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Justine Griffin, Times Staff Writer

Justine Griffin

Justine Griffin covers retail business and tourism for the Tampa Bay Times. She is a native Floridian who spent most of her childhood in Pasco County. Prior to coming to the Times in 2015, she worked for the St. Augustine Record, the Sun Sentinel and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, where she gained national attention for her retail coverage and for a longform article she wrote about her experience as an egg donor. Justine is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she studied journalism. She's an equestrian. Her horse is named Belinda.

Phone: (727) 893-8467


Twitter: @SunBizGriffin

  1. Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough power outages nearly all restored a week after Irma


    More than a week after Hurricane Irma knocked out power to millions of Floridians, about 300,000 customers across the state were still in the dark Monday evening.

    But most in the Tampa Bay area could flick their lights on.

    Duke Energy reported that more than 99 percent of outages were restored in a dozen counties across the state, including in Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough. The utility said about 2,549 customers in Pinellas and 280 customers in Pasco — where Duke is the largest provider of electricity — remained without power Monday, though some outages were unrelated to Irma....

    A lineman works to get power back to a neighborhood in Clearwater on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. [LARA CERRI | Times]
  2. Winn-Dixie store manager shelters locals in the Keys


    The Winn-Dixie grocery store on Big Pine Key opened Thursday after Hurricane Irma, thanks to a few local residents and one kind store manager.

    Kenny Lowe, the store manager of the Winn-Dixie grocery store on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys, hunkered down inside the grocery store during the wrath of Hurricane Irma. While preparing the store for the big storm, he connected with a 19 local customers who needed shelter, so he opened the doors to the grocery store to let them in. ...

    The Winn-Dixie Store in Big Pine Key of the Florida Keys housed several evacuees during Hurricane Irma. [Photos courtesy of Winn-Dixie]
  3. Grocery stores working around the clock to replenish supplies after Irma


    When the big green semi-trailers with the Publix logo were driving into downtown St. Petersburg Tuesday morning, local residents breathed a collective sigh of relief.

    They might not have had power in their homes, but at least the Publix on the corner was opening soon.

    Retailers across Florida struggled to keep stores supplied before and after Hurricane Irma. The demand from everything to nonperishable food to toilet paper to bottled water and bags of ice has been fierce and overwhelming, store officials says. ...

    Customers looking for bottled water to stock up for Hurricane Irma lined up before opening time this week outside the Publix supermarket at 2724 W Hillsborough Ave. The store let them in early. [SUE CARLTON   |   Times]
  4. In Florida, 2.1 million customers still powerless four days after Hurricane Irma


    As the fourth day after Hurricane Irma stretched on, a fifth of the state remained without lights or air conditioning as energy companies worked to restore one of the largest power outages in the country's history.

    As of 9 p.m. Thursday, about 2.1 million customers still didn't have power — down from the peak 6.7 million with outages reported across the state Monday afternoon. It took utility companies working round the clock since Monday with thousands of out-of-state workers to restore power to 4.4 million Florida customers rocked by Irma's strong winds. ...

    A quarter of the state started the fourth day after Hurricane Irma without lights or air conditioning as energy companies worked to restore one of the largest power outages in the country's history. Here, Scott Crellin, a trouble man for Duke Energy, works to restore power in Tarpon Spring on Monday.l
[CHRIS URSO  |   Times file photo]

  5. Half of Irma's power outages restored, but lights still out for 3.3 million Florida homes, businesses


    The lights are back for more than half of those who lost power during Hurricane Irma's trek through Florida.

    But that's little consolation for the third of the state that remained without air conditioning or electricity well into the third day after the storm.

    RELATED: How long will it take for power to be restored?...

    SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
It was a harrowing weekend and this week will be tough. The rebuilding process will take time, money and a sense of urgency at all levels of government. But the storm is behind us, and it's time to pick up the pieces and to make the recovery as fast and smooth as possible.
  6. Irma causes one of the largest disaster power outages in the nation


    Scrambling utility workers restored power for more than 2 million Florida customers on Tuesday, but that left nearly 5 million households still in the dark after Hurricane Irma, including more than 834,000 in Tampa Bay.

    And for some of them, relief from the record-setting statewide outage may not come until this weekend.

    As of 6 p.m., about half of the Sunshine State was waiting for the lights to go back on. That's down from Monday night when 62 percent of the state's 10.5 million households were without power....

    Power trucks and workers head out  from Derby Lane in St. Petersburg on Sept. 12, 2017, into Pinellas County to restore power after Hurricane Irma. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  7. Irma's wrath: more than half of Florida still in the dark


    Much of Florida will be waking up to a second day in the dark Tuesday after Hurricane Irma's devastating slash through the state.

    More than 13 million Floridians — 62 percent of the state — remained without power as of late Monday, state officials said. In Tampa Bay, some of the county numbers were even more jarring: 78 percent of Pinellas households were affected; 71 percent of Pasco; 62 percent of Hernando; 61 percent of Polk and 42 percent of Hillsborough....

    In Ybor City palm tree frawns litter 7th Avenue in Tampa after Hurricane Irma passed through as a category 1 storm through the Tampa Bay area on Sunday, September 10, 2017.
  8. Help is on the way, but use gas sparingly for now


    As Tampa Bay and the rest of Florida try to get back to normal in the wake of Hurricane Irma, drivers are being warned to use gas sparingly.

