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King Tides arrive this weekend, give glimpse into the future for California’s coastline

Planning on taking a leisurely morning stroll along the coast this weekend? Be warned: Your favorite stretch of sand might be underwater.

The first of two winter season “King Tides” is expected on Sunday and Monday, Nov. 15 and 16, when the mega tides reach almost 7 feet, pushing water up to areas that are usually dry. It is a chance for people to see what the coastline may one day look like as sea levels continue to rise.

When high tides mix with big surf, it can spell trouble along a coast prone to flooding – but with only a small swell and no rain in the forecast, the flood risk is considered low for this weekend.



Still, authorities will be closely watching trouble spots.

In Seal Beach, workers have been using heavy machinery in recent days to push sand to build a barrier to protect the boardwalk and beachfront homes, which can get flooded during winter swells. And, the city’s beach loader and other equipment will be ready to assist with potential high water levels, Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos said.

Sand bags stations are also available in advance of the King Tides.

“Fortunately there is no rain in the forecast so that works in our favor,” Gallegos wrote in an e-mail.

In Newport Beach, massive waves and a high tide caused beach parking lots and  the streets in Balboa Peninsula to flood over the Fourth of July weekend. Ahead of the coming King Tides, sand bags will be places near the Fun Zone and workers will be on standby to pump out water if there is any flooding, said Mark Vukojevic, the city’s utilities director.

“With no rain, we’re feeling pretty good. There’s always leaks and puddles as water gets higher, it pressurizes through cracks in walls, whether it’s public or private property,” he said. “But so far, it looks like it will be OK.

“Thankfully, we have good weather and the surf is down and there’s no big wind planned,” he said. “Those are the things we are looking for.”

A berm on the beach is still in place from the July 4 weekend, with workers continuously building it up when it gets too low, he said.

Two workers will also be closing 89 tidal valves on the Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island, a process done every time extreme high tides hit in order to stop water from flooding from the harbor and into the streets.

King Tides, as they are called, describes very high tides caused when there is an alignment of the gravitational pull between the sun, the moon and the Earth, and when the moon is in its closest position to the Earth.

The high tide in Southern California on Sunday is expected to reach about 6.9 feet at 8:24 a.m., and slightly lower on Monday at about 9 a.m, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s tide chart.

The next King Tide event happens on Dec. 13-15.

While King Tides are not caused by sea level rise and are predictable, they do allow policy makers and the public a glimpse at how higher sea levels could impact the coast for future generations. King tides are a foot or two higher than an average tide, which corresponds to the rise in sea level expected during the next few decades.

Volunteer citizen scientists will be dotting the Southern California coastline on Sunday and Monday to upload images for the California King Tides Project to show impacts on beaches, roads, harbors, homes and wetlands and raise awareness of climate change and help California plan for a future, the project’s organizers said.

This is an international project to have the public document the high tides, Annie Kohut Frankel, California King Tide project manager with California Coastal Commission, said. “You don’t have to have any special skills, you just have to be able to take photos with your smart phone, as close as you can at the high tide time.”

Not to mention, it’s a good excuse to get out of the house.

“It’s fun, because it’s great to have a reason to go to the coast and take photos, but it’s also a good reason to talk about climate change with your friends and family and neighbors,” she said. “The more we talk about it, the more we realize that we have a community that cares and we all want to act for a better future.”

The California King Tides Project launched a decade ago, partnering with state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and the public. It is part of a global network, including efforts in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Asia.

In the decade since the California project launched, there’s been an estimated 1,700 photos posted, with 800 just last year as uploading images gets easier, Kohut Frankel said.

Locally, there’s a few places where the higher tides will be especially apparent this weekend, and that could be in trouble down the road, said Ray Hiemstra, Orange County Coastkeeper’s associate director of programs.

In Newport Harbor, high tides can leave only inches of a sea wall before water spills over.

“Sometimes, it’s going over,” Hiemstra said. “It’s really a wake-up call as to not only what are we going to lose, but what would we have to spend to protect some of that stuff.”

Rebuilding the Newport seawall in the future to protect Balboa Island from rising waters, for example, could costs tens of millions, he said.

Upper Newport Bay’s estuary, where eel grass usually covers much of the area, looks more like a lake during King Tides, Hiemstra said. In parts of Laguna and San Clemente, waves are crashing onto houses. Another trouble spot is Sunset Beach, where a low area of Pacific Coast Highway is prone to flooding from the Huntington Harbour when high tides meet with big surf or rain.

“It’s just a good opportunity to give people a visual. Climate change and sea-level rise can be so abstract,” Hiemstra said. “This give us an opportunity to see what things can look like in 50 years.”

Source: Orange County Register

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