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Monday, July 10, 2006

Could Tampa Bay be the next New Orleans?
By Kevin Duffy

Historically, the west coast of Florida is a frequent target for hurricanes, yet as its population exploded during the past 40 years, it escaped being hit by a major storm. Experts agree that was an anomaly — one that ended in 2004, when Hurricane Charley flirted with a Tampa Bay landfall, then slammed into Port Charlotte, about 100 miles south.

Charley's $15 billion in damage is third in the record books only to Katrina and 1992's Hurricane Andrew.

Adding to Tampa Bay's vulnerability is its lack of practical experience with hurricanes. The last direct hit was in 1921, making it an event beyond the memory of all but a handful of current residents.

This animation created by the National Hurricane Center's Storm Surge Team illustrates the vulnerability of the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area to extreme storm surges. In the simulation, a Category 4 hurricane comes ashore near Indian Rocks Beach, north of St. Petersburg, and its counterclockwise rotation drives water from the Gulf of Mexico into the shallow bay, inundating downtown Tampa and temporarily turning much of Pinellas County, including St. Petersburg, into an island.

The Palm Beach Post

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