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Tampa, St. Pete didn’t flood or spill sewage in Elsa like they used to during storms. Why?

Tampa Bay’s largest cities have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into hardening their sewer and stormwater systems. It appears to be paying off.

TAMPA – Remember the summers of 2015 and 2016? They were wet — and nasty — in Tampa Bay.

Three weeks of daily rain in 2015 and Tropical Storm Colin and Hurricane Hermine the following year ended up with Tampa and Boca Ciega bays, the Hillsborough River and city streets on both sides of the bay being polluted with sewage and floodwaters.

Five years later, weeks of heavy rain and Tropical Storm Elsa dumped prolonged gushing rain over the bay area, but the results were quite different.

Neither Tampa or St. Petersburg had any sewage incidents during Elsa. Nor did either flood-prone city have major issues with streets being closed down because of high water.

“We had no overflows with Elsa. Zero. In large part due to improvements we’ve made since 2016,” said Brad Baird, Tampa’s deputy administrator for infrastructure.

Five years ago, Tampa had problems with pump stations losing power and causing overflows. The city also had problems with outdated pump stations and aging pipes.