Hurricane makes seasonal event worse
Social media erupted with “Is this normal?” type questions, paired with photos of underwater docks, after the battered Keys got its first round of King Tides earlier in the week.
Simply put, King Tides are naturally occurring and predictable high tides (sun, moon, rotation of the Earth, etc.). That they are happening on the heels of Hurricane Irma is just a little extra salt in our Keys wounds.
The high tides of October are not expected to abate until about the 24th. They occur again in the second week of November, and the first week of December.
“Actually, the November tides are predicted to be higher, a tenth of a foot, than what we just saw,” said Chip Kasper, a senior forecaster and marine program meteorologist at the Key West office of the National Weather Service. “But, again, those are only predicted values.”
So, do hurricanes affect King Tides? Well, it’s more accurate to say the tides interact with hurricanes.
Kasper said the predicted height of the tides needs to take into account the winds across the region.
“Strong easterly winds over a large area can produce higher tides,” he said. That was certainly the case as Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria moved across this neck of the woods. “That situation can actually lead to some temporary changes in the Gulf Stream flow.”
Storm debris and lots of rain exacerbate the problem, Kasper said. “When there’s already a high water table, and you put more water on top of that, it can’t drain as fast.”
Some areas of the Keys are known for flooding – the lower end of Duval Street in Key West near Greene and Front Streets or Key Largo’s Twin Lakes neighborhood. After Irma, however, there may be other areas to add the list.
“It will take some time for NOAA and FWC and the U.S. Coast Guard to assess the underwater terrain,” Kasper said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me to see some changes where the winds were highest because that’s where the strongest wave and current would have occurred.” Kasper said Hurricane Wilma created a new island near the Marquesas (aptly dubbed Wilma Key) and Hurricane Charley carved a break in a barrier island on the southwest corner of mainland Florida.
King Tide Tips
- If you come into contact with flood water, be sure to rinse off using soap and water. Do not allow children to play in or near flood water and encourage them to wash their hands regularly.
- Avoid driving through flooded areas — turn around and find another way if possible. It can be unsafe and cause short- and long-term damage to your vehicle. Due to Hurricane Irma, there is more debris than usual on the streets, increasing the possibility of danger under flooded waters. If you drive through tidal floods, wash the undercarriage of your car to remove any saltwater accumulation.
- If you have photos of your property or neighborhood experiencing tidal flooding, please email them to GREENKEYS@MONROECOUNTY-FL.GOV with the address and time/date they were taken.
Some areas of Key Largo are prone to tidal flooding. RHONDA HAAG/Monroe County