‘Catastrophic’ Florence on verge of landfall; is University Mall the future?’ missteps that could keep the Rays out of the postseason

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.

• Hurricane Florence may be lashing the Carolinas but that will actually reduce the chance of rain this weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Florence is forecast to pull the moisture out of the are in the region over the weekend, but it could also push Red Tide onto the coast, causing respiratory problems. The chance of rain will drop to 20 to 30 percent, but jump back up to 60 percent next week.

• Westbound lanes on the Courtney Campbell Causeway are closed after a motorcyclist was killed in a crash early this morning. Motorists should use the Howard Frankland or Gandy bridges, or Hillsborough Avenue as alternates. As you head out for your morning commute, check out our live blog for the latest traffic updates and road conditions across Tampa Bay.

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay.

• Speaking of Hurricane Florence, the storm already has inundated coastal streets with ocean water and left tens of thousands without power, and forecasters say that “catastrophic” freshwater flooding is expected over portions of the Carolinas as it inches closer to the U.S. East Coast. The National Hurricane Center says Florence is about to make landfall in North Carolina bringing with it life-threatening storm surges and hurricane force winds. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

• Times Times Food Critic Laura Reiley has a sneak preview of what diners soon will experience at Sparkman Wharf, part of the $3 billion Water Street Tampa neighborhood that Jeff Vinik and Strategic Property Partners are developing in what was Channelside Bay Plaza.

• The future of Tampa’s University Mall isn’t a mall: It’s a “research village” with food halls, a dog park, apartments, high-rises and a lifestyle center off busy Fowler Avenue near the University of South Florida. Sara DiNatale explains what the future of north Tampa could look like if the project comes together.

• President Donald Trump claimed without evidence Thursday that Democrats made up a new report estimating that nearly 3,000 Americans died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. That did not go over well with Republicans and Democrats running in the 2018 election, reports Steve Contorno.

• The Rays might have won 80 games in the midst of a surprisingly successful season but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t without its regrets. Marc Topkin explains the 10 most egregious mistakes that may keep Tampa Bay from playing in the postseason.

• Meanwhile the Rays start their crucial series against the visiting A’s today, which gives Tampa Bay its best shot at chipping away at Oakland’s 8½-game lead in the postseason standings with just 17 left to play this season. Columnist Martin Fennelly sure is ready for the Battle of the Smallest Payrolls in Baseball.

• To keep up with all the Rays’ action this season, check out the Tampa Bay Times coverage down the home stretch.

• Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum took a boat ride around the Statue of Liberty in New York City back in 2016. But it turns out undercover FBI agents arranged the outing, reports Lawrence Mower, who explains what that has to do with the ongoing probe of Tallahassee politics that has ensnared the Democratic nominee for governor.

• Columnist Sue Carlton has been watching Hurricane Florence and thinking what every Floridian is thinking right now: Please not here. Please not us. That’s because Floridians know exactly what everyone in the path of a storm is going through.

• How did it feel for Bucs’ offensive coordinator Todd Monken after calling his first NFL game on Sunday? “I was kind of numb,” Monken said. Rick Stroud writes about the coordinator who helped pull the strings in Tampa Bay’s thrilling 48-40 season-opening win over the Saints.

• For the latest Bucs’ developments, keep checking the Tampa Bay Times coverage to stay informed as the team heads into week two.

• For the latest Red Tide developments, make sure to check tampabay.com.

• It’s time to plan your weekend! Our critics and writers have laid out their top pick for concerts, theater and family fun on our Weekend Planner page

• Superstar rapper T.I. was announced as a last-minute surprise addition to Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘N Out Live, the hip-hop and comedy tour coming Sunday to Amalie Arena. And John Mellencamp coming to Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. You can find this and more music news on our Soundcheck music blog

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