Tampa City Council thanks staff for Hurricane Ian response, but calls for improvements

The City of Tampa received over 2,400 calls for assistance during the week of Hurricane Ian.

click to enlarge A tree snapped in half by Hurricane Ian in South Tampa. - Justin Garcia
Justin Garcia
A tree snapped in half by Hurricane Ian in South Tampa.

Today, Tampa City Council received details about the city’s response to Hurricane Ian, and called for some improvements while also thanking city staff.

At the Tampa City Council meeting, Fire Chief Barbara Tripp broke down the types of calls for assistance that came in during the powerful category 4 storm, which turned south last minute, focusing most of its devastating effects on areas south of Tampa.

Still, there was plenty of need for assistance within city limits, Tripp said, in addition to presenting a document that highlighted the needs of residents who called the storm hotline.

According to the document, 1,018 calls were about general information requests. Downed trees accounted for 724 calls, and 359 were about power lines down. The remaining calls were in regards to traffic light issues, power outages, road safety concerns and flooding issues.

The city's call center also took calls and assisted with questions posed by people who were outside of city limits and in Hillsborough County, she said.

Tripp added that code enforcement visited over 100 facilities to inspect that generators were working properly.

During the rush to protect housed residents and facilities, she said that the city didn't forget about residents of Tampa HOPE, a homeless shelter located in East Tampa.

"We actually reached out to the vulnerable population of Tampa HOPE residents," Tripp told council. "Staff transported over 100 residents to one of the shelters of Middleton High School throughout the evening, up until the area got to the point where it was unsafe for public safety to respond."

While city council was appreciative of staff’s efforts during the storm, some said that there could be improvements in the city's response.

City Councilman Orlando Gudes thanked Tripp for the city's efforts during the storm, but he said that lines for sandbags could be improved, adding that many low-income people don't have access to enough gas to wait that long in line. "Two or three hours, that's a long time to be in line," Gudes said.

He also said that Tampa Electric Company’s monitoring of power lines could be improved. Gudes said that lines that are at-risk of being entangled in trees should be evaluated before storm season. He added that the city’s response toward making sure disabled people are taken care of could be better.

“A lot of those folks were calling out because they had insulin not being refrigerated,” Gudes said. “A lot of issues like that.”

Councilman Guido Maniscalco also said that there should’ve been more sandbag locations and thanked the city administration for looking into opening more in the future.

Councilman Viera pointed out that Tampa’s many volunteer groups could be a match to help out at sandbag locations and other low-risk, pre-storm and after storm operations. “I'm going to propose that we look at something like a Tampa Volunteer Corps, or whatever you want to call it,” Viera said.

Communication between council and the city administration needs to be improved for future storms, said Councilman Bill Carlson.

“It’s my district that would have been the hardest hit,” Carlson said. “I didn't get a single phone call from anyone. If we can do videos of the mayor and her dog on Bayshore, we can communicate with city council.”

Carlson also accused the administration of turning the hurricane into an opportunity for political posturing, which got pushback from Councilchair Joe Citro.

“No, no, no, no, no, Councilman Carlson, please. Your five minutes are up,” Citro said, ending Carlson’s allotted time for comment.

Councilwoman Lynn Hurtak said that she agreed with a lot of her colleagues' sentiments and looked forward to what’s next.

“Communication could be better, but what I'm interested in most is, I know that your teams are getting together and all of you are talking about what didn't work, and what needs to be improved,” she said to Tripp.

She asked that the city deeply examine what happened in areas that were not right on the coast, but that got hit hard. She said the effects felt in some areas that are just off the coast might be similar to what Tampa might experience in the event of a direct hit from a major hurricane.

Councilchair Citro thanked Chief Tripp and the entire Tampa community for its response following the storm.

“I want to thank everybody in this city who helped everybody else out and thank you to our family, the city employees that were there for the citizens of Tampa,” Citro said.

About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia previously wrote for the USA Today Network, The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Scalawag Magazine, and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

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