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Caitlin Johnston, Times Staff Writer

Caitlin Johnston

Caitlin Johnston covers transportation, breaking news and features in Hillsborough County. She is a graduate of Indiana University, with her master's from the University of Maryland.

She's always looking for story ideas.

Phone: (813) 226-3401

E-mail: cjohnston@tampabay.com

Twitter: @cljohnst

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  1. 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]

  2. 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.
  3. 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]
  4. Hurricane Irma's winds break dinner yacht free from mooring

    Hurricanes

    ST. PETERSBURG — In the middle of the night, Hurricane Irma's powerful winds broke a 113-foot dining yacht free from its mooring at the Corey Causeway in South Pasadena and pushed it five miles south through Boca Ciega Bay until the stern crashed into a Pinellas Bayway bridge.

    LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma ...

    Crew members inspect the StarLite Sapphire dinner yacht, which broke free during Hurricane Irma, as it bumps up against a bridge on Pinellas Bayway near Isla Del Sol in St. Petersburg on Monday. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  5. Ripped roofing, crashing waves: How Irma rocked St. Pete Beach hotels

    Hurricanes

    ST. PETE BEACH — Keith Overton watched as Hurricane Irma ripped the Howard Johnson's roof from the building around 9 p.m. Sunday.

    "It blew it all the way to the beach," Overton said. "At that point, we said it's time to go in for the night."

    Waters retreated in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday night, exposing buoys that Overton said are normally about 75 yards back from the shoreline....

    The foam roof of the Howard Johnson on St. Pete Beach litters the parking lot after Hurricane Irma passed through St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.
  6. St. Petersburg family finds pleasant surprise in morning light

    Hurricanes

    ST. PETERSBURG -- They prepared for a direct hit. They boarded their windows, stockpiled food and water, and spent Sunday night hunkered in the same bedroom.

    But when morning came and they took the first tentative steps outside after Hurricane Irma had passed, the Jackson family was relieved.

    "I feel lucky," Jeremy Jackson, 42, said Monday morning. "We were prepared for a direct hit and to be without power for days."...

    WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times  They prepared for a direct hit. They boarded their windows, stockpiled food and water, and spent Sunday night hunkered in the same bedroom.
But when morning came and they took the first tentative steps outside after Hurricane Irma had passed, the Jackson family was relieved.
  7. On Pass-a-Grille, a toast to Irma before hunkering down on the beach

    Hurricanes

    ST. PETE BEACH — Andy Lawhead sat on the front porch of Pass-a-Grille's Sand Castle hotel on Sunday and looked out at the Gulf of Mexico.

    "This could all be gone tomorrow," he mused, drinking coffee from a red cup.

    LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma...

    Andy Lawhead checks his phone from the front porch of Pass-a-Grille's Sand Castle hotel ahead of Hurricane Irma on Sunday. "This could all be gone tomorrow," he mused, drinking coffee from a red cup. Lawhead manages the hotel and plans to ride out the storm inside the St. Pete Beach motel. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]

  8. As deputies block roads before Irma's hit, one couple stays put in St. Pete Beach

    Public Safety

    Pinellas County sheriff's deputies blocked off access to St. Pete Beach and other barrier islands Sunday morning, but that doesn't concern Bill McKnight.

    He waited out the 2004 hurricanes while living on his boat in Riverview, so staying in a home in St. Pete Beach doesn't bother him. Sure, there's storm surge, but McKnight, 51, been through that before.

    If it was up to him, he'd stay in his house on Gulf Boulevard. But his wife, Lisa, 45, hasn't been through a hurricane like this before. So they decided to take shelter Sunday night at a friend's condo — just a few blocks down the road....

    Lisa and Bill McKnight pack some essentials while their Doberman, Damien, watches from the van as the first rains of Hurricane Irma fall on St Pete Beach.
  9. Bridges out of Pinellas County likely to close as Irma approaches

    Hurricanes

    For those still on the fence about whether to evacuate Pinellas County in advance of Hurricane Irma, consider this: Each of the bridges out likely will be shut down at some point, blocking the main exits.

