Worst flooding still to come as tide grows

Charleston sees highest tide levels since 2009

Anyone planning to leave their home Wednesday morning can expect more flooded streets as the Charleston area sees its highest tide levels in six years.

According to meteorologist Carl Barnes, tomorrow’s high tide, occurring around 10:16 a.m., will be slightly above what residents saw Tuesday as coastal tides reach their highest level of this cycle. Barnes says current conditions are a result of two factors: the proximity of the moon to the Earth’s surface and persistent strong winds along the East Coast, especially in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.

“These are the highest high tides we’ve seen in Charleston Harbor since June 23, 2009. That was the last time we saw tides that were higher than this,” Barnes says. “Certainly, seeing tides as high as we’ve seen the last couple of days without any kind of tropical storm or low pressure off the coast is unusual. This is certainly higher than normal without seeing any kind of substantial storm in our area.”

While the past week’s flooded streets are the result of exceptional circumstances, nuisance flooding is becoming the new norm in Charleston. Last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that Charleston ranked seventh among U.S. cities in nuisance flooding. Since around 1960, the city has experienced a 409 percent increase in average flood days with rates accelerating since the 1980s. According to the study, the “large increases in nuisance flood events” found in Charleston reflect higher rates of sea-level rise relative to land.

“I’ve lived in Charleston 25 years and we flood a lot more than we used to, so there’s something going on in the longer term,” says Leslie Sautter, associate professor of geology and environmental geosciences at the College of Charleston.
As for Tuesday night, the National Weather Service in Charleston has issued a coastal flood advisory, which is in effect from 8 p.m. to midnight, followed by a coastal flood watch from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday. Coastal flooding is expected to occur for up to two hours Wednesday during which time tides are predicted to peak around 8.2 feet.

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