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Environment

The massive Gulf oil spill may be receding into our collective memory. But a group of people want to keep the specter of offshore oil drilling fresh in people's minds. So they plan to gather at Florida's beaches at noon Saturday.

This will be the third straight year "Hands Across the Sands" is taking place. People will gather hands on dozens of beaches to not only protest offshore drilling, but promote the use of clean energy.

The world's oceans used to be thought of as a limitless resource to be exploited. But the world's booming population and a huge increase in the number of fishing vessels has proved the ocean's bounty to be finite. A new solution to setting limits for individual fishermen has been developed. It's called catch-share. It basically sets a limit on the number of fish that can be taken for groups of fishermen - and those shares can be traded.

Specialists from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be will be in Highlands, Hillsborough and Polk counties beginning Wednesday to provide information and advice on cleaning up and rebuilding homes after Tropical Storm Debby.

FEMA mitigation specialists will be on hand to explain disaster-resistant ways to repair and rebuild damaged homes, offer suggestions on cleaning mold and mildew, and providing information on flood insurance.

Tropical Storm Debby survivors in Polk and Sarasota counties can now apply for federal disaster assistance.

Beach Advisory for Pinellas Beaches

Jul 18, 2012

The Pinellas County Health Department issued a saltwater beach advisory for five Pinellas beaches:

  • Sand Key Park, Clearwater
  • Honeymoon Island, Dunedin
  • Indian Rocks Beach (1700 Gulf Blvd)
  • Madeira Beach, Archibald Park
  • Redington Shores (182nd Avenue W.)

These five locations could be a potential health risk to swimmers because of enteric bacteria that can cause human disease, infections, or rashes.

The next water sampling is scheduled for July 30th.

The federal government today announced a major expansion of a project to protect the headwaters of the Everglades. It relies on landowners voluntarily protecting their land.

The announcement today sets aside $80 million for farmers and ranchers who voluntarily conserve wetlands around the Kissimmee River basin in Central Florida. It should protect about 23,000 acres of wetlands that feed into the "River of Grass."

Ikea

The furniture store known for saving you some green is itself a little greener.

This morning, the Swedish chain Ikea officially plugged in 4,956 solar panels on the roof of its Tampa store, for nearly 1.2 meagwatts of power.

That's the same as...

-  1.8 million kilowatt hours of clean electricity annually

- Eliminating 242 cars each year, or...

Courtesy of NBC 2

A Moore Haven teenager is lucky to be alive after he tried "something he saw on TV" to repel an attacking alligator and it didn't work.

Kaleb "Fred" Langdale is reportedly joking with his sister now that she "won't be the only leftie in the family." 

The 17-year-old was swimming in the Caloosahatchee River yesterday when a 10-foot alligator starting charging toward him in the water. 

Steve Newborn / WUSF

President Obama is set to sign a massive transportation bill Friday. It would keep the lion's share of money from a settlement with BP over the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf states. And a lot of that money could be coming to the Tampa Bay area.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson dropped by USF St. Petersburg today to tout the recently-passed RESTORE Act. While that means most of the money from any settlement will stay in the Gulf region, he says potentially tens of millions of dollars could flow to the Florida Institute of Oceanography.

El Niño Might Thwart Hurricane Season

Jul 5, 2012

Last month's Tropical Storm Debbie formed earlier than most big storms, and that had some people worried about this year's hurricane season. But El Niño may be coming to the rescue.

You've probably heard of El Niño. It's that weather phenomenon where parts of the Pacific Ocean warm up...and change the weather all across the United States.

Weather forecasters are saying El Niño may be forming out in the Pacific right now.

If that happens, Bay News 9's meteorologist Juli Marquez said, "it may prevent as many storms or hurricanes from forming or intensifying."

The bald eagle population is increasing in Florida, which continues to be one of the top spots in the lower 48 states for bald eagles to nest and raise their young.

