By LAYLAN CONNELLY / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
As Fred Grether inched his black Porche out into the street, water started to seep into the doors.
At that moment, Grether decided it probably wasn’t a good idea to drive his car through the flooded streets in Sunset Beach, and threw the car in reverse.
More on ‘king tide’
The year’s high tide peaked at 7 feet, 11 inches on Thursday at 8:14 a.m., and will slowly drop starting Friday. This is the second of four winter king tide events this year; the first happened in mid-November. The next happens Jan. 9 through Jan. 11. The latest is the highest tide so far this year.
For the Orange County Coastkeeper, it means a chance to document what rising sea levels might look like in the future. They are asking the public to submit images taken of the king tide to flickr.com/groups/cakingtides.
The alarm blared, and the electrical went out, shutting the car down.
“I wish I had an SUV right now,” he said with a painful chuckle as friend Jean Pierre Porcin inspected under the hood. “I’m more worried about him, standing bare feet in water, working on the electrical.”
Residents in Sunset Beach bordering the Huntington Harbour had to deal with a mess on Thursday as the streets and homes flooded, caused by a “king tide,” the highest tide of the year at 7 feet, 11 inches, which hit at 8:14 a.m. The flooding also caused a street closure at Warner and Pacific Coast Highway, and redirected traffic.
The tide peaked Thursday and will slowly be inching its way down the next few days. Many said they haven’t seen flooding like this for years, and didn’t expect that the extreme high tide alone would cause this big of an issue.
Andy Allen, owner of OEX kayak rental company, speculated that runoff from the rain the previous night – combined with the tide – sent the water spilling over from the harbor onto the streets. He said he’s seen a high tide above 7 feet before, never with this result.
“The tide itself shouldn’t have done this – but obviously the harbor was full already with runoff going into it,” he said. “This is much higher than I’ve seen before. It’s crazy.”
Allen worried as he got into work as water surrounded his building and flooded his parking lot, forcing him to park across PCH. He was lucky that the water stopped at his business front.
“Some of my neighbors were asking if I had insurance. I was really nervous, thinking I was going to go inside, and it was going to be soaked,” he said. “I feel really lucky. If the water would have gone inside – just the clean up – I feel sorry for the people who have to deal with that.”
Resident Ron Bono said it was too early to tell how much water damage happened inside his home, but he spent the morning mopping his floor.
“I’ve not seen anything like this since I’ve lived here. I was bailing out like it was the Titanic,” he said.
Craig O’Brien has owned two units in Sunset for 13 years, and said he remembers this happening about six years ago.
“I was thinking, maybe I should get flood insurance,” he said. “I’m too cheap.”
When Leanora Owens went to leave her house to take her two kids to school, she realized she was stuck and couldn’t back her car out because the alleyway was flooded.
“I was afraid my motor would conk out,” she said. Her daughters, Hanna and Briana, were forced to miss school in the morning. “It just kept rising, rising and rising.”
Grether probably should have kept high and dry too, but still maintained an optimistic outlook, even though his car is likely ruined.
“It could have been worse,” he said. “It didn’t go into my house.”
In Newport Beach, city workers were on standby watching for flooding. But because rain eased before the high tide hit, there were few issues, said Mike Pisani, deputy municipal operator.
“There was a little bit of street flooding on Balboa between 21st and 26th, and on River Avenue. But that was the extent of it,” he said. “We were very lucky.”
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