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The Mill restaurants offering half off when customers donate items for hurricane relief

The dining room at The Mill in St. Petersburg photographed in 2015.

LARA CERRI | Times

The dining room at The Mill in St. Petersburg photographed in 2015.

The Mill restaurant in St. Petersburg and its newly-opened location in Brandon are collecting donations to help residents of the Florida Keys who've been affected by Hurricane Irma.

The restaurant asks that locals bring toiletries, baby formula, baby food, baby wipes, pet food, socks, canned goods, bottled water, flip-flops and other non-perishable food and supplies to the restaurant today and Wednesday.

Stay to eat after donating, and receive 50 percent off all food items except happy hour specials and charcuterie plates, a news release said.

The restaurant said the donation drive came about because the restaurant's managing partner had planned to have his bachelor party in Key West this weekend. After the destruction from Irma, he decided that rather than cancel the party he'd change the focus to helping with the relief effort.

A group will be taking donations collected this week and distributing them to relief organizations in Marathon on Friday.

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Looking to help? Reach out to these nonprofits helping Irma victims

2015 Review: The Mill wows with decor and thoughtfully prepared food and drinks …

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Did local Indian mounds save Tampa Bay from Irma's worst? Some say yes

A view of the site of a 23-foot mound at Sacred Lands in St. Petersburg's Jungle Prada neighborhood. The Anderson family has owned the property since the 1940s and lived in a private residence, 13-feet above sea level behind the mound, since 1953. On certain days, the park opens for public tours.

COLLEEN WRIGHT | Times

A view of the site of a 23-foot mound at Sacred Lands in St. Petersburg's Jungle Prada neighborhood. The Anderson family has owned the property since the 1940s and lived in a private residence, 13-feet above sea level behind the mound, since 1953. On certain days, the park opens for public tours.

The Tampa Bay area hasn’t suffered a direct hit from a hurricane since 1929. Did American Indians who roamed the land centuries ago protect Pinellas with a blessing?

Depends on who you ask, says Rui Farias, who knows a thing or two about local history. When he’s not teaching a Florida history class at St. Petersburg High, he works as executive director of the Saint Petersburg Museum of History near the Pier.

The Tocobagans’ village capital was where Safety Harbor is today, but their mounds, both sacred and burial, are found from the Gandy Bridge along the peninsula to the Gulf Coast.They either wanted to protect their lands, or “they wanted hurricanes to come here and punish us for Spaniards” who arrived here around the 16th century, Farias said.

HURRICANE IRMA: Find all of our coverage here

He says it’s less of a blessing or a curse than it is about the science behind hurricanes. But many still believe the blessing protects us.

“It’s almost like when a myth becomes history,” Farias said. “As time goes on, it comes true.” …

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Despite a few nicks, residents express relief after Irma passes over Dade City

Sandra Cunningham assesses the damage a water oak did to her Church Avenue home when it crashed into her bedroom roof.

[Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]

Sandra Cunningham assesses the damage a water oak did to her Church Avenue home when it crashed into her bedroom roof.

DADE CITY — Sandra Cunningham stood in her back yard on Church Avenue, Starbucks chilled mocha in hand, and stared at the broken water oak that crashed through her roof into her bedroom.

“Oh mercy,” Cunningham murmured.

She took a few steps for a different angle. “Oh, mercy.”

Hurricane Irma targeted Dade City, its weakened eye passing right over town between 2 and 3 a.m. Monday, according to the many who hunkered down to wait it out.

“You could feel it blowing,” said Homer Bryant, a disabled veteran who stayed home with his 90-year-old mother, tracking Irma’s path on a cell phone.

When residents emerged, they found massive trees blocking the major thoroughfares, smaller ones dragging down power lines, and still others littering yards and parks.

Linda Ray weathered Irma in Ridge Manor, fearful the winds would peel back the roof of her mobile home, or the tallest trees would take it out. When she returned, her home was fine, but her 82-year-old mom’s house had half the roof in the back yard.

