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Royal Caribbean cancels cruise, uses ship for Puerto Rico hurricane relief

Cruise line Royal Caribbean has sent one of its ships to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

>> Jennifer Lopez donating $1M to aid hurricane relief in Puerto Rico

According to CNN, the company canceled an upcoming Adventure of the Seas cruise so the ship, which holds 3,800 people, could pick up evacuees and bring supplies to Puerto Rico. The cruise ship also will travel to St. Croix and St. Thomas.

>> How to help Hurricane Maria victims: Where to donate, how to volunteer and more

Royal Caribbean tweeted about the ship's arrival in storm-ravaged San Juan on Wednesday.

>> Read more trending news

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

"Adventure of the Seas arrived in San Juan to drop off supplies and pick up evacuees. Next up: St. Thomas & St. Croix," read the tweet, which included photos.

>> See the tweet here

Read more here.

Delta to launch free in-flight messaging

The days of being out of contact during a flight are coming to an end.

>> Read more trending news 

Delta Air Lines officials said the airline will offer free in-flight mobile messaging via iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp starting Oct. 1.

On Delta’s planes equipped with in-flight Wi-Fi, passengers will be able to exchange real-time messages with those on the ground via Delta’s Wi-Fi portal web page, according to the airline officials.

The in-flight messaging will not enable the exchange of photos or video files, however. And some of Delta’s smaller regional jets don’t have Wi-Fi capability that would enable the messaging.

“We know many of Delta’s customers want or need to stay connected in the air and on the ground, which is why we’re investing in an easy, free way to send and receive messages inflight through some of the most popular global platforms,” Tim Mapes, Delta’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a news release. “Coupled with our investments in seat-back screens, free entertainment and high-speed Wi-Fi, free messaging is one more way customers can choose how to make the most of their time on Delta flights.”Read more at Delta.

The best US cities to avoid effects of climate change, according to report

Weeks after parts of Texas, Florida, Georgia, many of the Atlantic islands and other regions were ravaged by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, in the wake of Hurricanes Jose and Katia and in the midst of Hurricane Maria, climate change has gained steam again in continued conversations about global warming and humans’ interactions with the earth.

>> Read more trending news 

Included in those discussions are worries that parts of Florida are in danger as sea levels rise.

A new report by Business Insider lists 13 American cities that are “the best U.S. cities to live in to escape the worst effects of climate change.”

“The bottom line is, it’s going to be bad everywhere," Bruce Riordan, the director of the Climate Readiness Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, told Business Insider.

But “there are places that might at least temper the effects of climate change,” according to Vivek Shandas, an urban-planning professor at Portland State University.

Shandas and a group of researchers looked at a variety of factors, including policy and politics, community organization and infrastructure, to determine the cities safest from the dangerous effects of climate change over the next 50 years.

According to the report, the Pacific Northwest is the best U.S. region to live to escape the negative effects of climate change, according to Shandas, who said that “their infrastructure tends to be newer and more resilient to major shocks” like heat and rising water.

Austin, Texas, about 160 miles from Houston, which was hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, is also among the top 13 cities -- in part because of durable infrastructure as well as plans to combat carbon dioxide levels and offset emissions.

“We often write off the South as somewhere that’s going get hammered by heat waves and hurricanes, but there are some really interesting places like Austin,” Shandas told Business Insider.

Here’s the full list in no particular order: 

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Austin, Texas
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Francisco, California
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Salt Lake City, Utah

Read more at Business Insider.

Passengers upset after flight minutes from landing returns to departure airport

Passengers on a late night flight to Santa Fe Tuesday were confused when the plane, just minutes from landing, instead returned to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

Passengers and those waiting at the airport for loved ones to arrive told KRQE that it was a clear, calm night. After the flight's captain told passengers they were returning to DFW but didn't give a clear reason why, passenger Leighann Gagnon said other staff told her it was because there was no one in the control tower at Santa Fe's Municipal Airport.

>> Read more trending news

While the airport's control tower is unstaffed from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., flights can still land, and do so on a regular basis, KRQE reported.

American Airlines and airport staff clarified to KRQE that it was due to a technical malfunction at the National Weather Service, which could not provide a wind speed reading to the pilot. A wind speed reading is require by law in order to land, KRQE reported. 

Passengers were miffed that American Airlines didn't land in Albuquerque, but American officials said they don't operate out of Sunport International Airport, so that's why the flight returned to DFW.

When passengers arrived back at DFW at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday, everything was closed and passengers were not offered a voucher for a hotel or a meal, KRQE reported. Passengers couldn't access their luggage because airport staff were not available. American Airlines officials said since it was not at fault, it could not issue vouchers per company policy.

