Earlier this summer, The Washington Post reported that the Tampa Bay area was due for a major hurricane and that if a big one occured, “the damage would likely surpass Katrina.”
“This potentially could be the big one,” U.S. Senator Bill Nelson agreed when asked about his concerns about Hurricane Irma while visiting with reporters inside the Hillsborough County Emergency Operations Center Saturday morning.
The Democrat said that the storm should lessen in its intensity as it moves north because the east side of it would be over land which doesn’t have water for its fuel – but he said, that all depends on the eye of the storm.
“It’s the eastern wall of the eye that has the strongest winds, if that is going right up the west side of the peninsula of Florida, that means those winds are going north and northwest and that will drive the water into the bays and the big one, as indicated by that article, is exactly that scenario driving that water up into Tampa Bay,” he said.
On Friday, the House of Representatives approved a $15.25 billion disaster relief bill that also includes a three-month extension of both federal government funding and borrowing authority, a move that ends the threat of a partial government shutdown at the end of the month. Nelson and Marco Rubio were able to get some of that funding available to handle what is expected to a major cleanup in Florida after Irma hits.
“We got the flexable language so that they can use some of those resources,” Nelson said. “But this is only going to last a few weeks. We’re going to have do an additional emergency appropriation, probably in the middle of October.”
Nelson also expressed concerns about how stretched the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is after dealing with Hurricane Harvey over the past few weeks. “They’ve had to actually pull people from Texas here into Florida because of what’s about to happen here.”