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It’s almost autumn. Can you tell in South Florida?

Editor’s Note: Like fall, this story comes around annually. Parts of it have run previously, but it captures that elusive feeling of Florida fall so well that we thought we’d share it again.

Every year, there’s one day in mid-September when Florida’s fall arrives.

Officially, that day is Thursday at 10:21 a.m., but I noticed it early one morning last week.

Stepping outside at about 6:30, it felt, well, not cool but slightly less oppressive. There was a breeze and the low that morning had dropped to an almost glacial 77.

It felt like hope.

When I left work that evening, it was again tolerable. Pleasant, even. And that’s when I saw fall.

The sky was blue instead of wearing summer white.

The light suddenly looked different because the sun is tracking lower in the sky. A soft golden hue had replaced summer’s kleig-light glare.

It looks like fall because the sun has swung noticeably south of its solstice in the northern latitudes. For a moment, day and night are almost of equal length, before the nights greedily gain on the day.

That’s how you know it’s fall in South Florida. The light changes long before the temperature.

Rejoice. The rest is coming.


We Floridians get defensive about fall in the face of Northern fall aggression.

There are no colorful leaves. No brisk wind blowing chimney smoke around. No need for flannel, or down or wool.

If you want a chill, be prepared to write FPL a bigger check. Tropical waves are still billowing up from the Gulf and the Cape Verde Islands are still birthing alarming low pressure systems. The weekly mowing hasn’t slowed.

By some standards, that’s faux fall.

In Florida, our plants and our weather are boisterously confrontational, but the seasonal changes are milquetoasts.

To see them, you must be attuned to nuance.

Like the light.

When it changes, that’s a Florida fall.

In the weeks to come, we’ll have more dry mornings, with a fresh breeze at dawn before the heat takes over. Quivers of high-flying birds have already begun winging overhead heading thousands of miles to the south, to Central America or the Southern Caribbean, some dropping down to our yards for a night or two.

That’s a Florida fall, too.

One night, we realize we can sit outside and not sweat through our clothes. Not long after that, we realized the pool is too cool for our thin tropical blood.

That too, is a Florida fall.

We search, usually in vain, for summer clothes in darker winter colors. And gaze longingly at boots. That’s the frustrating fashion version of a Florida fall.

But soon boots won’t feel quite so ridiculous.

The median end of the rainy season in South Florida is Oct. 17, according to the National Weather Service.

That’s the big seasonal switch that turns on a Florida fall.

Not yet, but soon.

In the next few weeks, a cold front will likely make its first stab at the peninsula. The first few don’t usually push far enough south to comfort us, but soon.

Weak early fall cold fronts seem to batter against the stubborn steamy heat until one with a little more oomph finally pushes past the Keys.

That’s a Florida fall.


Heat wave in New York makes roaches want to fly

New Yorkers have a lot to deal with: sky-high rent prices, an overcrowded metro system and a heat wave reaching dangerous temperatures. And now? Flying cockroaches.

DNAinfo published a study on Friday that said the heat wave taking over the Upper East Side apparently signals to the city's roach population that it's time to take flight -- and people aren't having it. 

>> Read more trending stories  

Ken Schumann, a researcher at Bell Environmental Services, said, "When it's warm and steamy that seems to be what they like."

The study claims the higher the temperatures, the more the roaches are able to use their muscles. And the more activity they get, the chance of them stopping goes down. That's probably why in humid states, like Texas and Florida, the flying insects are simply a part of life.

Researchers say the ample trash supply in New York has encouraged the roaches to stick to the ground over the years. On the plus side for the bugs, that trash supply can now provide all the energy needed for the pests to infest the air.

But New Yorkers shouldn't worry too much. The roaches can't fly long distances. Instead, Schumann said, "It's almost like they just glide down."

Florida man taking on Rio's water problem by himself

It has been well-documented that the conditions of Rio’s water prior to the Olympics were not ideal. While the country was unable to do anything about it, a Florida man said he's going to try.

Brad Funk, of Fort Lauderdale, is in Rio primarily to support his girlfriend, windsurfer Bryony Shaw from Great Britain. But he's using the rest of his time to try and help clean up the massive heaps of trash, debris and fecal matter polluting the water in the city, the Bradenton Herald reported.

>> Read more trending stories  

"No Olympic medal should be won or lost because of trash in the water," he said. "Rio is my favorite place in the world to sail, and it would be a shame if the regatta was compromised by pollution." 

Funk, who has missed out on making the U.S. Olympic sailing team in three attempts, said he has scooped around 800 pounds of trash out of the water.

"If I helped one person, I’ll be happy that I was useful to the Olympics," he told the Herald. "This is our playground. We all live on a water planet. We’ve got to pitch in and save the environment before it’s too late."

Funk said he spent thousands of his own dollars to hire a fishing boat captain who allows him to fill his boat with garbage bags of trash. "I'd give anything to sail in the Olympics," he said. "I hope people will see how beautiful this bay can be."

An Associated Press report found "disease-causing viral levels 1.7 million times higher than normal" in areas of the bay where Funk is sailing, the Herald added. Olympic officials maintain that it's safe for competition.

Read more at the Bradenton Herald.

Most of the world's largest animals could be extinct by 2100

Video includes clips from World Wildlife Fund, CCTV, BBC, CNN and National Geographic.

A majority of the world's largest animals could be extinct by 2100. 

Researchers say roughly 60 percent of large carnivores and herbivores are currently at risk. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The situation is especially alarming in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

Overhunting and poaching are huge problems, but the growth in the human population and its increased land use are contributors, as well. 

When people eliminate large animals, they also eliminate their positive effects on the ecosystem. 

A team of conservation biologists says the threat can still be reversed. 

