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Friday, Feb 05, 2016

Keith Morelli

Tribune Staff

Florida State Fair agribusiness director rides into sunset after 25 years

- Director of agribusiness Vina Jean Banks is retiring after over two-plus decades helping to shape future farmers and ranchers from all over the state. The fair begins today and runs through Feb. 15.

El Niņo produces one of the wettest Januaries on record in Tampa area

- According to the National Weather Service in Ruskin, January brought 6.18 inches of rain to Tampa, nearly three times the normal, 2.23 inches. Last month was the sixth wettest January on record. The wettest came in 1948 whe...

Large Gasparilla crowd was fairly subdued, authorities say

- The uniformed people who watch the shenanigans at the Gasparilla pirate invasion and parade said it was larger than ever and pretty subdued, except for the occasional passed out person under a bush or a misfired water ballo...

Nearly 1,000 scientists in Tampa for conference on BP oil spill

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TAMPA — Nearly 1,000 scientists, researchers and environmental experts from all over the globe are in downtown Tampa this week for the four-day

Legislation would reduce number of specialty license plates available in Florida

- Of the 120 specialty license plates adorning Florida vehicles — touting manatees, panthers, trees, a host of colleges and sports teams — some of the less popular ones will fall by the roadside if a bill is app...

Up to 1,000 vessels expected to join Gasparilla invasion

- The flotilla ushering the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship up Seddon Channel could reach 1,000 private vessels this year and law enforcement officers will be among them to make sure no one gets hurt or killed during Saturday...

Gasparilla parade an expensive affair but not for taxpayers

- The event is billed by organizers as the third largest parade in the nation and it comes with a pricey staging cost, but the mock pirates who take part never actually plunder the city’s coffers — except for th...

Recent rains could delay relief for backups on Interstate 275 stretch in Tampa

- The bad weather isn't helping, but state transportation officials still say construction that is squeezing northbound traffic through a bottleneck near downtown should be completed by mid-February.

Warm weather, better vaccine could account for slow start to flu season

- The flu seems to be taking the winter off in Florida and elsewhere, leaving a nervous population wondering if — or when — it will come calling.

Washing machine caused Tampa condo fire that displaced 14 residents

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TAMPA — Jose Vazquez walked up to his sport-utility vehicle outside the Westchester Manor complex Thursday afternoon carrying an armload of shoes. He opened the door and dumped some water out of one of his dress s...

Congestion on stretch of northbound I-275 will remain for 4-6 weeks

- A new traffic pattern on northbound Interstate 275 that snarls the morning commute and causes congestion even during off travel hours, will be in place for four to six weeks, transportation authorities said Wednesday.

Opponents call plan to add express toll lanes to I-4, I-275 a ‘boondoggle’

- A 69-page report says state officials admit the $3.3 billion project would not solve the region’s congestion problems and would displace facilities used by the community for recreation and job training.

Shelters open as coldest weather of season blows through Tampa Bay area

- Temperatures will be several degrees below normal with daytime highs in the mid-50s to mid-60s. Overnight temps will get into the 30s in some spots, triggering the opening of emergency shelters in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pi...

Mother sues Tampa strip club, bouncer who fatally shot son

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TAMPA — The mother of a strip club patron gunned down last year by the lounge’s bouncer has fil...

El Niņo threatens to turn weather turbulent for Florida

- Forget the balmy December and the gentle touch of cold this past week and get ready for a long, hard winter.

Let’s say you become a Powerball winner: Got a plan for your billion bucks?

- Congratulations on being the planet’s newest billionaire (provided you won’t have to share the wealth with anyone else). Here are a few tips on spending and saving your Powerball winnings wisely.

New I-275 stretch in Tampa opens as project runs ahead of schedule

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TAMPA — Pinellas County commuters heading into downtown Tampa on Interstate 275 Tuesday morning probably got to work late and in very bad moods. A new traffic pattern emerged between Lois and Armenia avenues that ...

Watch for pitfalls when jumping into the Powerball office pool

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TAMPA — Among the casualties of Wednesday night’s $1.4 billion Powerball jackpot should someone ...

Case against brothers in Carrollwood gun shop heist falls apart

- Stolen guns are often used in crimes, law enforcement officials say, which is why authorities vowed to exhaust every resource to recover 42 handguns taken in a brazen burglary of a Carrollwood gun shop and pistol range in O...

Manatees could be reclassified from endangered to threatened

- The possible reclassification today comes as the number of manatees in the state has steadily rebounded since the sea cows were first listed as a federal endangered species in 1973.

