Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

Romano: When it comes to hurricanes, is Tampa Bay just lucky or is it overdue?

Twelve hours later, the sky was blue and the line to get into Waffle House stretched from the front entrance around two walls and past the loading door in the back of the building.

This is how we cope with hurricanes in Tampa Bay. Every decade or so we get ourselves worked into a frenzy, and then we exhale with a plate of hash browns, preferably scattered, smothered and covered.

"When Waffle House opens up, the world is right again," said Pete Burkes, who waited outside the Safety Harbor location for two hours to bring hot food to his disabled mother. "That's the truth."

For the most part, Hurricane Irma spared the bay area overnight Sunday. Just like Hurricane Charley did when it veered off course in 2004. Just like Hurricane Georges did in 1998. Just like hurricanes Elena (1985), Frederic (1979) and Donna (1960).

The map of major storm strikes on this side of the world is lengthy and impressive. From Corpus Christi to Houston in Texas. From New Orleans to Mobile on the Gulf Coast. From Fort Myers to the Keys to Homestead in South Florida, and then up the coast to South Carolina, North Carolina and Long Island.

Yet Tampa Bay, a large and vulnerable target, hasn't been dealt a major blow in nearly a century.

So does that make us lucky, or overdue?

The correct answer, of course, is yes.

We all understand the inconvenience of proper hurricane preparation can be considerable. Either you're fleeing hundreds of miles or spending hundreds of dollars. And as storms pass us completely or offer just glancing shots, there might be a tendency to consider these warnings, um, overblown.

That would be regrettable. And potentially fatal.

It's true that Tampa Bay has geography in its favor when it comes to avoiding hurricanes. A storm that hits the east coast of Florida will dramatically weaken if it crosses the state (Hurricane Jeanne in 2004) before approaching us. And hurricanes that enter the Gulf of Mexico do not usually take the right-hand turn (Hurricane Charley in 2004) needed to strike Florida's west coast.

That leaves a storm such as Irma that goes directly north after passing Cuba, with its lone eye focused on Tampa Bay. History says it's a long shot, but this past weekend proves it's not impossible.

Irma was on just that sort of track until a cold front shifted the hurricane's path ever so slightly, according to Jonathan Belles, a weather.com meteorologist, and landfall arrived closer to Naples.

"We got very, very, very lucky with Irma; literally just a difference of a few hours changed things," said Belles, a St. Pete native and FSU graduate. "So, yes, luck does play a part in this, but I'm hesitant to say that because you don't want people to develop this sense of, 'Hey, we missed another one.' You don't want anyone taking the next one for granted."

If you're anything like me, you've lived through more hurricane watches and warnings than you can possibly remember. And you've learned not to panic, and not to overreact.

But if you were paying attention, you also saw what Hurricane Agnes did to Panama City in 1972, what Andrew did to South Florida in 1992, and what Wilma did to Marco Island in 2005.

Good fortune should be appreciated, but never counted on.

Comments

Leonard Pitts Jr.: One year later.

And here we are, one year later.If you are groping for markers by which to measure how profoundly we have been changed since Inauguration Day, here’s one you might want to consider:In January of 1998, reports surfaced of a sexual affair between Presi...
Published: 01/21/18
Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Lightning said all the right things about needing to look in the mirror and do some soul-searching during its recent funk. Veterans said they had to lead the way. Coach Jon Cooper believed this eight-game trip would "show us wha...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jalen Hudson came off the bench to score 17, and Chris Chiozza, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes contributed clutch baskets down the stretch as Florida rallied to upset No. 18 Kentucky 66-64 Saturday night. "We were able to win it jus...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

ST. PETERSBURG — USF had expected to have four former players in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, but QB Quinton Flowers had to miss the showcase game after learning that his grandmother had died late last week."I most definitely ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — With less than a week to install a playbook, offenses can have it tough in college showcase games.And for 58 minutes on Saturday in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, the teams combined for just one offensive touchdown.But...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

For years, Edward Peachey has bragged about the number of jobless people he has helped find work.As president and CEO of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, he’s in charge of the two main government agencies that provide training to the...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

Diver from Dover dies in treacherous Eagle’s Nest cave

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday investigated the death of a Hillsborough County man in the Eagle’s Nest, an underwater network of caves where at least 11 others have died since 1981.Even experienced divers have lost th...
Updated: 11 hours ago
More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

More than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles rescued in Florida Panhandle

Florida’s dip into frigid temperatures did more than just stun humans unused to such cold air. This month scientists and volunteers have rescued more than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles from a single bay in the Florida Panhandle.The U.S. Geological S...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

Orchestra sets off fireworks in the brassy ‘Sinfonietta’

TAMPA — Many times during Sinfonietta, Leoš Janácek’s notoriously difficult but joyous work, it was impossible for a regular patron of the Florida Orchestra to escape this observation: They have never sounded quite like this.This isn’t to say musicia...
Published: 01/20/18
The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The longer the shutdown lasts, the further the economic ripples will spread

The early days of the federal government shutdown won’t slow the U.S. economy much. No workers are missing paychecks yet, and because it is a weekend, few businesses expect to feel the effects of lost customers or suppliers.That could change, quickly...
Published: 01/20/18