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Could flood-ravaged Houston become jackpot spot for HGTV?

The thousands of flood-damaged homes across southeast Texas could bring a boom to at least one Lone Star industry.

>> Read more trending news 

Some real estate investors are counseling buyers to purchase homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey, pay for the repairs and then resell them, according to Reuters.

These property “flippers,” as they’re known in the industry, expect to take advantage of a tight housing market, especially in Houston, to reap a potentially substantial profit, Reuters reported.

Ray Sasser, a real estate investor and advisor, followed a similar plan advisors are currently reemploying to attract the home front venturers when Tropical Storm Allison struck Houston in 2001.

He bought several homes -- some for as low as 30 percent of their market value -- selling many of them a year later at full market price.

RELATED: Houston suburb tops best value neighborhoods list

At a recent Houston real estate seminar, Sasser revealed his plan to purchase 50 flooded homes for pennies on the dollar, invest 15 to 20 percent for repairs, aiming to then turn them back onto the market in a short time.

With an estimated 268,000 homes suffering some damage due to the floods, what was a tragedy for a significant number of Houstonian homeowners may be a lucrative opportunity for eager flippers.

Many homeowners may consider walking away from their damaged homes with whatever cash they can get, so flippers can buy properties at near-record-low levels.

Meanwhile, the tight nationwide housing market, combined with Houston’s diverse economy and growing population, are creating ideal conditions for flippers to find buyers.

As new homes go up on the old sites, flippers may also be looking at quick sales for prices at or near full market value.

RELATED: Some Houston neighborhoods better for investment return than others

For homeowners looking to sell their damaged homes, the Better Business Bureau posted some advice on how to avoid scams on its website, including the following:

  • Checking if the company has a local office
  • Meeting in person at the buyer’s office to learn about their processes
  • Avoiding paying any “application fees” or “processing fees”
  • Contacting the buyer’s lender to see if they have the funds to complete the purchase
  • Examining the contract to ensure that the seller is no longer obligated to make mortgage payments

Read more at Reuters.

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.

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

On Sunday, singer Jennifer Lopez appeared alongside New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a press conference to announce that she will be donating $1 million from the proceeds of her Las Vegas show to aid hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. Lopez, 48, spoke first in Spanish and then in English in a speech that was live-streamed on Twitter.

>> Read more trending news

“Alex Rodriguez and I, who are both New Yorkers, are utilizing all of our resources and relationships in entertainment, sports and business to garner support for Puerto Rican and Caribbean relief efforts,” Lopez said.

>> On Rare.us: Alex Rodriguez bashfully addresses Jennifer Lopez engagement rumors

“I’ve been so moved by the initial responses … They have been overwhelming,” she said. “Nobody has said no. Anybody we’ve have called is right there asking what they can do. They’re all very eager to help.”

Lopez also confirmed that she still hasn’t heard from all of her family members in Puerto Rico. “My cousin and I and our family still haven’t been able to hear from all of our family over there, and we are concerned for them and for everybody on the island,” she said.

>> Watch the video here

Mexico earthquake: 'Frida Sofia,' girl supposedly trapped in rubble, never existed, officials say

As rescue workers tirelessly searched and the world waited breathlessly for them to find a 12-year-old girl believed to be trapped under the rubble of a caved-in school toppled by the devastating earthquake in Mexico City, it became apparent that the little girl never existed, Mexican officials said.

>> PHOTOS: Major earthquake strikes Mexico City

According to the New York Post, the girl, called “Frida Sofia,” was a case of a story that ran wild in the frantic aftermath of the disaster.

>> How you can help Mexico and people affected by the Mexico earthquake

“We are certain that it was not an actuality,” Adm. Angel Enrique Sarmiento, assistant secretary of the Mexican navy, told local paper El Universal. “We don’t have any knowledge, we never had any knowledge of the account.”

>> Frida, the hero rescue dog, saves 12 following Mexico earthquake

In the face of unimaginable destruction and hundreds killed, the story took on a life of its own as a symbol of much-needed help. A report first surfaced Wednesday that a little girl had signaled to rescuers from under the rubble of the Enrique Rebsámen school.

>> On Rare.us: A family is devastated after this baptism turned tragic during the Mexican earthquake

From that report came a series of details that included the girl’s name and age, and even reports of communication with the girl. Rescuers said they managed to slide a hose to her for her to drink, and other workers told MSNBC that they handed the little girl a phone and that she reported two other children were trapped with her under a granite table.

>> On Rare.us: Salma Hayek generously pledges $100,000 to Mexican earthquake victims

However, no parents came to claim the girl, which led some to believe she was misidentified. And, then Thursday, Sarmiento announced that after 11 children had been rescued, and 19 other children, plus six adults found dead, there were no other children beneath the collapsed school.

>> Read more trending news

“We have carried out a full count with the directors of the school, and we are sure that all the children are either safe at home, in the hospital or, unfortunately, died,” Sarmiento said.

Autumn Equinox: 5 things to know about the first day of fall

Today is the first day of the fall season, as the autumnal equinox signals the beginning of astronomical fall. This year, that happens across North America on Friday afternoon. So as the weather begins to cool across the country, here are some things to know about that season when the leaves change color and the temperature begins to drop.

>> Read more trending news 

What exactly is an equinox?Twice a year, either on March 20 or 21 and Sept. 22 or 23, the sun’s rays shine directly over the earth’s equator. March is known as the vernal equinox, or spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. September is known as the autumnal equinox.

