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Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer

Tony Marrero

Tony Marrero covers breaking news and general assignment stories in Hillsborough County. A Baltimore native, he joined the Times in 2009.

Phone: (813) 226-3374


Twitter: @TMarreroTimes

  1. Yankees executive Jessica Steinbrenner seeks restraining order against ex-husband


    TAMPA — Jessica Steinbrenner, a top executive with the New York Yankees and a daughter of the team's late owner George Steinbrenner, is seeking a restraining order against her ex-husband.

    In a petition filed in Hillsborough County last week, Steinbrenner alleges that Felix M. Lopez Jr. has been stalking her since their marriage formally ended in February. According to the complaint, Lopez has made unwelcome attempts to contact Steinbrenner by calling, sending text messages and making at least two unannounced visits to her Tampa home earlier this month....

    New York Yankees executive Jessica Steinbrenner filed for a restraining order last week against her former husband, Felix M. Lopez Jr.
  2. Still worried about family, Tampa Bay Puerto Ricans ramp up relief effort


    TAMPA — Brenda Irizarry is worried.

    By Thursday afternoon, more than 24 hours after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico and tore across the island, the Tampa woman had not heard from any relatives who live there. But she had seen images of the devastation the storm left in its wake.

    "I'm numb," Irizarry said. "It doesn't look like my home, and I'm scared for them."

    Irizarry is among many Tampa Bay area Puerto Ricans channeling their nervous energy into relief efforts, collecting supplies to send to the island in the coming days and weeks. It keeps them busy between efforts to reach family across the divide created by the island's ravaged communication infrastructure....

    Brenda Irizarry of Tampa, while agonizing over the status of family in storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, is helping lead an effort to collect and send supplies to the island. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  3. Puerto Ricans in Tampa Bay wait with dread as Hurricane Maria approaches island


    TAMPA — As Hurricane Maria swirled in the Atlantic Ocean, Sarykarmen Rivera got a call from her parents in Puerto Rico. They had an ominous message.

    We think it's going to make a direct hit here.

    "I try to be the strong daughter, but I have to admit I started sobbing when I hung up the phone," Rivera, a Riverview journalist and on-air personality for iHeart Radio's Rumba 106.5, said Tuesday about the weekend phone call. "I told my husband that this is the big one that people have been talking about for years."...

    Hillsborough journalist Sarykarmen Rivera displays a photo of herself and her family on Tuesday that was taken in her hometown of Guayama, Puerto Rico.
  4. Tampa man calls neighbor over to car, fatally shoots him, police say


    TAMPA — Matthew Downey and his wife were standing in an alley near their home at Westshore Yacht Club on Saturday night when a neighbor called them over to his car.

    Then, a flash of gunfire. Moments later, the 57-year-old father of three was dead.

    The shooter, Tampa police say, was Brian Baker, who lives in a condominium two doors down from Downey and his wife Susan at 5919 Bowen Daniel Drive....

    Matthew Downey, 57, was killed Saturday.
  5. Fueling ire: When generators crank up, noise complaints come in


    When the worst of Hurricane Irma's howling winds subsided, the generators began to emit their telltale drone, like 4,000-watt cicadas emerging from slumber.

    The calls to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office soon followed.

    "Neighbor has his generator running and it's keeping him awake," a Sheriff's Office dispatcher typed into a log during a call with a Palm Harbor man at 11:55 p.m. on Monday....

    People in Naples wait in line for generators three days after Hurricane Irma.
  6. Authorities: Busting Irma scammers starts with consumers, will last for years


    TAMPA — It's a forecast authorities can make with confidence: As soon as hurricanes blow through, the scammers emerge and get to work.

    They say they're collecting money for storm victims and keep it. They pretend to be storm victims, sometimes stealing actual victims' identities, to snag recovery money. They pass themselves off as licensed contractors, receive payment and then botch the job or perform no work at all....

    Sonia de Jara and son Querubin Jara, 11, play with the family's kittens in their damaged trailer after Hurricane Irma tore through southern Collier County on Monday. Authorities are urging storm victims and those helping them to watch for fraud. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  7. Take precautions to reduce fire risk once power is restored


    As investigators check whether a fire that destroyed Lee Elementary School can be traced to power restoration there, people still in the dark might be wondering about the potential risks to their own homes.

    There are some, experts say, and some easy ways to minimize them.

    "It just takes a few seconds to do these things but it could be the difference between saving your home and losing it," said Ralph Fehr, an electrical engineering professor at the University of South Florida's College of Engineering. "It would be a shame if your home did fine in the wind and water but burned down because of an electrical issue."...

    An Arcadia man watches from the porch as a Florida Power & Light Co. crew works to repair a power line in the wake of Hurricane Irma on Monday. 
[Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images]
  8. Conditions still ripe late in season for more powerful hurricanes


    It's a message storm-weary residents don't want to hear: This active, record-breaking hurricane season is far from over.

