King Tide season is back, here’s how to prepare

Nov 28, 2023, 9:03 AM | Updated: 9:04 am

king tides...

On Dec. 27, 2022, king tides caused coastal flooding on parts of Day Island in Tacoma.

November is well underway and marks the start of King Tide season. The winter months are when the inland waters of Western Washington get its highest astronomical high tides of the year. So, what is a King Tide?

King Tides are the highest tides that occur during each winter season when the sun, moon and earth are all aligned. The earth rotates around the sun in an elliptical orbit, and during the winter season, our planet is closer to the sun in that orbit, resulting in a greater gravitational pull from the sun. When the moon is aligned with the sun, both produce a stronger gravitational pull on the oceans, resulting in King Tides.

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King Tides by themselves can cause some minor tidal overflow flooding of low-lying coastal areas for the inland waters of Western Washington. But if a storm with lower atmospheric pressure coincides with a King Tide, a higher tidal anomaly can occur. If the storm also produces strong winds, wave action can result in greater coastal flooding damage.

In late October 2003, such a King Tide and strong wind event occurred. The most memorable damage happened at Ivar’s Restaurant next door to the former Mukilteo ferry terminal.

Another similar King Tide event occurred on Dec. 17, 2012. Several places throughout the Puget Sound coastal region suffered high water and wave action damage, including water and logs into homes – not a desired holiday gift under the tree.

In the next few months, there will be several King Tide periods noted on forecast tide charts. For Seattle, tidal overflow coastal flooding usually starts at around 13.5 feet. Here are the upcoming King Tide periods of at least 12.5 feet:

  • November 28 through 30
  • December 14 through 20
  • January 11 through 18
  • February 10 through 14

The highest predicted tide of the winter season for Seattle will be on Jan. 15 at 13.1 feet. Jan. 14 and 16 as well as Feb. 12 and 13 will also be close at 13.0 feet.

For Everett, greater than 12-foot tides include:

  • Nov. 27 through 30
  • Dec. 12 through 19
  • Dec. 26 through 30
  • Jan. 10 through 17
  • Feb. 8 through 14
  • The highest predicted tide of the season for Everett will be on Jan. 12 and 13 at 12.9 feet.

King Tide events combined with stormy, windy weather will likely occur in the future. Shoreline property owners can take action now to help avoid damage such as reinforcing seawalls and other protective structures. Stay informed ahead of time for potential North Sound coastal flooding by monitoring here, your local NOAA Weather Radio station or local media including KIRO 97.3 FM.

Follow Ted Buehner, the KIRO FM news meteorologist, on Twitter 

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