ST. PETERSBURG — After more than a week since Hurricane Irma knocked out power to millions of Floridians, Duke Energy announced it will finish its restoration efforts Tuesday.
Duke Energy Florida's president Harry Sideris apologized for power not being restored sooner, but said Irma did more damage than his analysts predicted. The utility planned for 1 million of its Florida customers to lose power, but the number was closer to 1.3 million....
More than a week after Hurricane Irma knocked out power to millions of Floridians, about 300,000 customers across the state were still in the dark Monday evening.
But most in the Tampa Bay area could flick their lights on.
Duke Energy reported that more than 99 percent of outages were restored in a dozen counties across the state, including in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough. The utility said about 2,549 customers in Pinellas and 280 customers in Pasco — where Duke is the largest provider of electricity — remained without power Monday, though some outages were unrelated to Irma....
LITHIA — A house belonging to a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy and his family caught fire Friday afternoon, killing the family's two dogs and cat, authorities said.
By the time Hillsborough County Fire Rescue crews responded to the home in the 19000 block of Boyette Road about 12:45 p.m., firefighters said a column of smoke could already be seen from a distance away.
The deputy was not identified. Neighbors told crews the house was unoccupied except for the family's pets. Crews were able to rescue the family's bunny....
Like the heat, John Johnson's anger has built all week.
For days, he has sweated through Hurricane Irma's aftermath. He lost power at 8 p.m. Sunday. He has heard the repeated vow from Duke Energy that they'd have electricity back for hundreds of thousands of Pinellas customers like him by midnight Friday. He has watched power trucks roll by his street.
But Friday afternoon, Johnson was still in the dark. He has sat in his sweltering home in Largo with five dogs, for five days now, stewing....
ISLAMORADA — Bill Quinn stood shirtless Tuesday morning on the blue concrete slab where his house used to be, surveying the damage.
His was the closest lot to the Atlantic Ocean in the Seabreeze mobile home park, south of U.S. 1 in Islamorada.
The frame to his single-wide mobile home lay adjacent to the slab, exactly parallel, as if neatly placed. The rest of the home, though, was all over, strewn by Hurricane Irma....
MARCO ISLAND — Day broke Monday over this wealthy resort town in southern Collier County with a surprising bit of good news.
Even after a direct hit from a Category 3 hurricane, Marco Island was still mostly standing.
Here, Martin Pilote was able to ride out the storm in his two-story waterfront house, putting up the shutters and listening to the wind whistle by.
It was a different story just across the bridge in mainland Collier County....
NAPLES — Charlene Garcia and her boyfriend, Justin Maschue, stopped their Nissan pickup truck at the downed trees.
They were still a quarter mile from their home, unsure of what they'd find when they got there. But with trees covering the roadway, they'd have to walk the rest of the way in a foot of water....
MARCO ISLAND — Daybreak Monday revealed what everyone had hoped for: Marco Island largely still stood.
Save for the palm fronds and occasional trunk that littered the roadway, Hurricane Irma left most of the island intact, despite making landfall here Sunday afternoon as a Category 3 storm.
Its track meandered from east to west, its wander straddling Miami to Tampa, before settling on the wealthy resort town in southern Collier County...
PUNTA GORDA — With Hurricane Irma off Florida's southwest coast Sunday — and with Charlotte County in the storm's cross hairs later this afternoon — officials here begged residents who stayed behind to take shelter and assured them community leaders were ready to begin assessment and recovery as soon as it's safe.
"Get ready, the storm is upon us now," warned County Administrator Ray Sandrock....
PUNTA GORDA — About 10:15 a.m., officials pulled down the shutter over the front door of the Charlotte County Emergency Operations Center.
Tropical-storm force winds had arrived, and it was time to shelter in place.
"For a day, we're not going anywhere," said Charlotte County Fire Chief Bill Van Helden. "We finally came to a place where we're shutting down all fire, EMS and sheriff's office responses."...
PORT CHARLOTTE — The shelter at Kingsway Elementary School in Port Charlotte was a busy place Saturday.
Outside, Hurricane Irma marched toward Gasparilla Bay. Inside, more than 900 people were stuffed into the cafeteria and hallways, everybody's stuff touching everybody else's stuff.
To greet each new arrival were the smiling Rick and Jaye Scarberry. They had been designated by shelter manager Trish Sturgess her "upbeat people," there to set the tone for guests as soon as they left the registration table....
MARCO ISLAND — On a typical Saturday morning, Collier Boulevard, one of the main roads out to the beach, is so busy that Bill and Gena Sullivan can't even back out of their driveway.
But ahead of Hurricane Irma, the island is deserted, silent save for the swaying palms and speakers on police SUVs warning anyone still there: EVACUATE.
The Sullivans, married for 40 years, were among the few holdouts. They finished taking in everything from their lanai and prepared to leave Saturday afternoon if the forecast got worse. ...
09/09/17 Public Safety
Times Staff Writer
PUNTA GORDA — Robert Kole says he's "not no hero."
The 53-year-old Charlotte County bus driver was in his normal bus — a diesel hybrid, the largest bus in the county's fleet, he said — but not on his usual route Saturday.
Instead he was picking up elderly people and others with special needs who had yet to evacuate before the dreaded arrival of Hurricane Irma on Sunday, taking them to shelters....
Hurricane Irma continued its ominous march toward Florida on Friday as residents prepared to escape or survive the most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded.
In Tampa Bay, the wait grew more anxious: The latest forecasts show the monster storm making landfall near Naples on Sunday before making its expected trek up the state, bringing it closer to the bay area....
LABELLE — Inside the hurricane shelter at LaBelle High School, Alberto Cabana played a double role.
He was at once a resident of the shelter, having fled his mobile home with his mom and three younger siblings, at once a volunteer there.
"If I'm going to stay here I might as well make a positive difference," the 17-year-old said. "I've lived here for 15 years and I feel like giving back to it."...