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A Hurricane Ian Story for Tampa, Fla.

People have a choice on where they live.

I know a couple who love the beach and always vacationed over Christmas at a beach location. Naturally, when they retired and had the economic resources to do so, they built their dream home “on the beach” near Tampa, Fla.

If Ian remains on its current course, Tampa will have its first direct hit from a hurricane in a hundred years. That means that all personal and institutional knowledge of what happens in that region when a hurricane comes ashore is gone with history.

When I mentioned to my friends that they were putting themselves in harm’s way, I got the usual, “We took precautions and the home is built from concrete.” OK, so it is not on stilts like you see in some beachside homes on the eastern shore of Florida.

I took the time to look up their address on Google Maps and found that their home, along with about 18 others, is located on a small spot offshore, we’ll call it an island. It is connected to land by a causeway, “defined as a raised road or track across low or wet ground.” In this case it is in the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t appear to be a long one.

I did ask my friend if that causeway is public or private? It is privately owned and maintained.

Now, I don’t wish my friends ill will and I hope the home stands, that the storm surge is nothing and the causeway is not washed away or damaged to the point of needing hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs (remember government will not fix it).

However, let it be a cautionary tale for others who every day are making 100-year choices about where they will live in relationship to the hazards in their region.

FYI, don’t buy a brick house where earthquakes threaten.
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.