We sawed through plywood and boarded up windows, hoarded water and bought stores out of batteries. We took down flags and porch swings and filled up with gas, hit the road or hunkered down.
In short, we all made plans.
But the impossibly large Irma, like every hurricane before and all that will come after, did not care about how well-prepared we were. The storm left us powerless before moving on to devastate areas outside its path, that didn't see what was coming....
ST. PETERSBURG — Danika Kubiak is no stranger to the lemonade business. When her neighbor's dog ate her retainer last year, Danika set up on their block. She asked for donations. She raised $15. Anything to lower that orthodonture bill, right?
So when the freckled-nose 7-year-old woke up on Tuesday and realized some of her neighbors still didn't have power, she went up and down 14th Avenue NE, knocking on doors. "Would you like to do a lemonade stand?" she asked Meara Hill, still in her pajamas. The 8-year-old said sure, and they added coffee and power strips to the mix....
They hardly slept at all the first night, too anxious to settle. The kids couldn't stay still, and the baby cried. "Is there anything you can do to quiet him down?" asked an older woman holed up in the same classroom. But there wasn't, and Jasmine Walker held him closer to her chest.
No one believed her when she said this would be bad, and by Saturday, it had been too late: The roads were jammed to Georgia, friends told her; she and her family would have to stay in St. Petersburg as a Category 5 hurricane swirled closer and closer....
Editor's Note: We typically swim in our fishbowls, having a million different conversations as we go about our daily lives. But this week in Tampa Bay, we're all asking the same questions, speaking the same fears and telling the same jokes. Our reporter spent Thursday afternoon eavesdropping at a bar, a coffee shop, a hardware store, a Walmart and Tyrone Square Mall. Here's what she heard, woven together as we all anticipate the big storm....
GULFPORT — The calls kept coming, the ringing like a whine over the wall-unit air-conditioner in the little office, the messages piling up. Insurance broker Rob Sepúlveda leaned over his hands, his fingers laced together on his desk. "I want a policy that will protect me if my house blows away," the latest caller said. She wanted what everyone else did, the thing people usually never wanted: flood insurance....
LARGO — Isaiah Battle, who at 15 years old became the most arrested car thief in Pinellas County, was sentenced to 20 months in prison Monday.
At an emotional hearing that in many ways served as an indictment of the juvenile justice system, Isaiah also received four years probation.
"In Pinellas County, youth stealing cars, fleeing from police, and getting in crashes is out of control," said Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Coyler. "This is extremely concerning behavior that puts everyone at risk....
State juvenile justice leaders have set a date to re-examine the tool that makes it easy for kids to steal cars with few legal consequences.
For the first time in about a decade, Secretary Christina Daly and national experts will convene on Dec. 11 and 12 in Lake Mary to consider changes to the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument, a spokeswoman for the Department of Juvenile Justice said Thursday....
08/23/17 Public Safety
ST. PETERSBURG — More than a dozen black teenagers told U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist on Wednesday that children need stronger mentors and youth programs to steer clear of the auto theft epidemic plaguing Pinellas County.
"I don't want to sit in a room with someone who's never been in my situation, or is scared to be in my neighborhood," said Angelique Evans, 15. "We need more role models. We need more people who are willing."...
Isaiah Battle believes in heaven. When he pictures it, everything is gold, everyone sitting on couches among clouds. He is not sure if people in heaven have to share rooms. But if they do, he hopes he can share one with his sister, Dominique.
They shared one on earth, in St. Petersburg, back before she drowned in a stolen car in a cemetery pond. Two beds where they'd lie side by side and joke about their boyfriends, girlfriends, school. Smoke weed and watch whatever was on TV. Tell each other I love you before lights out each night....
08/09/17 Public Safety
She closes her eyes and sees them clearly, the first moments of Jimmie Goshey's life.
Shalanda Marshall had gone to the hospital early, throwing up, the baby pushing hard. But the doctors said he was hours away, so she sent her daughters home to get things ready for Jimmie.
Then, all of a sudden he was coming, fast. "You better get back here or you're going to miss it," she told her daughters, but by the time they got up the elevator and to the door, Jimmie was born....
The last thing Keondrae Brown remembers before he blacked out is lying in shattered glass on Tampa Road, next to the burning wreckage of a stolen car, lucky to be alive after a high-speed crash that killed his brother and two of his friends.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri held a news conference Monday afternoon in which he showed dash-cam footage from the first officer to respond to the Palm Harbor crash. Here is some of what he said in the news conference:
08/07/17 Public Safety
CLEARWATER — Ricky Melendez pulled himself out of bed when his alarm went off at 4 a.m. It was time to start a day that would nearly end his life.
He let his 4-month-old Lab puppy, Mila, out of her crate as he brushed his teeth and got dressed for work. The 29-year-old was a bit tired, having spent the previous day at a water park in Orlando with his cousin and his brother. But he was excited to get to his new job at Sprouts Farmers Market in Palm Harbor, where he was the dairy manager. He was trying to get the nickname "The Milkman" to catch on....
Deyon Kaigler said in December that he was done stealing cars. His friends were still posting videos of high-speed joyrides to Facebook, wearing key fobs on lanyards around their necks. But Deyon, 16, had decided it was too dangerous.
"I value my life," he said. "I'm not trying to be dead."
08/06/17 Public Safety
All six teen boys involved in the stolen car crash that killed three of them on Sunday morning had extensive criminal histories, according to state records.
The four boys in a stolen Ford Explorer that crashed were playing a "cat and mouse" game with two other boys in a stolen Chrysler Sebring, authorities said.
They all attended high schools in Clearwater or Dunedin, a schools spokeswoman said. ...