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Kathryn Varn, Times Staff Writer

Kathryn Varn

Kathryn Varn covers public safety in north Pinellas County and news in the city of Largo. She is from the Jacksonville area and graduated from the University of Florida, where she studied journalism.

Phone: (727) 893-8913

Email: kvarn@tampabay.com

Twitter: @kathrynvarn

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  1. South Florida poaches debris pickup trucks once headed to Tampa Bay

    Hurricanes

    The Tampa Bay area has an estimated 2 million cubic yards of debris from Hurricane Irma waiting at the curb — enough to fill a line of dump trucks stretching 735 miles, or from Tampa to Tupelo, Miss.

    But many trucks that could help make those tree limbs disappear are instead heading to South Florida, where hauling fees have shot up since the hurricane.

    That has left several bay area communities and their private storm debris contractors scrambling....

    Debris from the winds of Hurricane Irma line many yards Friday along Pinellas Point Drive in St. Petersburg.
  2. Four Largo city employees lose jobs for not working during Hurricane Irma

    Local Government

    LARGO — Four public works employees lost their jobs because they didn't show up to work during Hurricane Irma.

    The employees — two were fired and two resigned — told the Tampa Bay Times they decided to be with their families considering the magnitude of the storm. But City Manager Henry Schubert said Thursday that most employees may be required to be present during an emergency. Each worker signed an agreement in May acknowledging they were considered emergency responders and were told to report to work or face punishment up to termination....

    Four public works employees resigned or were fired because they didn't show up to work during Hurricane Irma. The employees, two of whom were fired and two resigned, said they decided to be with their families considering the magnitude of the storm. But City Manager Henry Schubert said Thursday most city employees are required to be present during an emergency. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  3. Largo's property tax rate to rise

    Local Government

    LARGO — City commissioners on Tuesday approved a higher property tax rate for next year.

    The rate of about $5.74 for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable value will cost a resident with a home valued at $100,000, after exemptions, $574, about $37 more than this year's rate of $5.37. The overall tax bill will likely be even higher because of an increase in property values.

    The increase was approved 5-2, with Commissioner Curtis Holmes and Mayor Woody Brown dissenting....

    Largo Mayor Woody Brown favored a smaller tax increase than some other commissioners.
  4. Clearwater firefighters sue siren manufacturer over hearing loss

    Fire

    CLEARWATER — Five current and former Clearwater firefighters are suing a siren manufacturer, saying that some of the Illinois-based company's sirens were so loud they caused hearing loss.

    Pat Scanlon, 64, who retired from Clearwater Fire & Rescue in 2008, says that when he goes to sleep at night, it sounds like a jet is firing up next to him.

    "And when I wake up, it's still there," he said Tuesday. "It's constant."...

    . Five firefighters from the department are suing a siren manufacturer, claiming the company's sirens were so loud they caused hearing loss Newer  trucks like this one, f rom a 2014 photo, are equipped with air conditioning so firefighters ride with the windows rolled up and are insulated from the siren noise.  JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  5. I've cleaned up my property after Hurricane Irma. Now what do I do with all this debris?

    Hurricanes

    All right, Tampa Bay. We made it to the end of this trying week. Pat yourselves on the back.

    Hopefully your weekend doesn't include too much cleaning and clearing in and around your home, but it probably does, so here's what to do with all that stuff Hurricane Irma destroyed, sorted by geography for your convenience. Keep in mind this is specific for storm debris, not your regular household trash....

    If you don't want to wait for the pickup, brush sites will be open to take Hurricane Irma debris. [EVE EDELHEIT | Tampa Bay Times]
  6. Some Tampa Bay area food banks experiencing shortages after Hurricane Irma

    Hurricanes

    Tampa Bay area residents have flocked to food banks and outreach organizations after Hurricane Irma, leaving some with shortages of supplies.

    Daystar Life Center, a St. Petersburg-based outreach ministry, is short on a table staple: bread, said executive director Jane Walker. The group is also lacking in nonperishable items packed with protein, such as tuna, peanut butter and breakfast bars....

    Some food banks are running short of food, with the normal flow of supplies cut off by the storm. .MONICA HERNDON   |   Times

  7. Cruise ship rescues Florida shrimp boat captain from Hurricane Irma as first mate goes down with ship

    Hurricanes

    The captain had few words to say after he got off the airplane, but most of them were about his former deckhand.

    "Carl Sheperd was the best man, best friend," Capt. Edward Potter said. "I can't say anything more … but I love that man."

    It was just weeks before that the men had set off on Potter's shrimp boat, the Capt. Eddie, from Pelican Point Seafood in Tarpon Springs for a shrimping trip to the Florida Keys....

    Shrimp boat captain Edward Potter leaves the airport after being reunited with his wife Jayne Jurgensohn and friends and family at Tampa International Airport on Wednesday after being rescued by a Carnival Cruise ship during Hurricane Irma. Potter was on his shrimp boat about 40 miles from Fort Jefferson during the hurricane. Carl Sheperd, Potter's deckhand, boat, and boat cat named Motorboat, didn't make it. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times[
  8. Tarpon Springs boat captain returns after fateful encounter with Irma

    Hurricanes

    The captain had few words to say after he got off the airplane, but most of them were about his former deckhand.

