Hurricane Irma Autopsy

Hopefully you survived Hurricane Irma and are here to read this. Last week was absolutely one of the craziest weeks I have ever lived through.

The week started with a general state of panic around Tampa Bay and Florida as people flooded to stores and gasoline stations to prepare for Hurricane Irma. GasBuddy helped people find the scarce gas stations with fuel available. Lines for sand bags were at least 2 hours or longer.

The panic for water was also quite crazy as well because most people in Tampa Bay had drinking water available to them via tap for most of the week. The irony of people buying Aquafina which is bottled tap water and desperately searching it just shows how afraid we were.

The fear wasn’t unfounded, Tampa Bay has not been tested in a major hurricane (that’s a Category 3 or higher) in nearly a century and by a miracle we were able to escape Irma’s wrath and Naples and the Florida Keys were instead destroyed.

Plywood was completely scarce and despite lots of searching my family was never able to find any. Some people put up their fencing and cardboard around their windows in a desperate attempt to protect their homes. People started taping their windows which experts say is useless and a common misconception about hurricane survival.

Personally, I’ve never bothered to buy D batteries in the past, but they were absolutely nowhere to found last week. Portable battery chargers? All gone. Radios? None.

You would think that the local and state government would have a supply of these things people need to survive a storm and also put limits on how much of it people can buy in a crisis, but that DID NOT happen during Hurricane Irma.

Also – how does a place with tons of construction companies everywhere not have any plywood? Maybe the construction companies should have opened their supply to the people who live here.

7-11 started shipping free water to Florida after the Florida Attorney General shamed them on television for price gouging at over 20 locations. The Florida AG reported “receiving over 100 calls per-hour” about price gouging regarding 7-11 and other stores.

Airlines tried to take advantage of the situation by making airfare prices go into the thousands. By the time something was done about it, the storm was getting ready to nearly destroy the state.

If people have to evacuate, the government should provide more ways for them to get out. Why was there only one bus company providing ways out of the state in Tampa?

Not everyone can afford an airplane that is $300+ round trip or a $200+ train (that’s how much they were to get to Atlanta which was also hit by Irma).

There are solutions to all the problems that people had preparing for Irma and some of them rest in our government and companies as well as with people preparing far enough in advance.

If Hurricane Irma had hit Tampa as a Category 4 as was reported on Saturday, mass devastation would have impacted the people who were unable to find any supplies.

What can we learn from Hurricane Irma? 

  1. Be Prepared: The massive panic leading to the arrival of Hurricane Irma seemed to be partially coming from the fact that people were completely unprepared. Every year the local and state government warns people to prepare for hurricane season and they brush it off. Tampa was lucky this time, but it’s a mistake to think that a major hurricane can never hit Tampa, one almost did this weekend.
  2. Make a plan for your family: My family had no plan for the storm. Make sure your family does. Who is going to stay where? Can you come together to help lower the heavy cost of preparing for a storm or come up with an escape plan if the storm is too massive to sit through. Don’t be afraid to ask your neighbors for help if you have no family around.
  3. Be Patient: Before and after Hurricane Irma, there was plenty of impatience on full display. People trying to cut lines in stores and at sand bag stations (turned around by police). Yelling and screaming isn’t going to help in a crisis, think clearly and try to find a solution.
  4. Share: The panic led to people hoarding gas, food, plywood, and water. Now those same people are at the stores trying to return all the things they bought. First of all, hurricane season does not end until November so you might want to hang onto that. I witnessed a man at Sam’s Club put 20 loaves of bread into a shopping cart when there was hardly any to begin with. It’s understandable that you may have a large family, but other people also need supplies to survive with. Stores only started rationing supplies when almost everything was gone.

Hopefully we never live through this again. The reality is that we live in Florida though and will always have the potential of tropical devastation from a hurricane and need to be more prepared as a community.

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Hurricane Irma Safety Guide: Be Prepared

Hurricane Irma is racing towards Florida and you should make sure you’re ready in case the storm enter the waters of Tampa Bay. As of Tuesday, September 5th, the storm is a Category 5 Hurricane with 185 MPH winds.

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Here are some resources to help you prepare for the storm:

Tampa Bay Taco Tuesday Dining Guide

Wondering where to eat for Taco Tuesday in Tampa? No, I’m not talking about your average Tijuana Flats. Taco Tuesday offers deals at many great spots around town and no two taco places are created equal.

Here is my list of go-to spots for Taco Tuesday deals in Tampa Bay and places I’d recommend visiting. There may be more restaurants offering the deal, but that doesn’t mean I recommend them.

