October 2022 – Hurricane Ian was a tragedy for Florida communities that were in its path. Plan Hillsborough continues to be at the forefront of addressing the risks associated with hurricanes in Hillsborough County through important projects such as the Community Vulnerability Study, Storm Evacuation Forecast & Shelter-in-Place Scenarios Study, Transportation Disadvantaged Service Plan, and many more. Below is a summary of some of the recent studies completed on this topic; the results of which provide valuable input into planning for our preparation for storms and our recovery afterward.
Community Vulnerability Study
Completed in 2020, the Community Vulnerability Study helps Hillsborough County meet local, state and federal planning requirements for the continuous threat of flooding and longitudinal sea level rise with a focus on understanding the consequences, impacts, strategies and implementation plans needed to not only meet regulatory requirements but to bolster preparations to save life and property in future times of crisis. Plan Hillsborough was the project manager with multi-disciplinary consultant services provided by the University of South Florida’s (USF) Florida Center for Community Design and Research and the USF College of Public Health.
Coastal Management Section of the Hillsborough County Comprehensive Plan
The Coastal Management Section of unincorporated Hillsborough County’s Comprehensive Plan provides plan and policy direction for development activities in the Coastal Planning Area of Hillsborough County. The Coastal Management Section’s role is to ensure that development in the coastal area does not adversely impact public accessibility to the coast, that adequate public hurricane shelter space is available to coastal inhabitants, and that levels of service on evacuation routes are maintained. Furthermore, it ensures that water-dependent and water-related land uses are given priority on the coast, coastal natural resources are conserved and protected, and public decisions will include consideration of coastal hazards in the decision-making process. This section underwent a major update in May of this year. This update had a considerable focus on addressing the risk associated with hurricanes and climate change. Significant new policy direction addressing these hazards was added to this section of the County’s Comprehensive Plan. This new policy came directly from the recommendations of the previously mentioned Community Vulnerability Study.
In August, the Planning Commission held the first in a series of workshops to educate and inform Planning Commissioners of the issues associated with hurricanes. Storm surge zones begin on the coast and continue landward. These are the most dangerous areas during storm surge events. Careful consideration is needed when determining appropriate development and infrastructure in these areas. The Planning Commission is committed to understanding and considering these issues in the decision-making process.
2045 Long Range Transportation Plan
The Hillsborough TPO’s 2045 long range transportation plan (LRTP) conveys the County’s transportation vision and priorities. One of these priorities is protecting roads critical to the community that are vulnerable to flooding from heavy rain and storm surge with shoreline protecting, pavement hardening, and stormwater drainage improvements. The plans identify 250 miles of roads that needs to be protected. More information can be found at the It’s Time Hillsborough Executive Summary (planhillsborough.org) and Resilient Tampa Bay: Transportation Pilot Project report.
Storm Evacuation Forecast & Shelter-in-Place Scenarios Study
A critical component of transportation agencies’ policy and program decision-making is system resilience to disruption. Evacuation plans are one way to respond to disruptions, such as hurricanes, or flooding. The Storm Evacuation Forecast & Shelter-in-Place Scenarios Study supplements this ongoing work by providing a high-level analysis of Hillsborough’s evacuation practices today, understanding congested locations during evacuations, and modeling strategies to reduce or maintain clearance times.
Freight Supply Chain Resilience Study
We know from past and current events, like hurricanes and pandemics, that products we rely on can sometimes be hard to find or delayed in their arrival. Deliveries can also be disrupted when the transportation system is blocked or damaged from severe weather, leaving those in the disaster area without certain basics such as clean water, food, shelter, medicine, fuel, and communications. The ability of a supply chain to handle unexpected disruptions like those described above is known as supply chain resilience. While supply chain disruptions are inevitable in times of crisis, there are steps that government and private companies can take to strengthen the resiliency of the supply chain, reducing impacts and the time required for recovery. Recognizing the critical importance of the supply chain to people’s lives, particularly in a time of crisis, the Hillsborough Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) conducted a study to learn more about the key supply chains in Hillsborough County and how they are impacted or disrupted under certain disaster scenarios. The study will be finalized in December 2022; more information can be found at Freight Supply Chain Resilience Study | Plan Hillsborough
Hillsborough County Transportation Disadvantaged Service Plan
The Hillsborough County Transportation Disadvantaged Service Plan (TDSP) addresses the needs of elderly, disabled, and/or economically disadvantaged people in Hillsborough County. The TDSP notes that the Sunshine Line is included in Hillsborough County’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) and is assigned to special needs evacuation. In addition, upon activation of the Emergency Operation Center, Sunshine Line, Public Schools transportation, HART, and other partners work collectively to evacuate residents according to the CEMP.
Plan Hillsborough continues to study and make recommendations on policy and improvements that will improve our community’s resilience. Through the staff support to the Planning Commission and Transportation Planning Organization, these issues will continue to be at the forefront of our planning for our community.