7.5 Future storm surge impacts along Florida's west coast

Thursday, 10 January 2013: 9:30 AM
Room 18B (Austin Convention Center)
Charles H. Paxton, NOAA/NWS, Ruskin, FL; and T. P. Barron and R. J. Davis

In the future, sea level rise impacts will first be manifested via coastal storm surges. A major storm surge into the Tampa Bay area would be disastrous. The potential consequences to the region are largely uncertain but potentially immense. Roughly a third of the population of the greater Tampa Bay area lives at elevations less than 3.3 m above mean sea level. In recent years Hurricanes Ivan (2004), Katrina (2005), and Ike (2008) caused significant damage to petroleum infrastructure. Similar damage could occur at the Port of Tampa, home to the highest volume petroleum terminals in Florida. A natural gas pipeline with a capacity of 1.26 billion cubic feet per day is mostly unprotected over nearshore land areas. Gypsum stacks associated with the phosphate industry have failed in the past from heavy rains and poured millions of gallons of highly acidic water into Tampa Bay and associated rivers. Another part of the fertilizer process involves mixing phosphoric acid with ammonia. Much of that ammonia is transported via a pipeline that is exposed in some areas and has exhibited vulnerabilities in the past. Local chlorine containment facilities could also be breached by a major storm surge. Although there are only a few dams and reservoirs in the area, those, too, have revealed weaknesses in the past. Dead livestock floating in receding storm waters may present concerns of a biological nature.

Infrastructure damage and estuarine destruction and contamination resulting from past storms along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts were examined and translated into “what-if” scenarios for the Tampa Bay Area. To illustrate the most vulnerable areas, evacuation zones related to potential storm surge categories were mapped with gridded population data. Other maps showing hazardous material (hazmat) sites, and environmentally sensitive areas such as sea grass areas, mangroves, and nesting sites, were also produced.

This presentation will review damage from past U.S. surge events and discuss current and future vulnerabilities of surge and surge induced induced hazmat incidents that may impact land and sea populations.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner