KIMBERLY MILLER | PALM BEACH POST | 4:53 pm EDT September 22, 2020
Teddy earned back a Category 2 title early Tuesday with 105-mph winds south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was aided in its abrading of Palm Beach County’s coastline by lingering higher-than-normal tides from last week’s new moon.
National Hurricane Center forecasters noted that Teddy’s reach of destructive winds had nearly doubled overnight Monday with hurricane-force winds extending 140 miles from its center and tropical storm force winds reaching outward up to 415 miles.
A Canadian buoy reported a significant wave height of 34-feet about 207 miles from the storm’s center. Significant wave heights are the average of the highest 33 percent of waves.
Tropical Depression Beta (left) and Hurricane Teddy on Sept. 22, 2020 as seen by the GOES East satellite.
That power manifested itself near downtown West Palm Beach around midday Tuesday as stains of brackish Intracoastal water flowed backwards up street drains until roads were under at least a foot of water in several areas along Flagler Drive.
“God knows what’s in there,” said West Palm Beach resident Sumner Kaye, about the slurry inching toward his house near 34th Street and Flagler. “If we get a hard rain and a king tide, it’s like a tsunami.”
Strong easterly winds off the coast of Juno Beach caused some section of the beach to erode near Beach Access 31, Tuesday, September 22, 2020.
September is typically the month when South Florida begins to experience its deepest high tides, also called king tides – a combination of multiple factors including a slower Gulf Stream current, warmer waters, lunar alignment and sea level rise. The king tides usually last at least through November.
With the new moon – a trigger for higher tides – occurring nearly a week prior, it’s likely much of Tuesday’s flooding was because of Teddy, said Brian McNoldy, a senior researcher at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
High tide caused flooding along Flagler Drive near the El Cid neighborhood Tuesday afternoon in West Palm Beach, September 22, 2020. [ALLEN EYESTONE/palmbeachpost.com]
Allen Eyestone, The Palm Beach Post
“We have about a 7- to 8-foot northeasterly swell pushing directly into the shore and that’s Teddy, but we also have some high surf with that, and that’s a combination of wind waves following the front,” said Paxton Fell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “There’s a lot going on and a bunch of hazards too.”
A coastal flood advisory and high surf advisory are in effect through 8 p.m. Wednesday, but may be extended. A high risk of rip currents is in effect through Friday evening.
At Palm Beach’s Midtown Beach, a single-red flag waved Tuesday indicating a high hazard as a relentless roll of whitewater crashed ashore. A single red flag means people can swim, but there were few takers, said Craig Pollock, Palm Beach’s chief lifeguard.
The only heads bobbing in the froth around 1 p.m. were lifeguards using the tumultuous waters for training.
“Yesterday, the whole beach was a tidal bowl,” said Pollock, who recruited a town firetruck to help pull one of the lifeguard towers out of the reach of Monday’s high tide.
Louis Espinosa takes photos of the waves splashing against the pump house on Singer Island in Palm Beach Shores, Florida on September 21, 2020. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)
Greg Lovett, The Palm Beach Post
Fell said the winds and swell should begin to relax Wednesday with drier air lingering through Thursday night when the front that went through Monday is wrenched back north by the tail of Tropical Depression Beta. Beta made landfall in Port O’Connor, Texas Monday night as a tropical storm.
Beta is the season’s ninth named storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. That ties 1916 for the most landfalls in a season.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, the hurricane center was giving an area associated with the front south of Florida a 10 percent chance of developing into something tropical over five days.
The next name on the 2020 hurricane list is Gamma, from the Greek alphabet. The Greek alphabet is used when the traditional 21-name list is exhausted.
Greek alphabet cyclone names
“While we expected the Greek alphabet with our August forecast, I’m certainly surprised to see it this early,” said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach on Friday just before Beta formed. “I think 30 named storms for the season is a reasonable number.”
An average hurricane season has 12 named storms and six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.