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COUNTYWIDE : Unusually High Tide a Massive Washout

What do you get when the moon and sun align with the Earth?

The dawning of the Age of Aquarius? No, the meteorological equivalent of the comet Kahoutek.

The highest tide in 17 years struck Southern California on Sunday morning with all the force of an overfilled tub sloshing onto the bathroom floor.

Homeowners and merchants up and down the coast braced for the 7.3-foot high tide at 8:08 a.m., but other than a few wet sidewalks and some Sunday strollers who got splashed, the event was largely a washout. Officials reported no damage from the unusually high tide.

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“We had the utilities guys ready for it, but they didn’t run into any problems,” said a Newport Beach police dispatcher. “Everything seems fine.”

The tide was more than 2 feet higher than normal, a result of the combined effects of the unusual alignment of the moon, sun and Earth.

Some businesses had put out sandbags in case the wind kicked up and increased the force of the tide. But as the morning shone clear and mild, those who made early morning trips to the beach to watch nature exert itself were disappointed.

Unlike the devastating storm of 1988, which caused heavy damage up and down the coast, this weather was rated G.

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In Orange County, Coast Guard Lt. Gail Kulisch said that boaters should take special care for the next several days, as extreme low and high tides will continue.

“Any members of the boating public should be aware of the low tides, particularly when they’re maneuvering close to shore or near marinas,” Kulisch said. “They shouldn’t be cutting anything close.”

Marine Weather Service officials in Orange County reported a low tide of minus 1.7 feet at 3:32 p.m., but Coast Guard officials said they had seen no problems caused by the low waters.

It was during a so-called “minus tide” that the tanker American Trader ran aground off the coast of Huntington Beach last winter, rupturing its hull and spilling 394,000 gallons of crude oil into the water. The tanker was attempting to connect to the Golden West mooring just offshore.

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Kulisch said Sunday that Golden West is required to give the Coast Guard 24 hours’ notice of moorings, and because no such notice has been received, no tankers are expected.


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