October 4, 2017
High Tides, Winds Cause Flooding on Treasure Coast; Army Corps Cuts Lake O Discharges
By Tyler Treadway
A combination of extra-high "king" tides, winds and rain — yes, even more rain — is causing flooding in low-lying areas along the Treasure Coast.
And in Martin County, the problem is exacerbated by Lake Okeechobee discharges, although the Army Corps of Engineers has been cutting back on the amount of lake water reaching the St. Lucie River.
A Treasure Coast-wide flood watch is in effect through Thursday, with motorists advised to be careful flood-prone roads. Lots of roads are already flooded — at least at high tide.
The western end of Salerno Road in the St. Lucie Settlement, a neighborhood on the South Fork of the St. Lucie River near Stuart, was covered with about a foot of water Wednesday morning.
The swollen river could be seen rushing precariously close to houses, but no water appeared to be inside homes.
"It's the worst I've ever seen it when there wasn't a hurricane," said resident Dwight Buck. And the 93-year-old Buck has seen plenty: His house has flooded "two or three times" during hurricanes over the past 40 years.
"Usually the water drains off the road and into the river," Buck said. "Now the river is so high it's draining onto the road."
Some areas in Hobe Sound, as well as Pinetree and Mocking Bird lanes and Dyer Point Road in Palm City, are "experiencing some flood conditions consistent with high tides, storm surge and heavy rain," according to a Martin County news release.
The higher-than-normal tides so far this week have been caused by strong onshore easterly winds, said Matt Volkmer, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mebourne.
Beach-goers should expect 6- to 9-foot waves and dangerous rip currents through Thursday.
Some additional beach erosion is expected, compounding the moderate beach erosion from storms and Hurricane Irma last month.
As those winds shift to the southeast Thursday, extra high tides caused by the position of the sun and moon known as "king tides" will take over and last through the weekend, Volkmer said.
"So basically, there will be higher-than-normal tides for the rest of the week for two different reasons," Volkmer said.
Making matters worse, a tropical wave is expected to bring heavy rain — 2 to 4 inches on the Treasure Coast — beginning Thursday.
By Sunday, rain chances drop below 50 percent, according to meteorologists.
Indian River County
Michael C. Zito, assistant Indian River County administrator, calls it "the 'no-name storm event.' The impact of all the wind and rain and tides over the last 10 days has been substantial. It's got a lot of folks on the coast concerned."
Jungle Trail along the east side of the lagoon on the barrier island in Indian River County has been "closed down and re-opened several times over the last several days as the water level goes up and down," Zito said. "Residents are having trouble getting to their homes."
St. Lucie County
High tides are cresting over the earthen dikes surrounding St. Lucie County's mosquito impoundments along the Indian River Lagoon, said county spokesman Erick Gill. The dikes — which usually are open for fishing, crabbing, hiking and biking — have been closed since they were damaged in Hurricane Irma.
"We anticipate even higher tides in the next couple of days that may overwash many more dikes," Gill said. "We are hoping this will not cause significant damage above and beyond what was already inflicted by Hurricane Irma."
Lake O connection
Water started covering Salerno Road on Sunday night, said Gary St. Pierre, a St. Lucie Settlement resident.
Since then, the the Army Corps of Engineers has begun cutting back on Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie River, especially during high tides. "We're reducing, if not closing off the flow entirely," Campbell said.
Most of the water flowing through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam into the South Fork of the St. Lucie River has been rainwater runoff from western Martin County, not discharge from Lake Okeechobee.
· 2.3 billion gallons of water flowed through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam on Sunday, 2.2 billion gallons of it from Lake O.
· Nearly 1.9 billion gallons went through the dam Monday, about 730 million gallons of it from the lake.
· No water at all came out of the lake Tuesday, but about 764.6 million gallons of runoff poured into the St. Lucie River.
Wednesday morning, the lake elevation was 16 feet 6¾ inches and rising, although rising slower than it did immediately after Irma.
Despite the lake's slower rise, Campbell said it's too early to start thinking about an end to the discharges.
"There's still a lot of rain in the short-range forecast," he said, "and we're not out of hurricane season yet."