“I pulled in this morning and saw this and thought, ‘Oh, man,’ ” Ray said, adding she was glad to have evacuated her mom with her. “It really freaked me out.” …

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On Little Gasparilla Island, Irma washed away Tampa family's 'pink house' leaving barely a trace

The pink house, seen before Hurricane Irma, left, and after the storm.

Courtesy of Deric Flom

The pink house, seen before Hurricane Irma, left, and after the storm.

It has been a conversation piece for years on Little Gasparilla Island: the "pink house," the one that sat so far out on the beach that people on the balcony could fish from it and get splashed by the surf when the waves came crashing in.

The popular vacation rental, as of today still listed on VRBO for $249 a night as a three bedroom "beach shak" with balcony sunsets, dolphin watching and a rattan couch, was farther out on the beach than any of the surrounding homes, partly thanks to beach erosion since its construction in the late '50s.

Those who'd stayed there said you could feel it sway in the wind.

A photograph shows the pink house practically erased from the beach a day after Hurricane Irma passed by the Charlotte County barrier island.

"Most of us on the island have been bracing for when this one would fall," Tim Hamlin, a Wesley Chapel resident who owns a different vacation home on the island, said. "Thankfully it happened when nobody was staying there."

"Everyone on the island marveled that it was still there," Laurie Gaines, an island resident said. …

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Video: A boat ride down Key West's flooded Duval Street party district

An "extreme meteorologist" took a ride down Duval Street after Irma.

Facebook

An "extreme meteorologist" took a ride down Duval Street after Irma.

Anyone who's ever taken a vacation down to Key West will recognize it.

The massive Sloppy Joe's bar, party central in the middle of the island's party central Duval Street district in Old Town, is home to the annual Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest and has served up countless ground beef sandwiches and hangovers.

On Sunday, an "extreme meteorologist" took video as he rode by, navigating flooded streets and toppled Key West Citizen newspaper boxes in the wake of Hurricane Irma. 

Here's his ride down Duval Street.

Video: storm surge flooding in Key West yesterday from Gulf on backside of Hurricane #Irma in "Old Town" @breakingweather @accuweather pic.twitter.com/wPs73A73n8

And here's his ride down nearby Greene Street.

More news from Key West here.

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Horse in the living room: We asked Tampa Bay to send us their hurricane photos, here's what we got

One reader sent us this photo, saying her boss had made a makeshift stable in her living room.

Facebook

One reader sent us this photo, saying her boss had made a makeshift stable in her living room.

We put out the call on the Tampa Bay Times Facebook page for our readers to send us their best photos as they prepared for Hurricane Irma's arrival in Tampa Bay. 

Here's what our readers sent us on Sunday.

 

Live Blog: Live updates on Hurricane Irma throughout the storm

RESCUE: Manatees stuck after hurricane drains the bay

 

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UF students on the street get a lift to the shelter from university's president

A screen grab shows the students' encounter with university's president.

Facebook

A screen grab shows the students' encounter with university's president.

Florida students Victoria Lehoczky and Stamatina Copulos were on a trek of their own.

With pillows and a suitcase in tow, they had just begun a more than two-mile walk from their Thomas Hall dorm room to a local shelter, and it was raining.

Walking along Stadium Road, they saw a car stop, and out stepped the university's president, Kent Fuchs.

"He then asked us where we needed to go because he saw us carrying our things and offered to take us to the shelter," said Lehoczky, an 18-year-old freshman biology major.

On the way, the students told Fuchs about their studies and hometowns in South Florida. "He was very kind," she said.
University spokesperson Steve Orlando said he had no idea the president was offering rides to students. But he wasn't surprised.

"That's the kind of person he is," he said. "He genuinely cares about the students."

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Video: Bob Buckhorn press conference on Hurricane Irma curfew

Bob Buckhorn's 11 a.m. press conference.

City of Tampa

Bob Buckhorn's 11 a.m. press conference.

Here's the live video from Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn's 11 a.m. press conference on Sunday.

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Spectrum and Xfinity wifi hotspots are free for everyone in preparation for Hurricane Irma

A look at Spectrum's wifi hotspot internet coverage in Tampa Bay.

