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Zachary T. Sampson, Times Staff Writer

Zachary T. Sampson

Zack covers crime and breaking news in the St. Petersburg office. He joined the Times in September 2014 and previously worked for the Boston Globe and the New Bedford Standard-Times in Massachusetts.

He was raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Northeastern University, where he studied journalism and sociology.

Phone: (727) 893-8804


Twitter: @zacksampson

  1. Utilities face barrage of questions as power returns to Tampa Bay


    Nearly all of Tampa Bay has electricity again a week after Hurricane Irma shredded the power grid, but elected officials here say the problem is far from solved.

    They have many questions about the strength of local power utilities' infrastructure and failing communication systems that forced angry residents to report the same outages multiple times before getting help.

    HURRICANE IRMA: Read the latest coverage from the Tampa Bay Times....

    Duke Energy's Scott Crellin (right) works to cut tree limbs from a power line along S Pinellas Avenue as apprentice lineman Nick Ceccarini looks on Sept. 11, the day after Hurricane Irma struck Florida. [CHRIS URSO  |   Times]
  2. Thousands fume as Duke Energy misses deadline to restore power


    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....

    A lineman works to get power back to a neighborhood in Clearwater on Wednesday. About 60,000 Duke customers in Pinellas County remained powerless at 9:24 p.m. Friday, according to state data. Across Tampa Bay, electricity was out for 112,543 customers, part of the 1.4 million Floridians still without power after Irma made landfall. [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
  3. Hot, sweaty and still powerless, Tampa Bay leans on each other


    The power trucks massed in the morning.

    They rolled out into quiet streets across Tampa Bay, where residents shared extension cords and bags of ice and precious air-conditioned real estate. When they had nothing else to give, people offered patience.

    COMPLETE COVERAGE: Find all our coverage about Hurricane Irma here...

    Pastor Roger Stroman cooked for those left without power by outside Abundant Life Ministries at 2051 9th Ninth Ave S in St. Petersburg. [ZACHARY T. SAMPSON  |  Times]
  4. Everglades City overrun by water from Irma(w/video)


    EVERGLADES CITY — The water here gives.

    Stone crabs, airboat rides, picturesque afternoons for the tourists that descend each year.

    But Sunday, it took. For many here, it took almost everything.

    Hurricane Irma blew up the southwest Florida coast and lashed Everglades City like few other places.

    "The water came up," said June Robinson, 57. "And it came up fast."

    The wind ripped shingles from roofs, sent shards of palm trees flying over the grass. ...

    A pickup truck moves through Collier Avenue on Monday (9/10/17) in downtown Everglades City, which became flooded with water in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma's landfall on Sunday (9/11/17).
  5. Estero man thinks Scarface would have ridden out Irma. So he did, too


    ESTERO — Sam Powers normally smokes about five Pall Mall cigarettes a day, he said.

    But Sunday he tore through a pack-and-a-half, wide-eyed in his mobile home at the Covered Wagon Trailer Park while Hurricane Irma bore down.

    "You can call us stupid if you want to," Powers said, sitting on a couch next to his friend, Billy Roblero, 20. "I just wanted to stay here."

    He listened to the radio all day, pet his cats Smoky and Midnight, stepped outside to feel the wind against his skin. Powers, 52, said he has lived in the trailer park for 21 years and has stayed there for hurricanes before. ...

    A compact car is damaged in front of an AutoZone store, in Fort Myers, U.S. 41, the result of the landfall of Hurricane Irma. (Douglas R. Clifford  | Times)
  6. Charlotte County officials warn of Irma: 'The storm is upon us now'


    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....

    Local authorities meet for a morning briefing to discuss Hurricane Irma in the command room at the Charlotte County emergency operations center in Punta Gorda on Sunday. (LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times)
  7. In Punta Gorda, time to shelter in place


    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."...

    Local authorities meet for a morning briefing to discuss Hurricane Irma in the command room at the Charlotte County emergency operations center in Punta Gorda on Sunday. (LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times)
  8. In Irma's path, Cape Coral residents sticking it out


    CAPE CORAL — This Gulf city, hugged by the Caloosahatchee River, is right in the middle of Hurricane Irma's track.

    But driving around late Saturday, as the winds picked up and the palms began to bend, it wasn't hard to find people hunkering down instead of evacuating.

    "Cape Coral is a pretty new city," said Yanet Morales, 37. "We feel the house is safety."

