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How Tampa’s water district is preparing for hurricane season flooding

Hurricane season starts June 1. And water district officials are planning to rebuild a water control structure that helps keeps the Hillsborough River from flooding during major storms. It's a key feature protecting much of Tampa.

Jerry Mallams stands in front of the concrete and steel structure. It's part of the Tampa Bypass Canal, which diverts overflows from the Hillsborough River. He's operations bureau chief at the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The above video was taken two years ago by the water district when the floodgates were opened.

It's part of a system set up after Hurricane Donna devastated Tampa and Temple Terrace in 1960. But as they near a ripe old age, the structure's steel floodgates and lift gates will have to be rebuilt.

“(The) city of Tampa is built all around that river. So there's a lot of urbanization nestled up very, very close to this river,” he said. “So when this river comes out of its banks, it can cause a lot of damage, not only to residential but to industry, commercial, very quickly, as well as all the associated infrastructure, the roads, the power lines and all of that.”

Mallams said the structure was activated in 2017 when Hurricane Irma struck. Water was diverted around the city of Tampa for a month. About three billion gallons a day were diverted through this structure, minimizing flooding in Tampa and Temple Terrace. He said it has the capacity to move around 17 billion gallons a day.