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Sarasota listed in study predicting a hotter, more flooded Florida

This NOAA satellite image taken Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at 10:00 AM EDT shows high pressure firmly in control over the western United States. A few light rain showers will fall over the Northern Plains and Northern Great Basin. Heat and dry weather will dominate with little precipitation falling over the Central and Southern Plains.
This NOAA satellite image taken Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at 10:00 AM EDT shows high pressure firmly in control over the western United States. A few light rain showers will fall over the Northern Plains and Northern Great Basin. Heat and dry weather will dominate with little precipitation falling over the Central and Southern Plains. AP

The Sunshine State’s prime feature — the sun — is its best asset and worst enemy.

Florida is the state that will see the greatest increase of heat and humidity over the coming decades, according to the States at Risk project findings released Wednesday by Climate Central.

The study lists the top 25 U.S. cities expected to see the most days where the heat index, or the combination of heat and humidity known as the “feels like temperature,” is above 105 degrees. Thirteen Florida cities made the list, and Tampa and Sarasota tied at No. 13 with 145 days.

Those same 13 Florida cities topped the list of the 25 U.S. cities that will see the biggest increase of heat-index days.

“Summer is the warmest time of the year for Florida, and we encourage everyone to enjoy the outdoors safely,” said Mara Gambineri, communications director for the Florida Department of Health.

Children and the elderly are more at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion symptoms include sweating, paleness, dizziness or nausea, Gambineri said. A heat stroke can be determined by red, hot and dry skin, rapid pulse, body temperature above 103 degrees or possible unconsciousness.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program, cited in the report, projects thousands to tens of thousands of heat-related deaths each year will happen by century’s end due to climate change.

The research program also states climate change and increasing greenhouse gases contribute to higher and more extreme temperatures.

Gambineri said drinking water, getting lots of rest, seeking air conditioning and wearing light-colored, lightweight clothing can help prevent the heat-related illnesses caused by this increase in heat and humidity.

The Climate Central report also ranked Florida according to its preparedness in five categories: extreme heat, drought, wildfire, inland flooding and coastal flooding.

Extreme heat and both inland and coastal flooding received the worst grades in Florida’s preparedness

Extreme heat and inland and coastal flooding received the worst grades in Florida’s preparedness, and the state is the most at risk in these categories compared with others.

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, which conducted a flooding vulnerability assessment two years ago for Sarasota and Manatee counties, said estuary program Executive Director Mark Alderson. They looked at the areas most vulnerable to climate change and sea-level rise, which for the most part include the barrier islands and river basins.

Anything on the coastal sides of U.S. 41 and U.S. 301, where the roads are built on natural coastal ridges 25 feet above sea level, is at risk of this prediction of increased flooding

Anything on the coastal sides of U.S. 41 and U.S. 301, where the roads are built on natural coastal ridges 25 feet above sea level, is at risk of this prediction of increased flooding, he said.

Long-term strategies to prevent coastal flooding damage are being considered as a part of the estuary program’s Climate Ready Estuary Program. Restoring coastal habitats and developing buffer shorelines is the “most important defense against sea-level rise,” said Darcy Young, public outreach assistant for the estuary program. A strategic front-runner: living shorelines.

“It seems like our areas that are more natural are going to be more resistant to change over the long term than more of our hardened seawalls,” Alderson said. “One would think just the opposite.”

He also said hard seawalls are most prone to collapsing during high-wave events such as hurricanes. Living shorelines such as mangroves or natural-hardened seawall hybrids are most effective.

Sarasota County and Longboat Key are in the midst of updating flood insurance maps, according to the National Flood Insurance Program website.

“The whole issue could ultimately influence our insurance rates,” Alderson said.

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse

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