  1. La Villa River Hills: I am a Mexican food snob from San Francisco and most places in Tampa are “good for Tampa” and that is about it – they don’t even come close to the quality or ingredients of taquerias on The Mission. La Villa River Hills is the real deal though. Fresh, Mexican cuisine at an affordable price and the quality is apparent in everything from their salsa to their tamales. They offer $2 tacos on Tuesday. The location is near FishHawk and Valrico which is a long drive for many – but well worth it. You might want to call-ahead because the restaurant is small, but this is easily my favorite Mexican place in Tampa Bay right now.
  2. Taco Traveler: This local food truck is delivering tasty non-traditional tacos on Tuesdays at C. 1949 in Seminole Heights. Enjoy $2 taco specials and $1 off select beer inside the building. Live-music is also happening.
  3. Ciccio Cali: One of the best known Taco Tuesday deals in town. Many of the bowls available at Ciccio Cali can be converted into flour tacos for just $2 each during Taco Tuesday. They load them up. My favorite? Hot & Crunchy Tuna. The flavor is there. More places should experiment with sushi tacos in general. Be patient because the crowds can get crazy and my experiences with hostesses have been mixed. It’s located in Brandon, New Tampa, and St. Pete.
  4. TacoSon: The original Taco Bus. TacoSon is where the owners of the original Taco Bus opened shop after their sale and you can tell by the crowds that the original fans have followed them to this location on 56th Street. Avoid the drive-thru unless you’re comfortable with sitting in your car for long periods of time and just go inside. They don’t do Taco Tuesday deals, but on the flip-side tacos there are $2.50 everyday. Real deal. They now have locations in St. Pete and Wesley Chapel as well.
  5. California Tacos To-Go: This local chain has excellent tacos and offers 2 tacos, chips, and a drink for $6.99. A little more expensive than some other spots, but the quality is definitely there. Most recipes hail from SoCal and the loaded fish tacos are truly amazing. Locations in USF, South Tampa, and St. Pete. It’s one of the few places that Guy Fieri recommends that I can agree with.

If a place did not make the list – it is likely that I either do not recommend it, I haven’t visited the place, or I forgot and this list will be regularly updated as well so look for that. If your favorite place isn’t on the list that’s okay too. This is an opinion-based piece and you are entitled to your opinion.

Bento Cafe opening in Downtown St. Petersburg

Popular Asian eatery, Bento Cafe, is planning to open their first Tampa Bay location in Downtown St. Petersburg in the Spring of 2018. According to St. Pete Rising the location will feature 80 seats along with outdoor sidewalk tables.

It makes sense considering how much Downtown St. Petersburg has grown over the years, but it is definitely a little disappointing to all the USF – Tampa students that have waited years for a location after frequenting locations at the University of Florida, University of Central Florida, and even University of North Florida. Apparently Bento is also looking for 2 locations in Tampa.

Bento Cafe has been hinting at a Tampa Bay location for over 2 years on Facebook and seems to be expanding rapidly across the state over the next year or so. Hopefully in the future Bento will look at the USF area as a potential future investment area.

Bento is known for their fast-casual Asian environment with inspirations from Japanese, Thai, Korean, and other Asian cuisines. 

Their sushi rolls are quite popular and their sashimi rice bowls are a personal favorite as well as their Spicy Cream Chicken. In addition, Bento also sells bubble tea and other popular Asian drinks.

Visit Bento online at http://www.bentocafesushi.com/

Valentine’s Day 2017 @ Vuelo Mexican Grill

Looking for an affordable and tasty Mexican meal for this V-Day? Celebrate Valentine’s Day 2017 at Vuelo Mexican Grill located at 17641 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. The restaurant will offer 3 courses for 2 people for $20.

Here is the menu:

Appetizer (shared)
Select from Queso Fundido or Nachos Vuelo

2 Entrees
Select from Enchiladas, Vuelo Burrito, or Street Tacos

Dessert: Churros (shared)
With spicy chocolate dipping sauce & powdered sugar

For more information – contact Vuelo at (813) 972-4800.

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Vuelo Mexican Grill recently opened in New Tampa off Bruce B. Downs. The restaurant features fresh, gourmet Mexican cuisine with a menu prepared by Chef Mark Estee. Estee is a James Beard Semifinalist and has been featured on The Cooking Channel and The Food Network.

Vuelo regularly hosts a weekly Taco Tuesday and Sunday Brunch in addition to daily specials and a great happy hour.

Wyndham Clearwater Beach Grand Opening – 1/21

Wyndham Clearwater Beach will have their Grand Opening event this Saturday, January 21st, 2017 from 4PM to 11PM with plenty of entertainment for the public to enjoy. The new hotel resort is located at 100 Coronado Drive, Clearwater Beach 33767.

