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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    Long-range forecasters from AccuWeather issue an early forecast on the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.

    We still have almost two months to go before the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season officially starts, but some forecasters have already issued their early predictions on how the season will shape up.

    Long-range forecasters at AccuWeather are calling for another active hurricane season, but say it likely won't be as busy as the 2017 season, which produced 17 named storms and a string of destructive hurricanes that pounded Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the southern United States. 

    AccuWeather is expecting 12 to 15 tropical storms to form in the Atlantic basin this year, with six to eight of those storms strengthening into hurricanes. Three to five of the hurricanes are expected to turn into major ones -- with Category 3, 4 or 5 strength.

    Category 3 hurricanes pack sustained winds of 111 to 129 mph, Category 4 storms carry winds of 130 to 156 mph and Category 5 hurricanes pack catastrophic winds stronger than 156 mph.  

    During a typical hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, the Atlantic basin gets 12 named storms, six of which develop into hurricanes. The basin includes the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. 


    Warm water temperatures

    "Similar to last year, sea surface temperatures are expected to remain warmer than normal across most of the basin and normal to above normal over the main developmental region, where more than 85 percent of all tropical storms form," AccuWeather said in its hurricane outlook issued on Monday. 

    "Right now, we are in a weakening La Nina pattern, but the climate pattern is expected to go into what's called a neutral pattern, which promotes near-normal wind shear," said Dan Kottlowski, AccuWeather's Atlantic hurricane expert. 

    Wind shear helps limit tropical development by interfering with the circulation of storms and breaking them apart.

    However, "the thing that's causing the balance to tip in one direction (in 2018) is that sea surface temperatures are warmer than normal," Kottlowski said.

    Warm water temperatures play a big role in the development of tropical systems.

    Most active hurricane seasons

    • The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record, with 28 named storms -- including ultra-destructive Katrina -- according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
    • Five hurricane seasons are tied for second place, all with 19 named storms: 1887, 1995, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
    • The 2017 hurricane season produced 17 named storms, including Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria. It is believed to be the most destructive hurricane season on record in terms of the damage caused by the storms. 

    Len Melisurgo may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @LensReality or like him on Facebook. Find on Facebook.

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    Which teams and players are poised for big years?

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    Hundreds of Garden State players will join college programs next year. Find out where.

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    It's not The Bamboozle. It's not Skate and Surf. But Asbury Park will again host a huge, multi-day festival this year

    It's not The Bamboozle. It's not Skate and Surf. But Asbury Park will again host a huge, multi-day music festival this year, as the new, surf-leaning Sea.Hear.Now. festival will hit the Jersey Shore city Sept. 29 and 30.

    The lineup for the festival is decidedly rock-heavy with alt-rockers Incubus and folksy surfer dude Jack Johnson headlining the two days, which will feature three stages -- two on the beach just north of Convention Hall and one in nearby Bradley Park -- and more than two-dozen of bands.

    Big draws include Brandi Carlile, Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals, The Menzingers, Frank Turner and more. 

    New Jersey will be well represented with The Front Bottoms, Blondie, Nicole Atkins, Deal Casino, The Battery Electric and The Parlor Mob all performing. See the full lineup below. 

    Tickets are $99 plus fees for two-day access, and go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m. 


    Bobby Olivier may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier and Facebook. Find on Facebook   

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    "Do you wanna hang out this weekend?" "Nah, I'm just gonna hang out at home tonight."

    "One of the most popular, culturally significant, but almost impossible to translate slang expressions in the English language: Hang Out." --

    The website goes on to note that "hanging out" is one of those multipurpose phrases that often confuses those new to the English language. Examples of its varied use include:

    34122-1.jpgAnimals have an instinctive ability to "hang out." 

    "Do you wanna hang out this weekend?" (do something together socially, verb)

    "I'm just gonna hang out at home tonight." (relax by myself, verb)

    "I used to hang out a lot at that park when I was a kid." (to frequent a place, verb)

    "Can you just hang out for a second while I get ready?" (wait in a relaxed way, verb)

    "I'm tired of spending my time at (place). I need a new hangout. (noun)

    I personally would define "hanging out" as a situation involving more than one person where the act of doing nothing becomes the focus of the gathering.

    Here's a gallery of people "hanging out" in New Jersey. And, here are links to similar galleries.

