Miami Mayor: City Flooding "Like a Hurricane" Again Today Thanks to King Tides

Miami Mayor: City Flooding "Like a Hurricane" Again Today Thanks to King Tides
City of Miami
Thanks to sea-level rise, Florida's unique topography, and poor city planning, areas of Miami-Dade County look like a hurricane hit them today. But there's not even a tropical storm in town. Instead, mere weeks after a real hurricane did damage major parts of South Florida, the Miami area is massively flooding thanks to a combination of some moderate storms hitting during king tides, when the sea is at its highest point all year.

Photos of Miami circulating online today are difficult to distinguish from the city during Hurricane Irma. And the high tides aren't limited to just Miami Beach. On the mainland, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, who is pushing a $200 million sea-level-rise mitigation and resiliency plan, has been driving around town all day taking note of the flooding. He's not pleased.

"Today, Miami is flooding as if a hurricane went through it," Regalado tweeted just before noon.

This is bad. We're only beginning to see the impacts of climate change in Miami, and flooding is already shutting the city down multiple days per year. The National Weather Service says a flooding advisory will remain in effect across most of mainland Miami until 2:15 p.m. thanks to poorly designed city drainage systems.
Around 10 a.m., the City of Miami issued a warning basically telling drivers to avoid downtown. A map the city released warned that streets along the major Biscayne Boulevard corridor from the Upper Eastside south to downtown could become too flooded to navigate. The city said the same could be true for portions of the Venetian Causeway into Miami Beach.
Naturally, Miami Beach is also pretty much a no-go zone all day today. Miami Herald reporter Joey Flechas has snapped multiple images of flooded roads and streets across the island. He also noted online that the flooding is comparable to what happened when Irma hit.
Barring major changes, this is the new normal in Miami. The dire, city-sinking-into-Atlantis warnings that countless scientists and major magazines have predicted is not coming in the future — it's already here, and city officials are struggling to react. The same areas of the county that flooded today were also inundated when the remnants of Tropical Storm Emily hit in August.

Miami Beach is rushing to complete a $400 million storm-water-pumping system designed to mitigate the impacts of tidal-flooding events such as this one. Since the Emily flooding fiasco, where multiple pumps in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood failed because of power outages, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has repeatedly gone on the defensive, reminding the public that only 15 percent of the pump upgrades have been installed so far. Moreover, the city said those pumps aren't even designed to prevent flooding from major storms, which are likely to knock power out to the systems — a statement that angered many residents.

But there isn't much city leaders can do. They're not in a position to, say, force major polluters to stop spewing carbon into the air or broker emissions deals with the Indian and Chinese governments.

Mayor Regalado is now pushing his own upgrade plan and campaigning to persuade residents to vote for the $400 million "Miami Forever" proposal in November. Half of that money would go toward drainage-improvement and storm-water-pumping projects in areas such as downtown and Brickell, which are underwater again today. The plan would also pay for Miami to raise its seawalls. Regalado tweeted earlier today that the existing walls were swallowed this morning by the king tides.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.