Key West Could Be Underwater by 2113

Florida Keys prepare for sea level rise

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 2, 2013 2:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – According to federal flood-planning directives, the ground floor of the Stock Island fire station in the Florida Keys should be built up 9 feet. Instead, county authorities went a foot and a half beyond that—just in case. Nearby parks, roads, and bridges also may be elevated. The sea level has risen 9 inches over the past 100 years, and it's expected to rise another 9 to 24 inches over the next half-century. As it rises, seasonal tidal flooding has worsened, and officials are trying to plan for it as best they can, the AP reports. Sea walls, like those New York is planning, won't really help because there are multiple factors at work, one Key West official explains.

"Our base is old coral reef, so it's full of holes," she says. "You've got both the erosion and the fact that (water) just comes up naturally through the holes." Officials are also trying not to scare off tourists as they prepare, although some projections for the next 100 years are pretty dire: They show the Keys and other parts of coastal Florida sinking beneath the waves. Part of combating the problem is fighting climate change. Reads one county's set of plans: "We clearly have the most to lose. If sea-level rise is not curtailed by immediate reductions in greenhouse gases, the Florida Keys may eventually become unlivable."

This May 2, 2013, file photo shows flooding on Duval Street in Key West, Fla., after roughly five inches of rainfall.   (AP Photo/The Key West Citizen, Rob O'Neal)
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