Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

News at noon: Hermine to bring afternoon rain, wind; Hudson hospital still without patients; Where are Trump's Florida offices?; Explosion at SpaceX launch site

After a dry morning, clouds are starting to build and more rain is expected this afternoon ahead of Tropical Storm Hermine's projected landfall of Friday at 2 a.m. in Apalachicola.

Tampa Bay area residents can expect gusty winds and potentially heavy squalls, forecasters said, as the storm approaches hurricane status as it makes it way north cross the Gulf of Mexico.

Hermine's increased strength has meteorologists suggesting the storm may evolve into a hurricane just before landfall. To achieve Category 1 status, storms must reach sustained winds of 74 mph or higher.

HUDSON HOSPITAL STILL EMPTY OF PATIENTS AFTER MORE THAN 200 EVACUATED

Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson will remain empty of patients until Monday at the earliest after an electrical fire knocked out power Wednesday night, forcing evacuation of all 209 people under care there. Lightning struck the roof of the hospital, at 14000 Fivay Road, George said, hitting a wire and causing a power outage. When the backup generator kicked in, electricity traveled through the damaged wiring so the staff shut off the backup power, too. Full power was restored to the hospital Thursday, but laws require the hospital to have backup power to readmit patients. Backup power won't be online until Monday or later, George said.

TRUMP'S PROMISED FLORIDA FIELD OFFICES REMAIN ELUSIVE; CLINTON'S KEEP GROWING

On Aug, 8, the Donald Trump campaign said it its first two dozen campaign field offices would open across Florida within two weeks. Since then, not a single new Trump office has opened in America's biggest battleground state, but Hillary Clinton's campaign added another 32. The Republican nominee still only has a Sarasota statewide headquarters open in the state he absolutely must win, while the Democratic nominee has 51 offices even though she has multiple paths to winning that don't require Florida's 29 electoral votes.

Associated Press

An explosion rocked a SpaceX launch site during a routine rocket test.

EXPLOSION ROCKS SPACEX LAUNCH SITE AT CAPE CANAVERAL DURING TEST

An explosion rocked a SpaceX launch site during a routine rocket test. SpaceX was conducting a test firing of its unmanned rocket when the blast occurred shortly after 9 a.m., according to NASA. The test was in advance of a planned Saturday launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which is next to NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Buildings several miles away shook from the blast, and multiple explosions continued for several minutes.

FERNANDEZ VOTING FOR CLINTON, LATEST FLORIDA REPUBLICAN TO OPPOSE TRUMP

Billionaire health care mogul Mike Fernandez of Miami is the latest high-profile Republican to come out against Donald Trump. And he's taking the extra step of backing Hillary Clinton. "No longer can we hide behind the excuse that party loyalty is paramount, and that a bad candidate of our own is always better than any candidate of theirs," Fernandez, who supported Jeb Bush for president, writes in the Miami Herald. "Blind loyalty in this case is the ultimate definition of disloyalty to our beliefs. Loyalty to our nation must be the ultimate arbiter of our choice."

ST. PETERSBURG ARTS DISTRICT IMPROVEMENTS COMING

Improvements are in the works for the Warehouse Arts District. Close to 100 people at the Warehouse Arts District association's annual membership meeting heard about streetscaping, lighting the Pinellas Trail and 30 new studios for artists. Mary Jane Park, executive director, said the organization is halfway to its goal of raising $800,000 thanks to a state grant for $300,000 and $100,000 from the city of St. Petersburg. The money will help pay for renovating a 15,000-square-foot space inside an existing warehouse for 20 to 30 artist studios. More than 300 artists, 10 percent from outside the state, have signed up for space in the Warehouse Arts District.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Hillsborough County deputies are seeking a man who is seen on surveillance video walking out of an Ulta Beauty store in Tampa on Aug. 17 with about $1,080 worth of "Naked" eye shadow palettes, deputies said.

SUSPECT SOUGHT IN THEFT OF MORE THAN $1,000 IN 'NAKED' EYE SHADOW PALETTES IN TAMPA

Hillsborough County deputies are seeking a man who is seen on surveillance video walking out of an Ulta Beauty store in Tampa on Aug. 17 with about $1,080 worth of "Naked" eye shadow palettes, deputies said. The crime wasn't discovered until Aug. 30, officials said, when an Ulta employee spotted the empty shelf and video surveillance footage was reviewed. Around 1:30 p.m. that day, the man walked into the store at 12715 Citrus Plaza Dr., spotted the popular palettes and exited the building with the beauty items concealed in a Ross shopping bag without paying, deputies said.

REPORT: HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR STOLE MORE THAN $100,000 FROM CHURCH

As the human resources director at Suncoast Cathedral, Dawn Myers Martin ensured she was taking home a good chunk of change, according to an arrest report. Martin, 46, inflated her biweekly salary and approved continued paychecks for her husband, even when he was on worker's compensation, the report states. It says she used department codes to disguise the anomalies. Between January 2012 and August 2014, according to the report, she stole $115,143.44 from the church.

PASCO OFFERS $5.5 MILLION IN INCENTIVES TO METTLER TOLEDO TO GET 500 JOBS

The deal to relocate Mettler Toledo's manufacturing plant from Hillsborough County and expand it in Lutz includes $5.5 million worth of incentives from Pasco County. Mettler Toledo and Pasco County announced last month that the company would build a new $30 million, 250,000-square-foot plant in the Northpointe Village complex southeast of the Suncoast Parkway interchange with State Road 54. There company will employ 500 people to build metal detection and X-ray equipment for commercial food-processing operations. In moving to Pasco, Mettler Toledo will close its plant in northwest Hillsborough and another facility in Ithaca, N.Y.

MAN ACCUSED OF MAKING DRUG DEAL WHILE CHILD ON HIS LAP

A 38-year-old man made a drug deal with an undercover detective while his child sat on his lap, according to arrest reports. Rodney Jermaine Evans faces charges of child abuse and sale or delivery of a controlled substance. Investigators said he sold about 1.1 ounces of spice, or synthetic marijuana, to an undercover officer for $60 on Aug. 9. He made the deal about 5:30 p.m. at 1700 34th St. N, according to the reports.

HARRY LENNIX SEES BRIGHT FUTURE FOR THE TAMPA BAY THEATRE FESTIVAL

Harry Lennix has a lot on his plate. The soft-voiced actor, who plays assistant FBI counterterrorism director Harold Cooper on NBC's The Blacklist, also runs a film production company he founded, directs Shakespearean plays across the country and is active in civic groups. So when his agent in 2015 passed along a request to lead a workshop at a theater festival in Tampa, Lennix was ready to say no.

ST. PETERSBURG COUNCIL MEMBERS QUESTION VALUE OF WAGE THEFT PROGRAM

The city's wage theft program is a year old. So far, it's been a pretty quiet debut. The tally? St. Petersburg received 36 complaints that led to $36,562 in wage claims being paid to employees who work within city limits. But weak enforcement tools have led to only $12,451 — out of $64,097 awarded — being collected from businesses that a hearing officer found have stolen wages from workers. The rest was brought in through negotiated settlements. The low number worried some council members who questioned whether the program, slated to receive $127,000 in this year's budget, was worth the cost.

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