Friday, January 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

On Pass-a-Grille, a toast to Irma before hunkering down on the beach

ST. PETE BEACH — Andy Lawhead sat on the front porch of Pass-a-Grille's Sand Castle hotel on Sunday and looked out at the Gulf of Mexico.

"This could all be gone tomorrow," he mused, drinking coffee from a red cup.

LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma

Lawhead, who manages the Sand Castle, planned to hunker down with two tenants in the two-story building as Hurriane Irma rolled through later Sunday.

There were seven of them originally, but the others hit the road yesterday, peeling off one by one as conditions worsened.

Lawhead, 32, said he feels safe in the Sand Castle.

"It's a 112-year-old building and it's the first time we've put boards on it," he said.

He also felt a sense of duty. The Castle has eight year-round tenants, and two of them were the one who were going to stick it out with Lawhead.

"I stayed because I have a responsibility for my hotel and my tenants that live here and their safety," Lawhead said.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued for the beaches day before. By Sunday, most everyone had left — and deputies aren't letting anyone back in until after the storm.

Lawhead said he'll sleep in the lobby, and move up to the second floor if things really get bad.

"It's going to be pretty scary tonight," he said. 'But it's nice right now."

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