Ringling Bros. circus animals make annual trek from train through downtown

- Folks in downtown Tampa today got a peek at the animal performers who will be entertaining audiences for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus this week.

Gill-net poachers persist along Florida’s Gulf coast 20 years after ban

- Since 1995, fisheries — particularly mullet, which had been the main target of gill netters — has rebounded remarkably. Still, conservationists say, illegal gill netters continue to ply the waters full of mul...

Ye Mystic Krewe to debut monster float at Gasparilla

- In a nondescript West Tampa warehouse where a sea of Gasparilla parade floats are stored rises one that is skull and shoulders above the rest: this year's Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla flagship float. At $140,000, it is the...

Venomous snake owners OK with more inspections, not total ban

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When wildlife officials recently showed up on the Tampa doorstep of Cayle Pearson to inspect his venomous snake for the second time this year, he welcomed them in.

Heroin’s surge raises life-or-death medical ethics issue

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Heroin addicts with recurring heart valve problems caused by their use of dirty needles are forcing surgeons across the state to make difficult ethics decisions on continuing ...

What’s ahead for Tampa in 2016? Movies, trials, big races and a new president

- Step right up, Florida. Stick out your hand and let’s have a look at the lines on your palms, maybe have a look at the bumps on your head or this crystal ball here. Let’s peer into the hazy future to see the s...

Lake Park remains closed as Hillsborough officials deal with sinkhole

- A month after a 6-foot-wide, 100-foot deep sinkhole opened along a road in Lake Park, forcing Hillsborough County officials to shutter one of its largest parks, a resolution seems elusive.

Historic tour of Tampa’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church draws hundreds

- Nestled in the heart of downtown Tampa surrounded by stratus-scraping apartment, government and office towers, is a granite and marble church ringed with delicate stained glass windows that themselves pre-date most — ...

Day before Christmas, Daisy finds home

- Many people walked out of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay with furry Christmas presents of the four-legged variety.

Some Tampa Bay area holiday shoppers enjoy waiting for the last minute

- According to the Florida Retail Federation, just one out of 10 shoppers completed their holiday shopping by Dec. 15. “It's a tradition now,” one Tampa resident said, “after decades of doing it.”

Woman killed in Polk crash was former East Lake High teacher

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TAMPA — Educators at East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs are mourning the loss of a former teacher who was kill...

Report: 30 manatees died in Tampa Bay waters in 2015

- The number of lifeless manatees found floating in Florida waters this year is slightly higher than last year, but about half the record number that perished in 2013, according to preliminary figures released by state wildli...

FDOT’s high-tech control room prepares to monitor holiday traffic

- With tens of thousands of Tampa Bay travelers heading out over the holiday season, the FDOT offered up a glimpse into the $9 million state-of-the-art video and communications system that swings into motion whenever traffic ...

Spike in heroin deaths leaves a trail of tragedy in the Tampa Bay area

- Heroin deaths began to increase in 2014 and continue to soar this year as a new and powerful brand of heroin slinks into the Sunshine State.

Teen who tied dog ‘Cabela’ near tracks faces new gun charge

- Police arrested on gun charges a Tampa man who served seven months in jail and is on probation for shooting a dog, tying it to a post near some North Tampa railroad tracks and leaving it to die.

Environmentalists oppose pumping plan at Morris Bridge Sink

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TAMPA — The delicate balance between providing enough water to drink and enough to keep the lower reaches of the Hillsborough River from becoming a dry riverbed is wobbling as the city of Tampa appears

Gas prices have holiday travelers thinking road trip instead of airline flight

- An expert says the distance of the trip will determine whether travelers fly rather than drive, although the cost of gas is reaching 2009 levels. Terrorism fears don't seem to be part of the decision-making.

Florida’s snook population appears to make strong comeback

- Gulf Coast snook appear to have made a strong comeback after a devastating freeze five years ago claimed a third of the state’s fishery. Eager anglers are awaiting a state assessment, hoping regulators will ease harve...

Buckhorn shows support for Muslims as anti-Islamic threats escalate

- In the wake of anti-Muslim backlash, Mayor Bob Buckhorn made a trip to the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area mosque today to show his support for Muslims who call Tampa home.

Arm yourself to protect against mass shootings, some sheriffs telling public

- With a backdrop of terrorism in California, mass shootings on college campuses and jihad in Paris, a handful of Florida sheriffs are urging citizens to arm themselves to be the first line of defense in such attacks.

Finally, in early December, summer heat has left us

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TAMPA — Summers in Florida tend to linger.