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Major hurricanes helping shape regional resiliency climate change plans

Hurricanes such as Dorian are providing valuable data and modeling for planners and politicians working to battle climate change.

The process is called resiliency.

For the past year, a coalition of six counties and 22 cities around Tampa Bay has gathered and coordinated data for everything from new transportation needs to zoning rules. The plan is to combat sea level rise and other climate change impacts.

Dorian, last year's Hurricane Michael and 2017's Harvey showed that catastrophic tropical weather and their soaking days of rain are here to stay.

“This is sort of, unfortunately, the new normal,” said CJ Reynolds, the director of resilience and engagement for the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition, “and we have to figure out how we need to look at our cities and our roads and our houses and think about how can we make ourselves more resilient.”

The coalition’s members include the coastal counties and cities from Citrus to Manatee. They hope to develop regional solutions for issues including rising sea levels, rainfall, heat, wildfires, droughts, flooding and storms. The Tampa Bay regional coalition covers 4 million residents, or one in five Floridians.

The idea is to coordinate the governments’ response to climate change, coming up with, among many other things, new building codes, zoning designations and transportation projects -- as well as adjusting county and municipal budgets to pay for them.