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 Sunday morning with all the force of an overfilled tub sloshing onto the bathroom carpet. The 7.3-foot high tide at 8:08 a.m. splashed onto sidewalks at King Harbor in Redondo Beach and oozed into a portion of the nearby Marina Cafe, causing some patrons to take off their shoes and splash around in the water.
“The water came up and went down. That was about it,” said Patrice Brousseau, 30, manager of the cafe.
The tide was more than two 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 special 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. Fathers walked along the waterline lecturing small children who listened with earnest, confused faces to the finer scientific points of the phenomenon.
Fifteen-foot-tall sand dunes had been erected to protect the three-story, southern district lifeguard headquarters building on Hermosa Beach from winter storms. But Greg Allen, 44, a senior lifeguard, said, “Today is no problem.”
The word “Caution” had been written in chalk on the board on which ocean conditions are posted, yet the water was stippled with the usual contingent of surfers.
John Teague, 45, who has surfed for 35 years, was not impressed as he sat on his bicycle on the pier. “There’s too much water under there” for good surfing, he said.
Coast Guard Lt. Gail Kulisch in Orange County said that boaters need to take special care for the next several days, as extreme low and high tides will continue.
The tide did arouse memories of big storms of yore, when high tides were combined with severe weather to cause extensive damage along the coast. Doyal Adair, 60, of Torrance, recalled the 1988 storm, which split the dock and snapped three-quarter-inch lines on his boat, “Loose Screws.”
At the Good Stuff restaurant on the Strand in Hermosa Beach, waitresses could not help comparing Sunday’s high tide to the storm of 1983, memorialized by a large photograph on the wall that shows water covering the beach and splashing up to the door of the restaurant. “It flooded the floors and everything,” said Sharonne Paradiso, 20, of Hermosa Beach.
By comparison, this high tide was a washout.