A pier in the Bay Ridge community of Annapolis, still 90 minutes before high tide. Photo: Peter Martino

Flood Warning: Bay Region Braces for Water Levels Not Seen Since Isabel

Much of the Chesapeake Bay region is bracing for a weather pattern that will bring extreme high tides and severe flooding, along with strong winds and rain.

Flooding near the Spa Creek Bridge in Eastport. Photo: John Martino

The National Weather Service said in a tweet, “One of the biggest tidal flood events of the past 10-20 years (possibly since Hurricane Isabel at some locales), is expected Friday & Saturday. Those along tidal shores should get ready for exceptional tidal inundation!”

The high tides began Thursday, and some Bay cities have already seen effects. In Annapolis, Compromise Street was closed due to an unusually high morning tide, and the city made sandbags available to residents and businesses. At the Annapolis City Marina property on Severn Avenue in Eastport, water reached the inside of the parking garage.

The city advises people to expect continuing road closures in low-lying areas.

On Friday, Anne Arundel, Harford, Dorchester, and Baltimore counties in Maryland closed public schools. The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center on Kent Island was closed to the public due to flooded access roads, and state parks including the Bill Burton Fishing Pier and Point Lookout State Park are closed.

In southern Anne Arundel County, concerned community members shared a photo on social media of a powerboat adrift in Fairhaven Friday morning. Thursday’s Bar and Grill in Owings, Md. posted the picture in hopes of reaching the boat’s owner, and friends were able to notify him.

This boat was found adrift Friday morning. Photo: Thursday’s Bar and Grill/Facebook

In addition to especially high tides, sustained winds of 25 miles per hour with gusts up to 50 miles per hour are predicted Friday along with up to an inch of rain. When the rain ends Friday night, the the east/southeast winds are expected to keep pushing water up the Bay, potentially causing near-historic flooding.

The City of Annapolis released the following high tide forecast between Thursday, Oct. 28 and Sunday, Oct. 31: 

Thu., Oct. 2811 a.m.3.28 ft MLLW
Fri., Oct 29 12 a.m.4 to 4.5 ft MLLW
Fri., Oct 2912 p.m.3.5 to 4 ft MLLW
Sat., Oct. 301 a.m.4.8 to 5.3 ft MLLW
Sat., Oct. 301 p.m.4.1 to 4.6 ft MLLW
Sun., Oct. 312 a.m.4 to 4.5 ft MLLW
Sun., Oct. 312 p.m.2.7 to 3.2 ft MLLW

If tides really did reach five feet, it would be only the third time since the 1930s.

Coastal flood warnings have been issued for most of the Chesapeake Bay and tidal Potomac River. And gale warnings are in effect for the entire Bay.

In North Beach, coastal flooding was also already being felt on Thursday. An emergency alert went out to residents warning them to move their cars from certain low-lying streets.

In Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore, one of the Mid-Atlantic’s most vulnerable areas to flooding, the emergency management department warned people, “It is being predicted that areas of Dorchester should anticipate and prepare for MAJOR flooding with comparison secondary to Hurricane Isabel. The highest tide cycle is predicted to happen Friday evening. Even on a low tide, water levels are expected to remain in the 2-3 feet above normal range. High tides may come with water in the 4-5 feet above normal range … We ask that you monitor and we will update as this weather event evolves.”

Boat owners were urged on Thursday to consider pulling their boats out of their slips, off the water or onto mooring balls. Through this weather event, the Annapolis Harbormaster advises boat owners to regularly check on their vessel. “As water rises and falls, docked boats may shift to floating above the pier or lift and may become lodged on fixed structures or atop other boats. If your boat is on a lift, it will need secondary lines,” the harbormaster said. Boaters should also check the height of pilings, and consider turning off electricity to piers as conditions worsen.

Bay Bulletin is monitoring the ongoing high tide event.

-Meg Walburn Viviano