As a tornado tore through streets of Clearwater and Dunedin early Thursday morning and storms rolled through Tampa Bay throughout the day, some Pinellas residents also worried about rising waters.
Around the early afternoon high tides, water levels rose to the doorsteps of businesses along Tarpon Springs’ familiar sponge docks, and waves spilled over the sides of seawalls in Madeira Beach.
In Shore Acres, a flood-prone St. Petersburg neighborhood, high tide submerged busy streets, and vehicles passing through pushed floodwaters up driveways.
George Lackett walked his dog, Lenny, around the neighborhood while the tide was going out. He moved to Shore Acres from New Jersey three years ago and has evacuated twice — for hurricanes Ian and Idalia. While it’s common for rainstorms to flood streets in the low-lying neighborhood, Lackett, 66, said Thursday’s storms brought “above-average” flooding to the area.
“I mean it floods, but not like this. You get it around the storm drains and maybe in isolated pockets,” he said. “But this is pretty widespread here.”
Larry Gibson, 52, grew up in Pinellas Park and was housesitting for a friend in Shore Acres who was still displaced by flood damage from Idalia. While the friend battles his insurance company, Gibson is looking after the house and his friend’s cats. When he set off on his bicycle to get groceries, Gibson said he wasn’t surprised to see flooded streets blocking his path to Publix Thursday afternoon.
“This place is notorious for it,” he said. “When it sprinkles, it floods.”
Nicole Carlisle, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office, said the low-pressure system bringing severe weather to the Gulf Coast is causing an effect similar to storm surge.
“That’s just been pushing the water more toward land,” Carlisle said. “So, it’s just caused the water levels to rise a little bit across our coastline.”
Water levels have already exceeded normal tide conditions around Tampa Bay.
At 9 a.m., water levels at Clearwater Beach were running nearly 2½ feet above the predicted tides, according to tidal gauge data.
By 11 a.m., a St. Petersburg tide station measured the water level and found it 2 feet higher than expected.
Pinellas County warned residents Thursday morning that these higher-than-normal tides were expected into the afternoon.
“Coastal and barrier island residents and those traveling through these areas should prepare for potential localized flooding,” the county said in a news release. “Remember, brake don’t wake!”
Carlisle said coastal residents should expect water levels to continue rising as high tide approaches, but that flood risk should lessen as the tides wane later Thursday afternoon.
“It’s not expected to be too bad,” she said. “But it is expected to go up a little bit more over the next several hours.”
High tides come in 12-hour cycles. Rick Davis, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Tampa Bay office, said the flood risk is expected to continue into the evening and early Friday morning when the next high tide returns.
“That high tide probably will be the last well-above-normal tide,” Davis said.
By midday Friday, water levels should fall significantly, he said.
“We might be 1 foot above normal tomorrow,” Davis said. “But not the 2-to-3 feet like we’re seeing today.”
Here is a list of high tides across the Tampa Bay area:
Clearwater Beach: 11:09 a.m. and 11:14 p.m.
St. Petersburg: 1:43 p.m. and Friday at 1:46 a.m
East Bay: 1:52 p.m. and Friday at 2:01 a.m.
Old Tampa Bay: 2:13 p.m. and Friday at 2:30 a.m.