King tides are the predicted highest and lowest tides each year on coastlines worldwide. In the past two years, high-tide versions of king tides have contributed to flooding in Beaufort, Morehead City and other areas along North Carolina’s coast. They caused impassable streets and roads, temporarily closed businesses, damaged houses, buildings and vehicles, contaminated water supply and created dangerous conditions.
To monitor these events, Christine Voss, a coastal ecologist and research associate with the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, started the North Carolina King Tides Project after securing a grant from NOAA. As part of the international king tides project, it enlists citizens to document what they see. The project’s chief goal is to increase awareness about influences on coastal water levels.
Citizens can visit the project website, download the Coastal Observer app and submit photos of flooding. They can also stop at the project’s gauges in places such as Big Rock Landing in Morehead City or the Carolina Beach marina. There, they can use a cell phone to access the website via QR code and download the app.
“Our towns that were built hundreds of years ago were built during a time of lower water levels,” Voss said. “Water levels have been increasing for about 2,500 years now. Sea level is rising slowly, but it’s a constant rise.” Sea level trends have been documented for decades.