The six-month long 2017 Hurricane Season was “kicked off” across the state by public figures preaching preparedness: buy supplies, know your evacuation level and route and sign up for local, automated hurricane alerts.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said it’s especially important to know your evacuation route in his geographically vulnerable city. He said Tampa’s southern peninsula is shaped like a bowl, so it floods easily.
“If we take a direct hit from a category 3 storm coming up Hillsborough Bay, you can expect downtown Tampa to be 15-to-20 feet under water and basically everything from Kennedy Boulevard to the Bay to be completely uninhabitable,” Buckhorn said.
He added that homes and businesses on Davis Islands and Harbour Island could also be flooded by a storm surge and excessive rain.
Motorists who drive around police barricades and try navigating flooded streets are a concern for Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward.
“It puts a huge strain on us when we have to come out and rescue people especially individuals in smaller light vehicles,” Ward said. “We see them floating down Bayshore. It's not safe for anyone. And when that vehicle is floating down Bayshore, it's out of control basically. They can cause damage to the seawall, residences, and everything else in the area.”
Ward said it’s also dangerous to wade through flood waters because the water could contain toxins. Yet he acknowledged that it's a common occurrence to see people floating down Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard when it’s flooded despite it being blocked off by police.
Tampa’s Fire Chief Thomas Forward wants all residents to sign up for Alert Tampa. The system is set up to send out updates on hurricane threats to the area as well as road closings, evacuation and re-entry orders.
“It’s so very important that everybody gets Alert Tampa,” Forward said. “You need to dial into that and set yourself up for that. You will get any notifications of any impending storms.”
The Alert Tampa system is set up for people who live, work and attend school in Tampa.