Ft. Lauderdale, Miami Beach flooding lingers


A confluence of events has continued to flood some of South Florida’s coastal communities.


Superstorm Sandy is gone. And the moon’s pull has diminished.

But the ocean keeps pouring over State Road A1A in Fort Lauderdale and onto Alton Road in Miami Beach, causing problems in coastal communities where flooding has now been an off-and-on phenomenon for weeks.

On Thursday and Friday, water from the Atlantic pounded parts of the Fort Lauderdale strip. The power of waves destroyed chunks of a barrier wall and forced authorities to shut down northbound traffic from Sunrise Boulevard to Northeast 20th Street. It’s the second time the road has been closed in about four weeks.

After high tide, tourists and residents straggled over to take a look at the damage. Beach shower heads lay in the sand along with palm trees, and pieces of tile from the wall littered the ground.

Art Seitz, a freelance photographer who lives in a nearby high-rise, said the beach is a “mega mess.”

“The wall was completely toppled,” he said. “I’ve lived here for 25 years and never have seen anything like these.”

The culprit: a low pressure system, high winds and, yes, the lasting impact of Sandy, the mega-storm that wrecked New York and New Jersey.

“It’s a combination of everything,” said Barry Baxter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami.

Baxter said the system has generated northeast swells. At the same time, he said winds blowing from 15 to 20 miles-per-hour have been pushing for days now against the gulf stream, which builds up the seas over time.

Those factors pushed sea levels to eight feet in Palm Beach County, and to six feet in Miami-Dade and Broward, he said.

Friday’s convergence of wind and swells comes after the moon reached its closest point to the earth in mid-October, causing a rise in the tides. Later that month, Superstorm Sandy blew by the coast, causing a surge. Then the full moon rose.

And now, streets are flooded by tides again.

“It seems like it’s been week after week” of flooding, Baxter said. “Everything comes together.”

Baxter said erosion caused by Sandy is also contributing to issues where the Atlantic is pushing over the beach and onto streets.

In Miami Beach, the tides push Biscayne Bay water up through stormwater drains during seasonal high tides. But the problem has seemingly lingered longer than usual this year.

Flooding surfaced again Friday on Alton Road, though not nearly as widespread as they have been during the last month, or even the past week.

Still, sandbags lie outside some retail shops and city officials wonder when the problem will go away.

“We’re trying to set up a meeting with NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration],” said city of Miami Beach spokeswoman Nannette Rodriguez, “just to see when this is going to go away.”

Miami Herald reporters Carli Teproff and Maria Bernal contributed to this story.

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