Feb 1, 2022 - News

Major floods are not a matter of if but when

Storm surge from Tropical Storm Eta breached the Hillsborough River seawall near the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tampa in November 2020.
Storm surge from Tropical Storm Eta breached the Hillsborough River seawall near the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Tampa in November 2020. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios

The floodwaters that deluged the area in November 2020 — as Tropical Storm Eta skimmed by Tampa Bay some 70 miles out in the Gulf — are a sign that we're in for far worse.

Why it matters: Eta was a warning shot, according to a series of scary special reports from the Tampa Bay Times.

  • In 30 years, the same storm surge will flood two to five times as many properties — between 17,000 and 40,000.

Flashback: Eta passed at high tide, breaching seawalls and sending floodwater into areas that don't normally flood.

  • But with global-warming caused sea-level rise, even low tides are getting higher.

The big picture: Times reporters Langston Taylor and Zachary Sampson worked with scientists at the National Hurricane Center to show how much more of the city would flood if a storm identical to Eta hit after sea levels rise.

🌀 The bottom line: Tampa is more vulnerable to hurricanes than other parts of Florida. It won't take a big Category 5 storm to cause mass hardship here.

  • Even a sloppy Category 1 or 2 could be devastating.

Read the series.

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