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Fall is here...and it’s still hurricane season

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By Mitch Traphagen

With the blissfully cooler temperatures in the Tampa Bay area recently, it is easy to forget that we are still in the heart of hurricane season. October, in fact, is one of the busiest months of the season for hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. This is no time to let your guard down.

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council enlisted the assistance of local and national weather media personalities to produce a video showing a worst-case scenario for the Tampa Bay area. In the video, the fictional Hurricane Phoenix strikes just north of Tampa as an October Category 5 hurricane.

Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council video screenshot from YouTube.com
WFLA meteorologist Steve Jerve takes part in a video from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council that shows the worst case scenario for a hurricane strike in the Tampa Bay area. The fictional hurricane was created at the National Weather Service Office in Ruskin.
Meteorologists Steve Jerve from WFLA channel 8, Tammie Souza from WTSP channel 10, and Dr. Steve Lyons from the Weather Channel team up to bring a shocking reality to the fictional hurricane created at the National Weather Service Office in Ruskin. Using file footage from actual storm damage, the video brings home the unimaginable danger of hurricanes. A hurricane of that magnitude would be far more devastating than most bay area residents could conceive.

It has been decades since the Tampa Bay area has had a direct hit by a hurricane. On October 25, 1921, a powerful hurricane, estimated to be a Category 2 storm, made landfall just north of Tampa bringing sustained winds of 75 miles per hour and more than eight and a half inches of rain. Much of the city of Tampa was flooded and several buildings in the area were destroyed. In all, the late October hurricane killed ten people, with seven unaccounted for, and left behind millions of dollars in damages.

Today, with a much larger population, the Tampa Bay area faces a much larger risk. In addition, storage tanks at the Port of Tampa could pose enormous environmental problems. The video shows the aftermath of fictional Hurricane Phoenix resulting in damage to 480,000 structures, 300,000 people living in shelters, 30,000 people missing and 165 dead.

According to insurance website Insure.com, Tampa is considered the third worst place for a hurricane to strike, behind only Miami and New York City. That website estimates potential damages could be $50 billion to the area.

Although it has been 80 years since the last direct strike of a powerful hurricane in the Tampa Bay area, such storms do not play the odds. There is no greater or lesser likelihood of a direct hit. Tampa is neither magically protected, nor is it overdue. The area could easily be threatened by a hurricane next week, or again next month, or again next year--or not.

The hurricane season lasts until Nov. 30. Despite the fall-like weather in the past week, October is not the time to let your guard down in terms of hurricane preparedness. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council offers a hurricane preparedness guide on their website at www.tbrpc.org, as do WFLA and WTSP, along with other media outlets.

If you need a reminder, spend a few minutes watching the TBRPC video. It will bring home the need to be prepared for the worst. The video is available online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUe-7nVbttk or at www.tampabaycatplan.org.

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