    Florida Highway Patrol will close the Howard Frankland Bridge, Gandy Bridge and the Sunshine Skyway when wind speeds reach 40 mph, spokesman Steve Gaskins said.

    The Courtney Campbell Causeway is not managed by FHP. ...

    Howard Frankland Bridge.[Times (2009)]
  10. An anxious search for more plywood as Irma draws closer to Tampa Bay

    Hurricanes

    ST. PETERSBURG — A line of at least 130 people (and growing) spilled out of aisle 18 at the Home Depot on 22nd Avenue N on Friday morning as those hoping to protect their homes from mega storm Irma's winds waited on plywood.

    Across the street, another hardware store was already sold out of the wood as people clamored to cover their windows in advance of the tropical storm- to hurricane-force winds expected in the area this weekend....

    Tanner Loebel, foreground, waits in line Friday at a St. Petersburg Home Depot for the plywood he needs to board the windows of his home before Hurricane Irma closes in on Florida. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]
  11. Hurricane Irma traffic: They tried to flee, but had to go back home

    Roads

    SEMINOLE — Angie Bunch, 79, thought she and her husband Rob were doing the right thing when they hit the road Wednesday at 12:15 p.m. and headed north to Valdosta, hoping of dodging Hurricane Irma.

    LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma

    They never expected traffic to be so bad that it would force them to turn around and drive back to their two-story Seminole home on a bayou....

    Cars sit in traffic as they evacuate heading North on Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys on Septeber 5, 2017 in Islamorada, Florida. Residents are evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irma, a powerful storm expected to make landfall this weekend. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
  12. Hurricane Irma: State preparing Tampa Bay interstates for evacuations

    Hurricanes

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Thursday announced some important measures being taken for Tampa Bay residents trying to leave the area because of Hurricane Irma.

    EVACUATION MAPS: Find evacuation maps for Hillsborough, Hernando, Pasco and Pinellas. ...

    Cars sit in traffic as they evacuate heading North on Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys on Septeber 5, 2017 in Islamorada, Florida. Residents are evacuating ahead of Hurricane Irma, a powerful storm expected to make landfall this weekend. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
  13. Hurricane Irma: PSTA to suspend all bus service Sunday

    Hurricanes

    Buses and other public transit will not run Sunday in Pinellas County as the area prepares for Hurricane Irma.

    Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority will suspend all public transit services on Sunday, including the trolleys, the downtown looper and DART, its door-to-door service for people with disabilities. Services are expected to begin again on Monday, but are dependent on weather.

    LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma...

  14. Council candidate Barclay Harless wants St. Pete to spend less

    Blog

    St. Petersburg City Council candidate Barclay Harless thinks the current council is too loose with its spending of taxpayer dollars.

    Harless, a Democrat, met with the Tampa Bay Times’ editorial board Thursday to discuss his thoughts on affordable housing, the pier reconstruction and the issues with which the people of District 2 and the Gandy Blvd. corridor are most concerned....

    District 2 candidate Barclay Harless
  15. Hurricane Irma: Everyone lines up for sandbags, but do they help?

    Hurricanes

    Tampa Bay emergency agencies have already distributed more than 200,000 sand bags this week that many folks spent more than two hours in line waiting to get.

    LIVE BLOG: The latest on Hurricane Irma

    The city of Tampa gave out more than 16,500 bags at its three locations on Tuesday alone. In St. Petersburg, a queue of people wrapped around Bartlett Park waiting their turn on Wednesday....

    Helen Conklin carries sandbags as her husband, John Conklin, loads the car at Lealman Community Park in St. Petersburg on Tuesday to get ready for Hurricane Irma. The couple have lived in Florida since 1979 and say that the "No Name Storm" was the worst they have been through. "We're gonna hold our butts and pray," said Helen. [LARA CERRI  |  Tampa Bay Times]