That's the word from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.  Based on its 2011 aerial survey, they estimate there are 1,457 active bald eagle nests in Florida, nearly a 9-percent increase since 2008, when the state implemented a bald eagle management plan. That's up from just 88 active nests in 1973.

Hernando County Neighborhood Swallowed by Sinkholes

Jun 27, 2012

"It's crazy. It's absolutely crazy."

Anthony DiGiorgi has lived in his Springhill home for 12 years. He says sinkholes have always been a concern, but Tropical Storm Debby has made things much worse.

"It looks like it's going to get worse. There's no doubt about it. I can see impressions in the road that weren't there before."

Tropical Storm Debby Causes Massive Beach Erosion

Jun 27, 2012
Jennifer Kopf

Tropical Storm Debby caused only about 3 feet of storm surge but that was propelled by high winds for more than 24 hours. That was enough for beach erosion.

And that could be bad for the tourism industry. According to Tampa Bay Times, lost beaches are lost business.

The beaches were part of Tampa's pitch to woo the Republican National Convention to town in August, as well as the longtime basis for the region's tourism industry.

Pasco County Residents Evacuated By Boat From Homes

Jun 26, 2012

A dozen residents of the Seven Springs Travel Park in Pasco County found themselves stranded in their homes this afternoon.

At least three feet of water covered the ground making it difficult for many of the elderly residents to wade through.

By boat, rescue workers with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Wildlife Commission took the residents to safety. 

TS Debby: Review Your Insurance Policies

Jun 26, 2012
Pamela Andrews

With all the flooding and damage done by Tropical Storm Debby, one consumer lawyer is advising folks to be prepared.... with their insurance policies.

Debby has caused flooding, power outages, and tornadoes that tore the roofs off homes. 

Consumer Lawyer Eric Seidel says a storm like Debby is the time to keep your insurance policies close at hand. If you do experience some damage, he says contact both home owners and flooding insurers if you have them. 

Sarah Curran

Slow-moving Tropical Storm Debby has spawned sinkholes in Hernando County, tornadoes in Polk and Pinellas and a deadly twister in Highlands that stole a mother from her toddler.

Now it's forcing people in Pasco County out of their homes because of flooding. 

Pasco County authorities have an emergency evacuation underway in parts of New Port Richey. 

Debby is doing a number on folks along the Gulf Coast from Alabama to northern Florida.

The tropical storm, which has been lashing the region since the weekend, could dump another 2 feet of rain by the end of the week, forecasters warn. Residents are being warned to also watch out for tornadoes, flash floods and sinkholes.

Pass-a-Grille resident Tony Howe was sitting in his living room watching television when he heard a deafening sound.

"All of a sudden I heard this very loud noise like a freight train," Howe says.

"I was trying to get up from my chair and all my windows blew out and the glass shattered all over my apartment and hit me."

Howe's was one of 20 homes and businesses to be damaged by wind and by water. Florida Fire Marshal spokesperson Ernie Hand says at least eight buildings were severely damaged.

Some storms, like Hurricanes Charlie and Andrew, hit you like a fist and they’re gone.

But there’s another type of storm – slow, plodding and relentless. That’s Debby.

Meteorologists think Debby is weakening. But the storm doesn’t have to be strong to do lots of damage.

David Feltgen says he hears it all the time: “Oh, it’s just a tropical storm.”

But tropical storms can be just as dangerous, according to Feltgen, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

Even as the rains from Tropical Storm Debby fell at her Clearwater mobile home Sunday afternoon, Pamela Andrews thought she'd have time to get things together if she, her boyfriend and her son had to leave.

They didn't get the chance, as the nearby Cross Creek Bayou overran its banks, forcing them and other residents of the Mariner's Cove Mobile Home Park to grab whatever they could and flee the area. 

Tropical Storm Debby Takes a Toll on Tampa

Jun 25, 2012
Brad Mcclenny / The Gainesville Sun / Associated Press

UPDATE:  As of 9:30 this morning Town ‘N Country Commons, the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, and Alderman’s Ford Park are inaccessible due to severe weather.

