Expect More King Tides as Oceans Rise: Scientist

As King Tides crash up against San Diego businesses and cause coastal flooding, scientists say these scenes could become much more common in the future.

“There’s no doubt the sea level is rising,” said Dr. Roger Hewitt, a director at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

On Wednesday, King Tides – a term for an especially high tide – lashed against the Marine Room and Children’s Pool in La Jolla. It also pushed water onto Point Loma streets and parking lots.

The extreme tides happen only a few times a year. But Hewitt warns as oceans rise, we’ll see more and more king tides.

The highest of them could cause flooding in places we haven’t seen yet.

“We know the sea level is going to rise. We know the sea level has already risen. So the effect of these extra high tides is going to be more pronounced,” said Hewitt. “So obviously we need to put more time or effort into protecting the portions of the shoreline that are most vulnerable."

Sarah Mattinson, the owner of Olive Café and Bakery, is already bracing for a bad winter. Her restaurant sits on Santa Clara Place in Mission Beach – a street known for flooding as high tides and storms collide.

The pump station near her business kicked on automatically Wednesday to hold the King Tides at bay, but she remembers and dreads repeating the strong El Nino of the late 1990s.

“I did get to see El Nino with people kayaking down Mission Boulevard here,” Mattinson said. “Hopefully that’s not happening this year, but we’ll see.”

The owner told NBC 7 she would like to stay at her current location until she is 80 years old – if the tide allows it.

“If it does flood or the sea level does come up, I lose a couple businesses,” she explained. “So I hope that doesn’t happen.”

A city spokesperson said there was no flooding in Mission Beach or in the Midway area, where another pump station turned on automatically.

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