News Update for 07/03/24

Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested a 34-year-old Polk Correctional Institute Officer late Sunday night, June 30th. Douglas Morse, of Polk County, was witnessed driving around Winter Haven, repeatedly honking his horn. He was pulled over for a routine traffic stop and after the deputy wrote him a citation for the violation, Morse became upset and verbally abusive. Morse then dialed 911. When the deputy asked him to hang up, he refused, saying he did not agree with the citation. He also refused to step out of his vehicle when directed to. Morse was arrested and booked for the misdemeanors of misuse of 911 and resisting arrest.

There is no longer a burn ban in Polk County. Officials repealed the order Monday due to an increase in rain. The ordinance was initially issued in late May because of dangerous fire conditions caused by dry weather and hot temperatures. The county is warning residents who plan to celebrate the Fourth of July to be mindful and use caution when setting off fireworks. Fire crews say it’s important to make sure the pyrotechnics are a safe distance from buildings and people.

People trying to escape Hurricane Beryl are arriving in South Florida. Hundreds of evacuees from Jamaica landed at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport yesterday. One evacuee says he couldn’t sleep the night before because he was worried he wouldn’t be able to get out and that thankfully, everything worked out fine.

There is a new scam targeting Floridians who are trying to harden their homes against future storms. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis issued a warning for residents earlier this week about misleading flyers claiming to be a part of the My Safe Florida Home Program. The advertisements are promoting free roofs and windows. Patronis say several bad actors have tricked homeowners into signing up for a fake program then leaving them on the hook for the full cost of repairs. He says to make sure you are working with the state grant initiative, make sure to visit the official website, verify credentials with contractors, and get written estimates.

South Florida State College has launched a new enrollment marketing campaign that focuses on the needs and concerns of its students and prospective students. The new campaign tagline is: "It’s Possible." The campaign will focus on the understanding that students face concerns and hesitations when it comes to enrolling to pursue personal and professional goals. Over the next few months various methods of advertising will appear on a host of platforms, including print, outdoor, digital, and social media- throughout DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties.

The recent death of a Florida teenager during a possible lightning strike is prompting warnings. John Jensenius with the National Lightning Safety Council says as soon as you hear thunder, you are at-risk and need to get inside right away. He says there’s no place safe outdoors and that most fatalities occur near water, including when you’re on the beach or out fishing or boating.

Help from Brevard County is on its way to the Caribbean. Titusville’s Air Mobile Ministries plans to fly relief supplies to those hit by Hurricane Beryl. Hurricane Beryl continues to churn across the Caribbean and as of the latest update is at Category 4 strength with 145 mile-an-hour winds. The relief cargo will include several water purifiers. Pilot Joe Hurston plans to land first in Puerto Rico.

In the wake of a new Florida law that touts steeper penalties for street racing, dozens of people are now facing charges after a crackdown across Tampa Bay. FHP announced yesterday that 32 people were arrested Monday during Operation Keep Our Streets. Two were arrested for street racing and five for DUI. They conducted over 450 traffic stops for street racing and other issues. Hundreds of citations and warnings were issued. Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw says the type of behavior involved in this kind of activity is completely unacceptable.