How tide and wind affect flooding in Red Hook

Tide + surge + wind over water (fetch) = what you need to know.

Tide Table locations: Gowanus Bay (the water south of Red Hook), The Battery in Manhattan is about a 20 minute difference from Atlantic Basin

To calculate the risk of flooding at a location,

You need to take the height of the expected storm surge, the time it is expected, and compare that time to the tide cycle in the harbor.

Places are most vulnerable at the point of high tide.  To calculate projected surge risk  at that point, you have to add the height of the incoming water to the height of the tide at that time.

There is about a 5 foot difference between high and low tide in NYC; so a 5' surge, if it comes at low tide, will not run into Red Hook.  That's why we were were spared by 2011's hurricane Irene, the surge did not hit at high tide. 

There are two high tides and two low tides each day. There is roughly six hours between high tide one and low tide, and then another six hours until the second high tide. In other words, the high tides are 12 hours apart and the low tides are 12 hours apart.  

Wind can compound the effects of rising waters in that winds from the south will push the Atlantic Ocean onto land and push the water in the Upper Bay towards Red Hook. Winds from the northeast would push the waters away from Red Hook.

Wind also has an effect on the water within the harbor in terms of creating local waves. 

Here is a definition of fetch.

An area of the water surface over which waves are generated by a wind having a constant direction and speed. Also, it is the name given to the length of the fetch area, measured in the direction of the wind from which the seas are generated. One of the ingredients for lake effect snow is the fetch of the water over which cold air can gain moisture.

The big Upper Bay (between Red Hook, the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island) is a big water space which can create fetch issues if the wind is coming from west or southwest.

Tide + surge + wind over water (fetch) = more water hitting the shore at peak of crashing waves. 

In Red Hook, there were also many underground springs, so sometimes flooding here comes from groundwater welling up and not just seawater coming in. 

Add to that the water coming from overflowing sewers, and Red Hook can have water coming in from many sides.

Due to climate change, we all need to be more aware of flooding risks, engage in emergency preparedness and resiliency planning.

Fun & relevant historical fact:  There is Red Hook area close to the harbor which did not flood during Sandy, that is the square defined by the blocks of Dikeman, Coffey, and Van Dyke Street between Conover & Ferris Street. 

It was Cypress Island, a high hill near the Revolutionary War era Fort Defiance (the fort for which the local restaurant is named), a hill which was leveled to fill the low land near it. The site of that hill remains higher than the filled area near it.

You can see the hill on old maps, such as the one below.  This also shows how much of Red Hook has been filled to make the peninsula as it is today.

Related Tour


Share this Item