It was called one of the most powerful storms in recorded history. It was bigger than Andrew, bigger than the state.
First it aimed for Miami, then Naples. Twenty four hours before landfall, it set its sights on Tampa Bay.
Fleeing cars packed highways. Homeowners hammered plywood onto windows and anchored garages with sandbags, with scenes of a water-logged Houston fresh in mind.
"Stay safe," they told their neighbors....
Monday's blustery daybreak brought relief — albeit cautious relief — across the Tampa Bay area.
Hurricane Irma downed trees and power lines and knocked the canopies off some gas stations, but seemingly spared the region the catastrophic damage that had been predicted.
"A glancing blow," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who had previously warned Irma would "punch us in the face."...
Hurricane Irma began a dreaded march north late Saturday, erasing any hope the Tampa Bay region and Florida's Gulf Coast would be spared its devastation.
At shelters where thousands waited for the storm to arrive, and in living rooms where families gathered around their TVs, a community wondered just how bad it would be.
"I'm terrified," said Nicole Manuel, 37, who huddled with family at her mother's house in Clearwater. "I keep on hearing different things, different changes. How fast is it coming? When is it even coming? It's different every time I see the TV."...
09/05/17 Public Safety
TAMPA — After five workers died at Big Bend Power Station, Tampa Electric vowed to immediately stop the kind of work that led to the fatal accident.
No one would clean or do maintenance on a slag tank connected to a running boiler, the company promised — not before investigations into the accident had finished.
"We're not going to do it," CEO Gordon Gillette told the Tampa Bay Times in August, "until we understand what happened."...
08/31/17 Public Safety
TAMPA — U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, urged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday to tighten its rules in response to a June accident that killed five workers at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach.
"While the community grieves and OSHA performs an investigation, I strongly encourage OSHA to act swiftly to develop clarifying rules that would prevent future tragic accidents," she wrote in a letter to the agency....
07/08/17 Public Safety
Tina Partridge wasn't expecting to see her dad at the door. He was working a contract job at a Tampa power plant, but made the drive to Jacksonville to surprise his grandsons.
"The boys were thrilled," Partridge recalled.
She thought nothing of saying goodbye to him that night in 1999. He had spent his whole career in power plants, and long assured her the work was safe.
But days later, a giant fireball shot through Tampa Electric's Gannon Power Station in Hillsborough County, hurling heavy sections of the wall into the parking lot. Her father, Johnny Bass Sr., was killed at 52....
ST. PETERSBURG — Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, the city's largest and oldest hospital, has named a new chief executive.
Veteran health care administrator John McLain will assume Bayfront's top job on July 17. He replaces Kathryn Gillette, who is retiring....
Despite the uncertain fate of the Affordable Care Act, Florida Blue plans to offer individual health insurance plans in all 67 counties next year, the insurer told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday.
"It is consistent with our mission to help people in communities achieve better health," said the company's West Florida Region market president David Pizzo. "We don't stay only in certain counties that are profitable."...
ST. PETERSBURG — After four years at the helm of the city's largest hospital, Bayfront Health St. Petersburg chief executive officer Kathryn Gillette is retiring, she told the Tampa Bay Times.
Her last day will be in early August.
"This was the job that I wanted to end my career with," she said.
ST. PETERSBURG — UnitedHealthcare members can once again pay in-network rates at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, the hospital and the insurance company announced Thursday.
All Children's had been out of network since May, when contract negotiations between United and the hospital broke down. All Children's wanted United to pay more; United said All Children's was asking for too much....
ST. PETERSBURG — Christina and Michael Shreeve were stunned when they received two dozen letters from UnitedHealthcare, each listing a doctor at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital who would no longer be "in network."
As a practical matter, the letters mean the Shreeves will need to find new physicians, therapists and lab technicians for their 5-year-old son, who has a rare auto-inflammatory disease....
Times Staff Writer
Like most 12-year-old girls, Ra'Mya Eunice loved slumber parties.
She was at one on April 30, fast asleep, when a bullet blast through the wall, striking the side of her head.
Ra'Mya was rushed into surgery, her grandmother Terri Eunice said. But she lost most of her brain function, and had to be put on a ventilator.
Her parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins gathered in a Jacksonville hospital, hoping to spot signs of recovery. The blink of an eye. The wiggle of a finger....
05/17/17 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — For decades, the bustling St. Petersburg Free Clinic has operated largely out of an old post office building.
That will soon change.
The clinic recently bought two buildings in Pinellas County, said executive director Beth Houghton. One will house its growing health center, which provides free medical services for low-income people who are uninsured. The other will house its expanded food bank....
05/05/17 State Roundup
TALLAHASSEE — State lawmakers have agreed to cut $91.7 million from Tampa Bay area hospitals under a budget the Legislature plans to pass early next week.
Statewide, the proposed hospital cuts total $521 million, all coming from "supplemental" money that state lawmakers put into the Medicaid program two years ago.
Cuts would be deepest at the hospitals that take the largest number of Medicaid patients....