Winter storm, new moon contribute to coastal flooding

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Warwick Cove flooding Feb. 9_257962

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — The winter storm that moved out Monday night left behind several inches of snow, slippery roads, and flooding in some areas.

Communities such as Warwick, Newport, Barrington, Narragansett and North Kingstown all saw coastal flooding, which an expert at the University of Rhode Island believes will become all too common in the near future.

Around high tide Tuesday morning, Narragansett Bay flooded onto streets around Rhode Island, including on Arnolds Neck Drive in Warwick, which police were forced to block off.

In Wickford, Duck Cove flooded Earle Drive, almost cutting off access to the peninsula.

“At those high, high tides, particularly if you have wind blowing water onshore, you get a lot of coastal flooding,” said John King of URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography.

Northerly winds behind Monday’s storm pushed the high water onto the roadways, which King said was a natural occurrence.

“You get the highest high tides and the lowest low tides when it’s a full moon or a new moon,” he explained. “Right now it’s a new moon.”

While this kind of flooding often happens with big storms, King said it’s expected to become more common and noticeable due to unnatural forces.

“What we’re looking at is extreme high tide superimposed by higher sea level,” said King.

King said sea levels are going up at rates never seen before in Earth’s history, caused by warming of the atmosphere, and sea levels could go up three feet by 2050.

“The relief of the coast of Rhode Island is relatively low-lying,” he added. “If you increase the sea level by a foot, that travels some distance well inland.”

Outside of fighting Mother Nature with infrastructure improvements, King said cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions could slow the sea-level rise.

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