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Justine Griffin, Times Staff Writer

Justine Griffin

Justine Griffin covers retail business and tourism for the Tampa Bay Times. She is a native Floridian who spent most of her childhood in Pasco County. Prior to coming to the Times in 2015, she worked for the St. Augustine Record, the Sun Sentinel and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, where she gained national attention for her retail coverage and for a longform article she wrote about her experience as an egg donor. Justine is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she studied journalism. She's an equestrian. Her horse is named Belinda.

Phone: (727) 893-8467

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @SunBizGriffin

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  1. Whatever happened to the Zika epidemic?

    Health

    Remember Zika?

    The last time Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians about the potential threat of the mosquito-borne virus was in July, when he urged residents to still be vigilant against bug bites and standing water. At the time, doctors and researchers were bracing for what was supposed to be another active summer season for the virus. Some expected it to be even worse than last year, when 1,100 travel-related cases were reported statewide and Zika spread into pockets of South Florida. ...

    Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting Zika. Cases of the virus are down dramatically in Florida.
  2. Make-A-Wish Foundation aims to help more kids in Tampa Bay

    Health

    The Make-A-Wish Foundation is on the lookout for sick children in the Tampa Bay area who need a once-in-a-lifetime pick-me-up.

    The national nonprofit's Southern Florida chapter has grown geographically and is now responsible for Tampa Bay and Sarasota as well as its existing coverage areas in Naples, Fort Myers and the region spanning from Palm Beach to Miami.

    That's good news for Tampa Bay. The Make-A-Wish Southern Florida chapter is one of the most active chapters in the country for the organization, which grants "wishes" to children with critical illnesses and their families. The chapter, founded in 1983, has granted 11,000 wishes to children since it started and is on track to grant 600 or more wishes next year with its expanded reach, said chief operating officer Richard Kelly. That's nearly one wish every 16 hours, he said. ...

    Grace Savage, a 10-year-old girl with a chromosomal disorder made a trek to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium last year, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The foundation intends to beef up its presence in the Tampa Bay area after a reorganization. The region is now the responsibility of the foundation's Southern Florida chapter, one of the most active in the country, with more than 11,000 wishes granted so far. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times ]
  3. Construction starts on USF medical school, the first piece of Tampa's Water Street project

    Health

    TAMPA — Dozens of workers in hard hats and boots were busy at work at the corner of South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive Wednesday morning, signaling the start of construction on the University of South Florida's new Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

    USF medical students, staff, donors and board members joined Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and a slew of local politicians and real estate developers to celebrate what will be the first part of Water Street Tampa, a $3 billion redevelopment project expected to span 50-plus acres in downtown Tampa. USF President Judy Genshaft said the medical school and cardiovascular institute will be a key anchor for the district....

    A rendering shows what the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute will look like when completed in 2019. Local officials gathered Wednesday to celebrate as construction begins on the facility, the first piece of the Water Street redevelopment area in downtown Tampa. [Rendering courtesy of the USF Health]
  4. Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough power outages nearly all restored a week after Irma

    Energy

    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....

    John Rhode attempts to salvage what he can from his Summerland Key home on Sunday after Hurricane Irma’s destruction. FEMA reports that 25 percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed due to the direct hit.
  5. Winn-Dixie store manager shelters locals in the Keys

    Retail

    The Winn-Dixie grocery store on Big Pine Key opened Thursday after Hurricane Irma, thanks to a few local residents and one kind store manager.

    Kenny Lowe, the store manager of the Winn-Dixie grocery store on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys, hunkered down inside the grocery store during the wrath of Hurricane Irma. While preparing the store for the big storm, he connected with a 19 local customers who needed shelter, so he opened the doors to the grocery store to let them in. ...

    The Winn-Dixie Store in Big Pine Key of the Florida Keys housed several evacuees during Hurricane Irma. [Photos courtesy of Winn-Dixie]
  6. Grocery stores working around the clock to replenish supplies after Irma

    Retail

    When the big green semi-trailers with the Publix logo were driving into downtown St. Petersburg Tuesday morning, local residents breathed a collective sigh of relief.

    They might not have had power in their homes, but at least the Publix on the corner was opening soon.

    Retailers across Florida struggled to keep stores supplied before and after Hurricane Irma. The demand from everything to nonperishable food to toilet paper to bottled water and bags of ice has been fierce and overwhelming, store officials says. ...

    Customers looking for bottled water to stock up for Hurricane Irma lined up before opening time this week outside the Publix supermarket at 2724 W Hillsborough Ave. The store let them in early. [SUE CARLTON   |   Times]
  7. In Florida, 2.1 million customers still powerless four days after Hurricane Irma

    Energy

    As the fourth day after Hurricane Irma stretched on, a fifth of the state remained without lights or air conditioning as energy companies worked to restore one of the largest power outages in the country's history.

    As of 9 p.m. Thursday, about 2.1 million customers still didn't have power — down from the peak 6.7 million with outages reported across the state Monday afternoon. It took utility companies working round the clock since Monday with thousands of out-of-state workers to restore power to 4.4 million Florida customers rocked by Irma's strong winds. ...

    A quarter of the state started the fourth day after Hurricane Irma without lights or air conditioning as energy companies worked to restore one of the largest power outages in the country's history. Here, Scott Crellin, a trouble man for Duke Energy, works to restore power in Tarpon Spring on Monday.l
[CHRIS URSO  |   Times file photo]

  8. Half of Irma's power outages restored, but lights still out for 3.3 million Florida homes, businesses

    Energy

    The lights are back for more than half of those who lost power during Hurricane Irma's trek through Florida.

