Orlando's Deadliest Year

Little more than 7 months into the year, there already are 37 murders, the most ever recorded in the city

Police Chief Mike McCoy downplays the problem but poses a 3-point plan.</u>

As cruel as it was, the murder was typical. The shooting of a 50-year-old man took place Tuesday on the west side of town, where many do, was likely drug-related, and left few witnesses willing to talk.

Such crimes often take place with little public notice.               

But Christopher Charles' death has the dubious distinction of being Orlando's 37th murder this year, making 2006 the bloodiest year in the city's history.

In a few cases, the murders were random -- such as the woman who was shot to death during a robbery after stepping off a city bus, or the elderly woman who was stabbed to death in her Delaney Park home by an intruder. But many more were shootings involving drugs or personal disputes.

Killings in Orlando are already up 68 percent from last year's total. The previous record of 36 murders dates to 1982.

City officials say it's unclear what's causing the record-breaking number of murders. On Tuesday, Orlando police Chief Mike McCoy blamed violence among juveniles, even though the median age of victims this year is older than 30.

The bloodshed needs to stop, McCoy said. At this pace, Orlando could have more than 60 murders this year, and could join Newark, N.J., and Detroit as one of the 15 major U.S. cities with the highest murder rates. In 2004, the last year for which data are available, Orlando ranked 97th.

"Everyone is concerned. Everyone wants the same thing," McCoy said. "We just need to agree on how we're going to get there."

McCoy and others have downplayed the problem, saying that visitors to this tourism-dependent town are safe.

On Tuesday, Mayor Buddy Dyer tried to reassure some residents who confronted him at a community meeting in Dover Shores about newly proposed public venues. The murder rate will make people too afraid to come to town to use them, they said.

"We are attacking it with everything that we have," Dyer said.

Police chief's 3-point plan

Still, the deaths have mounted at an unprecedented pace. Charles was found shot to death in his car in a warehouse district west of downtown just one day after 56-year-old Lecene Germain was killed in his home near Rosemont.

Until recently, McCoy acknowledged that he had no firm strategy to combat the problem. On Tuesday, he talked about a three-point plan: boosting law enforcement, increasing community involvement and educating the public.

"It's there, and it's working," he said, but he offered few specifics on the plan, or how it might be working.

McCoy said that he hopes to replicate a news conference hosted last week by state Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, at The Palms apartments that called for community members to brainstorm for ideas to halt crime and join in prayer. About a half-dozen residents attended.

Other cities have taken swifter action in the face of rising death tolls. The police chief in Washington announced a "crime emergency" in July, which helps boost police manpower. In Jacksonville -- which had the state's second-highest murder rate behind Miami -- the Sheriff's Office created a coalition of law enforcement, residents, prosecutors and experts to fight their problem.

There is little consensus on what causes murder rates to skyrocket, but many experts think that cities such as Boston and Chicago have successfully lowered them.

Their programs vary, but the approaches are similar: analyze why the killings take place and coordinate with local, state and federal agencies to address the causes, said David M. Kennedy, director of a crime-prevention program at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. These efforts cost little.

"It's essentially very simple," Kennedy said.

In Orlando, McCoy has consistently stressed that tourists are safe as long as they stay away from areas known for the drug trade.

"The biggest problems are drugs and drug locations," he said.

Striking similarities

But at least half of the victims were killed in incidents unrelated to drugs, police and court records show. Motives for the killings range from domestic strife to robbery. One man was shot and killed over an unpaid basketball bet.

There are striking similarities among the dead: They're overwhelmingly black, male and killed by guns. Blacks make up slightly less than one-half of murder victims across the country. In Orlando, they make up about two-thirds of this year's dead, even though they represent 26.7 percent of the population

Patterns among the killings were striking as well:

More than three-fourths of this year's victims were killed on the city's west side. Eleven were killed in three neighborhoods: Carver Shores, Parramore and West Colonial, a stretch of commercial land.

Among those arrested on suspicion of murder, almost all have criminal records. Almost all live in Central Florida.

The killings have done little to darken the outlook in the city's most popular neighborhoods. None has taken place on International Drive -- the hub of the tourism district -- and visitors still crowd the area. Locals pack downtown's bars and clubs at night.

Those who live in neighborhoods with the highest death tolls are angry.

In the Callahan neighborhood west of downtown, Mervin Nieves, a visitor from Bronx, N.Y., was shot July 7 in front of his wife and 3-year-old boy while they were driving. No motive has been disclosed.

