Tampa Bay residents are keeping their eyes on the weather as Hurricane Michael moves slowly north toward Florida’s panhandle. At this time, there aren’t any mandatory evacuations in place for the city of Tampa, but Florida Governor Rick Scott has issued a state of emergency for Hillsborough County.
Tampa residents have been warned of potentially “life-threatening” storm surge as a result of this major hurricane, even though it will be located several miles off of Tampa’s coast.
“Like I said last night, if the storm hits in Panama City, Tampa will see life-threatening storm surge. You cannot hide from storm surge, so get out if an evacuation is ordered,” Scott said during a press conference held on Monday.
So, what exactly is storm surge? Storm surge is defined as “a rising of the sea as a result of atmospheric pressure changes and wind associated with a storm.”
According to ABC Action News, the Tampa Bay area could see a 2-to-4-foot storm surge from Michael. Some areas north of Tampa could see a storm surge between 8 and 12 feet.
Evacuation zones are mapped by the National Hurricane Center and show areas that will be affected by storm surge. Zones in Hillsborough County are identified from A through E. The map below shows evacuation zones in Hillsborough County. If a mandatory evacuation is issued in Hillsborough County, it will be done by zone. Those zones are also listed below.
Mandatory evacuations have already been ordered along Florida’s panhandle in areas prone to storm surge flooding. Those areas include Bay County residents living in zones A, B, and C in and around Panama City.
Choosing not to evacuate your home isn’t a very smart gamble, warns Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan.
“If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and you’re now calling for help, there’s no one that can respond to help you. That’s the criticality of following directions,” Morgan said during a press conference on Monday, according to The Weather Channel.
Hurricane Michael is currently located 20 miles west of Cuba. The storm is expected to strengthen to a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall on Wednesday.