Even by Florida standards, 2013 brought a remarkable year of news in the Tampa Bay area. Week after week, one eye-opening story after another amazed, enraged, shocked, saddened, and even uplifted FOX 13's audiences.
Here, in no particular order, is our unofficial list of the most unforgettable stories of 2013.
1) WAVES OF ANGER OVER FLOOD INSURANCE
Changes to federal flood insurance laws hit hard here in Tampa Bay. Annual costs for homeowners soared, leaving many stuck. It's a real estate crisis with no end in sight.
Shocking flood insurance figures emerge:
Flood insurance could catapult to ten times the cost:
2) NIGHTMARE ON FAITHWAY DRIVE
It sounded like something out of a horror movie, but it was all-too real in Seffner: a sinkhole opened up under resident Jeff Bush's bedroom. He plunged into the hole, the earth and debris surrounded him and he was never seen again.
Seffner man disappears into sinkhole under home:
3) THE DUI THAT SHOOK THE TAMPA POLICE DEPARTMENT
When an attorney in a high-profile trial between feuding morning radio hosts was arrested and charged with DUI, an eye-opening conspiracy behind the arrest emerged. It cost a DUI sergeant his job, and cost the police department the trust of many of Tampa's citizens.
Schnitt attorney Phil Campbell arrested for DUI:
4) THE SUICIDE HEARD AROUND THE WORLD:
Polk County deputies find a missing teenage girl dead at the bottom of a water tower, driven to her death by cyberbullying from former classmates. The story sparked national outrage, and woke many people up to the realities and dangers of social media.
Missing Polk County girl found dead of apparent suicide:
5) LITTLE GIRL LOSES LEGS IN LAWNMOWER ACCIDENT:
It was a freak accident that gave many parents pause: a Pinellas County dad accidentally ran over his toddler's legs with a riding lawnmower. In the aftermath, her parents' strength and her remarkable recovery were an inspiration that touched many.
Toddler critically injured in lawnmower accident:
6) KIDNAPPING ENDS IN BOAT TRIP TO CUBA:
The news that a child has been kidnapped is always alarming. The news that the children's parents kidnapped them and sailed to Cuba gave this story a truly unbelievable ending.
Hakken family: a timeline of events:
Hakken parents arrested; children safely back in U.S.
7) ST. PETE PIER CLOSES FOR GOOD
The decay of the Pier prompted a fiery debate about what to do with it that is still raging in the City of St. Petersburg. But the public's access to the iconic structure ended in May when engineers said it was no longer safe to stay open.
St. Pete Pier: A look back
8) MOTHER NATURE MEETS SOCIAL MEDIA
Waterspout, sunsets and other makings of Mother Nature are nothing new. But this year, FOX 13 viewers captured and shared striking images via social media like never before.
Images capture waterspout in Oldsmar:
Did you see that sunset?
Photos: waterspout forms near the Howard Frankland Bridge:
9) R.I.P. CONGRESSMAN BILL YOUNG
Representative C.W. Bill Young was an advocate for the Tampa Bay area like no other. His dedication and years of service set the standard, and his commitment to military members and their families was legendary. He died in October at the age of 82.
Congressman Bill Young dead at age 82:
10) CONTRASTS IN CONSERVATION:
Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo announced the birth of two elephant calves this year. Given that poachers are slaughtering 30,000 elephants a year abroad for the illegal ivory trade, the births were a major success story for the zoo -- especially because some experts predict elephants could soon be extinct.
Photos: Elephant family at Lowry Park Zoo:
Video: baby elephant born at Lowry Park Zoo:
On the flip side, number of manatee deaths in 2013 topped 800 -- about 16 percent of the state's estimated population of 5,000 manatees.
Record number of manatee deaths reported in 2013:
11) BIG CHANGES PLANNED IN CLEARWATER
The Clearwater Aquarium announced major expansion plans in 2013 that could radically change the face of the downtown area. The aquarium wants to build a massive new facility that would be home to "Winter," the dolphin whose story has captivated millions.
Aquarium plans would reshape downtown Clearwater:
12) NON-STOP SCANDAL AND STRIFE AT THE LAKELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT
To say the news was not good at LPD in 2013 would be putting it mildly. Several officers and employees were fired after being caught with their pants down in a wide-ranging sex scandal.
On top of that, the Polk County State Attorney is leading the charge to have the chief fired. Whether Chief Lisa Womack keeps her job remains to be seen, but the incoming mayor has made it clear he doesn't want her to stay.
Multiple Lakeland police officers entangled in alleged sex scandal:
Polk state attorney wants Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack fired:
13) CLOSURE FOR THE TAMPA POLICE DEPARTMENT
One of the department's most painful chapters came to close when a jury found Dontae Morris guilty for shooting and killing two officers in 2010. The emotion in the courthouse after the verdict was palpable.
Dontae Morris found guilty of killing two police officers:
What stories caught your attention in 2013? Let us know your thoughts by joining the conversation on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FOX13TampaBay
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