Tampa Bay area emergency officials are ready for a meteor strike

CLEARWATER, Fla. - It's an emergency that doesn't happen often. In fact it's very rare. But getting struck by a meteor is a natural disaster that emergency professionals say we should be ready for.

The rock weighs maybe 10-15 grams and is small in Anthony Pelaez's hand.

The director of education for the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa says it was broken off of a much larger rock, a meteor.

The small piece he held is a meteorite.

While not inherently dangerous itself, we recently saw just how dangerous these things could be, after Friday's meteor explosion in Central Russia.

"A situation like this is very rare. We're continuously bombarded by meteorites al the time, we have been, we've always been and will continue to be," Pelaez said.

The meteor in Russia never hit the ground, but still caused nearly 400 injuries.

Just the explosion itself was enough.

"The shockwave will emanate through our atmosphere and cause all the damage then, just through the vibrations," Pelaez said.

But is Tampa Bay ready to handle an emergency situation like the one in Russia?

Tom Iovino with Pinellas County Emergency Services says they would handle it like another natural disaster we are familiar with.

"But one thing we could do is equate it to the impact of a tornado. Very short event, throws a lot of debris around, and people could get hurt," Iovino says.

And the emergency response would be swift, using services already in place.

"What would happen is we would see the impact and take a look at what needed to be done. If people were inured we'd call for mutual aid systems, to see if it would outstrip our ability to handle it," he said.

Iovino says any natural disaster advice would apply to a meteor strike:  Have an emergency plan, and have proper emergency gear.

But what about a chunk of rock weighing several tons hurling towards Earth?

Anthony Pelaez says we have technology that could possibly be capable of blowing up such an asteroid in mid-space.

Luckily, we haven't had to use that contingency plan just yet.

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