Factors determining Tampa Bay bridge closures during hurricanes

Tracking the Tropics

Multiple agencies are consulted before Tampa Bay bridges close to traffic

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – When tropical storms or hurricanes – or even typical Florida’s rainy-season storms – threaten the Tampa Bay area, the Florida Highway Patrol and local agencies closely monitor driving conditions on bridges.

The decision to close bridges is never made solely by the FHP, but rather in conjunction with local law enforcement, the Florida Department of Transportation and local weather agencies.

Of most concern are high-profile bridges. In Tampa Bay, that designation applies to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Typically when wind gusts top approximately 20 mph, a “high wind advisory” is issued for the Skyway.

An advisory is a cautionary measure and is generally meant for high-profile vehicles or any vehicle with length and height larger than the average vehicles, like passenger cars. Examples of high-profile vehicles are tractor trailers, pickup trucks, recreational vehicles (RVs) and buses.

When wind gusts top 40 mph, the FHP usually decides to close the Skyway bridge out of an abundance of caution for drivers. When this occurs, FHP troopers will be positioned at the entrances to the bridges, as well as near the top of the bridge, and will continue to monitor wind speeds.

For bridges including the Howard Frankland, Gandy and Courtney Campbell Causeway, the concern is water. Exceptionally choppy water, combined with gusting winds, often sends water onto the low-lying areas of these bridges, making them unsafe for drivers. If a decision is made to close any of these bridges, it is done so after multiple agencies are consulted.

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