Linda Brown, 48, watched investigators pore through the wreckage of Nieves' car from the stoop of her house. Crime is a constant problem, she said. Brown and her boyfriend, Andrew Powell, 46, said the whole neighborhood needs to be cleaned up, and they can't do that on their own.

City Commissioner Daisy Lynum said she wants to do more. Poverty and other problems lead to crime in her district -- where 20 of this year's murders took place.

"Our environment is not a healthy one. Period," she said.

Henry Betts lost his son Henry Steven Betts II known to his friends as Steve, in March. He and his friend Christopher Yarber were shot at Steve Betts' home in Parramore. Police said they were killed by a childhood friend.

"I am disgusted by how many people -- including police and religious leaders -- haven't said anything about this," Henry Betts said.

More police on beat

Orlando officials have launched some efforts to halt crime but insist they are not in response to the body count.

Dyer plans to beef up the Police Department by 75 officers, two detectives and two new substations during the next three years. Those additional jobs are a response to the city's growth, he said.

The Police Department's Operation Restore, in which officers entered neighborhoods to target crime, yielded 127 arrests during 12 days in May and June. They also sponsored "Kicks for Guns,'' at which 116 guns were turned in -- no questions asked -- in exchange for a free pair of tennis shoes.

By contrast, Washington's "crime emergency" gave city officials the power to require that officers work overtime.

Jacksonville has had one of the state's most dramatic spikes in murders -- the city has tallied 78 so far this year, according to The Florida Times-Union. So the Sheriff's Office there launched Operation Safe Streets -- which uses data and advice from top crime experts to map out a plan.

To take illegal guns off the streets, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is offering a $1,000 bounty for anyone who tips off deputies.

Businesses -- especially those in the black community, which has been hardest hit by murders -- are mobilizing to fund and organize initiatives.

Plus, the Florida Highway Patrol will send 30 troopers this month to help. And Gov. Jeb Bush, at the request of Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, paid $32,000 to fund Operation Road Block North, which brings troopers to the city.

Many of these strategies aren't new, Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said. They have worked in cities such as Boston and Chicago.

"I steal stuff from everywhere I can find it," he said, "so long as it helps Jacksonville."

From the corner where Mervin Nieves was shot to death, an end to the violence seems like a pipe dream, resident Andrew Powell said. There has been too much killing.

Nieves was gunned down five blocks from where a woman was found murdered in her motel room.

Betts and Yarber were murdered 10 blocks south. Another man was shot and killed nearby on New Year's Day.

"This is going to be forgot about," Powell said, pointing to the crumpled car Nieves crashed after he was shot. "He's going to be a number."  




Illustration: PHOTO: The body of 56-year-old Lecene Germain is removed from his Kitty Hawk Avenue home near Orlando's Rosemont neighborhood Monday after he was found fatally wounded, marking the city's 36th murder. Police would not release any details of the crime.


PHOTO: Orlando police Chief Mike McCoy answers questions recently near The Palms apartments, where state Rep. Bruce Antone had a news conference. The Orlando Democrat called for community members to brainstorm for ideas on how to halt crime and to join in prayer. About a half-dozen residents attended.

PHOTO: Dan Huckabee and his wife, Cindy, work Tuesday at Kover Krete, a decorative-concrete firm on Dollins Avenue. A man was shot to death in front of their business Tuesday. `Does it make you more cautious? Absolutely,' Dan Huckabee said.




AGENCY 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006*








* through Aug. 8

SOURCE: Florida Department of Law Enforcement; Sentinel research

NOTE: Includes willful killings that can result in criminal charges. Does not include manslaughter; justifiable, accidental or excusable homicides.



MAP: Murders in Orlando 2006

On Tuesday, Orlando marked its 37th murder of 2006, making this year the deadliest in the city's history. The previous record os 36 murders was set in 1982. Map shows the site of each murder, with some details about the vicitm.


SOURCE: Sentinel research




Orlando on Tuesday recorded its 37th murder of 2006, eclipsing the record for the all-time high number of murders, set in 1982.


Orlando murders

2006: 37


Age of victims

0 - 20: 5

41-50: 5

Older than 50: 6

21-30: 14

31-40: 7


Hispanic: 2

White: 11

Black: 24


Female: 7

Male: 30



Gun 30

Beating 3

Knife 2

Car 2

SOURCES: Sentinel research, Orlando Police Department



Blazes consume dozens of homes. 'By the time we finish one, there's another one on fire'.

