In Miami, the King Tide is Coming

October 6, 2014


MIAMI BEACH, Fla., Oct. 3 (Reuters) – Construction crews are wading into chest high pools of muck in a race against time to install pumps Miami Beach officials hope will help control an annual super-high tide threatening to flood south Florida’s popular seaside city next week.

Around Oct. 9, a so-called “King Tide” is expected to push almost an extra foot (30 cm) of water onto streets, going over sea walls and forcing residents to wade through flooded streets, an annual event causing widespread damage.

“It’s been a nightmare,” said Andreas Schreiner, who has seen past high tides bring water up to and even inside his group of neighborhood restaurants, causing tens of thousands of dollars in losses due temporary shut downs and cleanup.

The event, caused by the alignment of the sun, moon and Earth, provides a taste of the potential impact of a longer-term two-foot sea level rise predicted for south Florida by 2060, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The low-lying greater Miami area, with a population of 5.7 million, is one of the world’s most at-risk urban communities, scientists told a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing in April.

The King Tide is expected to rise to almost four feet. With seven miles of coastline, Miami Beach is already seeing more frequent salt-water street flooding at high tide, according to Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales.

To combat such widespread flooding, the city has set aside $300 million to 400 million to install up to 50 pumps in the coming years in what some say is a vain effort to protect an estimated $23 billion of real estate.

Bigger sea walls are not an option as Miami Beach’s flooding is caused largely by water rising underfoot through porous limestone bedrock. Officials concede pumping water back into the ocean is only a short-term solution.

Fred Grimm in the Miami Herald:

This was the sixth annual regional climate leadership summit. John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, told the South Floridians that they had become “a model for what we need to see going on around the country.” Yet Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio and most of the state Republican lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington regard the summit’s underlying premise as fiction. As if the 650 civic leaders at last week’s summit were essentially a gang of liars.

“We’ve heard these kinds of ‘the sky is falling’ stories,” U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told reporters after the White House released dire National Climate Assessment. Except, of course, as the folks gathered at the convention center might have told her, it’s not the sky falling but the sea rising, with study after study warning that her own South Florida constituents were especially vulnerable.

Ros-Lehtinen, of course, didn’t attend the summit. Rubio didn’t attend. Scott didn’t attend. Else their do-nothing approach to global warming would have been juxtaposed against the sense of urgency conveyed by mayors and city and county commissioners at the gathering.

“We’re like first responders,” said Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, who told me that local elected leaders didn’t have the luxury of applying political considerations to the climate change emergency.

Jeff Goodell wrote a piece in 2013 for Rolling Stone titled “Goodbye Miami”, which posited a science-fictional hurricane in the ever-so-more-vulnerable Miami of 2030, and its aftermath:

But Hurricane Milo was unexpectedly devastating. Because sea-level­ rise had already pushed the water table so high, it took weeks for the storm waters to recede. Salt water corroded underground wiring, leaving parts of the city dark for months. Drinking-water­ wells were ruined. Interstate 95 was clogged with cars and trucks stuffed with animals and personal belongings, as hundreds of thousands of people fled north to Orlando, the highest ground in central Florida. Developers drew up plans for new buildings on stilts, but few were built. A new flexible carbon-fiber­ bridge was proposed to link Miami Beach with the mainland, but the bankrupt city couldn’t secure financing and the project fell apart. The skyscrapers that had gone up during the Obama years were gradually abandoned and used as staging grounds for drug runners and exotic-animal traffickers. A crocodile nested in the ruins of the Pérez Art Museum.

And still, the waters kept rising, nearly a foot each decade. By the latter end of the 21st century, Miami became something else entirely: a popular snorkeling spot where people could swim with sharks and sea turtles and explore the wreckage of a great American city.

I interviewed Jeff near Ilulissat Glacier in Greenland, June 2013, about the connections between a rapidly warming arctic, and coastal cities around the world:




12 Responses to “In Miami, the King Tide is Coming”

  1. Note that the Reuters article never actually mentions climate change/global warming – talks about “future sea level rise,” but never the cause.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        The pumps apparently worked pretty well, according to the Reuters followup article on 10/9, which never came any closer to mentioning global warming than this:

        “U.S. Senators Bill Nelson of Florida and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island toured one of the city’s lowest lying neighborhoods that have flooded so heavily in the past that businesses closed because of water damage. Nelson congratulated Miami Beach officials, but said more needs to be done to prevent the root causes of the sea level rise that is threatening coastal cities such as Miami”.

        Root causes?

