As Ian bears down on Florida, forecasters at the National Weather Service in Tampa are worried residents will not be ready for what could come to the Tampa Bay area.
“The last major hurricane that actually made a direct hit was 100 years ago,” weather service meteorologist Rick Davis told CNN. “So, there’s a lot of people that have been brushed by hurricanes in the last five or 10 years in Florida and they may have a perception of going through a strong storm.”
But it will not take a direct hit on Tampa to create catastrophic damage from flooding: Tampa Bay is extremely vulnerable to storm surge because water being pushed into Tampa Bay has nowhere to go “so it just continues to pile water in into downtown Tampa, which is very vulnerable to storm surge flooding,” according to Davis.
“Even in small storms we can get coastal flooding up into the Tampa Bay area, Bayshore Boulevard, and those have been from fairly weak storms,” Davis said. “So we can expect with a stronger storm that’s expected to be much closer and slow moving, that will continue to pile up water in areas along the Bay in Tampa and in St. Pete.”
Right now, the National Hurricane Center is forecasting five to eight feet of storm surge for the region.
“But in reality, the Bay Area has been missed more often than not. So that’s why we tell people even if they’re lifelong Floridians like myself, this is something that we haven’t seen in our lifetime, so we definitely need to take it seriously,” Davis said.