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Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer

Craig Pittman

Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. He graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for the Times. He is a four-time winner of the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida and a series of stories on Florida's vanishing wetlands that he wrote with Matthew Waite won the top investigative reporting award in both 2006 and 2007 from the Society of Environmental Journalists. He is the author of four books: "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid" (2012); "Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species," (2010); and, co-written with Waite, "Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss," (2009). His new book, < a href="http://www.amazon.com/Oh-Florida-Americas-Weirdest-Influences-ebook/dp/B019CB3UNQ"> "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country,"hits stores in July 2016. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children.

Phone: (727) 893-8530

Email: craig@tampabay.com

Twitter: @CraigTimes

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  1. Pittman: Why Irma drained the water from Tampa Bay

    Columns

    Nobody could believe it. As Hurricane Irma approached Florida, Tampa Bay suddenly went dry. People hopped down onto the bay bottom, now a vast sandy expanse, and walked around, stunned.

    There are different terms for what happened: "a negative surge," "a blowout tide," a "water level set-down." Whatever you call it, what occurred in Tampa Bay was one of the five biggest ones ever, according to Texas storm surge expert Hal Needham....

    Scores of people walk on the sand of Tampa Bay along Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa on Sept. 9. As Hurricane Irma approached, the water temporarily receded to an extreme level allowing people to walk on what used to be the waters of Tampa Bay. Tampa police later asked people to leave for their safety. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]
  2. Got Hurricane Irma questions? Here are some answers

    Hurricanes

    We're now four days into the post-Irma era in Florida, and people still have questions about the aftermath and recovery. Here are a few answers.

    Services

    After Irma hit here, I'm going to have a hard time paying my mortgage. Will the mortgage company foreclose on me?

    Maybe not — it's up to you. Because Florida has been declared a federal disaster area, that means you can get your mortgage payment waived for a set amount of months, with no damage to your credit. It's not automatic, though. You have to contact your mortgage lender and apply for it. Each lender may have a different set of rules, so be sure you know what you're getting into before you say yes to this....

    A sunken houseboat lies at a small marina behind a hotel on Clearwater Beach on Thursday after the passing of Hurricane Irma.
  3. Questions answered about Irma aftermath and cleanup

    Hurricanes

    We're all still recovering from Hurricane Irma, and lots of people have questions about dealing with the aftermath. Here are some answers.

    Traffic

    I still see lots of traffic lights are out. Does that mean I can just ignore them?

    No. At intersections where the stoplights aren't working, treat them like a four-way stop. Because Florida drivers apparently don't know how to maneuver through a four-way stop, here's a short reminder: Pull up to the line and stop. Look both ways for traffic. If there isn't any, proceed. If there are other cars at the intersection — this is crucial — then each one can proceed in the same order in which they arrived at the stop. If two cars arrive at the intersection at the same time, then the one to the right has the right of way. No matter what, though, pause and look both ways before you hit the gas....

    Gianni Pena, 18, wades out into the floodwaters surrounding his family&#8217;s home in Gainesville on Tuesday to lock Allan Cotton&#8217;s truck into four-wheel drive so they can help those in need nearby.
  4. Your questions answered about Irma cleanup and damage assessment

    Hurricanes

    Now that Hurricane Irma is gone, it's time to assess the damage and start the cleanup. Here are some questions people are asking, along with answers.

    Evacuees

    I evacuated ahead of Irma. I'm tired of living like a refugee. Can I go home now?

    Maybe. The evacuation orders are being lifted in stages, so watch for the official announcement for your area. If you live in an evacuation zone, you may need to show deputies some identification before you're allowed back in. The bottom line here is to be patient and don't rush back. Take your time and wait for the official all clear....

    Westbound traffic backup due to checkpoint on Madeira Beach Causeway, on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. [CHERIE DIEZ | Times]
  5. Irma forecast wasn't as far off as you may think, experts say

    Hurricanes

    As the monster storm Irma approached, some people in South Florida fled to the Gulf Coast, hoping to be safe there. Instead, after clobbering the Keys, Irma followed them, wobbling to the east and taking a course that came right up the state's western edge with a landfall at Marco Island.

    Did the National Hurricane Center get the forecast wrong?

    "An analysis of the track forecast and intensity error of the storm won't be done for a few weeks, at the earliest," Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said Monday....

    This forecast graphic from the National Hurricane Center on Sept. 7 shows Irma's final path well within the cone of uncertainty. NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER
  6. Hurricane Irma: What non-evacuation zone residents should do to stay safe

    Public Safety

    Residents who live in a non-evacuation zone are grappling with a judgment call: Is my home safe enough for Hurricane Irma's wrath?

    The zones that have been evacuated were evacuated because of concerns about water — in other words, the storm surge.

    But wind is likely to affect people all over the county, particularly if Irma spins off tornadoes, as hurricanes often do.

    "We evacuate from water, we hide from wind," said Assistant Pinellas County Administrator John Bennett....

    Yvette Sedeno, 62, left, and Ray Sedeno, 62, install storm shutters on to their windows on their lanai while preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irma on Friday afternoon in unincorporated Dade County, south of Miami. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times)
  7. Hurricane Irma: Panthers, manatees may be readier than we are

    Hurricanes

    As millions of people flee Hurricane Irma, and the rest board up their windows and make plans to ride out the storm, some folks on social media have wondered: What about Florida's wildlife?

    LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma

    Will Irma hurt the panthers in the swamps and the manatees in the bays and estuaries and the sea turtles out in the ocean?...

    Florida wildlife, such as manatees, may fare better during Hurricane Irma than a lot of humans. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  8. Need a place to stay? A Pasco nudist resort says they're open

    Hurricanes

    If you have to evacuate your home because of Hurricane Irma and you need a place to stay, there's one possible shelter you may not have considered.

    The Caliente Club in Land O'Lakes.

    Yes, that's right, the nudist resort that bills itself as "the most luxurious clothing optional experiences you can imagine" and "the hottest party on the planet."

    "We do have a lot of generator capacity," assistant general manager AnastasiiaChyruk said Friday. "We've got a lot of diesel. We plan on staying open for our members and residents." ...

    Caliente Resort & Spa says it plans to stay open as Hurricane Irene threatens the Tampa Bay region. It says evacuees are welcome, though the same clothing-optional rules apply. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times]
  9. Hurricane Irma evacuations: What you need to know

    Hurricanes

    Times Staff Writer

    As Hurricane Irma takes dead aim at the Florida peninsula, the first evacuation orders were issued in Tampa Bay.

    Pinellas County ordered a mandatory evacuation for all residents who in low-lying areas in Level A and all mobile homes. The evacuation will start Friday but officials told residents not to wait.

    EVACUATION MAPS: Find evacuation maps for Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco and Pinellas. ...

    Hurricane damage like this is what emergency officials feared Thursday when they called for evacuations at local mobile home parks. This photo shows damage from Hurricane Hermine in 2016 at the Town N Country Mobile Home Park in Valrico. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |   Times]
  10. More than 20,000 chime in on Florida panther's future

    News

    Panther peeve

    20,000

    More than 20,000 people have given the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service an earful about the future status of the endangered Florida panther, according to the agency's top panther biologist.

    The panther, which has been listed as endangered since the first endangered list was published in 1967, has been Florida's official state animal since 1982. The Fish and Wildlife Service, which is supposed to review the status of every animal on the endangered list every five years, announced in July that it was planning a review for the panther and wanted public comments by Aug. 29....

    Florida Panther. Photographed at Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, Inc. &#13;JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   Times
  11. St. Petersburg considers requiring solar panels on new homes, repairs

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — If you're building a new house or putting on a new roof starting next year, and your place is bigger than 1,100 square feet, then city officials may require you to install solar panels.

    As the place that has long billed itself as "the Sunshine City," St. Petersburg hopes to boost the number of solar-powered homes as part of a broader commitment made last year to convert the city to renewable energy sources, said Sharon Wright, the city's sustainability coordinator....

    Could St. Petersburg become just the second city in Florida to require new homes to come with solar panels? [Associated Press]
  12. St. Petersburg proposal would require solar panels on new homes and major roof repairs

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — If you're building a new house or putting on a new roof next year, and your place is bigger than 1,100 square feet, then St. Petersburg city officials may require you to install solar panels.

    As the place that has long billed itself as "the Sunshine City," St. Petersburg hopes to boost the number of solar-powered homes as part of a broader commitment made last year to convert the city to renewable energy sources, said Sharon Wright, the city's sustainability coordinator....

    Could St. Petersburg become just the second city in Florida to require new homes to come with solar panels?
  13. Study: Seismic blasting in Gulf of Mexico hurts dolphins, whales

    Wildlife

    For the past six months, a battle has raged over a proposal to allow oil and gas companies to perform seismic testing to search for deposits of petroleum off the nation's Atlantic coast.

    What many may not realize is that the controversial testing technique involving underwater blasts from airguns has been used for decades in the Gulf of Mexico. It's still going on, too. The government issued 22 permits for seismic tests in the gulf last year. So far this year it has issued 11....

     photo of an adult Bryde's whale in the Gulf of Mexico. A new study says using seismic testing to find oil and gas deposits in the ocean is also harming dolphins and whales. [Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]
  14. Column: Snooty and other possible replacements for Confederate monuments

    Perspective

    I grew up in Pensacola, maybe the most Southern of North Florida's cities, or at least the one close enough to the state line to be dubbed "Lower Alabama."

    I ate grits. I said "y'all" and "ain't." I still do.

    When I was a kid, my parents would take me downtown to see the latest Disney movie (because that's where you went to see movies before the malls were built), and I always knew we were getting close when I could see the 50-foot-tall Confederate memorial. We'd be driving along the city's main street, and the weathered gray monument would suddenly loom up like a ghost....

    Tampa Bay Times staff writer Craig Pittman.
  15. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The 13-mile, four-lane extension of the Suncoast Parkway has been dubbed by critics as "the road to nowhere" because it ends in the middle of Citrus County. It doesn't bend west toward U.S. 19, or east toward Interstate 75, and there are no firm plans to extend it....

    A 2011 aerial photo of development along the Pasco-Hernando border at the intersection of County Line Road and the Suncoast Parkway. This view is looking north and the road in the center is the Suncoast.  For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [WILL VRAGOVIC, Times]