Tampa’s Phoenix simulation anticipated Category 5 hurricane

Sep 27, 2022, 1:35 AM | Updated: Sep 28, 2022, 9:19 pm
This Sept. 26, 2022, satellite image released by NASA shows Hurricane Ian growing stronger as it ba...

This Sept. 26, 2022, satellite image released by NASA shows Hurricane Ian growing stronger as it barreled toward Cuba. Ian was forecast to hit the western tip of Cuba as a major hurricane and then become an even stronger Category 4 with top winds of 140 mph (225 km/h) over warm Gulf of Mexico waters before striking Florida. (NASA Worldview/Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) via AP)

(NASA Worldview/Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS)

In ominous tones, a documentary narrator describes the devastation wrought on the Tampa Bay, Fla. area by “Phoenix,” a tropical storm that grew into a Category 5 hurricane.

More than 160 deaths with 30,000 missing people. Upwards of 300,000 people seeking shelter. As much as $200 billion in building damage.

“The devastation to the region is almost unimaginable,” the narrator intones.

Phoenix was imaginary, part of a 2009 government preparation exercise for a killer hurricane dubbed Project Phoenix — an exercise updated in 2020 focusing on small business recovery.

Though the storm and a 10-minute documentary were fictional, the warnings have taken on special significance this week as the nightmare envisioned by Project Phoenix approaches in the form of the very real Hurricane Ian.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Florida Department of Emergency Management sponsored the 2009 simulation to identify gaps in local emergency planning and figure out responses across jurisdictions, Randy Deshazo, Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council chief of staff, said Tuesday in an email.

The tabletop exercise imagined a direct strike from a Category 5 hurricane. With help from WFLA-TV, the project created a video combining simulated weather reports and archived video footage from other storms.

Emergency managers across Florida have used Project Phoenix in training exercises, Deshazo said.

By identifying areas of hurricane prep weakness and building cooperation across jurisdictions, Phoenix was useful in “strengthening regional ‘muscle memory’ for emergency response that I think will prove itself in the wake of Ian,” Deshazo said.

The 2020 update, Project Phoenix 2.0, examined the issues facing Tampa Bay area small businesses and emergency management agencies during disaster recovery. The update drew on lessons experienced by Mexico Beach, Florida, business owners devastated by 2018’s Hurricane Michael.

“Have all your business documents somewhere that you can take with you,” a sports fishing guide recommends in the updated video. “Have an exit plan — what you’re you’re going to do, how you’re going to shut your business down to go through the storm.”

The 2009 simulation suggested catastrophic damage, including to Port Tampa Bay — then known as the Port of Tampa — awash in a toxic stew of chemicals and petroleum released from damaged storage tanks.

It predicted damage to more than two-thirds of hospitals, closed bridges hampering rescue efforts, and the region inundated with 48 million tons of debris.

But the exercise also closed on a note of optimism by providing a roadmap to recovery.

“We can rebuild our houses, schools, businesses and infrastructure,” the 2009 documentary’s narrator says.

“But we have to work together. The key to recovery is to have a regional plan in place long before disaster strikes.”

After making landfall in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province Tuesday, Ian was expected to grow even stronger over the warm Gulf of Mexico, reaching top winds of 130 mph (209 kph) as it approaches the southwest coast of Florida, where 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate.

Tropical storm-force winds were expected across the southern peninsula late Tuesday, reaching hurricane-force Wednesday — when the hurricane’s eye was predicted to make landfall. With tropical storm-force winds extending 115 miles (185 kilometers) from Ian’s center, damage was expected across a wide area of Florida.

It was not yet clear precisely where Ian would crash ashore.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Police: 180 dogs and cats removed from home by hazmat team

BRICK, N.J. (AP) — Some 180 dogs and cats were removed from a New Jersey home by a hazmat team after officials reported the animals were being kept in “horrible and inhumane conditions,” authorities say. Brick Township police said officers entered the home Friday night and found stacks of animal crates containing dogs and cats, […]
2 days ago
FILE - In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by th...
Associated Press

Iran morality police status unclear after ‘closure’ comment

CAIRO (AP) — An Iranian lawmaker said Sunday that Iran’s government is “paying attention to the people’s real demands,” state media reported, a day after a top official suggested that the country’s morality police whose conduct helped trigger months of protests has been shut down. The role of the morality police, which enforces veiling laws, […]
2 days ago
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the J Street National Conference at the Omni Shoreham H...
Associated Press

Blinken vows US support for Israel despite unease over gov’t

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday the U.S. will not shrink from its unwavering support for Israel despite stark differences with Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu and concerns the Biden administration may have about potential members of his incoming right-wing government. Speaking to a left-leaning group that some on the right accuse […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Farmer: Georgia dog injured saving sheep from coyote attack

DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia sheepdog is recovering at home two days after killing a pack of coyotes that attacked his owner’s flock of sheep, farmer John Wierwiller said. Casper, a 20-month old Great Pyrenees from Decatur, fought off a pack of coyotes who were threatening Wierwiller’s sheep farm, he said. The fight lasted […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Report: Woman attacks 6 deputies at New Orleans airport

Officials say a woman bit, kicked and spat on six sheriff’s deputies while refusing to exit a plane at an airport in Louisiana early Thanksgiving Day, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported Saturday. Authorities said the 25-year-old woman attacked Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, according to local news reports. […]
2 days ago
FILE - A Twitter logo hangs outside the company's San Francisco offices on Nov. 1, 2022. A top Euro...
Associated Press

As Musk is learning, content moderation is a messy job

Now that he’s back on Twitter, neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin wants somebody to explain the rules. Anglin, the founder of an infamous neo-Nazi website, was reinstated Thursday, one of many previously banned users to benefit from an amnesty granted by Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk. The next day, Musk banished Ye, the rapper formerly known as […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Tampa’s Phoenix simulation anticipated Category 5 hurricane