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Moments that shaped Florida, Tampa Bay area in 2022

From Tom Brady's return to Hurricane Ian and the resigning of Tampa's police chief, here's a look back at this year's top stories.

TAMPA, Fla. — Despite a rough start to 2022 due to the COVID-19 Omicron variant, the year still marked significant returns for many things across the Tampa Bay area and Florida.

For example, The Gasparilla and St. Pete Pride parades came back after delays from COVID-19.

Not to mention, Tom Brady announced his return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after initially announcing he would retire from football. That only lasted 40 days.

But the year also marked challenges.

Hurricane Ian battered areas south of the Tampa Bay region, especially southwest Florida. 

At least 144 people have died due to the hurricane, according to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. The Category 4 storm is estimated to cost approximately $60 billion in insured losses, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Tampa Bay's Ukrainian community also faced a difficult year after Russia's invasion earlier this year. Rallies and gatherings took place, especially in North Port, which holds one of the largest Ukrainian communities in Florida.

10 Tampa Bay met students like Danylo Solomentsev, whose mom fled to Slovakia, but reunited with her son to watch him graduate at the University of South Florida. 

The year also marked some controversies in politics. 

Abortion rights activists protested for weeks after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, while anti-abortion rights activists praised the decision. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed new laws including the Parental Rights in Education law, known to critics as "Don't Say Gay."

In September, dozens of migrants were flown to Martha's Vineyard on behalf of DeSantis. The governor said it was part of his state relocation program.

In addition, Florida's voter fraud program sparked some backlash after videos showed confusion among those arrested. 

The midterm elections proved to be a victorious year for the state GOP. DeSantis won by nearly 20% of the votes.

Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor also resigned less than one year after she was sworn in after a body camera video showed her displaying her credentials and requesting to leave after she was caught riding a golf cart without a plate. 

For residents like J.C. LaVerde, the year 2022 forced him to face personal challenges of his own. 

LaVerde nearly died after an alligator attack at Lake Thonotosassa in preparation for an upcoming swim, bike, run adventure race. 

Eric Merda lost his arm from another alligator attack while swimming in Lake Manatee. 

Heading into the new year, thousands of people have Florida Highway Patrol Master Trooper Toni Schuck to thank.

Schuck stopped a drunk driver from potentially running into participants of the Skyway 10K race. She was the last line of defense. 

Into the new year, several stories will be developing fast. 

A judge is expected to rule soon on the lawsuit between suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren and DeSantis

Local races are also taking place which include Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

New laws are set to take effect, which could affect how much Florida residents pay for property insurance.  

St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is also expected to announce who will lead redevelopment at the Tropicana Field site after he scrapped the old proposals. 

Meanwhile, fans will be watching closely as Brady and the Bucs attempt to win another Super Bowl championship after their 2021 victory.

Plus, they'll be keeping a close eye on the Tampa Bay Lightning after falling short of a three-peat Stanley Cup victory last season.

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