Authorities are reminding residents to be cautious when hiring contractors for repair work to damaged property in the wake of Tropical Storm Debby. The Pinellas County Department of Justice and Consumer Services issued a list of precautions. They include:
• Avoid hiring anyone soliciting work door-to-door.
• Only pay a contractor as the work progresses or when it's complete. Avoid hiring anyone who demands full payment upfront.
• Beware of contractors who claim that extensive repairs do not require a building permit.
• Always verify a contractor's license with your county's Construction Licensing Board.
• Keep a detailed contract along with proof of payment for the work.
• Have the contractor provide you with a final affidavit showing all subcontractors and suppliers are paid.
• Ensure the building department inspects the contractor's work before making payment.
Ships wait it out
The Port of Tampa escaped Tropical Storm Debby unscathed, but high winds have kept six ships from entering the port. The winds have made it unsafe to transfer pilots on board those ships to guide them in, according to port officials. Four petroleum vessels, one anhydrous ammonia vessel and one ship carrying fruit have been anchored about 10 miles offshore, according to port officials. The first ship arrived Sunday. The U.S. Coast Guard will determine when they can enter the Port of Tampa and in what order, officials said, depending on the forecast. But officials expect conditions to improve today.
Refuge at Motel 6
In Tampa, six families who live at the N 15th Street Apartments were moved to a Motel 6 on E Fowler Avenue after Debby left some units in three feet of stagnant water. Their landlord paid for a three-night motel stay for tenants. A representative for the property owner said he expected tenants would be released from their leases because of the extensive damage at the apartments. The complex was one of three in the University area where dozens of residents had to leave because of flooding, said Kel Bartley, a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Bartley said tracking the tenants had been difficult because most of them stayed with friends or family. No one stayed at the county shelter on Monday night.
Naked car attack
As the storm howled Sunday night, a "completely naked" Larry Norman Hill used a golf club to smash a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am that was abandoned after it stalled in floodwaters, a Pasco County Sheriff's Office report states. A side mirror was knocked off, a headlight ripped out, the roof caved in, and the doors were opened. A pizza delivery woman left the Pontiac earlier Sunday after it flooded. When she went back for it Monday, she saw the damage and called the Sheriff's Office. Neighbors pointed to Hill, 57, who lives on Cape Cod Drive in Holiday, who was found clothed and "in possession of a putter," the report states, though it was determined the car's damage was done by a driver. Hill told a deputy he was on the car's roof because he thought a baby was inside "and wanted to save it," the report states. "I asked him why he opened the doors to the vehicle and he told me he wanted to air it out." He was charged with criminal mischief.
Times staff writers Jamal Thalji, Jodie Tillman and Erin Sullivan contributed to this report.