‘Everything worked flawlessly’: Tampa General weathered Idalia without missing a beat

Tampa General Hospital aerial image
TGH stayed open, dry and never lost power during the storm.

Tampa General Hospital didn’t miss a beat when Hurricane Idalia passed through the Tampa Bay area, despite rumors circulating on social media that the storm flooded the facility and cut off power.

While torrents of water did flood many other buildings in the region, TGH deployed its “AquaFence.” The water-impermeable barrier, which TGH purchased five years ago, takes about 48 hours to set up and can hold back seven feet of storm surge.

TGH sits about eight feet above sea level at its lowest point — the emergency room is 25 feet above sea level — so with the barrier up, the Level 1 Trauma Center is prepped for as much as 15 feet of surge.

TGH Security Director Tony Venezia told Florida Politics that the hospital easily withstood everything Idalia threw at it: “We could have taken an additional five feet of surge if we needed to.”

Tampa General’s AquaFence adds another seven feet to its storm surge capacity.

Venezia’s comments come after a photo of a flooded parking garage on the TGH campus went semi-viral, leading some area residents to believe that TGH had shut its doors or lost electricity during the worst of it.

The photo was of Bayshore Pavilion, which sits between the Davis Islands access bridge and the seawall. It is prone to flooding by design, Venezia said, and it was operating as intended.

“It’s designed so you know, it has storm drains there. When the surge comes up like it did today, both storm drains can’t drain so the water pools there until the water goes down. But there’s no water there right now because it has all drained out. And that’s purposeful, based on how we built that structure,” he said.

Venezia added that TGH was also not at risk of losing power during the storm because the facility has a backup power source — the Central Energy Plant — that sits 33 feet above sea level and is built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Idalia peaked as a Category 4 storm when it made landfall in the Big Bend region, which is far north of Tampa Bay.

“You got to have water and you got to have power, right? All of that stuff is now protected and everything worked flawlessly,” Venezia said. “We never flickered power. The team members and the patients — if they hadn’t gone outside and didn’t know there was a storm going on, they would have never known the difference.”

In a post-storm news release, TGH confirmed it is open and operating at 100%, assuring area residents that it is accepting new patients and that the freestanding emergency centers that are part of the TGH network will reopen at 7:00 p.m. today. Tampa General will be operating “business as usual” — meaning the resumption of patient appointments, procedures and elective surgeries — on Thursday.

“The state depends on Tampa General to deliver world-class care, and we are committed to deliver on that expectation while keeping our patients, physicians and team members safe from harm. That’s why we have strengthened our infrastructure to withstand severe weather, prepared and practiced emergency management, and brought in additional supplies to support our teams and patients through severe weather conditions,” Tampa General President and CEO John Couris said in a prepared statement.

“I am grateful to all the physicians and team members who remained on-site through the hurricane, and for the exceptional care they continued to provide here while their families sheltered safely at home or away. Because of these efforts, patients at Tampa General are safe, and we are preparing to care for Floridians in the hardest hit communities.”

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


6 comments

  • Earl Pitts "The Big Voice On The Right" American

    August 30, 2023 at 9:37 pm

    Congrats to Tampa General,
    This was all possable due to the conservative leadership of America’s Govornor, Ron Desantis, even though the artical has a bit of a leftist slant by not crediting our Govornor for his great and tireless work fot the mostly ungrateful leftist citizens of Tampa.
    Thank you America,
    EPA

  • James

    August 31, 2023 at 8:48 am

    1st and foremost DeSantis is not America’s governor. He is one of the most disliked governors in history. He had absolutely nothing to do with the aqua fence. He has done nothing to help the people of Florida. Not one single thing has come from him that has improved the lives of Floridians. He has worked to split the population. He has attacked business and 2ven individuals. He has worked to ban books from universities. None of this helps us. He has done nothing to address the insurance crisis. To help with Healthcare costs, Property taxes, Infrastructure, climate change… Nothing. Name something he has done that made life better for all Floridians. You can’t because he hasn’t. 10 organizations like the Daytona speedway have the exact same agreement as Disney yet he only pulled Disney’s stating it wasn’t fair. If it’s bit fair for Disney then how is it fair for the others? What he’s doing to Disney will cost Florida tax payers BILLIONS. All over his hatred for the word “gay” That’s not a leader that’s a mentally unstable person.

    • Kevin

      September 1, 2023 at 9:01 am

      Sorry, don’t agree with your opinion of Desantis. I don’t like all of his policies and he tends to be a little more conservative than I tend to be with my views, but he has been a great governor and leader for this state. I don’t agree with the optics of the Disney fight, but I agree with the principle. A large corporation and employer in this state should not be afforded special tax districts and control. They should be like any other employer in the state and carry their weight financially. I also don’t agree with his pursuit of the six week abortion restriction, as I think anything after the first trimester should be limited, as most women will not have had the effective prenatal screening necessary to make an informed decision regarding their pregnancy by that point. I do think government (local, state, and federal) should stay out of the lives of private citizens, but we should follow the constitution when it comes to preservation of rights and interpreting the law. Desantis was definitely the better alternative over the last two state gubernatorial elections. Just my opinion.

      • S mohr

        September 5, 2023 at 7:29 am

        For the record, of the approximate 180m in taxes for the disney district, disney pays about 150 . There was no tax avoidance. If special districts are bad, why are there about 2000 of them? I don’t understand how you can say he’s a great governor but you disagree with so many of his policies.

  • Kevin

    September 1, 2023 at 8:52 am

    So, I think it is great that TGH dodged a bullet with this storm. I feel personally that it was still the wrong decision to keep the regional level one trauma center and teaching hospital on Davis Island. It is after all, an island. Especially, when they could have moved inland to North Tampa, like the medical examiner’s office. I question the wisdom of moving the medical school downtown. All it takes is the next big storm, such as an Andrew, Katrina, Harvey, Maria, Michael, Ian, and the list goes on. I think the city leaders should re-evaluate the potential impact of a large storm on our healthcare infrastructure. Places like TGH should not be placed in areas due to convenience (such as physicians living in South Tampa), but should be where they are to maintain operational ability during disasters. Just my opinion.

  • Sonja Fitch

    September 3, 2023 at 4:32 am

    Common good and good planing and luck provided Tampa Bay hospital to be responsive and supportive of a damn natural disaster! Thank you!

Comments are closed.


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