New Gauge Offers Real-Time Readings on Ocean City Tide Levels

Bookmark a USGS site to get information on water level and water temperature on the bay.


Saturday morning brings some classic winter weather for Ocean City: snow turning to rain and steady northeast winds. And whenever the wind and rain conspire with the tides, there's a good chance that a lot of that water will flood the streets on an island as elevation-challenged as Ocean City.

A new tool can help determine just how bad each coming flood will be: a gauge set up at the that delivers real-time readings of tide levels and water temperature.


See and bookmark the tide gauge here.

Flood watches are a fact of life in Ocean City with a lot at stake, as anybody who has lost a car to saltwater damage will tell you.

While the new tool measures only current data and does not provide a forecast, it allows users to see a developing trend in tide heights. The web-based reports also let nonresident property owners keep tabs on Ocean City floods from afar.

The solar-powered gauge was installed on May 3, 2011, at the Bayside Center between Fifth and Sixth streets on the bay side of Ocean City, the part of the island where land elevations are generally lowest and flood risks highest (the lowest point is actually a trough roughly centered on Haven Avenue). The gauge is operated as part of the New Jersey Tide Telemetry System and funded by the state and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Ocean City's Engineering Department is working to link to the real-time tide readings from its web page at ocnj.us, according to Ocean City Engineer Art Chew, who made note of the tide gauge at a December meeting of the Ocean City Community Association when he spoke about .

Chew provided one key to understanding the tide readings reported on the new web site: a chart showing some historic high tides. The chart is attached to this story as a PDF.

The tide readings are based on 1988 datum, which is the first column of the attached chart. The chart shows some historic high tides as benchmarks:

  • A theoretic "100-year storm" tide would be 8.75 feet (above a normal mid-tide)
  • The Dec. 11, 1992 storm was 7.2 feet
  • The 1944 hurricane was 6.65 feet
  • The famous March 1962 nor'easter was 6.35 feet
  • Hurricane Gloria in 1985 was 5.75 feet

The new tide readings retain all data since it started on May 2011, and a search for the tide level during Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 shows just 4.8 feet on the Saturday night (Aug. 27) when the storm was approaching Ocean City. What was then thought to be a hurricane made a near direct hit on Ocean City, but the storm had lost strength on its journey up the East Coast.

An Oct. 29, 2011, nor'easter saw a tide of 4.43 feet, according to the new data.

When visitors access the site linked above, they'll see a line graph for high and low tides. The midpoint labeled 0.0 feet is the level for an average mid-tide. Forms on the site let users change the date range and output format for the data.

The site also includes data for water temperature. The readings for Friday, Oct. 19: a bay temperature of 39 degrees and a high tide of about 3.5 feet.

Cindy Nevitt January 21, 2012 at 02:23 PM
What's bizarre is the chart notes an Oct. 25, 1990, storm when the Halloween storm of 1991 is the one people remember. It is the one better known as The Perfect Storm, immortalized in a terrific book and disappointing movie of the same title. My son was 5 weeks old at that time and I remember videotaping the ice box from Eckerd's at Ninth & Bay floating by my home on Bay Avenue, continuing on Bay to 11th, and turning down 11th and out of sight. The worst flooding this island has seen since Dec 1992 occurred over Veteran's Day weekend in 2009. I spent three days navigating Merion Park in hip waders and caring for my son, 18 at the time, who was ill with swine flu. Atlantic Blvd was closed until a few feet of beach sand was plowed from it. Wawa at 13th St was forced to close and renovate following the loss of equiment. Surprising that these storms, which made a real impact, are not mentioned on the chart.
nelson amey IV January 21, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I'm going to guess that the October 25, 1990 date is a typo. There was a very high tide recorded at the Cape May Ferry Terminal gauge on October 25, 1980 (the 2nd highest tide on record at this gauge). One would suspect the storm to which they are referring to on the above PDF was 10/25/80, not 10/25/90. For a chart of the highest tides recorded at the Ferry Terminal check out: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/phi/tide/capema.pdf
Leslie Cole October 28, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Here's a link to an interactive map for tidal guages, rainfall, wind, barometric pressure, stream and river guages. Very cool!


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