    Vintage photos of people 'hangin' out' in N.J.

    Vintage N.J. candid photos

    Vintage candid photos in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    According to its Trulia listing, the taxes on the property in 2017 were $31,921.48.

    In this week's "Sold!" property, we feature a home in Holmdel with more than 7,300 square feet of living space.

    The house sold for $2,350,000 in November 2017. According to its Trulia listing, the taxes on the property in 2017 were $31,921.48.

    The home features 6 bedrooms and 5 full bathrooms. The house was assessed in 2017 at $2,300,000.

    The median sale price for homes in the area is $615,000.

    Sophie Nieto-Munoz may be reached at Follow her at @snietomunoz. Find on Facebook.

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    We take some early results and preseason projections to make our first rankings of 2018

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    A list of all N.J. girls lacrosse seniors committed to a Division 1 college program.

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    Goals, assists, saves and ground balls. Who's off to great starts this season?

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    More than a dozen fire companies battle the blaze Watch video

    A two-story barn that also served as a garage next to a tract of farmland in Monmouth County was gutted in an overnight fire, officials said. 

    No one was injured in the three-alarm blaze that broke out around 1:40 a.m. Thursday on Route 524 in Upper Freehold and drew a response from more than a dozen fire companies. 

    Several dozen firefighters brought the fire under control in about an hour, though firefighters were on the scene for several more hours, according to Rescue Capt. George Stillwell of the Hope Fire Company.

    WATCH: Bayonne firefighter's acrobatic move to escape burning building

    The fire did not spread to the main house on the property, but the garage/barn is a "total loss," Stillwell said. 

    Video from the fire recorded by the Hamilton Fire Department shows large flames and plumes of smoke pouring from the structure. 

    The Monmouth County Fire Marshal is investigating the cause.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.


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    Home Goods reps wouldn't confirm the new location, but signs outside the shopping center and in the space's windows promise the store is "coming soon."

    Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 2.54.49 PM.pngThe HomeGoods store in the Clark Commons shopping center. (Google Maps)

    HomeGoods fans -- get ready: Another HomeGoods store is coming to the Shore in the Howell Commons shopping center, according to the Asbury Park Press.

    HomeGoods reps wouldn't confirm the new location, but signs outside the shopping center and in the space's windows promise the store is "coming soon."

    HomeGoods is owned by TJX, the parent company for Marshall's, TJ Maxx and HomeSense and Sierra Trading Post. 

    The Howell Commons shopping center is located on Route 9. It's also home to Kohl's, TJ Maxx, Michael's, Pier 1 Imports, Petco, Panera Bread, Starbucks, Applebee's, ULTA, Dress Barn, Carter's, Party City, Famous Footwear, Children's Place, Kay Jewelers and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

    Jessica Remo may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JessicaRemoNJ. Find on Facebook.

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    Robert Merriken of Spring Lake Heights first said he'd resign but then had a change of heart

    A municipal official in a New Jersey shore town who said he would resign after police found a hypodermic needle in his vehicle has changed his mind.

    Spring Lake Heights Councilman Robert Merriken is charged with possessing drug paraphernalia. But he's maintaining his innocence, telling that the charge was "ridiculous" and that the needle did not belong to him.

    Ex-councilman accused of driving into football scoreboard while high

    Merriken and a woman in his vehicle were both charged Thursday following a traffic stop in Neptune City.

    The 69-year-old Merriken initially told the newspaper he would resign his council post, and the town soon issued a statement announcing the resignation and the process to fill the vacancy.

    But Merriken contacted the newspaper later Thursday and said he had decided not to step down.


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    The latest news and notes from around the state in N.J. girls lacrosse.

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    Gov. Phil Murphy vows to let you know where guns come from: "If it means naming and shaming other states, that's exactly what we're going to do." Watch video

    Gov. Phil Murphy wants you to have better access to info about New Jersey's gun violence -- and where the state's firearms come from.

    Murphy on Friday signed an executive order for the state to issue monthly reports online about gun crimes, where they occur, and the type of firearm that was used. 

    And every three months, New Jersey will publish a report listing the states from which those guns originated. 

    "If it means naming and shaming other states, that's exactly what we're going do," Murphy, a Democrat, said during a news conference at Asbury Park Middle School. 

    He called it a "new tool that will allow residents to see for the first time the direct impact of gun violence in our community."

