The Bizarre World of Florida

Authorities quickly stop slow, inexorable giant snail invasion October 5, 2014

Filed under: Bizzarre,Controversy,Interesting,Unusual,Weird,WTF? — floridaduh @ 3:42 pm

fl-1-main-snail-update10a-jpg-20140912 (1)About 280 giant African land snails have been caught in western Davie over the past four weeks, but the infestation appears to be confined to a few properties, the Florida Department of Agriculture said Friday.

The department, which is trying to prevent the fist-sized mollusks from reaching South Florida’s farms, said an intensive search on a one-mile radius around the site of the original discovery found no snails beyond a few properties in the immediate area.

The snails were found on five properties, two on Southwest 20th Street and three on Southwest 136th Avenue.

“We think it’s pretty well contained in that one neighborhood,” said Mark Fagan, spokesman for the department. “We continue to go out a mile from the original find, and we’re not finding any.”

The snails were the first ones ever discovered in Broward County, a worrisome but expected expansion of their range from the original infestation sites in Miami-Dade County.

After being caught, the snails were sent by truck to the Florida Department of Agriculture’s facility in southern Miami-Dade County, where they are frozen to death, crushed and taken to a landfill.

First discovered in South Florida in 2011 near Douglas Park in Miami, the huge snails have been taken extremely seriously by state agriculture officials, who have deployed 50 workers in Miami-Dade County to root them out with rakes and treat infested areas with chemicals.

The snails carry a parasite that causes meningitis. No person has contracted the disease from them so far, but a German shepherd is believed to have been infected. The snails eat plaster and stucco to replenish their shells, making them a threat to houses. And they can consume more than 500 types of plant.

They have not yet reached the farmlands of southern Miami-Dade County, which produce tomatoes, okra, peppers, avocados and other crops, officials have said. But they have come close, and in other countries that they have infested they have multiplied quickly and overrun farmlands.
Native to Nigeria and adjacent countries, the snails were imported into the Miami area by practioners of Ifa Orisha, a Santeria-like religion in which devotees consume soup made from the snail. Others came in as pets. Imports into the United States are now banned.

Despite the good news that the snails appear not to have spread far, the Agriculture Department plans to keep checking the neighborhood for at least two years.

“There is a lot of natural habitat for these snails and a lot of hiding places,” Fagan said. “Today we found six adult snails in less than 10 minutes.”

They will also treat the properties in the area with chemicals to kill any they don’t catch.

The department has asked the public to report any possible sightings. Many of the reports are false, particularly from sites near canals, where the snail in question usually turns out to be a native apple snail, Fagan said.


“Officials said the captain of the bubble was asking which way Bermuda was”

Filed under: Amazing,Bad Luck,Bizzarre,Interesting,Stupid,Unusual,Weird,WTF? — floridaduh @ 3:40 pm

A man in an inflatable, plastic bubble was rescued 70 miles off the coast of Florida on Saturday — despite the Coast Guard’s warning him three days earlier that his journey was a terrible idea.

fl-miami-bubble-lost-at-sea-20141004-001The “Hydro Pod,” as it’s called, first came to the attention of officials on Wednesday, when vessels called the Coast Guard and complained of a man-propelled bubble floating in the waters off Miami.

Officials said the captain of the bubble, Reza Baluchi, was asking which way Bermuda was.

Coast Guard rescues man traveling to Bermuda in bubble
The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a man traveling in an inflatable bubble to Bermuda on Saturday after he sent a distress call. (The U.S. Coast Guard)
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, Baluchi was trying to travel from Miami to Bermuda in the homemade plastic bubble. His only supplies were protein bars, bottles of water and a satellite phone.

Capt. Todd Coggeshall tried to convince Baluchi to abandon his voyage, but the man refused.

“I have grave concerns regarding your safety,” Coggeshall said in a recorded satellite phone call to Baluchi. “You’re going to have a very hard time punching through the Gulf Stream to make Bermuda.”

“No,” Baluchi replied. “I’ve been practicing for two years for this.”

According to a website reportedly belonging to Baluchi, he is an adventurer who does daring tasks to promote peace and raise money for charity.

He has survived weeks in Death Valley, biked across six continents and run the perimeter of the United States, the website said.

His latest effort was a “Reze to Bermuda,” a journey from Miami to Bermuda in his Hydro Pod.

He started out from Miami on Tuesday, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

Other vessels told officials Baluchi seemed disoriented on Wednesday and was asking them where Bermuda was. A Coast Guard boat met Baluchi in waters near Miami to explain to him the trip would be risky.

