Could Tampa handle a hurricane like Katrina?

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Today at The Tampa Bay Catostrophic Planning Summit, disaster experts from nine counties considered what would happen if the Tampa bay region were hit by a category 5 hurricane as harrowing as Katrina.

If Tampa sustained a category 5 hurricane, experts predict $250 billion in losses to property and infrastructure. Hurricane Phoenix may be a simulation, but Florida’s vulnerability to the worst effects of such a storm are very real. The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council held its final day of workshops attended by state, local and federal agencies. The groups ranged from local environment and energy groups, to state and federal divisions of emergency management. While infrastructure is a major concern, Judy Teal with the Citrus County Department of Health said that dealing with mass fatalities and public health are most important.

Tampa needs a plan for medical facilities, as 2,000 could lose their lives, and almost two million people would be affected in such a storm. Tampa is home to Florida’s largest port, which is the 10th-largest consumer market in the US. If the port were hit with a major storm, Rich Shepard, the director of Hardee County Emergency Management, estimated that the results would be dire.

And in a petroleum driven world, Shepard said the loss of fuel means people might not be able to get resources for survival.

More than half of the hazardous chemicals in the State of Florida are currently stored in the 2500 acres of the Port of Tampa. The port is close to people’s homes, as well as electrical facilities. Susan Mueller with TECO said that not all electrical facilities are ready for a category 5 storm, and neither is the Port of Tampa.

The use of private contractors for security in post-Katrina New Orleans was highly controversial, but Mueller said that public and private contracts could help with recovery.

Almost 70% of Americans have pets, and many consider their pets and animals part of the family, according to Terry Clekis, a veterinarian for Braden River Animal Hospital in Bradenton.

To learn about future preparation efforts, go to the Tampa Bay Catostrophic Plan website. For our coverage of the first part of the two day summit, check out the story here.