Octopus in parking garage cartoon

Last fall, an octopus became an unlikely star on social media after it was found sprawled across the cement floor of a flooded Miami parking garage.

The octopus had washed up through a stormwater pipe that drained into the nearby bay.

Sullivan-Sealey: “Likely when this was built the storm drain was above water most of the time. But as sea level rose, sea water entered that pipe.”

That’s Kathleen Sullivan-Sealey of the University of Miami. She says the combination of higher seas and a very high tide created water pressure that pushed the water – and the octopus – up and into the garage.

Sullivan-Sealey says these conditions could happen more often as sea levels rise, but fewer pipes will dump directly into the ocean.

Sullivan-Sealy: “Environmental standards have changed, you can’t just dump stormwater into Florida waters in Biscayne Bay. So many of these drains have been replaced and rerouted.”

Sullivan-Sealey says Miami has spent millions of dollars on its stormwater systems. But, as the garage octopus shows, sea-level rise is making the work more urgent.

Sullivan-Sealey: “The octopus is just putting a kind of a personal face on a big problem.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Image graphic: Created by David McCarthy.

Eileen Mignoni is a South Florida-based visual journalist who has been working on stories about science, the environment, and energy for nearly 10 years. In addition to her work at Yale Climate Connections,...