With the 2021 hurricane season just about to kick off, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council is warning business owners to take potential storms seriously. “We live in a beautiful area, but we also know we live in a vulnerable area,” Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Planning Council, tells Coffee Talk.
The council is sounding the alarm after findings from its Project Phoenix 2.0, created to study the effects of a catastrophic storm in the area. It found that 60% of smalls businesses and commercial buildings would be severely damaged or destroyed if Tampa Bay got hit by a category 5 hurricane.
A category 5 storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, has sustained winds of 157 mph or higher. Sustained wind speed is the average speed over two minutes.
What researchers found is that if a storm of that size were to hit the area, 103,679 buildings would suffer significant damage or be wiped out completely. The storm would cause $28.5 billion in structural damage — up 64% from a previous study in 2009.
The storm, according to models, would damage or destroy roads and power sources, essential infrastructure, centers of business and homes. In short, the findings say a storm of that size would make it “impossible for small businesses to survive if they haven’t done proper planning.”
Researchers looked at how at how a storm of that magnitude would affect Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus and Hernando counties. While the focus is on a category five storm, it’s important to note smaller storms can cause significant damage. “Complacency during hurricane season is really scary,” Sullivan says, adding, “don’t let your guard down.”