Waterfront homeowners in our area are once again enduring the annual visit of “the King” and he’s not leaving quite yet! The term “King Tide” has become a common talking point in climate change discussions and especially when the topic of South Florida sea levels is raised. An understanding of this seasonal surge and rising of waters in the canal can help ease the anxiety of watching these tides visit during the Autumn months of September, October and November. Along with an understanding of the forces of nature behind this occurrence, steps can be taken to minimize the impact, allowing this time of year to become more manageable for those affected in waterfront neighborhoods or especially low lying areas.
The term “tide” is used to describe the rise and fall of the ocean as it approaches the coast line. Twice a day, the tide will peak to the highest measurement of the 24-hour period and will also fall to the lowest point of the day twice during that same 24-hour period. Fishermen, water sports enthusiasts, marine contractors and boat owners pay particular attention to the tides in South Florida, as many times these tides affect visibility, currents and ease of using their vessels depending on depth of water levels. The return of the King Tides adds another interested party to the discussion….
waterfront property owners. The King Tide is the highest predicted high tide of the calendar year. These tidal predictions are produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a Federal scientific agency; our closest monitoring station in the area is The Virginia Key station in Biscayne Bay, FL. These tides are created when the sun, moon and earth align at the perigee and perihelion, creating solar and lunar gravity. Simply put, it’s the time of the year when the moon and sun are closest to the Earth. These forces, as well as coastline configuration, prolonged onshore winds or low barometric pressure cause abnormally high tides in the canals and along the Intracoastal Waterway.
King Tides create flooding in low lying neighborhoods, docks become submerged and the waters breach seawall caps. Waterfront homeowners watch helplessly as the canal water slowly rolls into the backyard, saturating the grass and landscaping with salt water. Six hours later it starts to recede, often times leaving debris or an occasional stranded fish in the lawn.
Evaluating your waterfront property can help prepare for this time of year. Several cities have now enacted ordinances requiring waterfront homeowners to remain diligent in maintaining their seawalls and in many instances of new construction, elevating the seawall heights in order to provide adequate protection for the upland portion of the property. When the addition of a full seawall cap is not practical due to cost or related construction complications, a simple addition of weep holes in the wall will help relieve excessive hydrostatic pressure. Docks built with wood framing should be constructed well above the highest tide levels in order to keep the wood and fasteners from soaking in the water and, of course, stainless steel fasteners should always be used. Keeping swales and yards free of debris allows the water to drain quickly into the soil, as well as eco friendly landscaping choices using native drought friendly plants that absorb water.
Safety during the King Tides is also a concern and at this time of year. Caution should be used when walking through flooded streets; it may be hazardous due to sewage rising through storm drains or submerged electrical wires. Boaters should check tide levels at bridges they will be required to clear when leaving or returning to their home docks.
Driving through salt water flooded streets can wreck havoc on the undercarriage of many vehicles and the resulting wakes worsen the impact on lawns aligning the street.
Children should never be allowed to play in standing flood waters, due to the possibility of live electric currents that can travel, varying water depth and dislodged manhole covers.
Seasonal tide changes have become a reality for South Floridians and an occurrence that does not seem to be stopping any time soon. Predictions, although not 100% precise, offer insight to what is yet to come and helps in the preparedness of what steps waterfront homeowners can take. Flood insurance is becoming mandatory for several Special Flood Hazard areas as well. Community posts and newsletters remind homeowners that this time of the year requires our attention to the surrounding waterways. Knowing if your neighborhood or seawall is prone to flooding this time of year and pro actively readying for the return of the King will hopefully ease the visit until this annual guest rides out to sea.