CLEARWATER - On the breeze is the unmistakable hint of autumn in Florida.
Nature may not treat the Tampa Bay area to a colorful display of changing leaves experienced by our northern neighbors, but fall manages to reveal itself in other ways - from the return of our treasured seasonal residents to pleasantly cooler temperatures.
The Florida Department of Transportation announced Oct. 2 that it is making changes to the design of the Howard Frankland Bridge project “to improve safety and emergency evacuation, while better accommodating future travel demand, transit on express lanes, a possible rail corridor in the future and bicycle/pedestrian traffic.”
According to Forward Pinellas, who is on record in support of the project, an average of 72,500 vehicles each day cross the northbound span of the I-275 Howard Frankland Bridge from Pinellas County into Tampa, meaning county residents have a big stake in this project, which officials say will add capacity and alleviate traffic congestion.
LARGO - After nearly a decade of work to develop a long-vacant property, city officials hope the end of an apartment complex’s construction leads to a new beginning for downtown Largo.
On Oct. 6, representatives from the city and project gathered to cut the ribbon on the newly opened 158 Ridge Apartment Homes, a contemporary community of 29 urban loft-style units in the West Bay Drive Community Redevelopment District.
The 30,000-square-foot facility features one- and two-bedroom homes with walk-in closets, in-unit washers and dryers, stainless steel appliances, outdoor balconies, an outdoor barbecue, lounge area and gated access. Rent ranges from $1,160 to 1,700.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Very little good can be said about anything in the wake of a hurricane, especially one as powerful as Irma. Yet an IRB man turned a loss into a gain, one that he hopes will be around for a long time.
Todd Plumlee lost a 100-year-old oak tree, which was one of several in the parking lot of his business, Plumlee Gulf Beach Realty on First Street. It was a big personal loss because Plumlee’s mother dearly loved the oak trees and losing one of them was devastating. Yet there had to be a way to lessen the damage.
INDIAN SHORES - Indian Shores police officers are going to be wearing pink badges on their uniforms during October in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Chief Terry Hughes made the announcement authorizing the pink badges at the Oct. 3 Town Hall meeting.
Indian Shores Police Major Emily Smoak is a breast cancer survivor. At her own expense, Smoak purchased the pink badges for all her fellow officers to wear in support of efforts to find a cure for breast cancer.
DUNEDIN - U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, a longtime proponent of veterans’ rights and causes, recently spoke at a special ceremony at the Dunedin VFW Post 2550 honoring World War II and Korean War vets.
The Aug. 29 event saw dozens of veterans from every service branch, as well as city officials including Dunedin Commissioner Deborah Kynes, pack the Douglas Avenue facility to listen to the four-term Congressman, who began his speech by telling the audience how much their service means to him.
TARPON SPRINGS - People wanting to reduce the crime in the area near Spring Bayou had been eagerly awaiting the Oct. 3 meeting of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, hoping it would produce one possible way of dealing with the problem.
A divided City Commission, sitting as the board of the CRA, turned thumbs down at the meeting last week on a plan to buy the Sunbay Motel.
The city has been considering the purchase since Jan. 10, when the CRA authorized City Manager Mark LeCouris to begin negotiations with Fun City Enterprises, the company run by Peter Fanoudis that owns the Sunbay Motel, 57 W. Tarpon Ave.
If you’ve not yet taken time to prepare, now would likely be a good time, as hurricane season enters what is historically the busiest time of the season. And forecasters are saying activity could be more than the pre-season outlook predicted.
NOAA’s climate experts gave odds of 45 percent that the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season would have above average activity in the May pre-season outlook. Those experts have since updated those odds to 60 percent.
NOAA updated its seasonal forecast Aug. 9. Forecasters increased the predicted number of named storms and major hurricanes. They say the season could be the most active since 2010. Nineteen named storms formed that year and 12 strengthened into hurricanes.
LARGO - Pinellas County’s Emergency Operations Center kicked off the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season June 1 by hosting a media day to unveil new preparedness tools and urge residents to check to see if their evacuation zones have changed.
One big announcement was the launch of a new tool, the “Ready Pinellas” mobile app. Sally Bishop, Emergency Management director, described the new technology as a “plan in your pocket.”
Ready Pinellas connects to Alert Pinellas, the National Hurricane Center, social media and more. It provides information needed to assess risks, check evacuation levels and storm surge. Residents and visitors can enter information to create a personal emergency plan. The app also has checklists and up-to-date evacuation information based on your location.
TALLAHASSEE - As the 2017 hurricane season begins, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles urges every citizen to be prepared for potential emergencies by making a disaster preparedness plan that includes registering or updating their Emergency Contact Information.
Residents with a valid driver license or identification card may enter up to two emergency contacts into the department’s secure ECI database. ECI can only be accessed by law enforcement and only during emergencies such as a hurricane or crash.
Citizens can register or update their ECI free of charge on the DHSMV website and in local driver license and tax collector offices to ensure their designated family or friends will be contacted in the event of an emergency.