Residents of the Sunrise Village Retirement Home will evacuate today as a precaution to more expected rain. Since the area is prone to flooding The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue will assist in the evacuation and predict to moving around 90 residents.

Photos of Tropical Storm Debby Damage

Jun 25, 2012

Tropical Storm Debby inches its way through Florida, causing extensive wind damage and extreme floods.

In this slideshow you'll see the tornado damage from Pass-a-grille, flooding in South Tampa and Mariners Cove Mobile Home Park in Clearwater, and other pictures of Debby's damage in the Tampa Bay Region.

If you've got pictures you'd like to add, just e-mail scottfinn@wusf.org.

Road Closures in Tampa Area

Jun 25, 2012
Bay News 9

The Tampa Bay Times reports the following road closures:

• Sunshine Skyway Bridge

• Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa.

• Southbound exit at 54th Street from I-275 in St. Petersburg.

• Hillsborough Avenue from Hanley Road to Sawyer Road, Tampa.

• County Road 95 east of U.S. 19, Palm Harbor.

• Memorial Highway from George Road to Dana Shores Drive

• Traffic restricted on Old Coachman Road, Clearwater.

• Traffic is restricted at East Enterprise Road east of Frisco Drive in Clearwater.

National Weather Service

The National Weather Service has issued a number of watches and warnings for the Tampa Bay Area, including a tropical storm warning.

Click HERE for the very latest.
Current National Weather Service Radar

Tropical Storm Threat

Jun 23, 2012
National Hurricane Center

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami say a broad area of low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be getting better organized.  

Tropical storm watches or warnings may be required for the Northern Gulf Coast later this weekend.  

This system has high chance (90%) of becoming Tropical Storm Debby as it moves slowly northward during the next 48 hours.  Residents of the Florida Peninsula -- including the Tampa Bay Area -- can expect periods of heavy rain this weekend.

WUSF recently went along with a thousand-mile journey through the heart of the state with the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. But before that trip, another adventure was being captured in the lens of filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus.

In a documentary to be shown tonight on WUSF TV Channel 16, he takes a look at the history of how the Kissimmee River was straightened into a channel - how that devastated the wildlife in the headwaters of the Everglades - and how it's now being restored.

Courtesy of Outdoor Life

The Florida Highway Patrol says a 12-foot alligator was crossing Interstate 275 early Sunday morning when it was hit by a Toyota sedan.  The creature managed to escape into the woods. 

The gator then showed up on the Southbound lanes of 275 near Gandy Boulevard and was struck by a Kia. 

Both cars were damaged in the accidents, but their drivers were unscathed.  The alligator died after it was hit the second time and a trapper came to take its carcass away. 

Though plenty of people in the Tampa Bay area felt a little waterlogged from all the rain at the end of last week, the Southwest Florida Water Management District says it wasn't enough to lift water restrictions.

But Spokeswoman Robyn Felix says the big rain was a great start to the rainy season.

“We received about four to 6 inches of rainfall in the Tampa Bay area so far this month and we are starting to see our river and our aquifer levels rebound.  But it’s really going to take several more months  of regular summer rainfall for our water resources to recover.”

Steve Newborn / WUSF

The Hillsborough River is in many ways a tale of two rivers. Upstream, it quietly meanders through a forest of cypress trees dotted with alligators. But the river's lower half is recovering from decades of being mistreated by the needs of a growing Tampa. This is the second of a two-part series:

To view a slideshow by photographer Joseph Gamble, click HERE.

Joseph Gamble / Joseph Gamble Photography

Thousands of people cross it every day. It's where Tampa's drinking water comes from. But how much do you really know about the Hillsborough River?

WUSF’s Steve Newborn and I teamed up with the journalism department at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay Times outdoors writer Terry Tomalin to tour the 59-mile waterway.

We discovered a tale of TWO rivers. WUSF’s Steve Newborn explored the urban part of the river as it travels into Tampa Bay.

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