How should downtown Tampa prepare for hurricane season?

With the start of hurricane season fast approaching June 1, the Tampa Downtown Partnership is hosting a team of emergency experts for its Annual Hurricane Preparedness Meeting June 5 at TECO Hall. 

If you’re wondering what a direct hurricane hit would be like in downtown Tampa, just ask Lynda Remund, President and CEO of the Partnership.  

“If we had a direct hit, the first four floors of the office and residential towers would be under water. That’s pretty significant when you think about that,” says Remund, who has seen plenty of hurricane seasons in her 19 years with the downtown organization.

Fortunately, Tampa hasn’t had a direct hit since 1921, but after watching the devastation and increased intensity of hurricanes in the past decade, there’s a greater sense of urgency for both businesses and residents in downtown Tampa and across the area to be prepared.

The problem is, “people don’t start preparing until we have an impending storm,” Remund says. “It’s really important that we prepare now. It’s never too early to start preparing.”

The event will feature local emergency and rescue experts from the Tampa Police and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Departments, Hillsborough County Emergency Management, Hillsborough County Rescue and Tampa Electric Company. Brian LaMarre, Meteorologist-In-Charge at the Tampa Bay Area Weather Forecast Office of the National Weather Service, will be there to help paint a picture of how different scenarios could impact Tampa’s downtown.

New re-entry program

Panelists will discuss the biggest change for hurricane preparation, which involves the updated City of Tampa Re-Entry Program.

The program is designed to streamline the process for residents and key personnel returning to an area to assess damage after a catastrophic event. 

To prevent gawkers and potential criminals from entering an area after evacuation orders have been lifted, public safety officials will screen vehicles returning to the impacted area. Those vehicles with hang tags displayed will be waved through, avoiding potentially long lines.

The city recently mailed vehicle hang tags to homeowners in areas most likely to be evacuated, as well as business members of the Tampa Downtown Partnership and Westshore Alliance. This includes those in zip code areas 33602, 33605, 33606, 33609, 33611, 33616, 33619, 33629, and MacDill Air Force Base. Hang tags have also been provided to apartment management offices. Residents and businesses can order additional hang tags for $5 through the City of Tampa.

With increased hurricane activity, Remund says she’s noticed business leaders are more engaged and aware. One indication is the preparedness event has sold out in recent years.

“The awareness is there for the business community. Over the years I’ve seen them step up to the plate and I’m seeing them have their emergency procedures in place now,” she says. The key is to “have their emergency preparedness statements in their manuals and relay this to their tenants: ‘Should this happen, this is what we’re going to do.’ The business has to be prepared and know if we shut down this is how we’re going to handle it.” 

Hurricane event details
  • What: Annual Hurricane Preparedness Meeting of the Tampa Downtown Partnership
  • When: Wednesday, June 5, 8-9 a.m.
  • Where: TECO Hall, 702 N. Franklin Street, Tampa
  • Cost: $22 Partnership members, $27 non-members
  • What’s included: Panel discussion and buffet breakfast
  • How to register: Online at the Partnership's website. (Note: Event usually sells out)

In addition to the event, residents and businesses can sign up for the Downtown Security Network email alerts and find quick links to hurricane preparedness tools here. 

Find more tips to get ready for hurricane season in Tampa Bay.

Read more articles by Elizabeth Taylor.

Elizabeth Taylor is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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