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King Tide Flooding Brings Pleas For South Florida Climate Change Plan, Funding

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Peter Haden/WLRN
The Florida Channel
U.S. Representative Ted Deutch wades through tidal flooding in Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 17, 2016.

This has been one of those weeks in South Florida when there’s a lot of water in the streets, even when the sun’s out. It’s a King Tide week. Business people, scientists and local officials got together in a Fort Lauderdale conference room with the water rising outside the building to talk about the problem.

Realtor Julie Jones says it’s one of the first things her buyers ask now: does the property flood during the king tides?

The days of just smiling sweetly and saying, “Oh no, it’s not a problem,” are clearly gone as you’re going to see this morning, she said.

Jones says buyers will often view historical images using Google Earth -- zeroing in on their prospective neighborhood. And according to real estate lawyer Ben Olive, they’re wise to do it.

There are no specific cases that require a seller to disclose this kind of flooding to the buyer.

Olive says there’s no legal precedent that says a seller must disclose to a buyer that a home floods during king tides.

There were two residents on the isles that said, “Hey, if I would have known this, I would not have purchased my home.”

Banker Keith Costello said the region needs a pro-active plan to address the seasonal flooding.

It is going to get to a point where banks are not going to lend on properties that are affected by the king tide sea level rise, he said.

South Florida needs a comprehensive regional plan to address flooding from rising sea levels and climate change, including sea walls, beach renourishment mobilization of stormwater pumps and other infrastructure.

Jennifer Jurado is Broward County’s chief climate resilience officer. She’s on the steering committee of the Southeast Florida Climate Compact.

“The economics of today require that we move promptly — particularly in addressing concerns about flood insurance,” Jurado said. “We certainly have the capabilities -- the point is to move very quickly.”

Dean Trantalis is Fort Lauderdale’s Vice-Mayor.

Walking through the alley behind the office building on Las Olas Boulevard, the storm water is shin high. Jurado is standing near the door.

Debris, pollution, and other things you would normally find captured on the roadways floats in the water. Potential for fecal coliform that would be associated with animal waste lurks beneath the surface.

Jurado says when she walked through Hollywood’s hard-hit South Lake neighborhood, she saw fish in the street.

U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch is also standing shin-deep in storm water -- and vowing to champion South Florida’s climate change needs in Washington.

“It affects our economy,” Deutch said. “It affects our community. Local officials are taking action. The federal government needs to play a role as well.”

About half a block down the alley, plumber P.J. Healy and his helper are standing in a narrow walkway.

“We’re doing some plumbing work inside the building here,” Healy said. “We’re trying to make our way in.

“My man’s got some boots on here, we’re trying to make our way through the water. We’re putting sandbags on the door. Trying to keep the water out. Water’s coming up through the floor inside the building.”

Healy said he’s never seen anything like it.

From a salon window, a big brown Mastif is staring past sandbags at the flood water. The dog and the salon belong to Francesca Guerrera. Inside, she’s blowdrying a client’s hair.

“I’ve been here almost 8 years,” Guerrera said. “Every year, it’s not a surprise. We still just pretend it doesn’t happen.”

Her client looks up from the chair.

“We’ve just kind-of adjusted to it,” she said. “But I told Francesca - I would swim to get here to get one of her blow drys.”

Peter Haden is an award-winning investigative reporter and photographer currently working with The Center for Investigative Reporting. His stories are featured in media outlets around the world including NPR, CNN en Español, ECTV Ukraine, USA Today, Qatar Gulf Times, and the Malaysia Star.