Passengers took off for Santa Fe at 7 a.m. Wednesday. This time, the flight landed successfully at Santa Fe's Municipal Airport.

Florida Keys hotel in Netflix series ‘Bloodline’ closed in wake of Irma

The Islamorada hotel featured in the Netflix series ‘Bloodline’ is closed indefinitely in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

>> Read more trending news 

Last year, Palm Beach Daily News travel writer Cheryl Blackerby  wrote a piece about her trip to Islamorada and how the Moorings Village and Spa and other Florida Keys locations became stars of the show.

‘Bloodline’ ended earlier this year but is still available on Netflix. Meanwhile, Islamorada and the Keys are trying to recover after being decimated by Irma. As a result, the Moorings announced last week on its website it would not accept reservations for the rest of 2017.

On Sept. 11, the Moorings also posted on its Facebook page: “The security, well-being and safety of our guests and staff is always the highest priority in all emergency situations. Due to the mandatory evacuation of the Florida Keys and ramifications of Hurricane Irma, The Moorings is currently closed and not accepting reservations for the remainder of 2017. Once the storm passes and we can return to the property and assess damage, we will make a decision regarding re-opening. We appreciate your understanding and ask for your patience during this time. Our thoughts remain with all of those affected by the storm.”

Read more at Palm Beach Daily News.

>> PHOTOS: Netflix ‘Bloodline’ series and real life collide in Islamorada

>> PHOTOS: Paradise destroyed in Florida Keys

Hurricane Maria: Airlines cap fares for flights out of affected cities

Update 1:30 p.m. Sept. 19: American Airlines and United Airlines announced that they are capping some of their fares as Hurricane Maria churns over the Caribbean.

>> Read more trending news

American Airlines said it will cap until Sept. 24 one-way, nonstop fares from airports in Antigua, Haiti, the Turks and Caicos islands, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Kitts and Nevis. Fares for travel in the airline’s main cabin will be capped at $99, while premium cabin fares will be capped at $199.

United Airlines officials said the company is adding additional seats for its flights leaving Puerto Rico. The airline capped its nonstop flights in economy class at $384.

>> Hurricane Jose and Hurricane Maria: Live updates

The announcements came in response to a letter sent to nearly a dozen airliners from Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, requesting that the airlines cap fees for people fleeing from Maria.

“Individuals and families should not be forced to delay or cancel their evacuation efforts because of confusion over the cost of airfare,” Nelson said.

Original report: Delta Air Lines said it is capping main cabin one-way fares at $199 for flights out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Punta Cana, Santo Domingo and Santiago in the Dominican Republic as Hurricane Maria approaches.

Atlanta-based Delta is also adding two extra flights from San Juan to Atlanta for those who want to get out of the hurricane’s path.

>> More hurricane coverage from WFTVAction News Jax and the Palm Beach Post

Delta is waiving change fees for travelers with flights booked to, from or through San Juan, Punta Cana, Santo Domingo and Santiago from Sept. 19-26.

Southwest Airlines is canceling its flights scheduled to and from San Juan for Tuesday after 6 p.m. and Wednesday, and to and from Punta Cana on Wednesday.

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Florida to resume charging tolls after being suspended for Hurricane Irma

UPDATE - Sept. 19: 

Florida authorities said the state will resume charging tolls on its turnpike and other roads and bridges at 12:01 a.m. Thursday after they were suspended during Hurricane Irma.

Original story:

More than a week after Hurricane Irma hit parts of Florida, the state’s tolls are still suspended while cities rebuild and residents return to their homes and repair damages to property, some with the help of friends and family members traveling into the state.

>> Read more trending news 

Others have traveled to the state to volunteer with repair efforts.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott suspended tolls after ordering Floridians to evacuate ahead of the hurricane. Millions of people fled the state. 

Scott wrote on Twitter Monday that tolls would remain suspended as residents and officials “focus on recovery efforts.”

It’s unclear when toll fees will be reinstated, but Scott said he would keep people updated. 

9 great spots to see fall foliage close to Atlanta

Every year, Georgia’s leaves turn dramatic shades of yellow, burnt orange, deep magenta, even crimson.

It’s that time of year.

“When will the leaves change?” is the question park rangers hear most often once cooler temperatures arrive.

Typically, Georgia’s mountain parks peak in hues in late October; however, color can be seen as early as September and throughout much of November.

To help leaf peepers find the best scenery, Georgia’s State Parks offers an online “Leaf Watch” travel planner, found at www.GeorgiaStateParks.org/leafwatch.