He refused to be taken back to the shore, and officials told him he was now at the mercy of the sea, the Coast Guard said.

“You understand by your refusal to terminate this voyage you’re putting yourself in grave danger at the high sea?” Coggeshall said during the phone call. “If you run into trouble, there’s no guarantee that we are going to be able to get to you in time, or even be able to find you.”

“OK,” Baluchi replied. “I’m continuing.”
Three days later, Baluchi sent out a distress signal about 70 miles off the coast of St. Augustine, and a Coast Guard helicopter went to his location. He was airlifted to the Air Station Clearwater, but officials said he did not have any injuries.

He seemed exhausted, they said.

Instead of the approximately 1,000 miles he intended to travel, he made it about 300 miles north.

According to his website, Baluchi tested out his Hydro Pod by taking it from Newport Beach, Calif., to Catalina Island and back, which is 32 miles one way.

“Call him crazy, but he likes to roll the dice,” the website said.


SWAK: Teen mom mailed drugs behind stamps in jail love letters October 2, 2014

Filed under: Drugs,Bizzarre,Bad Luck,WTF?,Controversy,Unusual,Dumb,Funny — floridaduh @ 12:54 pm

The love letters from 18-year-old Sarah Laurito to her inmate boyfriend in Ocala may have been sealed with a kiss.

sfl-flduh-drugs-stamps-jail-letters-20141001-001But the stamps didn’t stick properly.

The reason: thin strips of drugs were hidden behind the stamps on envelopes to her boyfriend, 25-year-old inmate Jeremy Weber, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said today.

Laurito was charged with introducing contraband to the jail.

In one letter, officials say, she talked about their newborn and included a love poem to Weber.

Suboxone, the drug found behind the stamps, is produced as a film similar to breath-mint strips.

The drug is used to reduce withdrawal symptoms from opiate drugs.

The letter that tipped off authorities had two orange-colored films under the stamp, each one a 4 milligram dose.

Detective Meyer Carter said Weber dropped subtle hints during “phone calls to Laurito on how to get the drugs to him by using her love letters to him,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a report.

During the recorded calls, Weber told her several times to “go to the subway behind the food stamp office. Each time he said it, he would emphasize the words, ‘sub,’ ‘behind,’ and ‘stamp,'” her arrest report said.

“Sarah does not seem to understand what inmate Weber is saying and finally asks if it is something he wanted her to do,” the report added. “Inmate Weber replies ‘yes’ and that he really wanted a ‘sub’ behind the food stamp office ‘when you write me a letter.'”

At that point, Laurito said she understood and told Weber that ‘it took me a little while, but I got you,'” the report said. “Sarah confirms that she will do it and tells him that he will have to make the letter last until she gets more ‘stamps.'”

On a Sept. 26 jail visit, officials questioned her about the letters.

“She told the officer that she and Weber both had prescriptions for Suboxone and admitted to sending the drug to Weber three or four times,” the report said.

Laurito turned herself into the Marion County Jail on Sept. 29 and has since posted a $2,000 bond and has been released.

“Weber is still in jail and will also be facing a charge of introduction of contraband to the jail,” the report added.

He was previously booked into the jail on July 11 on a charge of violation of probation for possession of a controlled substance.


Couple’s water bill is $3,386 for just 18 days September 30, 2014

Filed under: Amazing,Bizzarre,Controversy,Unusual,Weird,WTF? — floridaduh @ 2:30 pm

A Pasco County couple received an eye-popping water bill of $3,385.99. That was for just 18 days.

4904394_GPasco County Utilities insists that 614,000 gallons of water went through the pipes at Eugene Foy’s New Port Richey home. That’s enough water to fill up Foy’s swimming pool more than 60 times.

Foy says there’s no way the bill is accurate. He and wife, Louise Gritmon, had not even moved into their new home yet when the water usage allegedly occurred.

“This is not a very warm welcome from Pasco County,” said Foy, who just moved here from New York.

The couple paid another $190 to have the county test their meter, and the county says it’s working fine. Doug Tobin, spokesman for the county, says the meter is correct and the water went through the pipes.

He says perhaps there was an open faucet. The county is sticking to the bill and offered the couple a payment plan.

Tobin says the county’s professionals say 23 gallons of water a minute could pass through an open faucet.

“Once the water passes through the meter, it’s the homeowner’s responsibility.”

That doesn’t sit well to Gritmon.

“Every hour on the hour for 19 days around the clock, this water was coming out, and it wasn’t at a steady pace,” she said.


