Worse Than the Prince of Tides

Oct. 3, 2017

Although Hurricane Irma is now history, Florida isn’t out of danger yet: hurricane season lasts through the end of November, and any hurricane that makes landfall in the US in October is likely to hit the Sunshine State. As this article notes, “Since 1851, Florida has had 36 hurricanes make October landfalls, including 10 major hurricanes, which is considered a Category 3 or higher. That’s five times higher than runner-up Louisiana, which has experienced seven October hurricane hits, including three major hurricanes.”

Even if the rest of the season is uneventful, though—and we hope it will be—the state has another threat to deal with in the form of seasonal high tides, commonly known as king tides. They coincide with hurricane season, as the alignment of the sun and moon create a stronger gravitational pull in the fall, and they typically peak in October.

This article describes the problems they cause—not the destructive storm surge that accompanies a hurricane or tropical storm, but insidious flooding of streets and low-lying areas, sometimes called sunny-day flooding. They also cause saltwater to rise through the storm drain system. In the days following Irma, the unusually large amount of debris in the streets and drains made the flooding worse.

As sea levels rise, the king tides will increase; already, local residents are noticing that they’ve been higher and flooding has been greater than in years past. Researchers from Florida International University have been measuring water levels and taking samples in and around Miami, partly with an eye on how to improve infrastructure. “Whereas certain neighborhoods may have the financial means and political connections to push for better drainage of their streets,” the article notes, “others just around the corner may not.”

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.