Wind-whipped fires charred thousands of acres across Brevard and Volusia counties Monday, leaping from rooftop to rooftop in some neighborhoods, destroying at least 51 homes and injuring at least four firefighters.

The worst of the flames burned in Palm Bay, where desperate residents fought to save their homes with water from garden hoses and swimming pools. Confused students screamed as firefighters evacuated them from a high school. At least 18 blazes forced hundreds of residents from their homes.     

Authorities think an arsonist or group of arsonists set as many as nine fires in that city. Embers sparked the rest.

"It's bad; it's just bad," said Yvonne Martinez, Palm Bay Police Department spokeswoman, as dense smoke surrounded the Bayside High School area on the city's southwest side.

"The wind is causing the fire to jump a half a mile at a time," she said.

Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency as of 4 p.m.

Major fires also burned in North and South Florida, as dry conditions put the entire state on alert.

Weather conditions may give firefighters some relief today. Winds on the coast were expected to slow to 10 to 15 mph, while sea breezes should bring cooler, moist air to the coast, according to a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Still, chances of rainfall are scant for the remainder of the week, leaving the pines and palmettos parched and ready to burn.

On Monday, early-morning humidity and mild temperatures calmed Central Florida's fires. Two in Cocoa Beach were almost completely contained by midday.

But as the day wore on, conditions worsened. Winds gusted to 30 mph and humidity sank. Palm Bay's Bayside High and Westside Elementary schools were evacuated. Nineteen school campuses that serve the city, including Bayside and Palm Bay High, were slated to be closed today.

The fires in Palm Bay erupted within 18 hours Sunday, appearing to form a ring around the city. Most were set close to roadsides.

"Somebody was very busy," said Palm Bay Fire Marshal Mike Couture.

A suspicious vehicle was seen in the area before Sunday's fires, but authorities did not describe it. There is a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the capture of the arsonist.

One Palm Bay firefighter was shocked by an electrical line and taken to a hospital, city officials said. Two other firefighters also were injured, but no details were available Monday night.

As Palm Bay struggled with the flames, more fires burned in nearby Malabar, growing from 2,000 acres to 3,000 Monday, Couture said.

Officers go door to door

The most destructive fires were on the south side of Palm Bay. Officers went door to door asking residents to grab what they could and leave immediately.

If they refused, they were asked to provide names of their next of kin, Martinez said.

As the blazes multiplied, residents equipped themselves to fight the flames on their own.

In southeast Palm Bay, a blizzard of fat embers fell through the sky, lighting fires in the woods between homes.

Orlando Dominguez, spokesman for Brevard County Fire Rescue, said it was one of the places where the fire was moving most aggressively.

"This fire is moving so fast and has such a wide area . . . you would literally have to put a firetruck at every home," Dominguez said.

There weren't enough trucks to go around, so Jennifer Beckert and her husband Jeremy made do by putting a cooler and buckets filled with water into the back of their pickup.

"Here we go again," Jennifer Beckert said.

Monday was the area's second day of flames, and friends and relatives joined with residents to form fire brigades.

Louis Moran, whose son-in-law Chris Warner lives on Whiting Street, said he came to the neighborhood to fight the flames late Monday. They managed to get the family's three children and three dogs to safety.

"What we're trying to do is save as much as we can," Moran said, adding that he has lived in Florida for many years and is used to the brush fires, "but nothing like this."

As the evening approached, flames spread and smoke thickened.

'We lost it!'

Near the intersection of Whiting and Babcock streets, seven men, each wearing T-shirts or bandannas over their mouths and noses, raced through the smoke, trying to save a home.

They failed.

"We lost it! Back off, Junior; it's gone," one of the men shouted. "We lost it."

Despite the difficult conditions, firefighters made progress in Daytona Beach, where fires also erupted Sunday. About 200 firefighters from 13 agencies and public-works personnel battled the Bayberry blaze, which threatened the LPGA and Bayberry Lakes subdivisions on the west side of town. The fire was 55 percent contained as of Monday evening.

The Daytona Beach Fire Department lifted the evacuation order at 8 p.m. for the LPGA subdivision in Daytona Beach, but only residents with identification will be permitted to access LPGA Boulevard in that area. About 590 homes were included in the evacuation order.

A Daytona Beach firefighter was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Although many fires were subdued, residents remained anxious. Near rural Friday Road in Cocoa, neighbors were weary from spending a sleepless night keeping watch over the flames.

