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Risk mitigation: Summit sets sights on boosting regional resiliency

Tampa Bay leaders get serious about girding for the economic chaos that could result from climate change.


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Tampa Bay’s growing vulnerability to climate change-driven natural disasters has been well documented. The potential for catastrophic storm surge made worse by sea-level rise routinely lands the region on lists of the world’s most at-risk metro areas.

Many of us have seen the simulations of what a direct hit from a major hurricane would do to Bradenton, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tampa and all the other coastal towns and cities that surround the bay — and it’s not pretty. Nearly five years ago, in an expose headlined, “Tampa Bay’s Coming Storm,” The Washington Post cited “gambler’s luck” as the only reason we haven’t had to take a page from Noah’s playbook and build arks, and it accused local and state leaders of not doing enough to prepare for such a doomsday scenario.

Local leaders seem to have taken the criticism to heart. In early April, they’re gathering in St. Pete for a Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council conference that will make an economic case for greater resiliency.

The Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Leadership Summit, according to a news release, will include discussion of a new Tampa Bay Partnership report that details the risks facing Tampa Bay cities and counties over the next two decades and what can be done to prepare for and mitigate them. Speakers will include Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, Largo Mayor Woody Brown, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

They’ll be joined by William Sweet, an oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who will provide an update on climate change effects and high tide risks to the Tampa Bay area. Business leaders such as Joe Farrell, vice president of public affairs for the Pinellas Realtor Association, will discuss the threat flooding poses to the local real estate market.

“Making west-central Florida more resilient to sea level rise, extreme weather, and flooding is very important to our area businesses,” says Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, in an email to Coffee Talk. “Companies need to know that their facilities and employees will be safe and that they can run their businesses without interruption. So planning for the future and taking key steps now is critical.”

The summit, delayed for a year because of the COVID-19 crisis, takes place April 5-6 at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park. Registration is open until March 31. In the meantime, residents can provide input about climate-change risks and resiliency via a survey.

 

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