    But that's little consolation for the third of the state that remained without air conditioning or electricity well into the third day after the storm.

    RELATED: How long will it take for power to be restored?...

    SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
It was a harrowing weekend and this week will be tough. The rebuilding process will take time, money and a sense of urgency at all levels of government. But the storm is behind us, and it's time to pick up the pieces and to make the recovery as fast and smooth as possible.
  9. Irma causes one of the largest disaster power outages in the nation

    Energy

    Scrambling utility workers restored power for more than 2 million Florida customers on Tuesday, but that left nearly 5 million households still in the dark after Hurricane Irma, including more than 834,000 in Tampa Bay.

    And for some of them, relief from the record-setting statewide outage may not come until this weekend.

    As of 6 p.m., about half of the Sunshine State was waiting for the lights to go back on. That's down from Monday night when 62 percent of the state's 10.5 million households were without power....

    Power trucks and workers head out  from Derby Lane in St. Petersburg on Sept. 12, 2017, into Pinellas County to restore power after Hurricane Irma. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  10. Irma's wrath: more than half of Florida still in the dark

    Hurricanes

    Much of Florida will be waking up to a second day in the dark Tuesday after Hurricane Irma's devastating slash through the state.

    More than 13 million Floridians — 62 percent of the state — remained without power as of late Monday, state officials said. In Tampa Bay, some of the county numbers were even more jarring: 78 percent of Pinellas households were affected; 71 percent of Pasco; 62 percent of Hernando; 61 percent of Polk and 42 percent of Hillsborough....

    In Ybor City palm tree frawns litter 7th Avenue in Tampa after Hurricane Irma passed through as a category 1 storm through the Tampa Bay area on Sunday, September 10, 2017.
  11. Help is on the way, but use gas sparingly for now

    Business

    As Tampa Bay and the rest of Florida try to get back to normal in the wake of Hurricane Irma, drivers are being warned to use gas sparingly.

    The state and the region saw widespread gasoline outages during the week leading up to the storm. Gov. Rick Scott ordered Florida Highway Patrol escorts for fuel supplies to be shuttled to gas stations. Now in the wake of Irma, suppliers are trying to keep gas stations full of fuel, but motorists should be prepared for scarce supply as Florida evacuees return to their homes in large numbers. Gas stations not located along major highways should have an easier time keeping supplies, according to a press release from AAA, The Auto Group, which tracks gas prices and supplies. ...

    The Rally gas station on the corner of 4th St. North and 22nd Ave. North opened Monday afternoon and is selling gas after Hurricane Irma passed over Pinellas County the night before. Gas shortages are still common, however, so drivers are being warned to use gas sparingly. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  12. Gas, flights, Publix: All consumers need to know after Irma

    Business

    Now that Hurricane Irma has barreled past Florida, many Tampa Bay area businesses are assessing damages and preparing to reopen.

    Some companies are calling workers back in Tuesday, but check first before heading to a specific retailer or service. Several bank websites, for instance, said they remained closed but as of Monday afternoon had not cited a re-opening date.

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

    The Hellas restaurant on the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs lost some decorative tiles to Hurricane Irma. Many businesses were scrambling to decide when to re-open after Irma passed.
[CHARLIE FRAGO / Times}
  13. The storm has hit. Now what do we do?

    Hurricanes

    After the storm passes, the real work begins. Cleaning up. Taking stock. Rebuilding. Here's a look at some questions you may have.

    When can I go home?

    Pinellas County Government spokesman Josh Boatwright said areas will likely open in phases.

    "Getting to your neighborhood safely is going to be one of the first priority for county and emergency crews," he said. "Our general advice right now is to kind of listen to emergency management and follow re-entry orders and reclosure advice."...

    A hand-written sign on a plywood board covering the window of a West Tampa house reads: "I am ready for Irma" as the hurricane approaches the Tampa Bay Area on Sunday. (ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times)
  14. Westbound lanes on Courtney Campbell, Gandy Bridge close as Hurricane Irma inches closer to Tampa Bay

    Hurricanes

    Westbound lanes on the Courtney Campbell Causeway and Gandy Bridge across Pinellas County have closed as Hurricane Irma inches closer to Tampa Bay.

    The Howard Frankland Bridge remains open.

    The Sunshine Skyway closed on Saturday, when sustained winds reached 40 mph in advance of Hurricane Irma. The Florida Highway Patrol made the decision after receiving several wind reports from the Department of Transportation. All listed bridges will be closed until at least the storm passes. ...

  15. Thousands across Tampa Bay lose power from Irma

    Energy

    Power out? Rest assured, Tampa Bay. The countywide and citywide curfews do not apply to Duke Energy and TECO technicians.

    Tampa Electric is reporting nearly 15,000 people in Hillsborough County are without power as of early Sunday evening. TECO technicians have halted work around Tampa Bay because of high winds, a 5 p.m. advisory says.

    "Once the storm has passed and it is safe, a full assessment of the damage will begin and restoration will resume," the advisory read....

    Aden Alcroix-Camper, 11, walks through debris from a second- story roof scattered over 2 block area after a possible tornado touched down at Palm Bay Point subdivision in Palm Bay Fal., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, as Hurricane Irma made landfall in the state of Florida (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)/Orlando Sentinel via AP) FLORL105