  2. […] Reuters: MIAMI BEACH, Fla., Oct. 3 (Reuters) – Construction crews are wading into chest high pools of muck in a race against time to install pumps Miami Beach officials hope will help control an an…  […]

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Hate to wish ill on anyone, but my hope is that this king tide is huge and makes a real mess. Lots of folks with $$$ live in South Florida, and until they get hit hard, they won’t pay attention. Once they do, they (and their insurers) will perhaps start to move in the right direction. Miami is not the lower ninth ward of New Orleans.

    The longer real action is delayed, the greater the damage will be in the future. Miami’s sacrifice now may help to save many others some grief later.

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    A relevant comment from the “Arctic Pleasure Cruise” thread.

    Are they listening yet ?????

    Not enough, apparently. “…..conservatives say global warming is a hoax or a natural phenomena that is not as bad as scientists say”.

    That’s from an article in today’s WashPost titled “Study: Cities at risk of daily flooding”. The study is by the UCS. The main emphasis of the article is on Washington, DC, and Annapolis, MD, our nation’s and Maryland’s capitals.

    “…by 2045, DC and Annapolis will experience about 400 floods per year, sometimes twice in a single day, and several other cities on the Atlantic coast will have flooding almost as bad. The District and Annapolis now have fewer than 50 days of tidal flooding. In 15 years, that will rise to 150, and after another 15 years to 400″.

    The 13 “almost as bad” cities include Miami (way down at #10 with 50 floods per year, surprisingly), Wilmington NC at #3, and Baltimore and Philadelphia at #11 and #15.

    It is a well-kept secret around the country that Washington DC is going to be a poster child for tidal flooding as sea level rises. Alexandria VA right across the river is already flooded at many high tides. But have no fear, folks—-your tax dollars are at work:

    “Taxpayers are paying for the construction of a new wall on the National Mall. Longer than a football field, the wall has not been built to honor the nation’s fallen heroes or great leaders from our past. It has been quietly constructed over the past 2½ years to protect a vast swath of downtown Washington from a devastating flood. No longer a theory, climate change is here. The wall is a small part of the tens of billions of dollars Americans will have to pay in the future just to take the edge off the devastating effects of climate alteration”.

    “Without the flood wall the experts deem necessary, a monstrous stream of water could surge from the Potomac up 17th Street and curl for over 2½ miles through the heart of the city. Such a flood would inundate all of the national museums and the agencies along Constitution Avenue, as well as the Reflecting Pool, a piece of the Ellipse behind the White House, the Federal Triangle, the National Archives, the I-395 tunnel in front of the Capitol and the Federal Center in Southeast Washington. The damage to our national treasures would be literally beyond calculation”.

    Read more:

  5. dumboldguy Says:

    From Climate Connection:

    Flooding is nothing new in historic Charleston, South Carolina. In fact, in 1850, the mayor offered a hundred dollar gold piece to the person who could come up with a solution. The result was a system of storm drains — many of which still exist. But as sea levels rise, the flooding is getting worse.

    CABINESS: “This nuisance flooding and the tidal increases that have been happening, they do seem to be occurring more frequently, and they do seem to be slightly higher than they were before.”

    That’s Laura Cabiness, the city’s Public Services Director and engineer. She says that when tides are high, water overflows the storm drains. Add rain, and flooding not only blocks traffic, but threatens Charleston’s historic district — where preservation is a matter of pride and tourism dollars.

    So city officials are taking action — spending millions on drainage projects across the city. They’re also now requiring all new structures to be built with the finished floor a foot higher than the base flood level.

    CABINESS: “And that will make them a little bit more resilient into the future as tides rise.”

    So when you visit Charleston years from now, hopefully you can still see beautiful cobblestone streets and stately homes — not just water.

  6. More on flooding and tides linked with global warming. Researchers think the tide and sea level rise are a big unappreciated issue. And it’s coming sooner than expected. For those who thought sea level rise only applied to Florida, bad news.

    “The shock for us was that tidal flooding could become the new normal in the next 15 years; we didn’t think it would be so soon,” said Melanie Fitzpatrick, one of three researchers at the nonprofit who analyzed tide gauge data and sea level projections, producing soused prognoses for scores of coastal Americans. “If you live on a coast and haven’t seen coastal flooding yet, just give it a few years. You will.”

    The graphic is striking. The change seems small at first, but after a few decades, flooding becomes so frequent, one would imagine those areas would be abandoned. I think there is going to be some real impacts in Florida in the next decade. In great karmic fashion, Washington, DC will be among the most affected, with nearly 400 events per year by 2045.

  7. […] from a group of students at Florida International University, who had been activated by the recent King Tide event along the Florida coast to take a closer look at sea level and climate change.  Florida is one […]


    Flooding at King Tides is not new to Miami. This web address discusses newspaper article appearing in 1973.

  9. […] the course of South Florida’s slow awakening to a sea level crisis, during this fall’s King Tide event in […]

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