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When it comes to climate change, one thing is certain: our oceans are rising. And South Florida is expected to be among the first regions on Earth to experience the impact. In fact, some initial preparations are already underway. WLRN-Miami Herald News presents a series of stories about the effects of sea-level rise. The project is called “Elevation Zero: Rising Seas In South Florida." Click through the pages below to see our entire archive of Elevation Zero stories.

King Tides Are Down In December -- But That May Not Last

C.M. Guerrero
Miami Herald
In this October 2016 photo, a student braves king tide flooding to bike across Lincoln Road Court in Miami Beach.

King tides caused widespread flooding throughout South Florida in October and November. From Key West to West Palm Beach, pedestrians waded through streets and drivers moved their cars from massive parking lot puddles.


But December’s king tides? They’ve been going on this week and flooding has been minimal. That's because calmer weather has kept high tides down in December, compared with earlier this year.


Nancy Gassman, assistant director for sustainability at the city of Fort Lauderdale, says king tides in October and November were 14 to 18 inches higher than expected.


"We got easterly winds, which pushed the ocean water up against the coastline and that caused the tides to be higher," Gassman said. "In October, we had the passage of the tropical storm, which caused surge."


So the exceptional king tide flooding in October and November was weather-related -- maybe an anomaly, or maybe a result of climate change. Either way, it's likely king tides and high tides will get higher as seas continue to rise. Gassman says Fort Lauderdale has seen seas rise three inches since 1992 and that trend will likely continue.


"If you think about it, we’ve got the Everglades to our west, we have the Atlantic Ocean to our east," she said. "We’ve got groundwater levels that are rising because of sea level [rise], and we’ve got rainfall. So the city has to be prepared to use whatever tools are available to address whatever flooding we’re experiencing."


Among those tools: single-direction valves that keep tidewater from coming through storm drains; higher sea walls; and pumps. Gassman says Fort Lauderdale has budgeted up to a billion dollars for resiliency in the next 10 years.


King tides typically run from August through December.

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