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'Sunny Day' High-Tide Flooding May Soon Affect Much Of Florida's Coast

 Map of high tide flooding by 2050
Map of high tide flooding by 2050

A new report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows coastal communities across the country saw record-setting high-tide flooding last year.

Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA's National Ocean Service, said the eastern Gulf of Mexico — including Florida — saw nine flood days last year. That's a 600% increase since the year 2000.

LeBouef says it's only going to get worse.

"For the first time in human history, the infrastructure we build must be designed and constructed with future conditions in mind," she said. "And along the coast, that means high-tide flooding conditions in mind."

Here's some of the report's findings:



  • St. Petersburg faces the highest long-term projection of flooding days of any of the 15 cities in Florida cited by the report. St. Petersburg saw two to three days of high-tide flooding in 2020. That number is projected to increase to 15 to 85 days in 2050.
  • Clearwater saw four to six high-tide flood days in 2020. That is projected to increase to 10 to 55 days in 2050.
  • Miami saw three to six days in 2020, and is projected to jump to between 10 to 55 days in 2050.
  • Cape Canaveral saw seven to 12 days in 2020, and is expected to increase to between 20 to 65 days in 2050.

"As sea level rise continues, damaging floods that decades ago happened only during a storm are now happening more regularly, even without severe weather such as during a full moon, tide or with a change in wind and currents," LeBouef said.

LeBoeuf said that means cities must be designed with future high-tide flooding conditions in mind, like raising the level of roads and homes.

NOAA oceanographer William Sweet said the waters in the Gulf of Mexico and along Florida's Atlantic coast are warming at deeper depths than they originally anticipated. This causes the water to expand in those areas, leading to a rise in sea level along those shores.

According tothe report, U.S. coastal communities saw twice as many high-tide flooding days than they did 20 years ago — and the trend of near-record high tides is expected to continue through April 2022, as well as in decades to come.

Along the Southeast Atlantic and Gulf coastlines, 14 locations set or tied records where rapidly increasing trends in high-tide flooding have emerged.

“NOAA’s tide gauges show that 80% of locations where we collect data along the Southeast Atlantic and Gulf coast are seeing an acceleration in the number of flood days,” said LeBoeuf. “High-tide flooding disrupts people’s lives when they can’t get to and from work or have to repeatedly deal with a flooded basement.

"NOAA is committed to working with coastal communities to provide the information and tools they need to tackle the problem of high-tide flooding, both now and in the coming years as sea levels continue to rise.”

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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.