The annual tidal phenomenon is arriving in the Sunshine State at an unfortunate time.

By Marisa Spyker
August 29, 2019
Hurricane Irma struck Miami in 2017
Warren Faidley/Getty Images

While Labor Day weekend in the Sunshine State is typically a time when hordes of tourists are welcomed into beach towns across the state, this year, Florida is instead bracing for one very unwelcome visitor: Hurricane Dorian. The storm has spent the days leading up to the weekend gaining steam and is expected to make landfall as a Category 4 somewhere along the Atlantic coast on Monday.

But while Florida is certainly well-versed in prepping for hurricanes, Dorian’s timing poses a unique threat to the state’s coastlines. According to CNN, Labor Day weekend will also signal the start of Florida’s King Tides, a phenomenon which happens once or twice a year when the moon is closest to the earth. As the name suggests, a King Tide brings with it some of the highest tides of the year—and those that occur in the fall specifically, when water is at its warmest, are especially significant.

Couple that with a brewing hurricane, which can intensify quicker in the Caribbean’s toasty subtropical waters, and Florida might have itself the perfect storm. “The fact that the storm is hitting during some of the highest tides of the year is concerning,” says CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller. “The King Tides adding a couple of feet to the water height is almost like the storm being a category higher on the scale.”

Related: The Most Disastrous Hurricanes in U.S. History: 

When Dorian hits, the combination of King Tides and heavy rainfall could mean more significant flooding in the region, and flooding that extends further inland. However, the presence of the King Tide alone doesn’t guarantee significantly greater destruction; what’s more important is what time and where the storm is when it hits. “If it approaches at low tide, the impact will be decreased,” says meteorologist Kevin Rodriguez at the National Weather Station in Melbourne. “But if it approaches at high tide, that will mean an increase in storm surge and flooding.”  

Regardless of what Dorian decides to do, Florida is doing what it can to prep for the worst. Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Wednesday for all 67 counties in the state, while cities like Fort Lauderdale have been busy taking measures to reduce flooding such as lowering canals and installing higher seawalls. “We always hope for the best but we prepare for the worst,” says Dr. Nancy Gassman, assistant public works director for Fort Lauderdale.

The National Hurricane Center said tropical storm-force winds could begin in parts of Florida as early as Saturday evening. Learn more about how you can prepare for a hurricane here.