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Tampa braces for Hurricane Irma

Courtesy ABC News

TAMPA — Experts fear Hurricane Irma could cause far more damage than Hurricane Andrew, even though it’s not quite as strong.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida as a category 5 storm, causing $26 million dollars in damage. Even though building codes have improved greatly in the years since, if same size storm hit today, the Weather Channel’s National Hurricane Specialist, Bryan Norcross, says the 35% population growth since 1992 would mean damages of about $100 million.

However, even though Irma is a category 4 hurricane, Norcross says it is twice the size of Andrew, projected to move up the entire length of Florida and into Georgia. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew blew over the Southern tip of the sunshine state and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Also, Norcross says sea levels have risen 3 inches since 1992, making Miami more vulnerable to high tides and flooding during the mildest of storms.

What’s even worse economically is the number of people with flood insurance has dropped 15% in the last 5-years.  Only 34% of residents living in flood zones in Florida have coverage, which means more people will not be compensated for damage or loss of their homes.

Long time Tampa resident Peggy McShane will be sheltering at home when Hurricane Irma hits.  The unexpected turn of the Category 4 storm made leaving Tampa nearly impossible. Ms. McShane is no stranger to Hurricanes; she assisted as an E.R. nurse after Hurricane Andrew. Her sister lost everything in that 1992 Category 5 storm and her brother just weathered through Hurricane Harvey in Texas.