Joan Good, 58, a hospice nurse, had perched at her front window of her home for the past 24 hours, keeping an eye on the smoldering woods across the street. Important papers, pajamas, a toothbrush and a bag of dog food for her two canines, Juanita and Meaka, sat in her car, just in case.

"There's nothing you can do," she said. "Water my house down? I've got thousands of trees around. It won't make any difference."      





PHOTO: Fires threaten homes in the Palm Bay and Malabar areas Monday. The fires in Palm Bay had erupted within 18 hours Sunday, ringing the city.


PHOTO: Neighbors use shovels and garden hoses Monday to battle a blaze approaching a home near DeGroodt Road and Florence Street in Palm Bay.





Size: 797 acres

Status: 55% contained as of 8pm Monday.


Size: About 240 acres.

Status: Largely under control, with some flare-ups Monday.


Size: About 6,000 acres in 3 areas as of 9pm Monday.

Status: Burning. More than 50 homes were destroyed. Two schools, Bayside High and Westside Elementary, were evacuated. All schools in Palm Bay , plus Palm Bay High, will be closed today.About 5500 residents were without power in the southeast portion of the city.


Memo: Denise-Marie Balona, Susan Jacobson, Ludmilla Lelis, Sarah Lundy, Bianca Prieto and Gary Taylor of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Willoughby Mariano can be reached at 407-420-5171 or wmariano@orlandosentinel.com.    


Death In The Fog

4 dead, 38 injured in string of pileups

On a rural stretch of Interstate 4 in Polk County, a man cried out, seeking help for his injured wife. Another begged to be pulled from his car. One shouted that he was on fire.

Other stunned survivors emerged from the wreckage into dense fog, flames and darkness, surrounded by the screams of people they could not see.        

"Is this really happening? Is this really going on, or is it a bad dream?" wondered Eduardo Donoso, 55, of St. Petersburg.

Morning commuters, truckers and others were all caught Wednesday in a nightmare: a series of pileups that involved 70 vehicles and spanned two miles of highway between Orlando and Lakeland. Four were killed and 38 injured, five critically.

Many questions remain in the wake of the tragedy, including precisely what caused it and whether anything could have been done to prevent it.

FHP Maj. Ernie Duarte, the agency's chief spokesman in Tallahassee, contended the pileups were simply the result of bad weather and unsafe driving.

"We can't control the weather, but we can control our accelerator," he said. "These people didn't slow down."

But weather officials had predicted that fog would descend on the area early Wednesday, and state Division of Forestry officials had warned Tuesday night that smoke from a prescribed burn that got out of control might impair visibility. First reports of the crashes began coming in about 4:30 a.m. For the next couple of hours, one crash after the next -- 10 in all -- was called in to authorities.

The trail of twisted metal, burnt-out tractor-trailers and injured included one crash involving 43 vehicles. Two vehicles that crashed were U.S. Postal Service trucks carrying mail.

As the pileups continued, confused drivers and passengers exited their cars and walked onto I-4 -- where they were even more vulnerable to injury.

One victim was Disney worker

Darren Scott Snyder was on his way to work at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom when he got caught in a pileup and died, said his father-in-law, Don Ussery.

Snyder, a 35-year-old newlywed, worked with engineering services on the maintenance team, Disney officials confirmed late Wednesday. Family members said he was supposed to report to work at 6 a.m.


It took the family hours to get answers. Mary Ussery, Snyder's mother-in-law, said she and her daughter thought they saw Snyder's mangled red Ford Mustang under a truck in a TV newscast.

As darkness fell, Snyder's brother drove to the scene, where troopers told him that Snyder likely died in the crash.

"His body was burned beyond recognition, and [FHP] never gave him [Snyder's brother] definite word, but we knew it was him," Mary Ussery said through tears. "No one has to tell you those things."

As of Wednesday night, authorities had not officially identified Snyder or any of the other fatalities.

Those who survived said that within moments, light fog on I-4 turned into impenetrable haze.

"All of a sudden it was like a wall of smoke and fog," said electronic technician Robert Barnes, 58, of Lakeland, who was commuting to Longwood. He didn't see a small truck in front of him until he hit it. Something else hit him from the side.

"I heard what sounded like explosions in front of me. I could not see lights. I could not see flames," Barnes said. He grabbed his briefcase, cell phone and jacket and fled the road.

Donoso, the St. Petersburg man, awoke just as the Ford Taurus he was in began to crash.

