HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- A study released by the City of Tampa and the county's Planning Commission said that many low-lying areas could be flooded permanently by 2040 due to rising sea levels.
Areas near Old Tampa Bay, MacDill Air Force Base, McKay Bay, the Tampa Bypass Canal and along the Hillsborough River could be the most vulnerable if sea level rise is not mitigated. Also at risk is the local infrastructure and roads within flood-prone areas.
But most strikingly, Tampa General Hospital on Davis Islands is particularly vulnerable due to its location.
If sea levels continue to rise, the city and county prepared a contingency plan to understand where the impact will be felt the most.
Many people had questions regarding why sea levels are rising, so we went to climate change and attorney, Stephen Tilbrook.
“Increasing temperatures of the ocean water, causes the oceans to expand. The melting of the polar ice caps, also increases sea levels,” says Tilbrook.
The assessment was mandated by the state of Florida following the passage of the Peril of Flood Act in 2015. If local governments do not complete their assessment, they could face sanctions by the state. The county, in conjunction with the City of Tampa and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, completed the survey to bring the county into compliance with the state law.
The study was based on sea level rise predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the findings of the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Board.
The advisory board concluded that the region could experience sea level rise between a half-foot to 2.5 feet of sea level rise by 2050.
According to the advisory board's scenario models, they found that an estimated 15,000 people would be affected by the sea-level rise if it happened today. Also at risk are 30 parks within the City of Tampa system, 31 local roads and the McKay Bay Refuse-To-Energy Facility.
Some good news from the study was that many critical facilities within the county are not within the at-risk area.