    The state and the region saw widespread gasoline outages during the week leading up to the storm. Gov. Rick Scott ordered Florida Highway Patrol escorts for fuel supplies to be shuttled to gas stations. Now in the wake of Irma, suppliers are trying to keep gas stations full of fuel, but motorists should be prepared for scarce supply as Florida evacuees return to their homes in large numbers. Gas stations not located along major highways should have an easier time keeping supplies, according to a press release from AAA, The Auto Group, which tracks gas prices and supplies. ...

    The Rally gas station on the corner of 4th St. North and 22nd Ave. North opened Monday afternoon and is selling gas after Hurricane Irma passed over Pinellas County the night before. Gas shortages are still common, however, so drivers are being warned to use gas sparingly. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  9. Gas, flights, Publix: All consumers need to know after Irma


    Now that Hurricane Irma has barreled past Florida, many Tampa Bay area businesses are assessing damages and preparing to reopen.

    Some companies are calling workers back in Tuesday, but check first before heading to a specific retailer or service. Several bank websites, for instance, said they remained closed but as of Monday afternoon had not cited a re-opening date.

    LIVE BLOG: Latest updates on Hurricane Irma. ...

    The Hellas restaurant on the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs lost some decorative tiles to Hurricane Irma. Many businesses were scrambling to decide when to re-open after Irma passed.
  10. The storm has hit. Now what do we do?


    After the storm passes, the real work begins. Cleaning up. Taking stock. Rebuilding. Here's a look at some questions you may have.

    When can I go home?

    Pinellas County Government spokesman Josh Boatwright said areas will likely open in phases.

    "Getting to your neighborhood safely is going to be one of the first priority for county and emergency crews," he said. "Our general advice right now is to kind of listen to emergency management and follow re-entry orders and reclosure advice."...

    A hand-written sign on a plywood board covering the window of a West Tampa house reads: "I am ready for Irma" as the hurricane approaches the Tampa Bay Area on Sunday. (ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times)
  11. Westbound lanes on Courtney Campbell, Gandy Bridge close as Hurricane Irma inches closer to Tampa Bay


    Westbound lanes on the Courtney Campbell Causeway and Gandy Bridge across Pinellas County have closed as Hurricane Irma inches closer to Tampa Bay.

    The Howard Frankland Bridge remains open.

    The Sunshine Skyway closed on Saturday, when sustained winds reached 40 mph in advance of Hurricane Irma. The Florida Highway Patrol made the decision after receiving several wind reports from the Department of Transportation. All listed bridges will be closed until at least the storm passes. ...

  12. Thousands across Tampa Bay lose power from Irma


    Power out? Rest assured, Tampa Bay. The countywide and citywide curfews do not apply to Duke Energy and TECO technicians.

    Tampa Electric is reporting nearly 15,000 people in Hillsborough County are without power as of early Sunday evening. TECO technicians have halted work around Tampa Bay because of high winds, a 5 p.m. advisory says.

    "Once the storm has passed and it is safe, a full assessment of the damage will begin and restoration will resume," the advisory read....

    Aden Alcroix-Camper, 11, walks through debris from a second- story roof scattered over 2 block area after a possible tornado touched down at Palm Bay Point subdivision in Palm Bay Fal., Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, as Hurricane Irma made landfall in the state of Florida (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel via AP)/Orlando Sentinel via AP) FLORL105
  13. Low oxygen levels at shelter send some evacuees to hospital


    Several elderly evacuees at the Strawberry Crest High School shelter in Dover were taken to the emergency room due to low oxygen levels, according to local family members.

    Dolores Parker moved her mother from her Rocky Point home in Tampa to Strawberry Crest on Saturday. Her sister stayed with their mother, who uses an oxygen tank to breathe, in the hurricane shelter. Parker said she was alarmed to find out Sunday morning that her mother and five other senior-aged evacuees were being transported to the emergency room at the South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City. ...

    Strawberry Crest High School in Dover. (SKIP O'ROURKE  |   Times file)
  14. Tampa Bay area churches try to offer solace, calm before Irma


    When the priest asked for the congregation to raise their hands if they were evacuees, Julianne Lesmeister-Tulacz was comforted to see that she was one of dozens.

    Lesmeister-Tulacz evacuated from her Sarasota County home to Panama City with her family on Saturday. They're holed up with her adult daughter who lives there. But Lesmeister-Tulacz is still worried — she's concerned for her family, for her property and for her home state. But she found solace in a 7:30 a.m. Mass in an unfamiliar Catholic church Sunday morning. ...

    Keystone Baptist Church was closed Sunday, along with many churches across the Tampa Bay area on the day that Hurricane Irma was expected to pass through the region. [ TIMES PHOTO | Jeff Solochek]
  15. Irma victims beware: Scams are everywhere after a natural disaster


    After every natural disaster comes a flood of fraud.

    In the wake of Hurricane Irma, insurance agencies and consumer groups warn Floridians of possible scammers looking to take advantage of vulnerable home and car owners.

    A fraud task force set up after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 recorded more than 26,000 fraud complaints and reported 17,000 of those to local law enforcement, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. After Hurricane Harvey last month, the Office of the Texas Attorney General received more than 3,000 fraud-related complaints....

    High winds from the effects of Hurricane Irma take down this large tree branch at the intersection of 28th Street and 13th Ave. North in St. Petersburg on Sunday. (BOYZELL HOSEY  |  Times)