But they wrote last week that doing so will take significant social, political and financial commitments around the world. 

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BP puts price on its massive oil spill: $61.6 billion

BP has put a final number on the cost of the 2010 oil spill: $61.6 billion.

>> Read more trending stories

The April 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 BP workers and sent crude oil spewing into the ocean. Over the next 87 days, millions of barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico.

In the years since the disaster, BP has slowly been analyzing the cost of its mistake. 

Last year, the company settled on a $20 billion agreement with state and federal governments to resolve some claims related to economic damages and water pollution issues.

And last month, BP agreed to pay investors $175 million to squash accusations that the company lied about the size of the spill to protect its stock value.

But by far, the number released Thursday is the biggest. BP's chief financial officer said, "We have a clear plan for managing these costs and it provides our investors with certainty going forward."

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Beachgoers warned after creepy looking fish appears in Virginia Beach

Visitors planning to stop at Virginia Beach are being warned to be on the lookout for a decidedly strange looking fish recently spotted near the shoreline.

>> Read more trending stories

Organizers with the East Coast Surfing Championships, or ECSC, shared a photo last week of the fish, a northern stargazer, popping its head up from the sand.

"A friend of ECSC came across this stargazer while walking in Virginia Beach," organizers said in a Facebook post. "They do not pose any real threat to humans, but they sure look menacing."

Check this out. A friend of ECSC came across this Stargazer while walking in Virginia Beach (note: these animals tend to...Posted by East Coast Surfing Championships on Saturday, July 2, 2016

According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, the fish typically makes its home in the deep, open waters of lower Chesapeake Bay. It can grow up to 22 inches in length but typically only grow to between eight and 18 inches.

Northern stargazers eat small fish and crustaceans and hunt by burying themselves in sand, with only their eyes and mouth above ground.

"Watch your step," ECSC organizers wrote on Facebook.

Marathon runner plays dead to end bear attack in Valles Caldera National Preserve

A marathon runner was afraid she would die when she came face to face Saturday with an angry mother bear during a marathon race through New Mexico's Valles Caldera National Preserve, near Los Alamos.

>> Read more trending stories

The woman was taking part in the annual Valles Caldera Runs when she met the bear and her two cubs after cresting a hill in Redondo Meadows. She shared her story in a post on the Runs' Facebook page.

By the time Karen Williams spotted her, the bear was only 15 feet away, Williams wrote. The bear knocked Williams down, raked Williams with her claws and bit her.

"I cried out in pain and mama bear did not like that, so she hit me with a left hook and bit my neck and started to try to shake me," she wrote. "I rolled into a ball and played dead."

She lay in the meadow, afraid to move, as the bear went to a nearby tree and huffed at one of her cubs, who had been scared by Williams and took shelter in the branches of the tree.

>> Related: Must-see: Bear roams Tampa neighborhood, hangs out in tree

"Mama bear kept glancing my way to make sure that I was still 'dead,'" Williams wrote. "I was at that point afraid I might die."

Williams wasn't sure of the extent of her injuries. She waited until the sounds of the bear and her cubs faded into silence before she attempted to look around.

"(I) was having trouble seeing much," she wrote. "I tried to sit up but (I) was nauseated and my arms didn't seem to work right."

She said another runner came upon her about a half-hour after the attack and she was able to get help.

>> Related: Watch: Family panics when bear opens car door near Yellowstone

"There are dozens of other people that helped me and I appreciate them all," she wrote. "Thank you."

She suffered multiple serious injuries, but none of them appeared to be life-threatening. Medics airlifted her to an Albuquerque area hospital for treatment.

"I am alive," Williams wrote. "Unfortunately, the bear is not."

Officials with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish expressed regret Sunday over having to kill the bear, which was tracked by conservation officers and found near the attack site. However, New Mexico law requires that "any wild animal that attacks or bites a human be euthanized and tested for rabies."

>> Related: Woman stalked by wolf for 12 hours, saved by bear

The bear had been part of a study involving wild bears, according to the Department of Game and Fish, and was wearing a GPS collar. The collar helped authorities confirm that the bear that was euthanized was the one responsible for Williams' injuries.

"We are thankful that the injuries sustained by the victim were not worse and are hopeful that she is able to recover quickly," said Alexandra Sandoval, director of the state's Department of Game and Fish.

Conservation officers said they were unable to capture the bear's three cubs on Sunday. Officers said they would continue efforts to catch the young cubs, who they plan to send to the New Mexico Wildlife Center in Espanola for care.

When it comes to insect repellent, natural isn't always better

To prevent mosquito bites and lessen the risk of catching the Zika virus, more than half of Americans plan to purchase an insect repellent this year. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The World Health Organization says the best way to prevent Zika is to not get bitten by mosquitoes infected with the virus, but Consumer Reports said just any insect repellent won't do the trick. 

The most important thing to know from this latest round of testing? Natural isn't always better. 

Consumer Reports looked at six natural repellents -- meaning the active ingredients are derived from plants instead of chemicals -- and found that five of them only protected the wearer against mosquitoes for an hour at the most. 

But one natural repellent, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, was found to give at least seven hours of protection against Aedes mosquitoes, which are known to carry Zika. 

Out of all 16 repellents Consumer Reports tested -- both chemical- and natural-based -- two synthetic products -- Ben’s Tick and Insect Repellent and Sawyer's Premium Picaridin Insect Repellent -- ward off Aedes mosquitoes the longest with just one application. 

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said active ingredients like DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus "typically provide reasonably long-lasting protection."

Health officials do say that while oil of eucalyptus products shouldn't be used on children younger than age 3, all three of the most effective active ingredients can be used by pregnant women. 

Back in April, the CDC released a map showing that mosquitoes known to carry Zika could soon be found across the lower half of the U.S.

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