Tybee Island is watching for flooding from the southeast ‘royal tide’ this weekend

Residents of the Savannah area, especially those on Tybee Island, may need to do advance planning for the weekend as the southeast coast anticipates potential flooding due to high tide levels.

A combination of high tides and strong winds can cause what meteorologists call a “king tide” that could lead to higher flood risks in parts of Chatham County, including Highway 80, the only corridor connecting Tybee Island to the mainland.

Tybee City Manager Shawn Gillen said drivers saw water overflowing on Highway 80 Friday morning.

When tide levels reach 10 to 10.5 feet, water from the Savannah River could spill onto the shoulder and into the road, Gillen said.

the currently predicted high tide levels are:

  • November 4 at 8:00 a.m. – 10.1 feet
  • November 5 at 9:00 a.m. – 10.4 feet
  • November 6 at 10:00 a.m. – 10.9 feet

A 10.9ft ridge could “lead to significant coastal flooding” and “any rain during high tide periods could exacerbate flooding problems”, according to Tybee Flood Alert from Thursday to Saturday.

The National Weather Service extended the coastal flood warning until Sunday. Heavy rain is expected in the region for most of Saturday.

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The Island and Chatham County Public Safety Departments will monitor roads on the ground during morning tidal cycles until the coast is clear, Gillen said.

Residents should check their emails and texts for notifications about road closures and monitor The town of Tybee, Fire, Lifeguard and police websites for updates.

Chatham Emergency Management Services also post flood advisories on their Twitter page.

Gillen points out that since low sections of Highway 80 were raised in 2018, there has yet to be any significant flooding. Previously, the road had to be closed several times a year.

“We’re going to watch it on our side and Chatham County will watch it on their side in case it gets to where there’s water in the road and we have to shut it down,” Gillen said, “Everything that there is to do what you have to do is wait and, in an hour or two, there is no more water and it is gone.”

Other areas likely to be flooded include routes on Wilmington Island, Thunderbolt and Burnside Island.

Although Tybee hasn’t seen a tide level warning this high since around 2015, the tides have been rising steadily for decades.

A National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study found that the low-lying barrier island has experienced 10 inches of rice at sea level since 1935.

Three of the ten highest tides on record occurred in 2015. In total, the highway experienced about 23 tidal floods that year, according to NOAA.

“These events cut it off from the mainland, which turned out to be not only a security and evacuation problem, but also an economic problem,” the official said. NOAA Report 2016.

Tybee will use its usual safety protocols for emergency evacuations in the event of a medical emergency.

“We have various other routes to get medical emergencies out of the island, we have a marine rescue team and things like that for medical evacuations if we need them,” Gillen said.

Due to rising sea levels, many Tybee residents have had to raise their homes to avoid flooding and resulting water damage.

Nuisance flooding during rain and high tide has increased over the years, which a resident documented Friday morning on the MyCoast site.

MyCoast collects evidence of storm damage and other markers of climate change affecting the coast. Additional photos documenting this weekend’s royal tide can be found at mycoast.org.

At the same time, some residents of the seaside town have grown accustomed to the case, taking the news head on.

“As far as royal tides…business as usual,” said Tybee resident Juli Zopf.

Zopf said she has no plans to leave the island as this weekend coincides with Savannah’s annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, “unless the weather gets severe.”

Nancy Guan is the general assignment reporter covering Chatham County municipalities. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @nancyguann.

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