Here are the top five latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.
FLOODING REPORTED, TORNADOES POSSIBLE AS STORMS POSE ‘COMPLEX THREAT’ TO TAMPA BAY
The system of storms moving into the area today is already “impressive,” according to the National Weather Service, and it’s just getting started. Oh, and the rain that’s been slapping the Tampa Bay area since midday Wednesday, that’s not even it. The region is still on the rim of a near record-level weather event forecasters are expecting to blast through this afternoon, bringing heavy rainfall to the area, including coastal and localized flooding, damaging winds, hail and the threat of tornadoes. While some of the most severe weather elements are expected to pass quickly today, forecasters say things will be rough for the next 36 hours.
HOW DO YOU MAKE IT SNOW IN TAMPA BAY?
The belief that he could bring a better snow event to St. Petersburg led Bob Valenti on a three-year journey to open Snow Blast in the parking lot of Tyrone Square mall, with snow slides, snowball throwing and all the snow merriment you could imagine. This belief also led Valenti, a St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation supervisor who makes $65,000 a year, to take six weeks of vacation and open multiple credit lines totaling $100,000 to pay for the event. Two investors also believed, putting in $50,000 each. Valenti must believe this is real snow, or at least the best snow humans can make, because if 15,000 people don’t pay $20 to $25 to play in it before Snow Blast ends on Jan. 7, he might lose his shirt.
FLORIDA’S MARIJUANA FORECAST: HAZY, WITH CHANCES FOR HIGH GROWTH
When Nikki Fried was elected commissioner of agriculture, proponents of legalized marijuana cheered because she was their advocate. But what does her newly elected office mean for the future of the cannabis industry in Florida? The agriculture commissioner historically doesn’t really have much influence. The responsibilities of the commissioner and those who work in the department, include the regulation of pesticides, edible medical marijuana and, more notably, hemp production. The Department of Health, which is charged with writing rules for edible forms of medical marijuana, hasn’t done that yet, so Agriculture’s role is equally undefined.
THANKS TO TAMPA CHURCH, THE FIRST NEW CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CUBA IN 60 YEARS IS COMPLETE
Religious history is set to be made in Cuba thanks to the efforts of Tampa’s St. Lawrence Catholic Church. On Jan. 26, the first new Catholic church will be inaugurated on the island since the Cuban Revolution 60 years ago ushered in an era of atheism. St. Lawrence, at 5225 N. Himes Ave. in Tampa, led the effort to raise the $95,000 needed to build the church in Sandino — a town of 40,000 people in the far-western coastal province of Pinar del Rio. The venture began in 2010 when Father Tom Morgan, then pastor of St. Lawrence, expressed interest in a spiritual partnership with Cuba. Father Ramon Hernandez, a native of Cuba and also a priest at St. Lawrence, got the ball rolling by reaching out to Father Cirilo Castro, then a priest in Sandino. With no church, people who lived there worshipped in homes.
WHO ARE THESE BUCCANEERS? THEY CAN’T PASS, BUT NOW THEY CAN RUN?
In the Saints and Ravens, the Bucs recently faced two of the NFL’s better defenses, but how is it that they managed to score only 26 total points? After reviewing the tape and the numbers, Thomas Bassinger can’t say that the team we’ve watched over the past couple of weeks is all that dissimilar from the one we watched over the first 12 games of the season. So if the scheme isn’t different, what is? The execution. It hasn’t been there. Something else has disappeared: the play-action pass game. Once a staple of the Bucs offense, the play-action attack has been nearly nonexistent.