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High tides threaten coastal areas on Whidbey Island

The highest tides of 2011 expected late this month could pose some problems for motorists and shoreline dwellers.

A high tide of 13 feet, 7 inches is predicted to take place at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 23, which is the highest mark anticipated for all of 2011. Such extreme high tides always worry officials because roads near the water can become submerged.

“There are places that pretty routinely go under water,” said Bill Oakes, public works director for Island County. Such areas as Madrona Way near Grasser’s Lagoon and Shore Avenue near Nichols Brothers Boatyard in Freeland can close during high tides. On the north end of the island, a combination of a high tide coupled with winds coming from the west can force the closure of a part of West Beach Road.

Oakes warned motorists that they should avoid driving over pools of water that have formed on roads. He noted private roads near the water are also at risk at well.

While the Jan. 23 tide will be the highest of the year, there will be several unusually high tides taking place in February and March as well. Oakes said the highest tide in February will be 12 feet 9 inches and the highest in March will be 12 feet 4 inches.

Taking advantage of the situation, the state Department of Ecology is asking people for photos of the high tides in January and February.

Extreme high tides occur when the gravitational pull of the sun and moon reinforce one another. Such high tides are known as “king tides” in some West Coast states, British Columbia and such countries as Australia.

The DOE’s “Washington King Tide Initiative” gives residents the chance to help collect photos of coastal flooding along Puget Sound and the state’s outer coast, according to a DOE news release. The high tide photos will help prepare for the effects of climate change.

“Understanding what climate change will mean to our environment is a key to making Washington ‘climate smart,’ and these very high tides are like a window into the future,” said Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant. “As sea level rises in the years to come, many of our shorelines — including those in our most populated areas — are very likely to be affected.”

A University of Oregon report released in 2009 said that without additional actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the severity and duration of impacts from climate change will be profound and will negatively impact the economy, according to the news release. Even a six-inch sea level rise would intensify coastal flooding, shift coastal beaches inland and increase coastal bluff erosion, among other negative effects.

For more information about submitting photos and high tide predictions, go to www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/ipa_hightide.htm.

Flickr your photos

The Department of Ecology’s “Washington King Tide Photo Initiative” gives Washington residents an opportunity to help collect photos of coastal flooding along Puget Sound and the state’s outer coast. To participate, follow these simple steps:

Join Ecology’s FLICKR Group at www.flickr.com/groups/1611274@N22/.

Review the high tide predictions for your area to find the right time and date at www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/ipa_hightide.htm.

Take photos during a high tide event in your area and post the photos on FLICKR.

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