Tampa has been undertaking huge infrastructure modifications to safeguard the vulnerable city from flooding, but the project is still years away as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida’s west coast.
The city is in the planning stages of a $39 million project to enhance drainage and decrease floods in Seminole Heights.
According to Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, construction is only around 30% complete.
Tampa is at risk for major flooding from Hurricane Ian
(Photo : Win McNamee/Getty Images)
(Photo : Win McNamee/Getty Images)
The three-year effort to construct a large stormwater conveyance system got underway late last year.
It was on track until Ian threatened to derail it this week, with anticipated wind gusts of up to 130 mph, extended storm surges of up to 15 feet in certain locations, severe rains, and probable tornadoes, as per NBC News.
Sullivan stated that there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. And if that work is not finished, the worsening of flooding and heavy rain might be disastrous.
Because of its low-lying geology, the Tampa Bay area is particularly vulnerable to storm surges, according to state climatologist David Zierden and Dennis Smith, an urban planner and professor at Florida State University’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning.
The World Bank named Tampa one of the top ten coastal towns in the world in 2013 for its vulnerability to severe floods.
This poses a significant threat to shoreline roadways and development, according to Smith, who said that unlike other sections of Florida, such as Miami, storm surges from the Tampa Bay area can go considerably further inland.
Since 1921, the region has not been hit by a significant storm.
According to the National Weather Service, the unidentified storm, estimated to be a Category 3, killed at least eight people and cost $5 million.
It was the most powerful storm to hit the area since 1848.
Since then, the region’s population has increased from around 400,000 to 3.8 million, and the number of structures has tripled or quadrupled, according to Sullivan.
St. Petersburg, which is located on a huge peninsula separated from the mainland by Tampa Bay, is likewise located in the low-lying coastal area.
According to Sullivan, three key bridges that connect the area’s two most populated cities are also vulnerable to large storm surges.
He stated that the approaches to all of his bridges are normally near sea level. As a result, any storm surge would make approaches to all three bridges almost difficult.
After tropical storm Irma knocked off pumping stations for a week in 2017, Tampa committed to improving critical infrastructure, but the storm ultimately left the town relatively undamaged.
In July, the city said that it had purchased 64 portable generators and stored 75,000 gallons of gasoline, which it claimed could last five days in the event of a power outage at a wastewater treatment facility.
In addition, the city recently outfitted its emergency response teams with drones and enhanced the communications infrastructure used by public safety officers following the storm.
2.5 million Floridians were ordered to evacuate
As Storm Ian swiftly strengthened into a major hurricane on Tuesday, at least 2.5 million Floridians are presently under some form of an evacuation order.
The precise location of that landfall is still unknown.
But remember that the effects will be considerably larger than simply where the storm’s eye happens to make landfall in certain locations, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned in a press conference Tuesday morning.
There will be catastrophic floods and a potentially lethal storm surge.
Much of Florida’s Gulf Coast, South, and Central Florida are under Hurricane Warnings, including Tampa, Venice and Fort Myers, Naples, and Orlando, due to Hurricane Ian’s forecast wind, rain, and storm surge.
Numerous counties along Florida’s west coast have already issued both mandatory and voluntary evacuations, including Tampa Bay, where 300,000 people have been told to evacuate their beachfront property because storm surge will cause massive problems for the state’s third-largest metro area, according to forecasters.
To safeguard people, Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise issued a mandatory evacuation order for Zone A, recommended a voluntary evacuation for Zone B, and opened emergency shelters.
Storm surge may reach 10 feet in areas of Florida’s west coast, according to the FOX Forecast Center, however, the whole western Florida shore is vulnerable to some amount of storm surge.
A tornado strikes in Broward County
Another tornado passed across Florida ahead of Hurricane Ian’s landfall, with a tornado landing on the east side of Cooper City around 7:30 p.m. EDT, as per Accuweather.
The National Weather Service’s Miami station warned that the tornado was “intensifying” after making landfall and was anticipated to affect western Broward County, including the communities of Davie and Pembroke Pines.
A tornado watch was issued for the region until 7:45 p.m. The NWS is recommending citizens to seek shelter as soon as possible.
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