PINELLAS CO., Fla. (WFLA) – Tropical Storm Dorian is making its way toward land, and new information from transportation research company Streetlight Data is showing just how difficult it may be to get away from Tampa Bay coasts in the event of a big storm.
Streetlight Data analyzed the approximately 30,000 towns across the country with populations under 40,000 based on recent census data. They then gave each city scores using a ratio of the number of roadway “exits” from each town and the average “load” on the most-used exits, weighted by town population.
Researchers used a subset of around 800 communities that scored more than three times the average of all towns analyzed.
What researchers found is that Tampa Bay’s coastal communities have some of the most limited evacuation routes.
Limited Evacuation Routes
POPULATION: Based on U.S. CensusEXITS: The number of usable vehicle exits incl. paved and dirt roadsMAIN EXIT LOAD: The % of daily traffic using the main exit route
In southern Pinellas County, Tierra Verde’s 3,721 residents only have eight usable exits, which are traveled on daily by nearly 80 percent of its population.
The study also found that Anna Maria Island’s four evacuation routes can see up to 92 percent of the community’s population on an average day.
Daily commuters in Manasota Key’s 1,229 population make up 87 percent of the everyday travelers on its three evacuation routes, which could lead to cars being stuck on the road for hours in the event of an evacuation.
While none of the local communities are currently expecting evacuations, Pinellas County Management officials do have resources for staying up-to-date with Dorian.
“We recommend that our residents evacuate tens of miles, not hundreds, to avoid roads that could become congested,” said Pinellas County Emergency Management director Cathie Perkins. “Best options are to stay with friends, family or at a church or business that is located in a non-evacuation zone. If we call for an evacuation, we will also open public shelters for those that may not have those options.”