This year’s seasonal king tides swelled again Thursday morning in South Florida, boosted by offshore currents from Hurricane Nicole.
The king tide topped seawalls, rose through storm drains and crept up oceanfront parks at the tide’s peak, creating images that underscore concerns about the impacts of sea level rise on Florida’s coastal communities.
Scientists say the seasonal high tides, which have created a nuisance in places like Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale and the Keys for decades, are increasingly compounded by the rising seas that are spurred by climate change. Studies have found that millions of Floridians are at risk of being displaced by rising seas.
Besides the obvious flooding problems, sea rise is also threatening South Florida’s drinking water as saltwater intrudes into the aquifer. Even the methods being used to combat rising tides, such as the $300 million anti-flooding pump program and raised roads being constructed in Miami Beach, are not easy fixes. As the city expels water more efficiently from its stormwater system, keeping streets and real estate dry, and projections suggest sea rise can cause more frequent tidal flooding, scientists worry the pollutants carried by the drained water will hurt Biscayne Bay.
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While Miami Beach officials vehemently pushed back at the suggestion that the flushed water could be polluting the bay earlier this year — including attacking the credibility of the scientists who are studying the issue — the city on Thursday warned residents to avoid contact with flood water because it picks up pollutants from the street.
“Water in the streets also picks up pollutants from the surrounding environment,” Susy Torriente, the city’s chief resiliency officer, said in a news release. “Avoid coming into contact with flood water, and ensure children do not play in or near this water.”
This year, the Beach took some extra precautions to keep the tides at bay. Several temporary pumps have been dispatched to flood-prone areas, and a temporary concrete wall now runs along Indian Creek Drive, which was inundated last year. On Thursday, water pooled behind the wall as it seeped up from the creek.
Still, some public areas without pumps are not yet safeguarded. In North Beach, water pooled underneath parked cars at the south end of Bonita Drive. In South Beach, a side street off Lincoln Road flooded near the Collins Canal.
High tide came around 7 a.m. about a foot above predicted levels in the Beach, according to observations by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. After water levels rose Wednesday evening, meteorologists at the National Weather Service said that with some help from the offshore storm, the tides were expected to cause flooding in low-lying areas.
During high tides Wednesday and Thursday, water also seeped up into the street in Fort Lauderdale, over the seawall at Matheson Hammock Park and up through storm drains in South Beach. South Floridians took to social media to show the rising tide.