By Cheryl Blackerby

    King tides, the highest tides of the year, caused alarming and unprecedented coastal flooding from Miami Beach to Palm Beach County last October.  
    The extreme high tides, also called autumnal tides, will be back this month.
    “The highest predicted astronomical tides of the year will be Oct. 5 through 11 and at its peak Oct. 8 and 9,” said Robert Molleda, meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Miami.
    It’s difficult to predict how high this year’s tides will rise.
    “Tides may be lower or higher than last year depending on many factors, including storms and strong winds out in the ocean,” Molleda said.
    Last year, the sun was shining and the National Weather Service had just announced the dry season had officially started when the streets flooded. No hurricane or tropical storms were coming, but residents on Marine Way in Delray Beach stacked sandbags around their doors and watched seawater creep across their front lawns and into their houses.
    Farther south, a foot of sea water flooded the streets and low elevations of Fort Lauderdale. In Miami Beach, saltwater pushed up through the drains and stood 2 feet deep on Alton Road.
    The king tides are an emerging problem in coastal areas around the world, prompting scientists in Australia to start the King Tides Project. “Citizen scientists” — from Australia to Italy to Tampa — take photos of water levels during king tides and photos of the same place with normal tides. The images show what future sea levels will be and what is at risk.
    “We had really high king tides in areas that didn’t typically flood,” said Misty Cladas, project manager for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. Two years ago, she asked local residents to join the King Tides Project, and the photos turned out to be a wake-up call for the future. The threat of sea rise was suddenly very real.
    “What we’re trying to do is bring awareness about sea level rise for planning building construction, wildlife habitat and infrastructure, such as sewers and roads,” she said.
    The term “king tide” is used to describe an especially high tide event occurring twice a year when there is alignment of the gravitational pull between the sun and moon. This year, the fall king tides will be the highest of the year.
    The predicted heights of a king tide can be amplified by local weather patterns and ocean conditions.
    “When king tides occur, people notice the flooding, but they may not be aware of other issues caused by high water levels that can cause great damage to properties and the coastline,” Cladas said. “Residents are becoming more aware of the problems and the need to prepare.”

King tide events
• For more information on the King Tides Project go to kingtides.net.
• A King Tide Education Event will be held at 10 a.m., Oct. 8, at the intersection of Marina Way and Southeast First Street in Delray Beach. Dr. Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, a Delray Beach resident and consultant on environmental land use planning and coastal hazard resiliency, will be a speaker. The event is presented by Delray Beach Rising Waters Task Force.

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