Mi­ami­ans can track king-tide flood­ing with cit­i­zen science

Miami Herald - - Front Page - BY ALEX HAR­RIS ahar­ris@mi­ami­her­ald.com

King tides, the high­est tides of the year, are com­ing and flood­ing is ex­pected. Mi­ami res­i­dents can track the flood­ing through the ISeeChange app.

The high­est tides of the year, known as king tides, are here again to flood roads, parks and the oc­ca­sional home or busi­ness.

This year, in ad­di­tion to the army of flood pumps that coastal cities de­ploy to keep streets dry, the city of Mi­ami is hop­ing that its res­i­dents will mon­i­tor the floods and re­port what they see. It’s part of a new part­ner­ship de­signed to fill in the gaps that com­puter mod­els can’t.

“We al­ways say hu­mans are the best sen­sors,” said Clau­dia Se­bas­tiani, the Mi­ami com­mu­nity man­ager with ISeeChange, a New Or­leans­based firm that gath­ers res­i­dent-re­ported changes — such as flood hot spots — in their neigh­bor­hoods to help cities de­cide where to in­vest in flood pro­tec­tion.

King tides be­gan in Septem­ber, and some of the ini­tial posts on the app show the now-fa­mil­iar sight of deep pud­dles around storm drains and park­ing lots. This batch of high tides runs from Oc­to­ber 14-21, ac­cord­ing to NOAA cal­cu­la­tions. Tides have crept up higher and higher be­fore peak­ing dur­ing Fri­day’s morn­ing high tide and slowly shrink­ing.

“Tides are cur­rently run­ning .6 ft above NOAA pre­dicted peaks, which (if that stays con­sis­tent) should re­sult in a max­i­mum king tide around 1.7 FT NAVD,” Alan Dodd, Mi­ami’s chief re­silience of­fi­cer, wrote in an email.

Th­ese an­nual tides are nat­u­rally high thanks to the in­flu­ence of the moon and the Gulf

Stream, but sea-level rise has turned them into the most vis­i­ble symp­tom of cli­mate change. The high tides are grow­ing higher as oceans grow warmer. A re­cently re­leased re­port showed the king tides of 2020 in Mi­ami-Dade could be the equiv­a­lent of the daily high tide by 2040.

King tides give cities a chance to see how their drainage sys­tems will fare un­der the higher tides of the fu­ture and to test-run the ex­pen­sive new up­grades that they’ve made.

Mi­ami has al­ready in­stalled 103 one-way ti­dal valves, which al­low wa­ter to trickle out of drainage pipes but stop it from seep­ing back in, in ad­di­tion to sev­eral pump sta­tions. For the cur­rent king tides, Dodd said the city placed tem­po­rary pumps in five spots: the Shorecrest neigh­bor­hood, Morn­ing­side

Park, Brick­ell Bay Drive, Fairview Street and North Bay­homes Drive.

Mi­ami Beach — which has spent hun­dreds of mil­lions rais­ing roads, in­stalling flood pumps and rais­ing sea­walls through the city — is de­ploy­ing eight tem­po­rary pumps. They’ll be placed at Com­merce Street and Al­ton Road, 8th Street and West Av­enue, 19th Street and Jef­fer­son Av­enue, Muse Park, 56th Street and North Bay Road, 59th Street and North Bay Road, Rue Notre Dame and Mar­seille Drive and 29th Street and In­dian Creek.

Mi­ami Beach res­i­dents who live on streets that reg­u­larly flood can ap­ply for free park­ing else­where in the city dur­ing king tides and hur­ri­canes. The city also “strongly en­cour­ages” res­i­dents in those ar­eas to in­stall flood pan­els or use sand­bags to pro­tect their prop­er­ties, ac­cord­ing to a news­let­ter that the city sends out ahead of king tides.

In Mi­ami Beach, res­i­dents can re­port flood­ing by email­ing flood­ing@ mi­amibeachfl.gov. In Mi­ami, res­i­dents can post pic­tures to the ISeeChange app, which is in a two-year pi­lot part­ner­ship funded by the Knight Foun­da­tion.

“We’re re­ally try­ing to cen­ter the res­i­dents in that ex­pe­ri­ence, rather than cen­ter the tides all the time,” said Jared Gen­ova, strate­gist and busi­ness­de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor for ISeeChange. “If we don’t un­der­stand how those three feet are re­ally af­fect­ing peo­ple, then we don’t know how to plan for it.”

In New Or­leans’ low­ly­ing Gen­tilly neigh­bor­hood, ISeeChange users doc­u­mented 28 flood events over four years, which led the city to change its flood-pro­tec­tion plans to store even more wa­ter be­neath a neigh­bor­hood foot­ball and baseball field.

Gen­ova said the com­pany hopes to repli­cate that suc­cess in Mi­ami, which is de­vel­op­ing a new stormwa­ter mas­ter plan de­signed to ad­dress flood­ing.

That means when the mod­els shap­ing the plan spit out a po­ten­tial prob­lem area, Se­bas­tiani goes to check it out. She talks to res­i­dents to see if there re­ally is flood­ing and if it’s swamp­ing their homes and busi­nesses.

Last week, res­i­dents showed her how a bus stop in Lit­tle Havana goes un­der­wa­ter at the slight­est rain­storm, with flood­wa­ters reach­ing halfway through the ad­ja­cent park­ing lot.

So far there are only about 50 posts on the Mi­ami page of the site, many by Se­bas­tiani her­self. She at­tributes the low user base to the dig­i­tal di­vide in older, more in­land neigh­bor­hoods. The app is in the process of adding Span­ish trans­la­tions, and Se­bas­tiani said she would like to see Haitian Cre­ole added.

The long­est-run­ning cit­i­zen science pro­gram fo­cused on king tide, Florida In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity’s Sea Level So­lu­tions Day, is hold­ing its fourth an­nual event on Satur­day. Par­tic­i­pants check wa­ter depth as well as wa­ter qual­ity, which can be sul­lied by fer­til­izer washed from lawns, oil drip­ping from cars or the thou­sands of leaky sep­tic tanks through­out the county.

The fi­nal bout of king tides this year will be from Novem­ber 13-18, al­though NOAA doesn’t pre­dict it will be as high as the Oc­to­ber tides.

PE­DRO POR­TAL ppor­tal@mi­ami­her­ald.com

A wo­man walks on 71st Street in Mi­ami Beach in Septem­ber last year, avoid­ing the over­flow wa­ter due to a king tide. King tides are ex­pected now through Wed­nes­day and Nov. 13-18.

DANIEL A. VARELA dvarela@mi­ami­her­ald.com

Flood­wa­ter brought in by a king tide cov­ers West Fairview Street in Co­conut Grove in Septem­ber last year.

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