King tides to return to Whidbey

For most areas on Whidbey Island, the highest tides will occur on Jan. 23 and 24.

King tides that caused severe flooding on Whidbey last month and prompted Island County commissioners to issue a declaration of emergency are expected to return at the end of the week.

Between Jan. 20 and 25, the Puget Sound region and areas along the Olympic Peninsula’s western coast will be inundated with extremely high tides. For most areas on Whidbey Island, the highest tides will occur on Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 23 and 24.

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the highest tides on the island will surpass 13 feet in areas such as Crescent Harbor, Penn Cove, Greenbank and Holmes Harbor, while approaching 13 feet at Sandy Point and Possession Sound.

King tides at the end of December were exacerbated by snowmelt, rain and low barometric pressure. South Whidbey Fire/EMS Deputy Chief Terry Ney said these conditions are not forecasted to coincide with the coming round of king tides, but flooding could still be similar to last month in some areas.

The barometric pressure at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island dipped below 29 inHg on Dec. 27 and remained low for the duration of the flooding. This time around, barometric pressure is forecasted to remain a little higher, hovering around 30.4 inHg between Jan. 20 and 25.

Flooding in December caused serious damage to a number of businesses and homes all over the island and littered beaches with driftwood and other debris. At least two Whidbey residents had to be rescued from flooded areas.

County Administrator Michael Jones told commissioners during a board meeting Jan. 10 that the estimated damage from that incident came out to around $7.9 million in structural loss and $3.2 million in personal property loss, according to preliminary assessments. He said that the county received 120 applications for assistance.

County commissioners voted to declare a state of emergency in relation to December’s adverse weather conditions, which will extend through the coming king tide. The declaration will create a pathway for the county to apply for relief funds from the state and other sources, though it is not a guarantee of assistance.

Commissioner Melanie Bacon shared some tips for coastal area residents to protect vulnerable properties from potential flooding in a newsletter to constituents.

“When we have these kinds of events, nature wins,” she said in the meeting, but added that there are many mitigation measures people can take.

Home and business owners can anchor outdoor fuel tanks, make sure drainage pathways on the property are clear, secure valuables in a safe location above flood level, install sump pumps, elevate major appliances on concrete blocks if possible, and place temporary flood barriers such as sandbags around doors and other floor level openings.

Those who believe their homes may be at risk of flooding should move their cars to higher ground before king tide events occur and make a flood safety plan.

“Also, don’t drive in flood waters, especially the salt water of tidal flooding,” Ney added. “The salt will corrode everything underneath your car.”

Whidbey and Camano residents can sign up for Island County emergency alerts on the county website.