As Hurricane Ian churns toward Florida today, it’s sending rain bands into the southern half of the peninsula. Driving in South Florida where I live, I saw several streets and intersections near the Intracoastal Waterway that don’t normally flood during heavy rainstorms filled with a foot or more of water. Real estate was also being impacted. While the rain is certainly contributing to the flooding, the real culprit is king tides — extra high tides due to the alignment of the sun and moon — combined with sea level rise.
Unfortunately, the storm is striking at the height of a week of higher than normal tides that peaks on Thursday. If today is any indication, the flooding is going to not only flood roads, it’s going to flood yards and homes in the days to come.
Each neighborhood I visited was flooding because of saltwater topping seawalls, emerging out of storm grates, or because pump systems couldn’t keep up. Sadly, I also saw some residents awestruck that their neighborhoods were flooding, even though some of them have been flooding for years. My best guess is that they purchased the properties without being aware of the flooding risk.
Another point to ponder is that many people who bought a property that itself isn’t flooding are discovering that owning real estate that you can’t reach because of sea level rise flooding is a major management issue and a pain in the neck. It’s also disconcerting because unless the flooding is prevented — through the use of elevated seawalls, elevated roads or pumps — sea level rise will eventually cause the flooding to swamp yards and homes.
What I witnessed today in my town is certainly occurring in many other coastal communities this week. It’s a powerful reminder that owners in coastal communities need to start considering sea level rise in their plans, and buyers need to perform due diligence to make sure that their property of interest, streets and neighborhood aren’t currently flooding or likely to flood in the future hurricane or no hurricane.