    "Carl Sheperd was the best man, best friend," Capt. Edward Potter said. "I can't say anything more … but I love that man."

    It was just weeks before that the men had set off on Potter's shrimp boat, the Capt. Eddie, from Pelican Point Seafood in Tarpon Springs for a shrimping trip to the Florida Keys....

    Shrimp boat captain Edward Potter leaves the airport after being reunited with his wife Jayne Jurgensohn and friends and family at Tampa International Airport on Wednesday after being rescued by a Carnival Cruise ship during Hurricane Irma. Potter was on his shrimp boat about 40 miles from Fort Jefferson during the hurricane. Carl Sheperd, Potter's deckhand, boat, and boat cat named Motorboat, didn't make it. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times[
  9. Pinellas officials 'grateful' for limited damage, hoping for beaches access soon

    Hurricanes

    LARGO — Pinellas County officials ticked off Hurricane Irma's impacts Monday morning during a news conference at the Emergency Operations Center.

    Irma brought sustained winds of 80 mph with gusts up to 90 mph, rainfall of 8 to 9 inches, and storm surge of 1 to 3 feet, said County Administrator Mark Woodard.

    "These levels were much lower than the 7 o'clock advisory from the National Weather Service," Woodard said, "and for that we are grateful."...

    Irma damage at Hollywood mobile home park off Fourth St and 72nd Ave N in St Petersburg. [Adam C. Smith  |  Times]
  10. Irma spares Tampa Bay, other parts of the state not as lucky

    Hurricanes

    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."...

    A StarLite cruise boat came loose from its moorings during the storm and wound up wedged against a Pinellas Bayway bridge leading to St. Pete Beach.
  11. Police, fire agencies shutting down most responses as weather deteriorates

    Hurricanes

    With stronger winds from Hurricane Irma came suspension of police and fire services, meaning in most cases firefighters and police officers won't be available to assist residents.

    St. Petersburg was the first to pull police officers and firefighters off the road about 6:30 p.m., followed by Clearwater, Pinellas Park and Largo soon after.

    The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office also pulled deputies off the road about 7:45 p.m. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said the decision was made due to reports of winds reaching 45 mph and deteriorating conditions in the southern portion of the county....

    Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced that most agencies were stopping responses to all but the most serious calls as the weather deteriorated.k KATHRYN VARN / Times
  12. Pinellas call center pivots from 'help is on the way' to 'here's how to help yourself'

    Hurricanes

    LARGO — The calls had finally receded Sunday in the Citizen Information Center, but Lori Collins' voice was shot.

    "This is day six," croaked Collins, the coordinator for the center. "I think it just went out."

    The mission had shifted to comforting and advising frantic callers bracing for Hurricane Irma as conditions deteriorated outside, closing the window to send help. The center, made up of county employees from various departments, had been fielding tens of thousands of calls over the last few days. That number dwindled to about 3,100 so far Sunday as the storm barreled toward the Tampa Bay area....

    Deasie Beverly, a senior office specialist for the county's water quality department, works Sunday in the county's Citizen Information Center. As Hurricane Irma barrels toward the Tampa Bay area, the mission in the center shifted to comforting and advising frantic residents. Beverly, 55, helped fit in one last pickup Sunday afternoon for a 95-year-old woman living in a mobile home who needed transport to a shelter. KATHRYN VARN / Times
  13. Largo prepares to pull emergency vehicles off road

    Hurricanes

    LARGO — A city news release called for residents to shelter in place as Hurricane Irma barrels toward the Tampa Bay area.

    Emergency vehicles can't respond once winds reach 35 to 45 mph, the release said. Dispatchers will keep track of and prioritize the calls, but residents should expect that assistance may not be available for 10 to 20 hours.

    Assistance to shelters has ceased, and Largo High School is no longer taking evacuees, the release said. Residents should stay inside and not be fooled by calm conditions. City officials will announce when it is safe to go outside....

    As conditions worsen, Largo officials warn residents that if the winds are too strong, emergency vehicles will be unable to respond.CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times.
  14. Dunedin urges residents to stay put

    Hurricanes

    DUNEDIN — Dunedin officials urged residents to shelter in place Sunday afternoon, warning that first responders won't be on the road once sustained winds hit 40 mph.

    According to a city news release, tropical storm-force winds are well under way and expected to last until 11 a.m. Monday. Hurricane-force winds will commence about 7 p.m. and last for eight hours. Storm surge is expected to hit 5 to 8 feet along the coast....

    As conditions worsen, Dunedin officials are urging residents to stay where they are.. CHRIS URSO  |  Times

  15. Pinellas officials outline what to expect over next 24 hours

    Hurricanes

    LARGO — Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard gave residents an idea of what to expect as a result of Hurricane Irma for the next 24 hours during an 11:30 a.m. news conference at the Pinellas County Emergency Operations Center.

    Tropical storm-force winds are expected to start about 2 p.m. Sunday and last until 11 a.m. Monday. The hurricane-force winds, with gusts up to 115 mph, will start at 7 p.m. and could for eight hours. Over the next 24 hours, officials anticipate 7 to 10 inches of rain. And storm surge, a hurricane's greatest threat, will commence about 6 p.m. and last for 12 hours....

    From left, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and other officials at the 11:30 news conference at the Emergency Operations Center. KATHRYN VARN/ Times