West Coast
The ocean crashes on to the breakwater built to protect these beach front homes in San Clemente during a King tide on Jan. 22, 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG, Aerial support courtesy of LightHawk)

King tides offer look at the coast’s flooded future with sea-level rise

As dramatic as king tides can be when they flood the streets of Seal Beach or the Peninsula in Long Beach, an aerial perspective of waves battering the coast takes the drama to another level.

From 1000 feet above, you can see surf pounding long sequences of seawalls and riprap rocks protecting homes, the ocean sometimes appearing to threaten structures despite the installed barriers.

Where there are cliffs with no homes, the waves gnaw away at the bluffs, moving the beaches at their base farther inland.

The extreme king tides of the past few days occur only once or twice a year, but they offer a glimpse of what normal tides will be eventually be doing daily as the result of rising sea levels.

“It’s really a challenge because it’s a slow-motion disaster,” said Chad Nelsen, Surfrider Foundation CEO, during a coastal Orange County tour with two journalists aboard a single-propeller Cessna on Tuesday.

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