Irma’s track shifts west, may target vulnerable Tampa area

The Tampa area could have $175 billion of property losses from a major storm surge, according to Boston-based Karen Clark & Co.

Sep.September 10, 2017 09:00 AM

Tampa is the U.S. metro area most vulnerable to major storm surge, according to a 2015 report.

The projected path of Hurricane Irma has shifted west to Southwest Florida and may hit Tampa, which is more vulnerable to storm surge than any other U.S. metropolitan area.

Tampa, the second largest metro area in Florida, is prone to flooding because it is a low-lying area with a large bay and inlets that face shallow water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Karen Clark & Company, a Boston firm that assesses catastrophic risk, reported in 2015 that Tampa is the most vulnerable U.S. metro area to a major storm surge and would have $175 billion of property losses in the event of a Category 4 hurricane with winds up to 150 miles per hour.

The Boston-based firm ranked two other cities in Southwest Florida among the 10 cities most vulnerable to major storm surge: Fort Myers ranked fifth with property losses estimated at $70 billion, and Sarasota ranked seventh with estimated losses of $50 billion.

Karen Clark & Company ranked Miami as the fourth most vulnerable metro area, with estimated property losses of $80 billion in the event of a major storm surge.

According to the firm’s 2015 report, Miami is less prone to storm surge than some other metro areas because of the steep decline of the continental shelf off Miami’s coast.

But the shallow waters in the Gulf of Mexico and in bays along the coast of Southwest Florida make the region more vulnerable to storm surge.

The National Hurricane Center predicted storm surge will range from six feet to nine feet in Southwest Florida from Naples to Tampa.

Tampa is especially vulnerable to storm surge because of its low-lying coast and shallow water in the Gulf of Mexico, which is only 60 feet deep 25 miles off the Tampa area’s coast. [Miami Herald]Mike Seemuth

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