Leafwatch will track bursts of color throughout the state, focusing on 13 state parks. The site offers weekly color updates from park rangers, recommendations for day hiking trips, calendar listings and availability for lodging for last-minute getaways. On the website you can even learn why leaves change color. (It has to do with chemical processes in the plant as the weather cools and season changes.)

Whether traveling to the Appalachian Mountains for hiking or heading south for paddling, Leaf Watch will keep an eye on the changing foliage. Some of the most popular parks for leaf watching include Black Rock Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, Fort Mountain, Tallulah Gorge, Unicoi and Vogel. Since mountain parks are heavily visited on October weekends, leaf peepers are urged to explore lesser-known parks including F.D. Roosevelt State Park near Columbus, where vibrant hardwoods and mossy rock gardens shimmer in fall colors.

Kim Hatcher, a spokeswoman for Georgia State Parks, said she’s noticed some dogwoods close to Atlanta already starting to turn. Hatcher said as long as days remain warm and sunny and nights cool — but not freezing — Georgia should see vibrant color again this fall.

And while you may see bits of color in metro Atlanta, you won’t have to travel far to see dynamic fall colors. Panola Mountain State Park in Stockbridge and Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs are about a 30-minute drive from Atlanta. And several parks, including Amicalola Falls, Chattahoochee Bend and Unicoi are about a two-hour drive.

RELATED: 26 ways to kick fall up a notch at Georgia's state parks

Here is a look at some top picks for fall color that include several Georgia state parks, a scenic view of the foliage by train, and a a spot in North Carolina. (Note: All of these state parks offer free admission. Parking is $5 per vehicle.) 

Black Rock Mountain State Park – Clayton

At an altitude of 3,640 feet, Black Rock Mountain is Georgia’s highest state park. (Brasstown Bald is the state’s highest peak.) Roadside overlooks and the summit visitor center offer sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 2.2-mile Tennessee Rock Trail is a good choice for a short, moderate hike. For an all-day challenge, take the 7.2-mile James E. Edmonds Backcountry Trail. If driving U.S. 441 north to the park, stop by Tallulah Gorge State Park and quirky Goats on the Roof.

Cloudland Canyon State Park – Near Chattanooga, Tenn.

One of Georgia’s most beautiful parks offers easy-to-reach rim overlooks and challenging hiking trails. A favorite hike takes you down a long, steep staircase to the bottom of the canyon, where you’ll find two waterfalls. (Remember, you have to hike back up, but it’s worth it.) The 5-mile West Rim Loop is moderately difficult and offers great views of the canyon. “Glamping” yurts are located off this trail.

http://gastateparks.org/CloudlandCanyon

F.D. Roosevelt State Park – Pine Mountain

Many people are surprised to find hardwood forests and rolling mountains south of Atlanta. The 6.7-mile Wolf Den Loop is a favorite section of the longer Pine Mountain Trail. For a touch of history, drive to Dowdell’s Knob to see a life-size bronze sculpture of President F.D. Roosevelt and great views of the forested valley. Ga. 190 is a pretty driving route.

http://www.pinemountain.org/attractions/fdr-state-park  

Blue Ridge Scenic Railway

There is no better way to see the leaves changing than the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, which makes a 26-mile round trip winding along the Toccoa River in vintage climate-controlled and open-air rail cars. The relaxing ride starts at the historic depot in downtown Blue Ridge; then stops for a two-hour layover in the quaint sister towns of McCaysville, Ga., and Copperhill, Tenn.

11 a.m. Monday - Thursday; 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets: $35-$54, first-class tickets start at $80 (for passengers 18 and over and include premium seating, nonalcoholic drinks and snacks).

Blowing Rock, N.C.

Known as the “Crown of the Blue Ridge,” the town of Blowing Rock offers gorgeous, sweeping vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This area is full of attractions and overlooks. Bass Lake and the miles of carriage trails at Cone Park are only a half-mile from Main Street. Even along Blowing Rock’s picturesque Main Street, you can find almost daily events and activities during fall. About 4 1/2 hours from Atlanta.

