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Staying on Top of the Tides (Physical and Financial)

Living here in the lowcountry, the tides affect our daily life in ways we didn’t understand when we lived in Northern Virginia. Twice a day the tides expose the mudflats and fill the marsh, providing a natural rhythm to the days. Caused by the lunar cycle, the moon’s gravity literally pulls the water in and later out of our marshes, exposing fiddler crabs and sandbars. We expect high tides this weekend with a full moon.


Tides in our area usually go up and down about 6 feet twice a day, but they can move as much as 8 feet in their normal monthly rhythms. The high-highs and low-lows have increased since we moved to the area,  increasing with climate change. They are also affected by high winds, hurricanes, and summer storms. This means the real tide doesn’t always match the official NOAA prediction.

The height of tides is affected by the local geography. In the Southeastern Atlantic, the tides average 3 feet out at Cape Hatteras, NC, 6 feet in Charleston, and all the way up to 8 feet in Savannah, GA. In some parts of the world, like the Bay of Fundy, the tides can be as big as 60 feet. Boats literally go from sitting hard aground to floating in 60 feet of water in six and a half hours!

Extra high and low tides are coming to Charleston this weekend. Extra high and low tides are now referred to as “King Tides.” These bigger than normal fluctuations can be huge here in the Lowcountry. The high point in the local town called “Mount Pleasant” is 16 feet above sea level. That’s it. Just 16 feet. Many places are at 2 or 4 feet above sea level.

King Tide flooding is getting to be a regular occurrence, slowing traffic, closing roads, shutting businesses, sometimes depositing mud and muck in homes. South Caroline DHEC has a bunch of good information here, and you can even add your own photos.

My regular commute can be snarled when these king tides cover the road on Isle of Palms. Note: these puddles are filled with saltwater; we know of more than one person who ruined their car by driving through them. The important thing about king tides, is that you can prepare for them by planning your route on the highest ground. Our favorite sources for trusted information are at the bottom of this post.

Financial Tides

There are also “tides” in the financial world.  We need to be prepared — building the strength and flexibility to handle the changes that will come. We can plan our route on the high ground there as well.

King Tides eroding beach

Studies tell us that more than 60% of Americans don’t have the savings to handle a $1,000 emergency without taking out a loan or using credit. Don’t get caught like that.  

Having “rainy day” money gives you and your family the opportunity to get back on your feet. Life happens. You’ll be in much better shape to handle the floods if you’re prepared.

An Easy Way to Create an Emergency Fund

Change the automatic deposit settings on your paycheck to deposit 15% of your salary into a separate account until you have 3 to 6 months of savings.  


You don’t need to overprepare: If you already have that much saved, consider rerouting some of your paychecks to your investment account so you can accumulate funds for future trips, cars, boats, houses, college, and retirement.

Flood Insurance

Tidal “Nuisance Flooding” reminds us that you should look at your flood insurance long before a storm is on the way. If today is one of those days where you are going to “catch up on everything,” think about reaching out to your insurer and checking on your flood insurance.

The classification of flood zones in Charleston County changed dramatically in January 2021. The changes can have a significant impact on the rates you pay for insurance. It’s worth a call to your insurance agent to make sure you’re covered by the new, typically lower, rates AND you received appropriate refunds on premiums you paid last year (for coverage this year.)

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