Guess swimming is not the best way to sober up September 26, 2014

Filed under: Alcohol,Amazing,Bizzarre,Drunk,DUI,Dumb,Florida Nut,Funny,Unusual,WTF? — floridaduh @ 1:34 pm

Swimming away from a traffic crash may not be the most effective means of escape, but a 24-year-old man appears to have given it a try in Sebastian.

sfl-flduh-swim-avoid-charge-20140925-001The truck ran a stop sign at Indian River Drive, crashing into a guardrail just west of the Indian River.Witnesses told Sebastian police about 1:40 a.m. Sept. 11 that a man identified as Donald Hull was driving a Ford truck east on County Road 512, according to a recently released arrest affidavit.

Hull began to flee on foot and ran into the Indian River, an extremely large body of water. He took off his shirt and swam toward a dock in the 800 block of Indian River Drive.

It’s unclear whether he used the crawl, butterfly or another stroke during the apparent aqueous getaway.

Two witnesses watched Hull as he swam while the third went to the dock.

“The third witness then stood by and observed the defendant swimming around the dock area until law enforcement arrived,” an affidavit states.

Police helped fish Hull out of the water.

Hull, who smelled of booze, first said he’d had a few drinks and was driving on an “unknown road.” He said he had no license, then reported he wasn’t driving and didn’t know how he got there.

Hull declined to participate in field sobriety exercises and declined to take a breath test.

Hull, of the 8800 block of Central Avenue in Micco, was arrested on charges including DUI, driving while license suspended with knowledge and leaving the scene of an accident with property damage.


Mom hid baby in car’s trunk to avoid ticket for not having car seat September 25, 2014

Custody of a 5-month-old boy found in the trunk of a car near Lauderhill may be given to the baby’s father or great-grandmother pending the outcome of a home study, according to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

sfl-flduh-hid-baby-trunk-ticket-20140924-001Broward juvenile dependency Judge Hope Tieman-Bristol made the ruling Wednesday morning. The baby’s mother, Breona Synclair Watkins, 19, attended the hearing in handcuffs.

Watkins was arrested early Tuesday and charged with child abuse, resisting an officer and five traffic-related offenses, including driving without a license and failure to have a child restraint, jail records show.

She is accused of having a 14-year-old boy put the baby in the trunk through an opening in the back seat of the 2005 Dodge Stratus that Watkins was driving. She later told deputies that she did it to avoid getting a ticket for failing to have a child safety seat in the car, according to the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Her grandmother, Laura Richardson, also attended the hearing and told reporters outside the courtroom Wednesday that the episode was a big mistake.

“She got frightened and she did what any child would do because she’s still a child,” Richardson said. “She’s a good mother but she’s still young and she just made a mistake. We all have made mistakes, I’m sure.”

About 1 a.m. Tuesday, a deputy followed Watkins after noticing a headlight was out. The deputy stopped her after about a quarter-mile near the 3100 block of West Sunrise Boulevard, according to the arrest report.

About 15 minutes into the traffic stop, a second deputy heard the baby crying in the trunk, the report stated.

Deputies found the baby lying among plastic bags, garden shears and a large, rusted tire iron. Also surrounding the baby were a used gas can and other hazardous materials. The temperature inside the trunk was significantly warmer than the air outside, deputies said.

The child has been in state foster care since then and was said to be doing well. A guardian ad litem has been appointed to represent the baby’s legal interests while relatives are interviewed for placement, DCF spokeswoman Paige Patterson-Hughes said.

“The court wants that home study completed and if that’s positive then it has to be presented to the guardian ad litem,” she said. “The next step is to have the child moved from foster care to relative care.”

The process typically takes several days.

“They try to get these done pretty quickly,” she said. “There will be supervised visitations permitted.”

The next dependency hearing was scheduled for Oct. 20.

Watkins remained in the Broward Main Jail on Wednesday on a $7,000 bond, jail records showed.


This dude obviously had an ax to grind with a money machine September 23, 2014

Filed under: Amazing,Bizzarre,Dumb,Florida Nut,Fraud,Funny,Really Dumb,Robbers,Unusual,WTF? — floridaduh @ 1:31 pm

A local man is accused of mangling an ATM machine with a hatchet in Volusia County, according to the South Daytona Police Department.


Police said Phillip Moore, 30, was captured on surveillance video smashing and ripping open the ATM machine at the SunTrust Bank on South Ridgewood Avenue just before 2 a.m. Sunday.

No injuries were reported and no money was stolen out of the ATM, but there was over $1,000 worth of damages to the machine.

Moore was identified by investigators and arrested just after 12 a.m. Monday. He is charged with one count of burglary with a structure or dwelling, and one count of criminal mischief with damage to property.



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