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South Carolina Braces for High Tides, Gale Force Winds Today

January 1, 1987

Undated (AP) _ Gale-force winds and high tides, caused by a rare alignment of the Earth, sun and moon, pounded the coast of the Carolinas today, causing some street flooding, while the Pacific coast survived its highest tides in 18 years with little damage.

The weather phenomenon caused a 50-year-old barn at a spot called Washaway Beach in Washington state to fall into the sea on Wednesday.

The National Weather Service posted gale and coastal flood warnings along the coast of South Carolina and five counties along the southern coast of North Carolina today, with tides expected up to 2 feet above normal.

High tides arrived today at Myrtle Beach at 8:28 a.m. and at Charleston about half an hour later. Winds near Charleston were just below 30 knots -about 34 mph. Gales are between 39 and 54 mph.

Officials said they would be unable to determine the extent of damage until the water recedes later today. The weather service warned travelers to avoid coastal roads, saying the combination of wind and surf duplicated a December storm that caused $3 million damage.

″With the wind conditions changing and the alert issued, we’re putting all our public safety people and city staff on full alert,″ Mayor Richard Beck of Folly Beach, S.C., said Wednesday night.

In Carolina Beach, N.C., police reported this morning that tides were running about two feet above normal and streets were flooded.

″What I’m looking at now, it’s up to the bumper of a car,″ said police officer J.C. Howell.

The same weather system was expected to affect the coast of New England during high tide Friday, and the weather service warned of possible waterfront erosion. Tides about 2 feet above normal were expected today.

The high tide is caused by the increased gravitational pull of a rare alignment of the Earth, sun and moon called syzygy. In addition, both sun and moon are far south of the equator, and the moon is at perigee, its closest approach to the Earth in a month.

Meanwhile, weather fronts raised little threat in Washington state, but ″there’s a chance we might have a problem on Friday″ when a third front is expected at the time of Puget Sound’s highest tides of the week, said weather service meteorologist Bill Sites.

A 50-year-old barn near Grayland on the Washington coast fell into the sea Wednesday after high tides eroded its foundation.

High tides along the Oregon coast were greater than expected Wednesday, but no serious flooding was reported.

In California, one lane along a three-mile stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County near Seal Beach and Surfside was closed for a brief time Wednesday but no damage was reported.

Had the tides been coupled with storm-churned surf, the surging seas could have damaged oceanfront homes, business, piers and marinas.

That threat led to a wide range of precautions, including 10-foot sand berms built on beaches, makeshift sea walls made from huge trash bins, sandbag barricades and cancellation of New Year’s Eve parties.

California’s highest tide - 7.3 feet above the median tide mark, about 1 1/ 2 feet above normal - in the six-day tidal watch period was reached Wednesday morning.

In San Diego, sandbags were at a premium. Sheldon Vos of Acme Bags sold more than 7,000 sandbags to coastal dwellers this week and Mike Marnelo of San Diego Bag Co. said his business had increased 30 percent in recent days.

The beachfront Poseidon restaurant in Del Mar decided to close New Year’s Eve because of the high tides.

″What if we hold a big party and something happens? It would be chaos,″ said manager James Gordon after New Year’s Eve parties scheduled at the restaurant were canceled.

Meanwhile, surfers shared waves with birds riding breakers in Malibu, where sea lions also frolicked, and elusive marsh birds were flushed from their hiding places, giving ornithologists a glimpse of the rarely seen quarry.

Extremely high tides also mean extremely low tides, exposing reefs and tidal pools teeming with sea creatures.

Thousands of bird watchers went to points around San Francisco Bay on Tuesday hoping to spot the black rail, swamp sparrow and sharp-tailed sparrow.

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