ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – In what they called a first-of-its-kind discussion, the mayors of Tampa Bay’s three biggest cities took part in discussion together Tuesday afternoon about how to prepare for major storms and sea-level rise.
The panel featuring Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos was part of the two-day Resilience Leadership Summit hosted by the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition.
“If we’re really going to have an impact on mitigating our impact on climate change, if we’re really going to be able to get real adaptation it’s got to be regional, it’s got to be us all together,” Mayor Kriseman told 8 On Your Side.
Daniel Larson recently moved to a low-lying neighborhood in Port Tampa. He said he’s already had to do work on the driveway because the flooding is so bad when it rains.
“We had to lay pavers because when we’d pull in, the mud was so thick,” Larson said, “we had a couple days of rain and you couldn’t get out.”
Larson said he worries what would happen to homes in his neighborhood and across the region if the Tampa Bay area were to be hit by a Category 5 hurricane.
“Of course you evacuate if there’s a Category 5 or go to a shelter,” he said, “but these homes would have no chance in this area because of the flooding.”
The threat of a devastating storm, like Hurricane Harvey that battered the Houston area in 2017, is something that keeps Mayor Castor up at night.
“I tell people that I’ve been shot at and I’ve never been as scared as when Hurricane Charley was supposed to take a direct hit and literally devastate our area,” Mayor Castor told 8 On Your Side.
As part of the two-day summit, experts from areas such as Houston, Norfolk and as far away as the Netherlands are meeting with local leaders about ways to make the region more resilient.
Mayor Castor explained ways her city is already addressing sea-level rise.
“In the city of Tampa,” she said, “we’ve taken a number of steps with our storm water mitigation a lot of our zoning land-use policies.”
The question came up during the panel about whether the mayors could consider buying back private property by the water their cities could no longer protect.
“I think there is going to come a point in time where we’re going to have to look at properties for the point of purchasing them or if there’s a significant storm and they’re damaged whether it make sense for them to get rebuilt,” Mayor Kriseman told 8 On Your Side. “I don’t know that we’re quite there yet but that is going to be down the road.”