SPECTRUM

A look at Spectrum's wifi hotspot internet coverage in Tampa Bay.

Charter Communications announced today that it is opening its Spectrum wifi hotspots for free to non-customers to increase internet access and aid communication across Florida during Hurricane Irma.

Spectrum has more than 32,000 wifi access points across the state, Charter spokesman Joseph Durkin said.

Those who are looking to connect to the internet through a Spectrum hotspot should pull up the available networks on their device. If there's a Spectrum hotspot available within range, it will be listed as "Spectrum WiFi," Durkin said. 

If you want to check if there's a hotspot near you, you can also view Spectrum's coverage map at https://www.spectrum.com/wifi-map-iframe.html and enter any address to search.

Spectrum's move follows Comcast announcing this week that it was making its Xfinity wifi hotspots free and open to non customers in preparation of Irma as well.

MORE HURRICANE IRMA

LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma and its path

APPS FOR PREP: Here's what Zello can and can't do

FREE INTERNET: Comcast makes its wifi hotspots free

 

 

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What will it feel like if a Category 4 or 5 hurricane hits Florida?

Times photojournalist Scott Keeler explains what it felt like when Hurricane Charley ripped through Punta Gorda.

TIMES STAFF

Times photojournalist Scott Keeler explains what it felt like when Hurricane Charley ripped through Punta Gorda.

In the video above Tampa Bay Times photojournalist Scott Keeler recounts in harrowing and frightening detail riding out Hurricane Charley in Punta Gorda in 2004 at the Charlotte County Airport.

Hurricane Irma, now a Category 5 hurricane, could bring similar devastation to Florida.

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Taking off in a hurricane: Radar images from Puerto Rico show Delta flight's wildly close brush with Irma

On Twitter, Jason Rabinowitz using the account @airlineflyer tracked plane's daring race to get to Puerto Rico and get out.

@airlineflyer on Twitter

On Twitter, Jason Rabinowitz using the account @airlineflyer tracked plane's daring race to get to Puerto Rico and get out.

NEW YORK -- A daring Delta Air Lines crew that flew in and out of Puerto Rico as Hurricane Irma's wind and rain approached is garnering kudos.

The flight-tracking website FlightRadar24 shared a radar image showing the plane heading into San Juan from New York just before noon Wednesday as the swirling storm was set to engulf the island.

On Twitter, Jason Rabinowitz using the account @airlineflyer tracked plane's daring race to get there and get out.

@airlineflyer: "You really want to fly into SJU during a category 5 hurricane, DL431? Everyone else has turned around."

 

@airlineflyer: "DL431 is going for it"

 

@flightradar24: "Aaaaaaaand... Landed! #DL431 #Irma"

The plane took off less than an hour later with a new group of passengers for the return trip to New York.

Radar images show it navigating a narrow path between Irma's outer bands to escape the storm.

@airlineflyer: "Here they go! DL302 now taxiing for takeoff before #Irma gets really bad"

 

@airlineflyer: Now DL302 has to climb out of SJU, and they're doing so between the outer band of #Irma and the core of the storn. Amazing stuff.

 

  …

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Airbnb offering, and seeking, free rooms in Florida and Georgia for Hurricane Irma

Airbnb activated its Disaster Response Program on Thursday.

Airbnb

Airbnb activated its Disaster Response Program on Thursday.

Airbnb is using its online vacation rental marketplace to connect those with a safe space to offer to those in need of temporary shelter during Hurricane Irma. 

In anticipation of Irma's path toward Florida, Airbnb has activated its Disaster Response Program, which allows users to list their homes on the service free of charge for evacuees fleeing the storm and responders traveling toward it to help. Airbnb will also waive its own service fees to make qualifying rentals truly free of charge.

On Thursday, Airbnb opened the Disaster Response Program to hosts in the entire Florida panhandle, including  Leon County, Calhoun County, Franklin County, Jackson County, Liberty County, Gadsden County, Gulf County, Wakulla County, Madison County, Jefferson County and Taylor County.

Qualifying communities in Georgia as of Thursday evening included Decatur County, Grady County and Thomas County.

Those with a home to offer in those areas, and those in need of a place to stay, should visit airbnb.com/hurricaneirmaevacuees. Floridians who are not currently Airbnb users are still able to take part in the program, either as hosts or guests, by signing up for an account. …

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Tampa Bay breweries offering up free water for Hurricane Irma prep as an alternative to stores

Coppertail posted on Facebook that it would fill jugs with filtered water for hurricane preparation.

Coppertail via Facebook

Coppertail posted on Facebook that it would fill jugs with filtered water for hurricane preparation.

One thing Tampa Bay's numerous craft breweries have in abundance, aside some from delicious beer, is the essential beer-making ingredient of filtered water. 

As the area preps for the possible effects of Hurricane Irma, a number of those local brewers are offering to fill up growlers, or any other containers you bring by, with some of that water, for free. That will be good news to some Tampa Bay residents who have struggled to find bottled water on store shelves during the rush to stock up on supplies.

Angry Chair, Coppertail and 81Bay in Tampa, as well as St. Petersburg brewers Pinellas Ale Works and Flying Boat have all made the offer on social media.

"Water is scarce in stores in the Tampa Bay Area," said a post on Flying Boat's Facebook page. "Feel free to bring in empty growlers of any size, water bottles, tumblers, jugs, you name it and we'll fill them with filtered water for free."

MORE HURRICANE IRMA

LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma and its path

APPS FOR PREP: Here's what Zello can and can't do

FREE INTERNET: Comcast makes its wifi hotspots free

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GasBuddy and Waze tracking gas stations with and without fuel in Florida, but they need your help

GasBuddy's tracker map showed stations without gas in the Tampa Bay area on Thursday morning, though the data isn't always accurate.

GasBuddy

GasBuddy's tracker map showed stations without gas in the Tampa Bay area on Thursday morning, though the data isn't always accurate.

Looking for stations with gas in the Tampa Bay area or anywhere else across Florida? As Hurricane Irma approaches, prompting long car lines and outages at some stations, there are apps for that. 

GasBuddy, an app normally aimed at helping people find the cheapest gas prices in their area, has shifted gears and activated its emergency Gas Tracker feature to help with preparation and evacuation. The GPS navigation app Waze sent out an alert this morning that it wants users to "help your community find gas."

If you have the GasBuddy app on your phone and select "Find Gas Near You," stations that have been reported as being out of gas or experiencing a power outage will display a "No Gas" or "No Power" icon. If you're on your computer, you can look at the Gasoline Availability Tracker at tracker.gasbuddy.com/search and click "search" to see a real-time map of reported outages. 

When searching for gas stations in Waze, those that are out of gas or closed will show "N/A" in the spot where the price of gas would normally be. …

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Impact on Tampa Bay depends on when Irma turns right

Pinellas County forms the latest boundary of the Hurricane Irma cone of probability in the 11 a.m. Thursday advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

National Hurricane Center

Pinellas County forms the latest boundary of the Hurricane Irma cone of probability in the 11 a.m. Thursday advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

The turn.

As Irma bears down on Florida, the state's fate depends on when the storm makes a relatively sharp right-hander to the north.

The center of the current forecast track by the National Hurricane Center calls for Irma to make landfall in southeast Florida, but the cone of uncertainty still included the entire peninsula as of the 11 a.m. Thursday advisory.

The Tampa Bay area is just within the western boundary of the cone. The timing of the turn will determine whether Tampa Bay area will see hurricane or tropical storm conditions.

So what's steering Irma?

The storm has been tracking west underneath an area of high pressure called the Bermuda high, said Grant Gilmore, meteorologist with WTSP 10Weather. For now, it's the path of least resistance, Gilmore said. But that won't last.

An area of low pressure, a ridge, located near New Mexico and Texas, is forecast to gradually move into the western or central part of the Gulf. The trough, with its counterclockwise wind rotation, creates a new path, steering Irma toward Florida, Gilmore said. 

"The instant it meets up with that trough it will allow the storm to turn north and go around the high," he said.  …

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