmed by exchanging photographs.

Ms. Baldi said she never imagined that her Facebook would solve the matter, especially because she saw that Mr. Willis lived so far away.

Neither does Ms. Baldi, or Mr. Willis, have any idea about how Sinatra managed to travel the 1,100 miles from New York to Florida.

But when the dog’s owners were found, a new tragedy came out. Sinatra had originally been a present for Mr. Willis’s daughter Zion on her 14th birthday. She was an animal lover and avid dancer and started her own dog-walking business since still being a teenager. Sadly, two years later, Zion was killed in a gun accident while visiting a friend’s house. Sinatra disappeared the following year to compound the loss.

Mr. Willis was inconsolable when losing the dog because it was a strong connection to his late daughter. The Willis had put up flyers and searched for Sinatra across New York but had given up ever seeing him again.

But the much-loved Sinatra will soon be reunited with his family after friends of Ms. Baldi agreed to take him back to the Willis family.

Five children in Florida taken to hospital after being given cannabis-laced sweets at school, police say

Being given THC-laced gummies by a 12-year-old student in the class, several children at a school in Florida overdosed and at least five of them were taken to a hospital after experiencing dizziness, stomach pain, and nausea.

Polk County Sheriff’s Office officials told that the student somehow had a package of gummies which contained 100 mg of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main mind-altering ingredient in cannabis. He gave it to six other seventh-grade students during gym class at Mulberry Middle School on Thursday. He now faces seven felony charges due to possessing and distributing marijuana.

The District of Columbia and ten states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults – but not in Florida, and certainly never for children.

Mr. Judd, the sheriff, told reporters that the children were all going to make a great recovery and they were going to be all right with no long-term injury or illness. The officials are concerned about how a 12-year-old came to be in possession of this drug and why he offered it to these six other kids.

In Florida, the drug is legal in the form of medical marijuana with a prescription but remains illegal in other forms.

Mr. Judd said that the edibles which sickened the students are sold online and come in a gummy brick supposed to be separated into 10 adult doses in states where it is legal. He also said that almost the whole package was divided among the six children.

Authorities said at least five children consumed the gummies, and the sixth child is believed to have done as well.

The sheriff said that the boy who gave out the gummies said he did not eat any, and he told at least two different stories about how he got them.

It is not clear whether he knew that the gummies contained THC or not, but authorities claimed that ignorance is not a defense against crime. He will be charged with one count of marijuana resin possession, six counts of marijuana distribution within 1,000 feet of a school, and one misdemeanor count of paraphernalia possession also, authorities said.

When being asked whether the other six children might also face charges, Mr. Judd said no because they had eaten the evidence. However, they will be dealt with by the school system and their parents.


A cruise ship struck a Key West mooring

According to city officials, a cruise ship, 691-foot-long Silversea Silver Spirit, caught up in a heavy sustained wind last week crashed into a Key West mooring. That damaged enough to leave Mallory Square’s port of call unusable for at least three months.

City Manager, Jim Scholl, said that the cruise ship was leaving Mallory Square when the winds stopped it from turning around to get underway on Nov. 27. There were no injuries reported and the ship was not heavily damaged. About the estimated cost of repairs, Scholl said it could be a half-million dollars. However, he did not have the specific and exact figures.

Scholl also informed on Tuesday night that no ships can dock at Mallory Square until a “mooring dolphin,” which is a large concrete block atop pilings that helps in keeping the ships in a line – and away from the pier – when docking, can be replaced by the crews.

Besides the port of call in Mallory Square, Key West also has two other ones: the Outer Mole Pier at Truman Waterfront Park and another at Margaritaville Resort near Mallory Square.

Scholl also said that although the ship wasn’t damaged badly, that mooring dolphin was destroyed. The Coast Guard cleared them to go so that it was able to get underway.

The cruise line sent to Key West an insurance consultant to estimate the damages to the pier the next day and another this week. On the other hand, the city hired some divers from an engineering firm to inspect the damage on last Monday.

Liz Acar who was a witness and live-streamed the ship damage on Facebook that night says that due to the accident, all ships were not currently allowed to dock there.

The cruise ship Silver Spirit, built in 2009 and registered in the Bahamas, can accommodate 608 passengers.