    "As painful as that may be, we're gonna shine a light on the data," Murphy said. "No one should be lulled into a false sense that gun crimes are some other town's problems or that illegal guns don't impact their communities."

    Lawmakers seek to make N.J. gun laws even tougher

    Much of this information is already available to the public, including through the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. But Murphy said this information will be easier for people to obtain. 

    The first reports will likely be available next month, officials said.

    The move comes amid a national debate over the need for more gun control in the wake of the Parkland school shooting and other massacres. 

    New Jersey already has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, and Murphy said the state has one of the nation's lowest gun mortality rates.

    But Murphy said of the 485 gun deaths in New Jersey in 2016, 80 percent of those involved a gun that came from out of state.

    "We cannot be blind to the fact that our gun laws are only as good as those in the states around us," the governor said. 

    State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said "too many other states make it too easy to buy firearms." 

    Phil Murphy.jpegGov. Phil Murphy signs an executive order on gun safety Friday at Asbury Park Middle School. 

    Murphy -- who is in his third month in office -- has repeatedly called for the state's gun laws to be even tighter. 

    He repeated Friday he's ready to sign six gun bills the state Assembly passed last month -- including ones that would reduce the number of bullets a magazine can hold, as well as making it harder for people deemed a danger to themselves and others to get guns. 

    The measures still have to be passed by the state Senate before they head to Murphy's desk. 

    Brent Johnson may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find Politics on Facebook.


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    The Preseason Top 20 for the boys track and field relay teams

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    The first Catsbury Park Cat Convention opened on April 7 in Asbury Park, drawing a large crowd of feline fanciers to Convention Hall and the Paramount Theatre. Celebrity cats, cat merchandise, cat art, cat costumes and more made the event a clawsome place for cat people.

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    The biggest bodies of fresh water span the state, from Cumberland County to Passaic County.

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    The convention continues on Sunday. Watch video

    A couple thousand cat lovers visited the Catsbury Park Cat Convention Saturday at the Convention Hall & Paramount Theatre and took part in special meet and greets at the nearby Asbury Hotel.

    The event, which continues Sunday, features celebrity guest cats, speakers, vendors, presentations, seminars about caring for cats and fun activities like Cat Bingo, Cat Trivia and even a Cat Art Show.

    For an additional fee, attendees can meet one of the celebrity cats, like Lil' Bub, with the proceeds being donated to cat shelters and rescues. Also, in the morning people can pay for a cat yoga class with participants holding different poses while cats who are looking for adoption roam around them, with proceeds also being donated. 

    The convention is being run by Catsbury Park, New Jersey's first cat cafe and adoption center, which is located in Asbury Park.

    D.J. Bornschein, the owner and founder of the cafe, is a cat lover and wanted to give something back to the friends of the feline community. As a native of Asbury Park, the convention's proceeds are being given to a number of charities, including The Brodie Fund, Jersey Shore Animal Foundation, Camden County Animal Shelter, Catsbury Park, Paul The Cat Guy and Asbury Boardwalk Rescue.

    More information can be found at

    Aristide Economopoulos can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @AristideNJAM and Instagram at @aeconomopoulos. Find on Facebook.

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    Working in phases, this Freehold couple has repurposed the 1,950-square-foot space that now makes a home for two.

    The Freehold house was among more than 200 built in a Levitt and Sons subdivision known as Contempra at Monmouth Heights.

    While early problems led about half of the development's original residents to file complaints with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs about issues ranging  from flooding to leaking windows to sagging upper floors, Sharon Berenson says their three-bedroom, two-bathroom Arizona-style ranch had no such problems.

    But back in 1973, "easy-to-care-for vinyl asbestos" flooring was among selling points listed in a brochure about these built-to-order homes with prices ranging from $39,500 to $44,500.

    The asbestos flooring, now known to be among health-threatening household materials, was carefully removed about 15 years ago in a renovation that updated a kitchen "designed for the lifestyle of the 70s."

    In the 44 years they've lived in their single-story home, Jim and Sharon Berenson have taken care of its routine maintenance and also made a variety of lifestyle-supporting adjustments.

    It's the house from which they watched their son and daughter grow up, go off to college, then start their own households and visit their childhood home with their children.

    After all these years, Sharon Berensen still loves her home's features -- the cathedral ceilings, the large windows, the spacious backyard.