    She and her extended Cuban family were planning to ride out Irma in a concrete house on Academy Boulevard. The night before the storm, they played dominoes and drank wine, confident that the building would hold and their big stock of rice, beans, chicken and pork would carry them through....

    From left, Yanet Morales, 37, Lazaro Senarega, 13, Yudel Senarega, 15, and Yudel Morales, 35, play dominoes on Saturday in the garage of the family home in Cape Coral, south of Fort Myers. In background are Juan Pujol, 32, and Maria Silva, 40. Residents of Cape Coral have been subjected to a mandatory evacuation order by Lee County Emergency Management for those living in Evacuation Zone B south of Pine Island Road, prompted by a forecast of landfall of Hurricane Irma on Florida's west coast. The family plans to ride out the storm in the home in the seaside community which is nestled against the Caloosahatchee River on the Gulf of Mexico. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times)
  9. Scenes from a nervous Southwest Florida


    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. ...

  10. Bracing for the worst in a southwest Florida trailer park: 'Everyone's going to lose everything here'


    ESTERO — They didn't have much else, so they taped their windows, stuffed cardboard behind the glass and pieced together spare boards to block their doors.

    The people who live in Covered Wagon Trailer Park say they are trying to get their lives back on track, but now Hurricane Irma is splintering those plans.

    "I already know there's going to be nothing left when I get back," said Holly Doney, 42. She shoved clothes and pictures into her small white sedan, but left behind all the furniture in the trailer she rents for $700 a month....

    Greg Merritt, 31, left, and Sarah Sermo, 31, with their dog, Drama, search for items in their two bedroom trailer home moments before leaving the Covored Wagon Trailer Park in Estero, where they have been living for several months after moving to the area from Flint, Mich. The family was among residents who were fleeing the area on Saturday after an evacuation order was issued as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida from the south. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times)
  11. Naples waits for Irma: 'Just think how many millions of people have been scared in the last week'


    NAPLES — Don Wingard stood on the wooden ramp to Naples Beach and looked at the waves.

    A little after noon, the surf was still tame.

    But Hurricane Irma's path was growing more certain by the hour. Naples was in it, potentially the first major city in Florida's southwest coast to feel the effects. Wingard planned to ride it out in a hotel further inland than his house near the beach....

    People gather around the beach in Naples before the arrival of Hurricane Irma into Southwest Florida on Friday.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
  12. Marco Island deserted and silent but for dire warnings to evacuate


    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.

    LIVE BLOG: Latest updates on Hurricane Irma. ...

    Marco Island condominiums remain mostly empty on Saturday, where an evacuation order is in place while Hurricane Irma approaches from the south. (Douglas R. Clifford  |  Times)
  13. Hurricane Irma: Evacuations, anxiety as storm edges closer to Tampa Bay


    Hurricane Irma continued its ominous march toward Florida on Friday as residents prepared to escape or survive the most powerful Atlantic storm ever recorded.

    LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma

    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....

    Carlos Perez and Arriana Gonzalez, of Miami, embrace on South Beach as wind from approaching Hurricane Irma pushes a set of waves onshore on Friday (9/8/17) in Miami.
  14. Miami Beach prepares for Hurricane Irma


    MIAMI BEACH — A young couple sat cuddling on a park bench by Ocean Drive just before sundown Friday. A little naked boy with a gold chain around his neck played in the waves. A dog trotted in front of his owner, zig-zagging across the sand with its tongue hanging out.

    All was right in paradise.

    Except the trash cans had been removed. The lifeguard stands were pulled back. And a few harried residents by the parking lot scooped sand into vinyl bags, a last-minute effort to protect themselves against Hurricane Irma....

  15. In Little Havana, awaiting Irma over cortaditos at Versailles


    MIAMI — The forecast looked bleak, but regulars leaned on the counter at the Versailles Restaurant anyway, waiting for coffee and pastries, trying to keep the beat of Little Havana steady.

    "You got to be patient and stay calm and wait," said Carlos Badilla, 70, of Coral Gables.

    Still, the storm was on everyone's mind.

    Pablo Garcia puffed on a cigar and pulled up a picture on his phone, showing off the swirl of Irma next to Hurricane Andrew, the Category 5 beast that devastated the area just south of Miami in 1992. Andrew was more compact, with a clear, scary eye, he said, but Irma is wider....

    Business continued at Cafe Versailles, the landmark, family-owned Cuban restaurant in Miami's Little Havana on Friday as Hurricane Irma threatened. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times]