OLYMPIA — Monday night’s full moon marks the start of the king tides winter season in Washington. It means high tide will be even higher during a new or full moon for the next couple of months throughout the region.
According to the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program website, king tides occur when the moon is closer to Earth and has a greater gravitational pull on the ocean, which happens this time of year. The high tides are exacerbated further when the Earth, moon and sun are all three aligned.
King tides also occur when the sun is closest to the Earth in its orbit, which happens in early January each year. That’s when tides are expected to be the highest.
According to the Sea Grant king tide calendar, Budd Inlet in Olympia could see a high tide of around 16 feet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 28-30. NOAA predicts Wednesday will have the highest tide at 16.09 feet.
Tuesday’s high tide will be at 7:10 a.m., Wednesday’s will be at 7:54 a.m., and Thursday’s will be at 8:37 a.m.
Samantha Borth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle, said king tides aren’t a concern quite yet largely because of the high pressure system that has kept skies clear since before Thanksgiving. The lack of rain will limit tidal flooding.
Borth said king tides become a concern when rain is added to the equation. Last December, some roads in downtown Olympia were temporarily closed due to flooding during king tides. The predicted high tide level in Budd Inlet was 16.6 feet, but rain pushed tides to 18.4 feet, the highest the city had on record.
In December, NOAA is predicting Dec. 27 to have the highest high tide of 16.3 feet, with several days before then with high tides above 16 feet in Olympia. From Jan. 12 to Jan. 16, the predicted high tides will range from 16.43 feet to 16.9 feet at 9 a.m. Jan. 15.
Nisqually Reach isn’t expected to reach 16 feet during any of the king tide periods. Henderson Inlet won’t see high tides above 16 feet until Jan. 14. Eld Inlet will see similar king tides to Budd Inlet until Jan. 15, when the high tide is expected to be even higher at 17.12 feet.
Borth said to be wary when near high water. She said to never turn your back and don’t get too close to the water when checking out king tides.