Saint Petersburg, FL

Experts Warn: St. Petersburg is Facing a Devastating Crisis

Toni Koraza

Some 80,000 St. Petersburg residents could find themselves underwater in the next few decades, maybe sooner.

The city is enjoying an economic boom, attracting tourists, ex-pats, and investors from all over the world. Sea-front properties are booming all over Sunshine City. Real estate is in high demand.

St. Petersburg, FL, holds a Guinness World Record for 768 consecutive sunny days between 1967 and 1969. It’s truly is the Sunshine City. But it may soon find itself with another summer record.

St. Peterburgh could become the first U.S. city to sink completely underwater

Areas of Shore Acres, Riviera Bay, and Coquina Key have a surging risk of at least one devastating flood at 7ft above the current high tide line. The chance of total flooding in these areas is at around 2% a year for the 2020s.

The flood risk acceleration rate is staggering. The risk of total floods is predicted to rise above 17% in 2040, followed by 31% in 2050, before finally and totally submerging some of the sunnies neighborhoods of St. Peterburg underwater.

Pinellas point, Tropical Shores, and Coquina key would reach a 100% chance of extreme flood events by 2070, according to NOAA Technical Report NOS CO-OPS 083.

St. Peterburg could temporarily become an island city in the event of a Category 5 hurricane hitting Pinellas County. Residents who choose to deny these realities could find themselves trapped in this environmental disaster, completely cut off from Tampa Bay bridges.

Floodings and extreme weather events have always been around, though.

The critical problem is not the ever-changing nature but a man’s effect devastating effect on it. The frequency of extreme events in Florida has surged, correlating with human pollution and greenhouse emissions. We are exacerbating the process of climate change that could soon become a major global issue.

Americans could lose property, jobs, food, and even lives in these extreme events.

The estimated property damage is projected to reach $11.2 Billion. Floods of up o 7ft above the high tide would devastate 37 medical facilities, 11 churches, 10 schools, and 5 colleges. Some 45,978 housing units would be wrecked, forcing 80,000 people to leave their homes in water.

St. Petersburg has almost 41% of the territory under the Coastal High Hazard Area (CHHA)

The City zoning maps prohibit City Council from increasing population density in CHHAs because the land is susceptible to floods and hurricanes.

Zoning maps created evacuation plans in case of extreme weather events. Investors can’t easily re-purpose a one-family lot to create multi-family housing projects. In case of a strong hurricane or extreme flood, rescue teams need to safely evacuate people from Bahama Shores, Coquina Key, Tropical Shore, Greater Pinellas Point, and other flood zones.

Some residents are now planing their days around floods and king ties. “It’s saltwater. So, it’s pretty rough trying to go through. It’s bad on your vehicles,” Resident Mary Palmer shared with Baynews9. “You have to watch the tide if you have to go out, and you do your shopping when the tide isn’t coming in. It’s something you learn to live with it after a while, but it gets pretty discouraging.”

City Commissioners approved an $869,000 improvement project to combat frequent floods in 2019. St. Petersburg is getting a massive 24-inch storm pipe with a valve set to retain more water underneath the road.

While coastal floods frequently render parts of St. Petersburg unlivable, investors and City Council want more property development in flood zones.

The local government is loosening up on regulations to satisfy the demand for a booming population. A staggering number of new constructions are now located in flood zones.

Environmentalists and opponents call it “shortsighted” and potentially dangerous.

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