"I heard another boom and another one and another one. I looked back -- there was this trailer that was practically bent halfway," Donoso said. "And that was what kept us from being hit from behind."

The smell of diesel fuel and smoke filled the air. The fog was so thick that lights from rescue vehicles were invisible, said Max Sons, 64, of Polk City, who lives less than a mile from the crash site and rushed to a highway overpass when he heard explosions. Sons didn't hear the typical sounds of a car crash.

"You didn't hear tires screeching. It was just crunch, crunch, crunch," Sons said.

Deputy Sheriff Jack "Carlton" Turner III, 26, was first on the scene, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. Turner's car was struck as he responded but, injured, Turner worked to pull victims from the wreckage and tried to clear the scene.

"He said, 'I could still hear metal grinding as cars went into each other,' " Judd said at an afternoon news conference, adding that Turner said, " 'I did all that I could, but I watched a man burn to death today.' "

Smashed vehicles numbered

As emergency responders descended on the scene, they faced more than a traffic disaster.

Their already difficult jobs were made more untenable by the thick fog mingled with smoke -- not just from the brush fire, but from the many vehicle fires that were raging.

There were so many vehicles involved that law enforcement and rescue workers had to number them with orange spray paint, much as they marked houses in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Barnes said his 1999 Subaru station wagon was No. 27 in the largest of the 10 pileups. His first thought was to get out of his car to avoid getting hit again. He couldn't see in front of him but used a flashlight on his key chain to find a way out.

As the sun rose, officials and other got the first look at the tangle of crushed tractor-trailers and crash victims. It was hours after the initial crash that the fog lifted enough to allow helicopters in the air to survey the area.

It took so long to work the crash scene that deputies loaned cell phones to stranded victims so they could call loved ones.

One Polk deputy handed his cell phone to a severely injured man trapped in his car under a truck. The man was able to call his wife as crews worked to free him, Judd said. A Sheriff's Office chaplain and victim advocate arrived to work with family members and victims.

Uninjured motorists were taken to a sheriff's district station and given food and drinks while being interviewed.

The last victim, who did not survive, was found about 4 p.m.

Multiple hospitals opened their emergency rooms to casualties Wednesday morning as the 38 injured were transported to various facilities from Tampa to Orlando.

Three were airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center, but their identities and conditions were not available Wednesday night.

Eight patients, most with "fairly serious" injuries -- two in critical condition -- were brought to Lakeland Regional Medical Center's trauma unit, which serves Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties. Fourteen less-seriously hurt patients were taken to nearby Winter Haven Hospital, and four to Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center in Davenport. Two seriously injured people were airlifted to Tampa General Hospital.

Polk County Emergency Medical Services Director Harvey Craven said that in 35 years, he had never seen an accident of that magnitude.

"To tell you the truth, it was absolutely horrific."  




Illustration: PHOTO: Fog and smoke hang over the scene Wednesday of multiple crashes involving 70 vehicles that closed part of I-4 in Polk County. First reports of the crashes came in about 4:30 a.m.


PHOTO: Traffic backs up Wednesday east of Clermont on S.R. 50, an alternate route after part of I-4 was closed.



PHOTO: Emergency vehicles, law enforcement and others work at the scene Wednesday of a 70-vehicle chain-reaction collision that forced the closure of about 14 miles of Interstate 4 in Polk County.



PHOTO: Wreckage smolders Wednesday at the scene of a pileup where 70 vehicles collided near an I-4 rest stop close to Polk City.




(map of I-4 in Polk County)



MAP: (alternate routes to I-4 in crash area)









As the crash investigation continues and road repairs begin, the commute on or around Interstate 4 in Polk County could turn into a tangled mess. Authorities were unsure when the affected stretch of I-4 would reopen.

Motorists who need to head that way should be aware that there will bee a lot of confused drivers out there today. Give yourself plenty of time to get through the crowded alternate routes, and remember: Any ligering smoke or fog will only make things worse.

-Two ways to avoid the affected portion of I-4 include taking U.S. Highway 27 or State Road 33 to head north or south.

-If driving from the southern part of Orlando, ou can try U.S. 17-92, which will take you to Lakeland, where you get to I-4.

In addition, the Polk County Sheriff's Office and Florida Highway Patrol offer the following suggestions as alternatives: -If coming from northern Orange County and heading west, use S.R. 50.

-If driving in central Polk, use U.S. 17-92 and be aware that the road will be packed.

-If driving in the southern part of Polk, use S.R. 60.