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Book a room at wyndhamgrandclearwater.com.

Schedule:

4PM – Food trucks open and entertainment begins
6PM – Live entertainment on both stages
8:30PM – Laser Show
9PM – Fireworks Show
9:30PM – Headliner on American Stage

Entertainment:

CL HighBall Cocktail Competition 2017 – 1/26

Local newspaper Creative Loafing will host a cocktail competition called HighBall 2017 on Thursday, January 26th, 2017 from 7PM to 10PM at Kozuba & Sons Distillery (a truly beautiful facility) in St. Petersburg.

The event will showcase local bartenders, distillers, and craft cocktail culture. Guests will enjoy more than 15 craft cocktail samples at the event. A portion of proceeds to benefit Current Initiatives and their projects, such as the Laundry Project, Hope For Homes, and Affordable Christmas.

General Admission Tickets cost $25 in advance and $40 at the door. VIP tickets cost $50 in advance and $80 at the door (if tickets are still available).

VIP guests will receive an hour of early entrance to the event, as well as a private VIP-area with exclusive food/drink perks. All participants will be able to vote for the “Tampa Bay’s Best Cocktail” contest.

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Buy tickets: http://www.cltampa.xorbia.com/highball

Sponsors and partners include Kozuba & Sons Distillery, Siesta Key RumTamiami Gin, & Ox and Fields Restaurant + Bar.

Participating bars:

Snobachi Grand Opening NYE 2017

Thai Rolled Ice Cream is taking Tampa by storm at the moment (just head over to IceSmile and try to wait in line for 2 hours) and newcomer Snobachi Handcrafted Ice Cream is leading the movement over into Ybor City at 2206 East 7th Avenue next to Shrimp and Co.

This shop offers ice cream and frozen yogurt bases with over 25 flavors and is owned by military veterans of the United States Air Force and Army.

Snobachi also offers what they call Dragon Breath: a combination of liquid nitrogen and dippers such as brownie bites, popcorn, and marshmallows. When you eat the dippers – your breath will release a smoke from the nitrogen chill.

Check out the menu: http://www.snobachi.com/portfolio.html

Snobachi’s Grand Opening will be held this New Year’s Eve 2017 starting at 2:30PM and runs all day long until 2AM. The first 50 customers will get 50% off their SnoRolls. Social media check-ins and shares will also unlock discounts for customers.

Some photos of Snobachi Handcrafted Ice Cream via Facebook:

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For more information contact Snobachi at (813) 284-6071

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Facebook RSVPhttp://www.facebook.com/events/238138119943072/

New Year’s Eve 2017 – Gatsby Gala @ Mastry’s Brewing Co.

Want to take it back to the 1920s for NYE 2017? Mastry’s Brewing Co. located at 7701 Blind Pass Road on St. Pete Beach will be hosting a Gatsby-themed New Year’s Eve party for craft beer fans this NYE from 7PM-1AM. Mastry’s Brewing Co. opened their doors earlier this year in October 2016.

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The event will feature a new beer release, food truck, DJ, and photobooth. Limited-edition souvenir glasses will be able for $15 each to the first 100 guests to arrive. Purchase a glass and enjoy 1/2 off drafts all night long. Pre-Sales will be available over the phone or in the tasting room.

There will be no cover charge to attend this event. 21+ only.

Chalk Board Mobile Event Service will be serving food at the party. Here is the menu:

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NYE 2017 @ Pisces Sushi and Global Bistro

If you’re looking for New Year’s Eve 2017 plans in Pinellas County – Pisces Sushi and Global Bistro located at 799 Highland Avenue in Dunedin will host a New Year’s Eve party on December 31st. Regular reservations will be held from 5PM to 9PM – later in the evening the patio overlooking Downtown Dunedin will be converted into a party area.

The full sushi menu will be available all night and guests can order from all 3 of their menus. Browse the menu at: http://piscessushibistro.com/menu/. The bar will serve drinks until 12:30AM and a champagne toast will be held at midnight for all guests.

Live music will be played from 7PM until close with local guitarist and musician Mark Duran.

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Pisces is a Creative Loafing Best of the Bay winner and won the Grand Jury Award from the annual Sushi Battle Tampa Bay this year. Chef James Keene heads up the menu at Pisces and has over 25 years of culinary industry experience including local restaurants such as Island Way Grill and SPY Global Cuisine.

For more information or to make a reservation contact Pisces Sushi and Global Bistro at (727) 216-6764.