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Hurricane during convention could force early evacuations

10:55 PM, Aug 21, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida - With so much water, there are few options when it comes to getting in and out of harm's way should a hurricane threaten Tampa Bay.

From the beaches to downtown Tampa, our area is riddled with bridges and bottlenecks.

Davis Islands, home to one of Tampa's main hospitals, has an estimated 6,000 residents. When a sign blew down on the bridge Monday night, it caused big backups all morning long. Add in an estimated 60,000 visitors for the RNC next week, and some worry what evacuations might be like.

"We're watching it very closely," said Hillsborough Emergency Operations Director Preston Cook. "We've already had conversations with the National Weather Service and our other partners."

Emergency officials say they've been planning for such a scenario for over a year. The extra visitors could mean earlier evacuations depending on the storm's track, intensity, and surge.

"You have to think about those extra people in our community and how we're going to put them into the overall evacuation process we have," said Cook.

Harbor Island has two small bridges for close to 2,000 residents.

The much bigger problem? All of Pinellas. Most visiting delegates are staying on Bay area beaches. Factor in the million or so residents already on the peninsula and it could be gridlock on all Bay area bridges.

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