BOX: "You could hear the metal. And unlike in other crashes, you didn't hear tires screeching. It was just crunch, crunch, crunch."


'I heard things starting to explode over there. Somebody said they were on fire, and I tried to get as far off the road as I could."

Robert Barnes of Lakeland, who was going to workin Longwood at 5:30a.m.. hit dense fog and ended up in the I-4 pileups.

"He discovered that there was a great amount of fire. And he witnessed that. And it was difficult on him. But he did what he was trained to do. And we're really proud of him."

-Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd referring to Deputy Carlton Turner, the first law-enforcement officer on the scene, whose car was demolished by the crash.

"Who gave permission to burn a fire when they knew it was going to be foggy? That's what you need to be asking...Don't blame it on God; blame it on man."

-Gayle Brazzell of Auburndale, standing outside Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where eight crash victims were taken.

"We're not at liberty to say exactly that smoke caused this accident. I'm real reluctant...to say it was smoke-related."

-Gary Zipperer, a district manager at the Division of Forestry which OK'd the initial 10-acre burn.



Here are some other recent deadly crashes in Florida blamed on smoke and fog:

1. March 13, 2007: 5 killed, 3 injured during 11-vehicle pileup on Florida's Turnpike in Osceola County near Kenansville.

2. May 7, 2006: 2 killed and 2 injured during 5-vehicle crash on I-95 in Brevard County near Port St. John.

3. May 28, 2001: 1 killed, 14 injured in 20-vehicle pileup on I-4 in Polk County near Haines City.

4. June 2, 2000: 1 killed, 12 injured druing 14-vehicle pileup on I-95 in Brevard County near S.R. 520.

5. March 8, 2000: 3 killed, 21 injured during 22-vehicle pileup on I-10 near Lake City.



Radiation fog forms from the cooling of land after sunset by thermal radiation in calm conditions with clear sky; cool ground produces condensation in the air by heat conduction.



The fire that began as a prescribed burn in Polk near the crash scene is still burning, though nearly contained. The National Weather Service issued an advisory late Wednesday warning that the same conditions -- dense fog and smoke -- that were in the area before the crash are expected to return this morning.

The weather service reported that calm winds and a strong inversion layer will not allow the smoke to disperse as it does during daylight. Smoke is also ideal condensation nuclei for dense fog to form.

Visibility near the crash site is expected to be near zero at 3 a.m. today and is not expected to improve until temperatures climb and the incersion breaks about 10 a.m., allowing fog to life and smoke to disperse.

If driving is necessary in smoke or fog, please use the following tips.

- Slow down before you enter smoke. Be sure that you can stop within the distance that you can see. Smoke creates a visual illusion of slow motion when you may actually be speeding.

- Watch out for slow-moving and parked vehicles. Listen for traffic you cannot see.

- Be patient. Avoid passing and changing lanes.

-Reduce distractions. Turn off the radio and cell phone.

- Use the road's right edge or painted road markers as a guide.

- Use wipers and defrosters liberally for maximum visibility. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether poor visibility is because of smoke or moisture on the windshield, especially in the morning hours.

- Signal turns well in advance, and brake early as you approach a stop.

- Drive with lights on low beam. High beams will reflect back off the smoke and impair visibility more.

- Roll up your windows. Use your air conditioner on the recirculation mode to avoid outside air.

- Do not stop on a freeway or heavily traveled road. You could become the first link in a chain-reaction collision. If you must pull off the road, signal and then carefully pull off as far as possible.

- After pulling off the road, turn on your hazard flashers. Never drive with your flashers on.

--SOURCE: Florida Highway Patrol



Visibility, in miles, as reported at Gilbert Airport:

1 a.m.


2 a.m.


3 a.m.


4 a.m.


5 a.m.


6 a.m.


7 a.m.


8 a.m.


9 a.m.


10 a.m.


SOURCES: National Weather Service, Sentinel Research, McClatchy Tribune



Memo: George Skene, Kumari Kelly, Bianca Prieto, Sarah Lundy, Walter Pacheco, April Hunt and Jim Leusner of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Willoughby Mariano can be reached at 407-420-5171 or wmariano@orlandosentinel.com.Amy L. Edwards can be reached or 407-931-5944.


Daphne Sashin can be reached at 407-931-5944 or dsashin@orlandosentinel.com.

Fog, smoke likely again this morning. A12

How smoke can create and worsen fog. A12

Ways you can bypass I-4 road closures. A13

For complete illustrations, including maps and charts, see printed copy.

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Tag: 0801100003