A few years ago, The Weather Channel had a series called It Could Happen Tomorrow, about natural disasters which, because of their unusual nature, would have potentially disastrous effects. One show was dedicated to the scenario of a Cat 3 hurricane hitting Tampa.
St. Petersburg is down at the tip of the Pinellas peninsula, which forms the western shore of Tampa Bay. There are four ways out, one of which is unusable in high winds and which is not a good direction to evacuate in any case and another which is a nightmare to drive on good days. Over 900 thousand people live in Pinellas County, over 250 thousand of them in St. Petersburg. Even more at risk, there are eleven barrier islands which have significant development. Getting people off of them will pose an additional threat to human life.
The house that my brother and his family live in, and where I spent my formative years, is located down in South St. Pete, about a mile or two from the bay. No matter how long I have lived in or may live in California, St. Petersburg is and always will be home.
The track that Irma is headed appears to be scraping up the east coast of Florida. However, some models show the storm veering slightly west and heading up through Naples and Fort Myers and Tampa. Irma is currently a five, and may well be a four when she hits the mainland US. Even if it doesn’t get a direct hit, the storm is wide enough — and the state of Florida narrow enough — people on the west coast of the state are going to get hit with at least tropical storm winds.
I’m kind of stressed out.*
*And, to top it all off, I am worried about friends in California and Oregon who live near the fires.