    "When I retired in 2007, I gutted each room," said Berenson who taught first grade for 30 years at Freehold Learning Center while her husband worked in sales. "I didn't want to move to a retirement community. I love my house. I love the yard. So I decided that I would do one room at a time."

    Working in phases, the couple has repurposed the 1,950-square-foot space that now makes a home for two. Sharon Berenson's ally in the process has been interior designer Dulce Feito-Daly of Red Bank.

    Feito-Daly guided a second renovation of the home's kitchen, a bathroom and other areas. She made it possible for Berenson to hold onto pieces that mattered. She worked a beloved metal headboard into the new design for their master bedroom while others had advised getting rid of it.

    In the most recent project, Feito-Daly helped select materials and addressed small-space challenges in what had been their son's bedroom.

    "I wanted it to be my girl cave," Berenson said of the room that had become a holding place for the couple's queen-size bed when they upgraded to king-size.

    "I had all this heavy furniture," Berenson said. She donated most of it, but her husband wanted to keep his old dresser. It went into their son's former bedroom along with the oversized sleeper for grandchildren and other guests.

    Berenson also kept their daughter's former student desk, which she had been using as a vanity table.

    "It was just a mishmosh of things," she said. Berenson wanted to turn the room into a more welcoming personal space where she could put on her makeup, watch TV, read and relax. She envisioned built-in furnishings, and discussed her ideas with Feito-Daly. "It's a very small spot, and I didn't think that I could do it. She said it could be done."

    To give Sharon Berenson a place to put on her makeup, and Jim Berenson a place for his off-season clothes, Feito-Daly designed a slim-profile built-in with a vanity table and drawers as one side and a chest of drawers and shelving as the other.

    It has two ports to charge mobile phones and, above the drawers, a shelving area with space to tuck in a wall-hung television and LED lighting.

    "It offers a nice little display area," Feito-Daly said.

    A figurine of a woman in a 1920's bathing suit perched atop a beach ball reminds Berenson of her mother. It is tucked into one of the shelves along with faux flowers.

    Another dual-purpose piece the designer recommended is the Duralee sleeper. It provides seating and a pull-out guest bed.

    "The queen-size bed took over the whole room," Feito-Daly said. "We wanted everything to be small scale."  To conserve floor space and tabletop space, they put lighting on the wall in the form of sconces.

    The light fixtures are both decorative and functional, as is the mirror above the vanity.

    "There's nice detail around it, but it's not overwhelming for a small space," she said.

    Feito-Daly said the question for her clients became "what to do with your child's old bedroom when you're crammed for space?"

    "A lot of problems were solved here," she said. "It's almost like a little hotel room."

    Sharon Berenson says her daughter's old bedroom, now being used as an office, will be the last piece in their total house makeover.

    "My husband says I turned a three-bedroom house into a one bedroom, but it works," she said.

    What they renovated

    They converted their son's former bedroom to the 'Girl's Cave'

    Who did the work

    Dulce Feito-Daly Interior Design of Red Bank

    How long it took

    Four months

    How much it cost

    About $20,000

    Where they splurged

    On the designer-outfitted sleeper sofa

    How they saved

    By using a melamine faux wood for the built-in unit. "Custom wood would have cost at least twice as much," Feito-Daily said.

    What they like most

    Sharon Berenson says she likes the total look of the new room. The Uttermost brand vanity chair with its animal print upholstery is a focal point, she says. Another bonus: "When my grandchildren come, they love to play in the room."

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    Consider adopting one of these homeless dogs and cats.

    The United States Postal Service wants to share these tips on pet safety for mail carriers.

    * If a carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog in a separate room and close that door before opening the front door. Some dogs burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to attack visitors. Dog owners should keep the family pet secured.

    * Parents should remind their children and other family members not to take mail directly from carriers in the presence of the family pet, as the dog may view the person handing mail to a family member as a threatening gesture.

    * The Postal Service places the safety of its employees as a top priority. If a carrier feels threatened by a dog, or if a dog is loose or unleashed, the owner may be asked to pick up mail at a Post Office until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If a dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner's neighbors also may be asked to pick up their mail at the area's Post Office.

    Such safe practices also apply to any package delivery services and most anyone who comes to your door. Take a moment to be sure about safety.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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