What occurs during the autumnal equinox?During the autumnal equinox, day and night are balanced to about 12 hours each all over the world. Earth’s axis of rotation is perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the Earth and the sun.

What is the definition of equinox?The word equinox was formed by two Latin words: "Equi" is the Latin prefix for "equal" and "nox" is the Latin word for "night."

Fall back: When does daylight saving time end?This year, daylight saving time began on March 12. It will end on Sunday, Nov. 5.

What time is the official start of fall season?It depends on where you live, of course. Autumn officially arrives at 4:02 Eastern Daylight Time. Central Daylight Time is at 3:02 p.m., followed by Mountain Daylight Time (2:02) and Pacific Daylight Time (1:02).For everywhere else around the world, convert your time here.

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 Friday, Sept. 22, 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.

 

Soon.

 

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.

 

Soon.

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

After hitting the U.S. Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm, Hurricane Maria plowed through Puerto Rico, flooding streets, collapsing homes and leaving the entire territory without power Wednesday.

>> Read more trending news 

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosseló called Hurricane Maria the “most devastating storm to hit the island this century, if not in modern history.”

» RELATED: Hurricane Maria: Live updates

The dangerous hurricane is responsible for at least 15 deaths on the Caribbean island of Dominica alone, and, according to the National Hurricane Center, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos are expected to see a “life-threatening” storm surge of 9 to 12 feet between Thursday and early next week.

» RELATED: Where is Hurricane Maria now? Track the massive storm as it heads north

How you can help the victims of Hurricane Maria

Make monetary donations

According to the United States Agency for International Development, giving money to reputable relief agencies and nonprofits is the most effective way to help and to avoid using resources to transport or deliver donated goods.

Here are some organizations to consider giving money to:

UNICEF (emergency relief and help for children affected)

Save the Children (emergency relief and help for children affected)

ConPRmetidos (Puerto Rico-based nonprofit to benefit “immediate needs of food, shelter, water” and more)

GlobalGiving Caribbean Hurricane Maria & Irma Relief Fund (from US-based nonprofit, Global Giving)

SPCA International (help for animal rescue and care)

» RELATED: How you can help Mexico and people affected by the Mexico earthquake

Other crowdfunding campaigns:

21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund (NBA star Tim Duncan hoping to raise $5 million for his home country)

Dominica Hurricane Maria Relief Fund (bringing relief to Dominica)

Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Hurricane Relief Fund (to help families and countries rebuild after hurricanes)

Check if your employer will match your donation

Doublethedonation.com has a nifty tool that lets you enter your company name to find out whether or not your employer offers a matching gift program for donations.

Donate blood

The American Red Cross urges volunteer blood donors to give blood year-round, not only at the time of disaster. Currently, platelets and type O blood donations are especially needed, according to the organization website.

Visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to begin the donation process.

» RELATED: Disaster declared in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastates island

Donate goods

Monetary donations are preferred for most aid organizations, but refer to your local nonprofits to see if there is an additional need for goods donations.

If you’re in the Florida area, the Miami Herald has listed several donation spots for locals to bring non-perishable food, diapers, bottled water and clothing starting Friday.

» RELATED: NASA astronaut captures eerie images of Hurricane Irma’s destruction from space

Volunteer

The American Red Cross is looking to dispatch volunteers in the next few weeks to aid areas affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

Local residents in affected areas should use this form.

All non-local residents interested in volunteering should use this separate form.

More information about volunteer expectations and requirements is at redcross.org.

Disaster declared in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastates island

President Donald Trump on Thursday declared a federal disaster in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria brought pounding rain and punishing winds to the island, knocking out power and causing widespread flooding and landslides.

>> Read more trending news

The declaration allows for federal resources to be used for Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts.

The island is reeling after Maria made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane. With maximum sustained winds measured at 155 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center, Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years.

"Months and months and months and months are going to pass before we can recover from this," Felix Delgado, mayor of the northern coastal city of Catano, told The Associated Press.

Videos posted on social media showed swift floodwaters and powerful winds brought to Puerto Rico by Maria.

Maria knocked out power to the entire island and its 3.4 million residents, officials said Wednesday.

Ricardo Ramos, CEO of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, told CNN that it could be as long as six months before power is restored.

“The system has been basically destroyed,” he said.

Maria continued to churn over the Atlantic Ocean as a major Category 3 hurricane on Thursday afternoon with maximum sustained winds measured at 115 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in an 11 a.m. advisory. Officials warned that the storm, which is expected to turn to the north early Friday, could still strengthen over the next day or two.

Photos: Hurricane Maria slams Caribbean

Hurricane Maria is bearing down on the Caribbean and is set to pass over much the same area devastated by Hurricane Irma.

Florida's 10 safest cities in a hurricane

There’s really no place that’s 100 percent safe in Florida when it comes to hurricanes.

Even Orlando got hit twice in 2004 by hurricanes Charley and Frances.

>> Read more trending news

And, although Florida enjoyed a more than 10-year hurricane drought after 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Florida Panhandle in 2016. 

Still, Homeinsurance.com has ranked Florida’s cities based on their evaluation of NOAA-identified storms from 1965 to October 2014, doling out scores based on the number of storm events, number of storm-related deaths, property damage and storm-related injuries.

The top 10 safest cities in Florida during a hurricane, according to the insurance study, are:

  1. Leesburg
  2. Orlando
  3. Sanford
  4. Kissimmee
  5. Palatka
  6. Lake City
  7. Naples
  8. Ocala
  9. Gainesville
  10. Fernandina Beach

The entire ranking is below.

Read more about the Home Insurance study here.

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