New map tells Florida's extreme weather stories

Posted at 6:04 PM, Mar 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 19:52:30-05
The Tampa Bay area is accustomed to heavy rain. But recent storms, like the flooding that hit the area in August 2015, are extreme cases, and local scientists say our community should get prepared for even more.
"The example of heavy rains that happened this past summer and the very heavy rains that happened this January, those are good examples of these extreme weather events," said Dr. David Hastings, a marine science professor at Eckerd College. 
"We know the sea level is going to rise and it's going to do so quickly, the question is how are we going to respond to it," Dr. Hastings tells ABC Action News, adding that hurricanes and other coastal storms are likely to become increasingly powerful because warmer ocean temperatures provide more energy for those kinds of storms.
A St. Petersburg-based nonprofit group called Environment Florida is trying to educate the public, and lawmakers, about the concerns held by oceanographer Hastings and other scientists.
To that end, they've created a new, interactive map that people can add their own personal stories to talk about cases of extreme weather.
You can find the map, called Hitting Close to Home, by clicking HERE.
Among those who plan to add their personal story to the map is Eckerd College student Haley Burger, who unknowingly found herself in dangerous waters last year during a stretch of severe weather.
"We jumped one evening into the water [next to Eckerd College] right after the second day of heavy rain, not thinking much of it we were having good time," explains Burger of moment in August of 2015.
She later regretted the decision when, the next day, it was learned that St. Petersburg's 75-year-old sewage pipe system cracked and leaked, sending thousands of gallons off contaminated water into the same water she'd been swimming into.
"No one was expecting that," says Burger. "It was gross."
Only two Florida counties were lucky enough to miss being affected by a storm or flood-related disaster between 2010 and 2015, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That makes up 99% of Florida's population of 19 million people.