    After two back-to-back, catastrophic cyclones, with people in Florida and Houston just beginning to put their lives back together, it's tempting to figure Mother Nature will show some mercy, at least until next year.

    Not so, forecasters say. The conditions that spawned hurricanes Irma and Harvey are firmly in place and will be for weeks....

    Islamorada in the Florida Keys and its mobile home parks took a major hit from Hurricane Irma, one of two major tropical storms to make landfall in the United States this season. There could be more, forecasters said. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  9. Toppled by Irma, Wish Tree at Salvador Dali Museum to be replanted


    ST. PETERSBURG — The beloved Wish Tree at the Salvador Dalí Museum might live on to accept more dreams.

    Apparently toppled by Hurricane Irma's winds, the Florida ficus festooned with colorful admission armbands will be righted and replanted in the coming days, said Kathy Grief, the museum's chief marketing officer.

    "It must have just amazing fortitude because it's been taken down with winds in the past and put back up and that is the plan," Greif said. "The tree is intact and seems to be okay."...

    MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
Toppled by Hurricane Irma's winds, the Wish Tree at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg will be righted and replanted, a museum spokeswoman said Tuesday.

  10. Irma fells the Dali Museum's famous Wish Tree


    ST. PETERSBURG — Hurricane Irma felled countless trees as it tore through the Tampa Bay area, but only one carried the weight of thousands of wishes.

    Irma's powerful winds apparently toppled the Florida ficus behind the Salvador Dali Museum known as the Wish Tree. Museum visitors were encouraged to write down a dream on their admission arm bands and tie them to the tree, creating a rainbow of desire....

    The Wish Tree at the Dali Museum was uprooted on September 11, 2017 after Hurricane Irma passed through St. Petersburg, Fla. last night.
  11. Riding out Irma in a mobile home: 'Pretty scary there for awhile, I can't lie to you'


    LEALMAN — As his mobile home shook and debris slammed against the walls outside, Robert Franks felt pangs of fear.

    The 28-year-old Lealman resident had decided to stay with is fiancee in a single-wide home in the Casa del Sol park on 58th Avenue to help some elderly neighbors who weren't evacuating. The neighbors ended up evacuating at the last minute, but Franks and his fiancee didn't have that option, he said. ...

    Timothy Price, right, his brother Chad Price, center, and Chad's son Brandon stand in front of Timothy's rented singlewide mobile home in the Sun Cove Apartments and Mobile Home Park in Lealman on Monday morning. While the trio rode out Hurricane Irma in a building across the street at County Recycling, Inc., where Timothy works as a welder, a huge oak tree fell on the home, crushing half of it like a soda can. [TONY MARRERO | Times]
  12. Bermuda high system is bringing Hurricane Irma Tampa Bay's way


    Blame the Bermuda high.

    Tampa Bay residents troubled by a westerly shift in Irma's forecast track can point their fingers at the huge area of high pressure that usually hovers over Bermuda.

    For days, forecasters have been calling for the storm to make a drastic northerly turn. But when? For Tampa Bay, the answer could mean the difference between tropical storm and hurricane force winds....

    The 2 p.m. Friday projection shows Irma continuing on a path farther west than it started. Blame the Bermuda high. [National Hurricane Center]
  13. Tampa orders evacuation for city residents in low-lying Zone A


    TAMPA — The city of Tampa ordered a mandatory evacuation effective 2 p.m. Friday for residents, hotels and motels, high-rise buildings, people with special needs and those living in mobile or manufactured housing in the low-lying Evacuation Zone A.

    Despite the order, Tampa officials said they were not forcing guests who have already checked into hotels in Zone A to leave. How that decision is handled will be up to the guests and hotels themselves....

    Hurricane Irma, at center in this NASA photo from Friday morning, has prompted Pasco to open county shelters. [Getty Images]
  14. Hillsborough issues evacuation notice for special needs residents in evacuation Zone A


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County has issued a voluntary evacuation notice for special needs residents in Evacuation Zone A.

    The decision came Thursday afternoon with the goal to get those residents to safety first in the event conditions deteriorate here, said Preston Cook, the county's emergency management director. The two special needs shelters will be open at 8 a.m. Friday.

    "We're getting them out of harm's way to make sure they have a safe location before we receive any impacts from the storm," Cook said....

  15. Impact on Tampa Bay depends on when Irma turns right


    The turn.

    As Irma bears down on Florida, the state's fate depends on when the storm makes a relatively sharp right-hander to the north.

    The center of the current forecast track by the National Hurricane Center calls for Irma to make landfall in southeast Florida, but the cone of uncertainty still included the entire peninsula as of the 11 a.m. Thursday advisory.

    The Tampa Bay area is just within the western boundary of the cone. The timing of the turn will determine whether Tampa Bay area will see hurricane or tropical storm conditions....

    Pinellas County forms the latest boundary of the Hurricane Irma cone of probability in the 11 a.m. Thursday advisory from the National Hurricane Center.