Photo courtesy Sea Grant Program / University of Hawai'i

The 'king tide' is high: Hawaii gears up for unusual ocean conditions

Text Summit Staff
Thread Climate Change

Hawaii residents are gearing up for what's being anticipated as extreme high tide that begins tomorrow Thursday afternoon. In what the He'eia Fishpond support group Paepae o He'eia thinks is going to be "pretty cool, crazy, and alarming at the same time," video of the occurrence will be live streamed direct from the area on the 'Oiwi TV Facebook page starting around 2 p.m. Thursday. Farmers, fishers, cultural practitioners and scientists will also be on hand to provide live commentary.

The group reports that "last month on the same moon phase, we saw unprecedented high tides overflow our kuapā (fishpond wall). Many sections of the wall we restored over the past decade were underwater for an hour or two. Luckily it was only by an inch or two, we donʻt think any fish swam out, and there was no major wind chop or east surf swell.

"If the high tide had coincided with other environmental factors (heavy rain, high winds, east swells), we would have probably seen some pretty heavy damage," Paepae o He'eia says.

The National Weather Service has issued a special statement, warning that coastal flooding is anticipated in conjunction with high tides and incoming south shore surf.

While the environmental consideration of this "king tide" is of utmost importance to the state, the effect on residents and businesses are important as well, which has gotten the attention of the local news media. One person in particular who got an early jump since the beginning of May and has done a thorough job is KHON2 News investigative reporter Gina Mangieri.

In her first report, in an attempt to find out what’s being done to protect our coastal infrastructure and plan for a rising-water future in light of recent high tide flooding and general concern of rising sea levels, Mangieri spoke with Sam Lemmo of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources and head of the Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee.

“The problem is sneaking up on us,” he says. “It’s a complicated, wicked sort of problem we’re all trying to struggle with. So in the meantime, I think people need to take remedial actions to address this. ... That might mean raising or elevating structures or moving structures away from vulnerable areas, but then that involves a lot of other issues because our coastal areas are very densely populated and very highly and intensely used.”

Matthew Widlansky of the University of Hawaii Sea Level Center told Mangieri that the very large tidal cycles known as "king tides" that the state is about to experience will also happen again in June and July. “It is predicted to continue throughout the summer, and that on top of even higher tides could set the stage for more coastal flooding, especially if they coincide with high swell,” he says.

In Mangieri's followup story, she reports that 8-foot high surf advisory levels Thursday and Friday will be topped with the additional 2.5 feet "king tide" that will come with the south swell. That will mean the additional headaches of washed-out roads and beaches, and flooded homes and businesses, so be extra careful and cognizant this Memorial Day holiday weekend and in the months ahead.

And if you want to help document the upcoming high water levels for science, the Sea Grant program at the University of Hawai'i is starting a "king tide" photo survey Thursday through Saturday for the Hawaiian and Pacific islands. Click here for more information.


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