With King Tide, N.H.'s Coast Gets a Preview of Higher Seas Future

Nov 5, 2017

Early this week, coastal communities in New Hampshire will experience an event known as King Tide. A King Tide occurs when the sun and moon align and their combined gravitational pull creates an especially high high-tide.

The flooding that comes with it gives Seacoast residents a taste of what a future with higher seas might look like.

The location of Deb Bourbeau’s house on the on the marsh side of Hampton Beach has a lot to offer.

“It’s a two-minute walk to the beach with all the activities but it’s also on the quiet side. And I do enjoy the marsh, I enjoy the wetlands. So I think we have the perfect spot.”

Her only problem is that about a half-dozen times a year that marsh expands to include her entire street.

Several streets in Hampton are subject to chronic flooding during the highest high-tides each year, like this King Tide.

On Sunday, as we walked down her street, we could actually watch the water creep up the pavement in subtle pulsating waves. It’s actually a little frightening – like a monster swallowing the street in slow motion.

“So these guys that are on the corner, you’ll see their seawall is pretty much gone and they take a hit every tide.”

Bourbeau’s house has taken a few hits, too. Inside, above some of the window frames and door jams you can see the evidence.

“When the water runs down the street or through our driveways, it’s actually eating our foundations.”

As the foundation erodes, the whole house shifts and cracks run up the dry walls.

Bourbeau has already had to replace a portion of her foundation. And even though she has an expensive flood insurance policy, it wasn’t covered because the damage is not from a storm, just a simple high tide.

Earlier this year, the flooding from high tide totaled two cars parked in their driveways on this street.

“There is talk about residents thinking about moving. Maybe at some point if our houses continue to deteriorate, I think it’s an individual decision that folks need to make.”

In the meantime, Bourbeau and her neighbors have worked out an arrangement with the town of Hampton where they can park for free in municipal lots whenever the tide reaches a certain height.

But she says that’s only a temporary solution. Bourbeau and her neighbors want the town to pay for an engineering study of how the flood waters move in and what they might be able to do about it.

“We truly are surrounded by water when we have the high tides.”

Bourbeau’s situation is a kind of glimpse into the future of what many more people living on the coast may have to deal with as oceans rise. A future where things like patching the cracks in the drywalls and checking the tide chart before leaving the car in the driveway are part of everyday life.

Still, Bourbeau is keeping a positive attitude. She’s snapping pictures for a King Tide photo contest. And she adds, no matter where you live, you have to contend with Mother Nature.