Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard has his own opinions about the lessons learned from Hurricane Irma's reign over the area. But he plans to hire an outside expert to analyze what went right and wrong to better prepare for the 2018 hurricane season.
In a meeting Tuesday with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, also attended by County Commission Chair Janet Long, Woodard said emergency management staff historically conducts the review after a major event. But with the intensity of Irma's impact before and after landfall, “we'd feel more comfortable having a third party come in.”...
While an official analysis of Hurricane Irma's impact on beach erosion is not yet available, early indications show some optimism.
"We didn't get a huge storm surge like we feared, so I don't think we have much of a problem with erosion," said Alan Johnson, mayor of St. Pete Beach, historically a problem area. "We did not fare too badly."
The erosion from Hurricane Hermine in 2016, in comparison, was the worst in almost a decade, according to county beach experts....
CLEARWATER — Tony Hull, 62, rolled his wheelchair into his fifth floor apartment in Prospect Towers and peeked at the thermometer: 81 degrees.
Karen Datkun, 66, drank some warm water and was still thirsty.
The 17-story Prospect Towers senior living building was on its third day without power after Hurricane Irma knocked it out Sunday night, and owner Ben Mallah knew spirits were wearing thin....
CLEARWATER — Power loss due to Hurricane Irma caused a second significant spill at the Marshall Street sewage plant Tuesday.
About 338,000 gallons of highly treated sewage flowed into Stevenson Creek, following a 1.6 million-gallon spill there the day before.
Both spills were caused by a power outage in the main control room and the generator failing to trigger, utilities director David Porter said....
Wireless providers are continuing to assess cell tower damage across the state from Hurricane Irma while customers grapple with service outages.
About 20 percent of T-Mobile customers in Florida are experiencing disruptions as of Tuesday, including in the Tampa Bay region.
Some service loss is the result of power outages, and some towers are still unable to be restored because of blocked roads or flooding, according to an official T-Mobile statement....
Alessio Zavaglia stopped by his Cleveland Street Cafe late Saturday night to do one last walk-through before Hurricane Irma's landfall.
As he approached the building, there were strangers with gloves and hammers boarding up the storefront's glass windows.
He wasn't expecting it, but the Church of Scientology had come to secure his business before the forecasted Category 4 winds. And within 12 hours, Scientology volunteers boarded every other storefront in the downtown district too....
CLEARWATER — They left the shelter and pulled home to Clearwater Trailer City a little before 9 a.m. Monday expecting the worst.
But to their surprise, Claudia Smith and her partner, Gary Bishop, found their faded old single-wide pretty much how they left it before Hurricane Irma.
They both cracked open a Budweiser and fell into the couch. They had been sleeping in a cafeteria for two days, their cat, Whiskers, cooped up in the animal section. ...
DUNEDIN — Donnie Duncan's German shepherd sniffed the dirt at Caladesi RV Park on Sunday afternoon, while Hurricane Irma's impact was still only a drizzle.
"She knows it's coming," Duncan said.
Duncan, 64, and 4-year-old Deja' had driven to the pet-friendly Dunedin Middle School early that morning to check into the shelter, but Duncan said officials told him the school's animal section was full....
DUNEDIN — Qatan Alkhalidi woke up Sunday, was surprised Hurricane Irma's rains weren't here just yet, and decided to go into work.
He knew nearly all the grocery stores and gas stations around Dunedin would be closed.
People would need last-minute snacks, drinks, the comfort of one neon "open" sign amid a deserted street.
He opened Munchee's convenience store on Bayshore Boulevard by 8 a.m. and planned to stay open "until it gets bad."...
CLEARWATER— Most of the residents of Shangri-La mobile home park were long gone Sunday morning, hours before Hurricane Irma's winds were expected to hit.
But Don Stover, 60, was outside his aluminum single-wide, screwing mismatched pieces of plywood to the windows.
He said it was too hot to do it yesterday — his bad heart and blood pressure couldn't take it.
He wouldn't even consider going to a shelter until the boards were up. By then, it will be too late and he said he'd run to the park's concrete billiards room for cover. ...
Thousands of people are taking the threat of harm from Hurricane Irma seriously in Pinellas County.
About 20,000 people were holed up in 17 shelters in Pinellas County. All but one, Sexton Elementary School on 54th Avenue N., was still taking evacuees when county emergency officials announced around 11:30 a.m. that evacuees had an hour to get to a shelter.
There were more than 1,700 special needs evacuees taking shelter and about as many pets. Here are some scenes from inside Pinellas County shelters....
PALM HARBOR — With an extra pair of pants and a couple of shirts stuffed in a trash bag, the Rev. James Warren put what was most valuable in an old green suitcase before leaving home.
The yellowed photo of him and his son posing in matching suits and black fedoras. The one of the boy grinning in church clothes a decade earlier.
It had been just the two of them in the old house by the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs for the past 10 years. It's where the boy, Brandon, grew into the 17-year-old honors student and college football prospect he is now. ...
09/09/17 Human Interest
Since moving to Florida in 2015, Brenda Probasco has been preparing for retirement strategically.
She bought a three-bedroom fixer upper in Gulfport. Eliminated gasoline bills by buying a used electric Chevrolet Bolt. Stocked the house with energy efficient appliances.
When it came time to replace her dilapidated roof, Probasco, 56, wanted solar panels but needed help finding an installer. ...
Hurricane Irma continued its ominous march toward Florida on Friday as residents prepared to escape or survive the most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded.
In Tampa Bay, the wait grew more anxious: The latest forecasts show the monster storm making landfall near Naples on Sunday before making its expected trek up the state, bringing it closer to the bay area....