Vulnerable Tampa Bay Brace for Storms Never Seen in a Century


st. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—It’s been over a century since he’s had a major storm like this. Hurricane Ian It ravaged the Tampa Bay area, which has grown from hundreds of thousands in 1921 to more than three million today.

Many of these people live in low-lying areas that are highly susceptible to storm surges and flooding that they have rarely experienced before, and some experts say Impact of climate change.

The problem facing the region is that the storm is approaching from the south. Hurricane Ian is on track It can bulldoze large amounts of water into the shallow waters of Tampa Bay, flooding homes and businesses. The adjacent Gulf of Mexico is also shallow.

“The strong and sustained winds push so much water into the bay that it just accumulates because it has nowhere to go,” said Brian McNoldy, a senior fellow at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Geosciences. “Tampa Bay is very surge prone because of its orientation.”

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Ian raised storm surges in Tampa Bay and surrounding waters 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 meters) above normal tide levels, with precipitation of 10 to 15 inches (12 to 25 centimeters). I predict it will.

“That’s a lot of rain,” said Cathy Perkins, emergency management officer for Pinellas County, which includes St. Petersburg and Clearwater. “This is no joke. This is a life-threatening storm surge. is.”

Officials in the area began issuing evacuation orders for large areas of Tampa on Monday, with the St. Petersburg area soon to follow. Evacuation could affect more than 300,000 people in Hillsborough County alone.

Gov. Ron DeSantis highlighted the area’s vulnerability during a Monday afternoon press conference in Largo, Fla.

“Obviously, looking at the Tampa Bay area, one of the reasons we fear storms is because of the sensitivity of the area and the vulnerability of the area.

Tampa Bay was last hit by a major storm on October 25, 1921. The hurricane did not have an official name, but it is known locally as the Storm of Tarpon Springs. landed.

The storm surge from that hurricane was estimated as Category 3 with winds up to 129 mph (207 km/h) and was fixed at 11 feet (3.3 meters). At least eight people were killed and the damage was estimated at her $5 million at the time.

Today, the tourist-friendly neighborhood known for its sugar-sand beaches has grown exponentially, making it an ideal location for most homes and businesses by the ocean. Hurricane Ian could threaten all that development.

As an example, in 1920 the city of Tampa had a population of about 51,000. Today that number is about 395,000. Many of the other cities in the region are experiencing similar explosive growth.

report Karen Clark and Co. of Karen Clark and Co., a Boston-based catastrophe modeling firm, found that in 2015, Tampa Bay was the most vulnerable place in the United States to flooding from hurricane storm surges, with 175 billion It concluded that it could suffer dollar damage. A World Bank survey a few years earlier put Tampa as the seventh most vulnerable city to major storms worldwide.

For years, however, storms seemed to bypass the area somewhat inexplicably. Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State University’s School of Atmospheric Sciences, said that since 1851 he has only one of five hurricanes of category 3 or higher intensity to hit Tampa Bay. I pointed out that there is.

“In general, cyclones moving over the Gulf of Mexico tended to pass well north of Tampa,” said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in its report on the 1921 storm.

And lurking in the waves and wind are the effects of climate change and the rising sea levels that scientists say are causing it.

Angela Colbert, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said, “With global warming, hurricanes are likely to cause more intense rainfall, and storm surges from rising sea levels will likely increase the risk of coastal flooding.” the model is predicting. I wrote in my June report.

McNoldy, a researcher at the University of Miami, noted that today’s Hurricane Andrew’s storm surge will be 7 inches (17 cm) higher than it was when it hit South Florida 30 years ago.

“As sea levels rise, the baseline from which storm surges occur is higher, so the same storm surge can flood more areas,” McNoldy said.

Among all science, local legend holds that blessings from the Native Americans who once called the area home largely protected it from the great storms over the centuries. Some believe that part of that legend was the many mounds that the Tocobagan tribe built in what is now Pinellas County, intended as protectors against invaders, including hurricanes.

Executive Director Louis Farias Saint Petersburg Historical Museum,Said Tampa Bay Times After the 2017 Hurricane Irma near miss, many still believe it.

“It’s like when myth becomes history,” Farias said. “It will come true in time.”

Hurricane Ian looks to put that legend to the test in the next few days.


Associated Press writer Anthony Izaguirre, who lives in Tallahassee, contributed to this article.