King Tide Tracking: December Results

A jogger slogs through a king tide flooding the path by Gate 6 1/2 Road  |  story by Jen Gennari and photos by Carol Angermeier, Fiona Clements, Larry Clinton, Jen Gennari, Andrea Ross, and Scott Stoneback
John Schlag, who installed all of the yardsticks, mounts one below Issaquah Dock
Teddie and Brad Hathaway discuss with John Schlag where to mount the 36-inch ruler on East Pier
The water is dangerously close to the top of Yellow Ferry Dock
The next day, after a rainstorm, the water had climbed to 26 inches below Liberty Dock
On Main Dock, utilities are reflected in the high tide. The water level measures more than 36 inches below the dock
The 36-inch ruler is above the water height on A Dock
The green at Kappas Marina was almost completely submerged during the king tide on Dec. 23

At about 11:20 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 23, volunteers from nine docks checked yardsticks to see the height of the king tide. Tracking the rising water is a project of the FHA Environmental Committee, and we mounted yardsticks on 4x4s, just below the top decking, to measure distance down to the water height. The question was: How close are these big tides to reaching utilities running underneath our fixed docks?

Patterns emerged quickly. The water didn’t come anywhere near the Kappas Marina docks—Gate 6 ½, East, and West. Larry Clinton, Brad Hathaway, and Liz Brott found that the water level was at least 3 to 6 inches away from the bottom of the yardstick. A Dock, similarly, was about 2 to 3 inches away from the end of the 36-inch ruler.

Main and Issaquah docks registered just 36 or 35 inches above the high tide. Liberty Dock, on the other hand, measured at 28.75 inches, according to Fiona Clements. (No volunteers were asked to monitor the Charles van Damme or Commodore docks because utilities are embedded in those two floating docks.)

Our volunteers also confirmed something many of you may have already guessed, just by walking around: Yellow Ferry is the lowest dock and South Forty is the highest. Even at high tide, Camra Mills reported that South 40’s water level was maybe 10 or 12 inches away from the yardstick. The high tide at Yellow Ferry, on the other hand, measured just 9 inches from the dock top. Seawater flowed from between Yellow Ferry and A Dock across the road to East Pier’s lagoon.

On Monday, Dec. 24, we witnessed storm surge in action. Rain fell most of the day, and although the tide was predicted to be lower than the day before, the readings at Issaquah and Liberty measured 33.5 and 26.5 inches, respectively. (Not everyone checked on Monday, given the holidays and that the peak was Sunday.)

Why monitor king tides?

Although we’re collecting data on the nine fixed docks to determine when utilities will be submerged, the whole community will be impacted by sea level rise in 10 years or so. King tides are often seen as harbingers of sea levels in the future, a future that is beginning to be felt now. King tides could become our everyday tides; given that Commodore, Kappas and Yellow Ferry residents may have trouble accessing their vehicles during a king tide, learning more now will help us plan ahead for even higher tides.

One unanswered question is whether or not it is bad for our lines for sewer, electrical, phone, gas, and water to be continuously submerged. Although the utility pipes and lines were designed to be waterproof, according to Claus Koestel, the electrical connections are likely to malfunction.

The next measurement will be taken on Jan. 21, when the next king tide is predicted to be 6.9 feet. Thank you to our volunteer citizen scientists: Carole Angermeir and Wilford Welch, Teddie and Brad Hathaway, Liz Brott, Gina Locurcio, Andrea Ross, John Schlag, Scott Stoneback, Fiona Clements, Camra Mills, and Larry Clinton.

The Dec. 23 report is below:

Dock Height from dock to water
Yellow Ferry 9″
Liberty 28 3/4″
Main Dock 35″
Issaquah 36″
A Dock over 36″ by 2-3″
East Pier over 36″ by 3-4″
Gate 6 1/2 over 36″ by 3-4″
West Pier over 36″ by >6″
East Pier over 36″ by 7″
South 40 over 36″ by 10-12″