Miami Survives Another King Tide Week

Water overflow from street drains just off Collins Avenue in South Beach, Miami Beach. Photo by Nicole Ardila

Low-lying areas of Miami Beach and Shorecrest, a Miami neighborhood off NE 79th Street adjacent to Biscayne Bay, were dryer than expected this past weekend after King Tides rose to three feet high. 

“As far as the tides go, it hasn’t been that bad,” said a Miami firefighter from Station 13 at 981 NE 79th St. “Usually water would rise to the first step of the stairs, coming from the drains, […] but I haven’t seen much King Tide activity. It’s gotten better, big time.”

Still, there is no reason to celebrate, warns University of Florida Professor Cynthia Barnett, an award-winning reporter on climate change.

“Residents were able to avoid flooding and heartbreak this time,” Barnett said. “But I’d advise caution, it’s like hurricane warnings. Floridians let their guard down and forget about how severe the issue can become, even if it isn’t happening now. Hurricanes sometimes come and don’t cause damage as expected, but eventually one does. […] Regardless of King Tides, the sea is rising worldwide, and rain is becoming more extreme.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration describes the King Tide as a phenomenon during new or full moons where tides are remarkably higher than usual. This occurs because of the Earth, Moon, and Sun’s alignment and their gravitational pull during the fall season.

In past years, water pushed by King Tides has flooded low-lying neighborhoods across Miami Dade County. But residents and tourists don’t realize these types of “sunny-day floods” have expanded to the Southwest of the city, following the Miami River and several channels to the heart of Little Havana.

During the weekend of high tide, seawater still rose from the ocean through the drains, leaving large puddles and smaller  “sunny-day flooding” near parking spaces.

“Over the last five years, we had to file at least three claims with our flood insurance company,” said Miami Beach resident Carlos Alvarez, who lives on Pennsylvania and 14th Avenue. “Our building’s ground floor was flooded a few other times. Floods have become more common.”

The City of Miami Beach has installed more underground pumps, and Alvarez credits this effort with improving the situation.

“Thanks to the city’s flood projects, the severity of these events decreased,” says Alvarez. But he doesn’t see the pumps as a long-term solution for sea-level rise.  

South Beach Resident Carlos Alvarez paddle boarding with daughter, Nayarak, in front of their home, by Fienberg Fisher K-8 Center during a King Tide in 2017 / Video provided by Carlos Alvarez

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the September King Tide rose to 3.2 feet above normal sea level. In the next few months, King Tides will return to South Florida and experts predict they will be even higher from Oct. 5 to 11, Nov. 3 to 9, and Dec. 2 to 7.


Nicole Ardila is a Colombian-American student majoring in digital broadcasting at FIU. She's currently the Opinion Director for PantherNOW and strives to become a photojournalist and travel/lifestyle reporter.