A good drenching might be in store for Southwest Florida later this week — but not a direct hit — as Hurricane Irene passes the Florida Peninsula on Thursday and Friday.

Irene, the first hurricane this year, was forecast on Monday to become a major hurricane with 115 mph winds as it passes through the Bahamas on Thursday. The storm is forecast to travel north from there, skirt the east coast of Florida, and possibly strike the Carolinas.

The storm system is not forecast to make landfall anywhere near Southwest Florida, but it should be large enough and close enough to boost rain chances here, said Tom Dougherty, a spokesman for the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office.

“Generally speaking everything’s always been on the dry side for the past many years, so we could use a little bit of heavy rain,” Dougherty said.

But rain is not an absolute given. If the storm travels farther east of the state than forecast, west Florida would wind up drier than normal.

The track for Irene is still uncertain, but is starting to trend slightly eastward compared with previous forecasts, lowering the threat for Florida and increasing the risk for the Carolinas.

Error for the four- and five-day forecast is large, at 200 to 250 miles, so forecasters look to the National Hurricane Center’s so-called “cone of uncertainty,” rather than the exact forecast point. Southwest Florida is no longer within the cone, but it is too early to completely rule out tropical storm conditions here.

Florida teacher reassigned for Facebookcomments on gay marriage

A former “teacher of the year” in Lake County, Florida, has been reassigned while school administrators investigate comments posted on his Facebook page about same-sex marriage.

Lake County Schools Communications Officer Chris Patton said school officials received a complaint Tuesday about the

content on Mount Dora High School teacher Jerry Buell’s personal Facebook page, as well as copies of the posts.

Buell’s page has since been taken down, but CNN affiliate Central Florida News 13 reported that a status post on it said, “I’m watching the news, eating dinner, when the story about the New York okaying same sex unions came on and I almost threw up.”

Patton would not confirm the content of the post, but he said Lake County officials are taking the matter very seriously.

“We began to review the code of ethics violations immediately and yesterday afternoon temporarily reassigned the teacher pending the outcome of the investigation,” Patton told CNN Thursday.

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Buell said the comment was not made “out of hatred.”

“It was about the way I interpret things,” the Sentinel quoted him as saying.

The newspaper said that in the same July 25 post, Buell said same-sex marriages were part of a “cesspool” and were a “sin.”

Buell did not immediately return repeated CNN calls for comment.

Classes begin in Lake County Monday, but teachers are already back at school for pre-planning.

Buell, a teacher for more than 26 years, served as the Social Studies Department chair at Mount Dora and taught American history and government, according to the high school’s website.

While his private Facebook page is no accessible, a support page has been launched for the educator.

“His personal faith and beliefs posted on his facebook should have no bearing on his job. I applaud him for his personal beliefs!!” said one post on the page.

“Are we in the USA no longer allowed freedom of speech, thought, and freedom of religion?” commented another supporter on the page.


SEMINOLE, Fla., Aug. 21 (UPI) — A Florida mother was arrested for allegedly trying to sell her son for $2,000, police say.

Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies arrested Jessica Marie Beers, 28, of Seminole Saturday after being tipped off by James Gardner, 58, who said she was trying to sell her 5-year-old son to him, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Gardner told police he and his wife met Beers through their church. The couple began helping Beers financially and to take care of her son.

Over time, Gardner said he noticed Beers had an addiction to prescription drugs and began leaving the child with him and his wife more often.

Last week, Beers proposed that Gardner and his wife buy the child for $2,000.

Beers was arrested as she met with Gardner to complete the deal on charges of sale of parental rights and violation of probation for grand theft.

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/08/21/Mother-accused-of-trying-to-sell-child/UPI-37691313972323/#ixzz1ViJUjt8F