For a full listing of events, go to blowingrock.com/events. For hiking trails: https://blowingrock.com/hiking-trails/     

Red Top Mountain State Park – Lake Allatoona

Just 40 minutes north of Atlanta you’ll find a variety of trails with nice fall color. The easy, flat 4-mile Iron Hill Loop is open to bikes and foot traffic, offering great views of the lake and forest. Another good choice for lake views is the 5.5-mile Homestead Trail. Families with young children will like the paved walking path behind the park office. Be sure to explore the log cabin and blacksmith shed.

http://gastateparks.org/RedTopMountain 

Sweetwater Creek State Park – Lithia SpringsJust west of Atlanta you’ll find 9 miles of hiking trails, a beautiful creek and small lake. For an easy walk, take the popular 1-mile Red Trail, which follows the creek to the ruins of an old mill. For more of a workout, continue past the mill to the Blue Trail, where you’ll climb steep bluffs for outstanding creek views. Or take a paddling tour, exploring the perimeter of George H. Sparks Reservoir, then loop around to the north banks to land near a picnic area for a post-paddle meal. Another way to enjoy the myriad of oranges, reds and golds in the crisp autumn air is to stay in a yurt. A yurt village at Sweetwater opened a couple years ago.

http://www.gastateparks.org/SweetwaterCreek  

Unicoi State Park — Helen

Avoid Oktoberfest crowds in Helen by hiking a pretty 3-mile trail that leads from the park into town. You can enjoy lunch and window shopping before hiking back to the trailhead. Mountain bikers can zip past fall color on the park’s challenging 7.5-mile bike loop. If you’re up for a steep hike, take the 4.8-mile Smith Creek Trail up to Anna Ruby Falls. (To avoid having to hike back, leave a second car at the falls.)

 http://gastateparks.org/Unicoi    

Fort Mountain State Park - Chatsworth

This park is best known for a mysterious rock wall along the mountaintop, plus a variety of trails. For the easiest walk, take the 1.2-mile loop around the park’s pretty green lake. For a challenging, all-day hike, choose the 8-mile Gahuti Trail. Mountain bikers have more than 14 miles to explore. Ga. 52 has beautiful mountain scenery and overlooks worth stopping for.

http://www.gastateparks.org/FortMountain  

Woman claims sexual assault on red-eye flight to Charlotte

A 33-year-old woman was flying a red-eye flight from San Diego to Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday when a stranger took the seat next to her younger sister.

>> Read more trending news 

She said they were instantly nervous when he first spoke to them.

"He said, 'I get to sit next to the two most beautiful women on the plane,' and we were concerned," the woman, who did not want to be identified, told WSOC-TV.

The direct flight was more than four hours long, leaving late Monday from San Diego and arriving early Tuesday morning in Charlotte.

As the American Airlines flight was just taking off, the victim told WSOC the man leaned over.

"He actually reached over, over the top of the armrest that was separating he and I, and just basically rubbed down my entire thigh," she said.

She said one of his fingers briefly got caught in a hole in her jeans.

Her sister, seated in the window seat, told her to call the flight attendant. Instead, she wanted to handle it quietly.

"I hit his arm away from me, and just you know, made it very clear, do not touch me," she said.

The man mumbled something and she moved as close to her sister as possible, then later, fell asleep.

Earlier, she had noticed the smell of alcohol on the man's breath, but didn't think he was acting drunk.

She was jolted awake about an hour into the flight.

"I woke up to him completely on top of my left side. He had his arms on me and I was hitting him," she said.

She pressed the button for the flight attendant, who took the man to the front of the plane. She didn't see him again until they landed in Charlotte, and police were talking to him at the gate.

"The bruises came up the next morning, and I didn't know those were there, from kind of fighting him off of me," she said.

WSOC reached out to American Airlines Thursday, but did not receive a response.

The district attorney in San Diego said the office is not involved in the investigation.

>> Related: Delta will now pay passengers up to $9,950 to give up seats

It's not clear if the suspect has been identified. A report was filed with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, but the department told WSOC there were no arrests.

>> Related: Woman claims Delta paid her $4,000 to give up seat on overbooked flight

Woman claims Delta paid her $4,000 to give up seat on overbooked flight

How much money is a single football game worth to you?

For a plane full of University of Georgia fans heading to South Bend, Indiana, to watch their team play Notre Dame last weekend, that number is pretty high.

>> Read more trending news

WSB-TV sports director Zach Klein was on a full Delta Air Lines flight Friday morning leaving from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The plane was overbooked and when the crew realized it was overbooked, they started offering money for someone to give up their seat.

“Offers started at $2,200. Then it was $2,800. Later it got to $3,000,” Klein said.

Tracy Jarvis Smith eventually took the offer when the crew bumped the amount to $4,000.

“$4,000 was my magic number,” Smith later tweeted.

According to Klein, Smith was bumped for a 7 p.m. flight that day.

“Not one fan wanted to get in late,” Klein said.

Klein posted a photo with the Georgia fan who took Smith’s seat.

Smith also tweeted later that day. She said she got in about eight hours later than she had planned, making it worth the money.

The Georgia Bulldogs went on to beat the Fighting Irish 20-19.

>> Related: Delta will now pay passengers up to $9,950 to give up seats

 

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