While the Tampa Bay area has been spared the destruction of a severe hurricane thus far this summer, it is important to remember that hurricane season in the Atlantic does not end officially until November. According to a recent report from CBS 10 News, a new study suggests that the Tampa Bay area may be most susceptible to damage from a truly devastating hurricane. With rising sea levels and climate change occurring, West Central Florida appears to be more vulnerable-and perhaps among the most vulnerable areas in the state-to catastrophic damage from a major hurricane.
Faced with this possibility, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council developed a Tampa Bay Catastrophic Plan, which aims to provide preparatory material for area residents in the event of a Category 5 hurricane. What else should Tampa Bay residents know about the area's increasing vulnerability to severe storms?
Damage from a Category 5 Hurricane Could Devastate Tampa Bay
In conducting research for its Plan, the Council determined that a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane "would be worse than Hurricane Katrina, resulting in up to 2,000 people dead, 2 million injured, and almost 500,000 homes and businesses destroyed." The likelihood of such an event is slim, of course, but not impossible. In order to be prepared, however, the Council wanted to assume the worst.
To simulate what might happen to downtown Tampa and to surrounding areas, the Council created a hypothetical Category 5 hurricane: Hurricane Phoenix. Here is the hypothetical timeline of events that the Council imagined for Hurricane Phoenix:
● October 7: After developing as a tropical depression over the Lesser Antilles, the storm eventually reached tropical storm strength and is named Phoenix. Over the next six days, it moves from just south of Jamaica over the Yucatan and up into the Gulf of Mexico.
● October 15 in the morning: Phoenix is a Category 4 hurricane and has sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. The eye of the storm is about 100 miles southwest of Saint Pete Beach, and the storm is moving toward Tampa Bay.
● October 16 at midday: Hurricane Phoenix intensifies, and it now has sustained winds of 160 miles per hour. The center of the eye of the hurricane makes landfall near Indian Rocks Beach.
Hypothetical Effects of a Category 5 Hurricane in October
With this timeline, the Council estimates storm surge of "at least 20 feet above normal at St. Petersburg," and "26 feet above the normal tide level near Downtown Tampa." What kind of damage could result from this hypothetical storm?
● All three bridges between Tampa Bay and the Courtney Campbell Causeway "sustain either structural damage or have their approaches washed away by water and waves";
● Parts of central Saint Petersburg and Pinellas County that are not already devastated by storm surge "become two islands, each surrounded by water on all sides";
● "Homes and businesses are flattened along a wide swath many miles inland following the hurricane's path";
● Most hi-rise buildings in the region have blown-out windows; and
● After the storm ends, "massive amounts of debris and roadway damage mak[e] ground-based travel nearly impossible.
Of course, this is just a hypothetical scenario so that the Tampa Bay area can be better prepared-and can prevent these hypothetical "results" of the storm-in the event that a major hurricane does make landfall. As you should note, the hypothetical Hurricane Phoenix strikes in mid-October, emphasizing that Floridians should not assume they are out of danger once summer ends.
Contact a Tampa Bay Hurricane Damage Lawyer
If you have questions about hurricane preparedness and your hurricane damage insurance, you should speak with a Tampa Bay hurricane damage attorney today. Contact the Wells Law
Group, P.A. to learn more about how we can assist you.