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Oil still washing up on beaches

PANAMA CITY -- Bits of oil are still washing up on some Florida Panhandle beaches, months after BP’s leaking undersea well was plugged.

Bay County’s chief of emergency services, Mark Bowen, says crews are still finding a quarter of a pound to half a pound of oil product along the beaches every day. Bowen says BP’s subcontractor is doing daily sweeps to pick up the debris.

The government says some 200 million gallons of oil were released into the Gulf of Mexico after a rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers. The runaway well was capped in July and permanently plugged in September.

Bowen says the county has asked BP to continue its efforts to recover any oil that may remain floating in the Gulf or on its bottom.

5 dead cats found in Apalachicola National Forest

TALLAHASSEE -- Authorities are looking for the person responsible for killing five cats found in the Apalachicola National Forest.

A sixth cat suffered a broken hip but was saved.

Wakulla County Sheriff David Harvey says a hunter found the felines in a ditch Saturday. Investigators believe someone struck the cats with an object and shot them. Four spent shotgun shells were found at the scene, along with a bloody newspaper that had been wrapped around the cats.

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s office at (850) 926-7171.

Girl, 7, dies after hit-and-run accident in South Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE -- A 7-year-old South Florida girl has died, days after being struck in a hit-and-run.

A spokeswoman for Broward General Medical Center says Francesca Moise passed away Friday afternoon. She had been in a coma after suffering severe head injuries.

Authorities are still searching for the driver responsible. The Broward Sheriff’s Office says the girl was walking with her family in North Lauderdale on Wednesday evening when a car drove onto the grass and hit her. The car was later found abandoned near a warehouse.

Anyone with information about the accident is urged to call Broward Crime Stoppers at (954) 493-8477.

Squirrel causes power outage at Disney hotels

ORLANDO -- Several hotels at Disney World temporarily lost power after a squirrel tangled with some electrical equipment.

Officials at Progress Energy say that about 22 properties were without electricity for nearly 30 minutes Friday, including some hotels along Hotel Plaza Boulevard.

The squirrel did not survive the encounter.

Pinellas County gives water to affected residents

LARGO -- Officials in Pinellas County are giving out water to residents who don’t have any, following a 48-inch water main break in Largo.

A water distribution site has been set up at the utilities department and was open from noon until 8 p.m. Saturday.

Residents who do have running water in their homes are urged to boil the water before drinking it to kill any bacteria and parasites.

Officials have been testing the county’s water to see whether it is now safe. The main break happened Thursday.

Florida firefighter wins mustache award

OSCEOLA -- The quirky honor of Mustached American of the Year has been awarded to a central Florida firefighter.

Brian Sheets and his horseshoe ‘stash triumphed in a field of contestants that included former professional basketball player and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, “Supersize Me” documentary maker Morgan Spurlock and “The Insider” TV host Pat O’Brien.

The 39-year-old from Kissimmee received 22 percent of the more than half million votes cast online this month.

The American Mustache Institute notes that the award is not a “best mustache” contest, but rather a recognition of the person who best contributed to the community over the past year.

2 thieves rob Orlando food bank of $10,000

ORLANDO -- It’s a bleak Christmas at an Orlando food bank where thieves have made off with more than $10,000 in two robberies.

Authorities say Thursday night, thieves pried a safe from the wall at the Community Food and Outreach Center and stole $7,000. Power to the building was reportedly cut, so the alarm system was disabled.

In early November, burglars took $3,800 in cash and checks from the safe.

Surfing Santas hit the waves on the Space Coast

COCOA BEACH -- Some 19 surfing Santas hoped to bring some cheer to beach-goers as they hit the waves on Florida’s Space Coast.

Water temperatures were in the 60s when the group gathered Christmas Eve, but they were undeterred. They wore red suits and beards. One surfer had a board covered in wrapping paper. Another donned a life preserver -- for safety, sure, but also for a nice Santa belly. There was even a Mrs. Claus among the lot.

It’s the second year George Trosset has held the event. The Rockledge resident is hoping to convince folk at Guinness World Records to create a category for “Santa surfing.”

No break from FCAT prep at Miami charter school

MIAMI -- Students at a Miami charter school aren’t taking a holiday break from preparing for the FCAT.

The fourth and eighth grades at the Theodore R. and Thelma A. Gibson Charter School are spending most of the winter break in the classroom studying for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The school has received back-to-back failing grades from the state Department of Education. It could close after one more failing grade.

Principal Fareen Khan hopes the extra studying will help the students boost their FCAT scores and improve their writing skills. The extra classes were optional, but more than 70 percent of the fourth-graders have attended.

Miami red light cameras will be turned on Jan. 1

MIAMI -- The city of Miami will celebrate the new year by turning on its red light cameras.

Assistant transportation coordinator Jose Gonzalez says that starting Jan. 1, drivers caught on camera running red lights will be issued $158 citations. Warnings will not be issued.

A city contractor and a police officer will review video clips and photographs from the cameras to confirm each violation. Drivers will receive notices that include pictures of their vehicles and license plates.

Miami has installed the cameras in more than a dozen locations and intersections.

The program is expected to bring in about $8 million for the city.

-- Herald wire services

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