Tampa Bay Isn't Prepared for the Hurricanes of the Future

The area is especially vulnerable to storm surge, and increased development means more people are at risk when major hurricanes push through.

1 minute read

September 26, 2019, 2:00 PM PDT

By Camille Fink

Tampa Bay Storm

Jason Caunter / Shutterstock

"Tampa Bay is long and grows narrower and shallower as you move farther away from the Gulf of Mexico and toward the cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. When a hurricane comes through Tampa Bay, its winds can push a wall of water, known as storm surge, into this ever-tightening container. So when a storm comes through, the bay rises," writes Brian Resnick.

Tampa Bay’s geography, together with growing population and its location in a hurricane-prone area, makes cities in the region more vulnerable to climate change and the more destructive hurricanes that are likely in the future.

While the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council drafted a catastrophic plan called Project Phoenix a decade ago, Resnick says local governments have not pursued policies to prepare the region for sea-level rise and flooding threats. "Namely, development continues at a huge pace and few buildings are hurricane proof."

Experts suggest more stringent building standards, denser development further inland, and improved evacuation plans. "The more the Tampa Bay area grows, the more people will be at risk for storms and sea-level rise. Again: We know that more storms are coming. They’ve come before. And they’ll keep coming, whether we’re here or not," notes Resnick.

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