TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and city leaders are encouraging residents to be storm ready as the 2023 hurricane season kicks off on June 1.
"It's been 122 years since the city of Tampa has taken a direct hit from a hurricane," Castor said in part during a news conference Wednesday.
"If we take a direct hit from a hurricane, it is not going to be pretty. We will not be able to clean it up in a day or so. So, again, we have to be prepared for that, not only as a city government entity but our civilians as well."
The city is learning new lessons and employing newer strategies based on last year's Hurricane Ian. It includes reexamining our vulnerabilities, how to fortify our infrastructure and respond more efficiently.
“We are addressing stormwater issues through major projects all over the city of Tampa,” Castor said, “Our wastewater, putting new generators, lifting up pumps to make sure that we don't have failures.”
The city is also running emergency response center drills, dispatching so-called push crews who are the very first emergency responders who clear paths and debris.
“So, police and fire can get it with their search and rescue operations,” said Tampa Infrastructure Administrator Brad Baird.
The city is also deploying drones, another lesson from Ian. The aerial view will help to assess damage faster and set response priorities.
“It allows us to get information back quickly on an initial damage assessment that we can get to FEMA,” said Baird.
City leaders encouraged residents to know the following:
Be aware of tax-free periods to buy supplies for hurricane prep
Sign up for Alert Tampa to receive emergency notifications directly from the city
Civilians who want to volunteer in response help are asked to sign up for the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program
Sign up for Hurricane re-entry hang tag. It is designed to make it easier for residents and business representatives to re-enter the area after evacuation orders have been lifted – and to prevent gawkers and potential criminals from entering the area, the city explains on its website.
"We want everybody to know we're prepared, but we need you to be prepared for this hurricane season," the mayor said.
NOAA is forecasting 12-17 named storms, 5-9 hurricanes and 1-4 major hurricanes. An average season would bring 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
Currently, there is a system 10 Tampa Bay meteorologists are keeping an eye on in the Gulf of Mexico.
An area of disturbed weather has a 10% chance of development over the next 48 hours and a 20% chance of formation in the next week, according to National Hurricane Center forecasters.
This area of showers and thunderstorms is associated with a surface-level low-pressure system that's interacting with another upper-level system. Over time, it's possible the area could become more organized. But again, environmental conditions appear only marginally favorable for development over the next several days as it meanders in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Make sure to keep checking back for updates on-air and online. Regardless of development, you can expect heavy rainfall here at home with an increased flood potential.