Extremely high "king tides" surged ashore along the Sonoma County coast Thursday, filling Bodega Bay to the brim and bringing crashing surf to the base of the bluffs at Salmon Creek.
"It is quite a sight. I had to go out and look at it," said Noah Wagner, supervisor of Spud Point Marina at Bodega Bay.
The tide peaked at 7 feet, the highest tide of the year, at the entrance to Bodega Bay shortly before 9:56 a.m.
In Petaluma, high tide reached 8.2 feet at the D Street Bridge on the Petaluma River at 12:45 p.m.
The extreme tides began Wednesday and continue today, although the tides will be slightly smaller than Thursday's.
King tides, which occur several times a year, are caused when the Earth, moon and sun align in a way that increases the gravitational pull on the ocean, raising water levels several feet above normal high tides.
"King tides have been around. They are mostly in the winter and anyone who lives close to the water is used to seeing the water rise," said Deb Self, executive director of San Francisco Baykeeper, a conservation group.
Luckily, the weather this week has been mild and the tides have caused no harm in Sonoma County. But in Marin County, the tide swamped a commuter parking lot in Marin City and seeped into dozens of cars. In Southern California, seawater flooded a low-lying section of Pacific Coast Highway and side streets near Huntington Beach.
Coupled with wind, rain and rough seas, king tides can cause flooding and damage.
"If there were any waves, it'd be coming right into the marina and wreaking havoc," said Chris Starbird of Petaluma, who was tending his oyster nursery at the Spud Point Marina on Thursday.
"When we have a very high tide and south winds, it will blow water and debris across the road at the other end of the bay," said salmon fisherman Mat Keller of Occidental. "It would be quite a mess."