Yes – the moon is largely responsible for the Earth’s tides. A full moon can effectively amplify the storm surge and waves that accompany a hurricane.
The only reason we have high tides and low tides is because of gravitational pull from the moon and the sun. To oversimplify what is a complex process, the moon and the sun both exert enough gravitational pull on the Earth’s surface that it causes the water closest to and furthest from them to bulge out, or rise.
The moon has the same effect on land as well, but rocks and dirt are much harder to move than water. You’ll never feel the gravitational pull of the moon, but the water does.
The water level across the Earth’s oceans aren’t perfectly even. Land masses, continents and other features get in the way of water moving where it would naturally go, which is why some places see more drastic tidal changes than others.
The highest tide in the world can be found in our neighbor to the north. More specifically, in Canada’s Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the difference between the most extreme high tides and low tides are nearly 38.5 feet.
If you want to follow Florida’s tides, some of the best resources you’ll find are websites dedicated to fishing. For example, when the moon is full on June 24, 2021, the low tide at 8:29 a.m. will be down 1.7 ft., while the high tide at 12:45 p.m. will be up 4.7 ft. The moon will cross the “local meridian” on that day at 12:57 p.m. You can get a much better idea of how this all works from websites like this one from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
One of the worst hurricanes to ever make landfall in North Carolina was Hurricane Hazel in 1954. It made landfall as a Category 4 with estimated 140 mph winds. Hurricane Hazel arrived in October, making it a fairly late-season hurricane. The full moon at the time caused one of the highest lunar tides of 1954 in North Carolina.
There were similar fears for North Carolina’s Hurricane Florence on September 14, 2018, which was just five days past a new moon. Although Hurricane Florence wasn’t particularly savage for a hurricane, making landfall as a Category 1, it broke all-time high-water records at tide gauges in Beaufort and Wilmington and ranked third highest in Wrightsville Beach. The storm surge from Florence had water 10 feet above ground level in New Bern, NC and 7 feet above ground level on Emerald Isle, NC.
The storm is estimated to have done $16.7 billion of damage, which accounted for a significant portion of the approximately $50.13 billion of damage in the 2018 hurricane season. North Carolina attributed 42 deaths to the storm. Hurricane Florence is also estimated to have displaced 455,000 residents, damaged 11,386 homes and caused 11 dams to breach or fail.
There were also concerns about Hurricane Sandy and whether the full moon was going to make that storm worse for residents all along the East Coast. The storm made landfall on October 29 in New Jersey, and October 29 just happened to be when the moon was waxing to its full phase. Estimates suggested tides along the Eastern Seaboard would be about 20 percent higher than normal.
The National Hurricane Center warned area residents that the combination of the high tides and the hurricane would lead to flooding in areas that normally stayed dry, even during stormy conditions.
Hurricane Sandy wasn’t the most powerful storm ever – it was only a Category 2 when it neared the U.S. coast – but it was one of the largest in terms of diameter. It impacted every state along the U.S. East Coast, from Maine to Florida. Sandy generated tropical-storm force winds across a staggering 1,150 miles, and the storm surge plus higher tides flooded streets, tunnels and subways in New York City. All told, it’s estimated to have caused $65 billion in damages, left millions of people without power and contributed directly or indirectly to hundreds of deaths in the U.S., Haiti and Cuba.
If you want to know when the tides are highest near you, check the NOAA’s Tides and Current page. There you can see calendars that map out tide predictions for the rest of 2021. You can also check the NOAA’s High Tide Bulletin for updates on when tides may be higher than normal in Florida.