TAMPA -- More than 100 people representing various businesses and agencies are expected for Port Tampa Bay's annual hurricane preparedness exercise, which happens Monday (May 1st) from 8:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Port Tampa Bay's Vice President of Operations Matt Thompson says the exercise involves federal, state and local agencies as well as tenants, the shipping industry, and others who use the port. Thompson says during a storm, they'll also involve the Port Heavy Weather Advisory Group, made up of pilots, port officials, coast guard and others, who play a pivotal role in decisions regarding the port in a storm. The port also works closely with NOAA and the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps plays a role in clearing obstacles out of the port and shipping channel. Another key partner is the National Weather Service office in Ruskin, providing tracking and other data to help the Coast Guard make port decisions
Thompson says the watchwords are "Readiness, Communications and Partnerships."
During the exercise, the National Weather service will run through a scenario, and various entities will describe what they would be doing at various stages of preparation.
Port Tampa Bay accounts for around 45 percent of motor fuels brought into Florida, with Port Everglades handling almost half the total. This means that both ports are chokepoints for gasoline, and a shutdown of either port could cause problems for drivers. That happened a few days ago when flooding forced the shutdown of Port Everglades.
Thomnpson says the Port's comprehensive emergency plan helps it reach out to agencies that run the fuel storage facilities. He says the questions on his mind during an approaching storm are how much fuel is on hand, and will the Tampa Bay area face a storm surge?
Listen to an interview with Matt Thompson below: