Business owners prepare for more king tides in Puget Sound

Jan 18, 2023, 5:51 PM | Updated: 6:45 pm
king tides...
An unusually high astronomical King Tide along California's coastline eats away at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club as viewed on January 7, 2023, in Santa Barbara, California. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

King tides return to the Puget Sound over the weekend and into next week, just a few weeks after causing flooding throughout the region.

These higher-than-typical tides are based on the moon and the sun, and they occur here periodically throughout the winter.

When king tides happen alongside a storm, they can cause significant flooding; this is what happened in late December. At that time, nearly 50 buildings in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood were damaged from Duwamish overflows. Homes and businesses in other flood-risk areas, such as Olympia, Edmonds, and parts of Skagit County, also had damage.

King tides return to Puget Sound, but unlikely to bring much flooding

This time around, things are not expected to get as bad.

“Significant increases above the predicted astronomical tides are NOT [sic] expected, as higher than normal surface pressure and storm surge is expected to hover around 0 feet,” the National Weather Service’s Seattle office wrote in a slide show.

The agency added that other factors that exacerbated water levels the last time, such as wind-driven waves, high rivers, and melting snow, should not be present this time.

“While some minor tidal overflow is possible during the largest of the high tides, the expected water levels are NOT [sic] expected to reach the levels of the December 26-27, 2022 high tides,” the agency wrote.

Still, those in flood-prone areas are taking no chances.

In a presentation to the Seattle City Council last week, Seattle Public Utilities noted that it had placed sandbags along the Duwamish in the spots that proved to be troublesome the last time.

In the long-term, the city is making $100 million in improvements to drainage and roads that should help prevent flood damage in the future.

In Olympia, the small business owners who were hit hard in late December are also making preparations.

Pam Oates co-owns the Budd Bay Café along Olympia’s boardwalk, as well as the waterfront Olympia Oyster House. The café was among those businesses flooded in the last round of king tides.

“The tide rose so much that it came over the boardwalk and into the restaurant doors and flooded our parking lot,” she said. “I’ve worked there for 34 years, and we’ve never had the bay actually come into the restaurant.”

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The flooding was so intense that Oates saw sea jellies swimming in the roadway.

Luckily, Oates said the eatery is back to business as usual, but she is now going into every round of king tides with the assumption that they could inflict damage.

“Knowing that the king tide is coming up, in the future, we’re definitely going to need to be more proactive, just in case it’s as large of a surge as it was before.”

With that in mind, she and her staff are already taking steps to ward off flood damage.

“You can’t really hold the bay back, but you can do things like sandbagging, so it doesn’t seep under our door, and making sure that the parking lot is blocked off so that cars aren’t stuck there,” Oates said. “I just don’t know if it will happen again, just because it was so unusual, but we don’t want to be caught off-guard.”

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Business owners prepare for more king tides in Puget Sound