The Scientific Reason Why Tampa Bay Is So Vulnerable To Storms

The southwest coast of Florida is currently bracing itself for another one of Mother Nature's torrential assaults. WESH reports that Hurricane Ian is gradually harvesting strength in the Gulf of Mexico and making its way to the coastal region near Tampa Bay, with residents taking any and every measure to guard themselves against the growing tempest. "As of 5 p.m., Ian was traveling through the Gulf of Mexico with maximum sustained winds of 120, moving north at 10 mph. Ian was 230 miles south of Sarasota, Florida, and 50 miles south-southwest of the Dry Tortugas," the news outlet shared on September 27. 

According to The New York Times, it's been over 100 years since the city of Tampa Bay has been met with a major hurricane, and while that's a pretty solid track record, citizens of the coastal town shouldn't underestimate the potential devastation that even one massive hurricane can deliver unto them, because as it turns out, Tampa Bay is especially vulnerable to storms and severe weather (via AP News). 

Why is Tampa vulnerable to hurricanes?

According to AP News, there are currently around 3 million people living in the Tampa Bay area, and if Hurricane Ian hits the city with as much force as experts are predicting, the effects on those occupying the area could be devastating. Despite the fact that it has indeed been some time since the city has been nose to nose with a major hurricane, its shallow waters, and the shallowness of the Gulf of Mexico as a whole, are what make the Tampa area an exceptionally dangerous place in the midst of a cataclysmic storm. 

As Hurricane Ian encroaches the region from the south, it continues to carry large amounts of water with it, water that will inevitably spill into the shallow bay with potentially catastrophic effects. "Strong persistent winds will push a lot of water into the bay and there's nowhere for it to go, so it just builds up," University of Miami senior researcher Brian McNoldy told AP News. "Tampa Bay is very surge-prone because of its orientation." Essentially, Tampa Bay isn't used to excessively high tides, and when the waters rise and swallow the surrounding infrastructure, countless buildings and properties are liable to be destroyed in the process. 

Florida prepares for Hurricane Ian

As it stands, city officials and representatives of the American Red Cross are urging Tampa Bay residents to evacuate the area as soon as possible. The impending storm is currently classified as a Category 3 hurricane, though experts warn that it could soon grow into a Category 4. Widespread floods are expected sooner than later, so those who live in the area should do their best to safely vacate along with family members and loved ones, including pets

The American Red Cross is also urging people to gather at least three day's worth of provisions, including food, water, and first aid supplies, should they find themselves beyond the reach of immediate help at any point in time. Given the potential effects of a hurricane like this one, first responders aren't likely to be able to reach many people for at least a few days. The Florida Disaster website, from the state's Division of Emergency Management, is posting updated information.