The highest and lowest tides of 2014 known — as the “king tides” — hit California’s coast on Monday, with this year’s event getting a leg up from the recent offshore winds, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Kathleen Lewis.
“The tides have been predicted to be just around 8 feet, but they’ve been higher,” she said. “One reason is because of the southerly winds offshore, and that helps create a surge that pushed against the coast. We have been seeing southerly winds for quite a while. That has been causing the difference in the tide to be higher than projected levels.”
On Monday, the high tide reached about 9 feet above the mean lower low water mark — nearly a half-foot higher than predicted — which Lewis said is about the average for the area. Several areas — such as King Salmon and the Arcata Bottom — were forecast for minor flooding. Lewis recommended against driving through flooded roads.
“It doesn’t take much water to make your car float,” she said.
The National Weather Service released a flood advisory for today between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with high tide estimated to start around noon. The high tide is estimated to peak at just under 9 feet above the mean lower low water mark, with low-lying areas possibly being impacted by minor flooding, according to the advisory.
King tides are a yearly phenomena caused by the Earth being at its closest position to the sun, and the moon being at its closest position to the Earth, Lewis said.
“Whenever our tides are the highest, the gravitational pull from the sun and moon are in alignment,” she said.
The event spells good news for Humboldt Baykeeper’s King Tide Photo Initiative Project.
“It’s actually the first time since we’ve been doing the photo initiative that we’ve had storms on the day of the high tide,” Humboldt Baykeeper Director Jennifer Kalt said. “The last few years have been so dry.”
The project, which began in 2012, seeks to document areas impacted by flooding from king tides using photographs submitted by the public as a way to visualize the effects of sea level rise along Humboldt Bay over time. While king tides are normally about a foot higher than current high tides in the bay, Kalt said that this year’s surge has been about 2 feet higher than normal, presenting good opportunities for the project.
“We’re basically having people photodocument the same site each year so we build a long-term data set from pictures, not just numbers. ... There is that aspect, photodocumenting the increase in sea level in known areas. Just getting that outreach so people can think about, ‘How are we gonna plan for this?,” she said. “It’s gonna take a lot of creative solutions and difficult decisions that will have to be made about some of the low-lying areas.”