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Published August 4, 2006

Fire devastates Plant City winery

Keel & Curley Winery at Keel Farms lost about 85 percent of its wine inventory late Wednesday after a fire broke out in a barn. Firefighters responded to the farm, 5210 W Thonotosassa Road, shortly after 9 p.m. "We don't know what caused it," owner Joe Keel said. But storms in the area had some folks suspecting lightning. Keel estimated the business lost about $500,000 in wine inventory, plus equipment used to pack blueberries harvested on the 25-acre farm, and $150,000 worth of furniture that was going to go into a new wine-tasting shop due to open in December. Keel said he wasn't sure what was in store now. "All I can say is we're going to do our best we can to recover," he said.

First the storms, then the beach closures

Another reason to hate hurricanes: Florida beach closures and health advisories from pollution increased slightly last year. The blame goes partly to hurricanes, but Red Tide also played a role. Still, Florida beaches are among the cleanest nationally. Only 4 percent exceeded national bacteria standards last year, the Natural Resources Defense Council said. That's half the national average. Florida tied with four other states for seventh place among 29 coastal and Great Lakes states. Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco beaches never exceeded state bacteria standards.

No demolition before they get the all clear

The helicopters flying over John's Pass were not looking for runaway fugitives or floating bodies. Try dolphins and manatees. Underwater pilings from the old John's Pass bridge are being demolished to make way for a new bridge. Florida Department of Transportation officials say a portion of the old bridge's southbound pier was demolished using dynamite Thursday. One hovering chopper was on the lookout for manatees or dolphins that might swim in the path of the demolition. The rest were TV helicopters. Look for them again in several weeks when another part of the bridge will be demolished.

Billie Cat didn't stray very far from home

Billie Cat is back. She was found four houses away from his home by Tampa restaurateur Maryann Ferenc of Mise en Place. Billie Cat was one of the only things that Ferenc's mother, an Alzheimer's patient, could remember. Marilyn Weaver of Tarpon Springs offered tips on how to find Billie: Look at night when it's quiet. Cats stay near their home. Ferenc spotted Billie Cat, scared and thirsty, in a back yard Wednesday.

[Last modified August 4, 2006, 01:24:31]

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