Tuesday's Tidal Fluctuations Baffle Weather Service

12:22 PM, Oct 30, 2008   |    comments
Courtesy: Dave Benner, Boothbay Harbor EMA
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BOOTHBAY HARBOR (NEWS CENTER) -- Some boats were scratched and docks damaged Tuesday afternoon when low tide became high within a matter of minutes.

Locals in the area say it happened about 6 or 7 times throughout the afternoon. They say it surged in within a matter of 5 minutes, then flowed back out just as quickly.

The National Weather Service says the cause "remains a mystery and may never be known."

The National Weather Service in Gray released the following public information statement regarding the event.





...Tuesday's Unusual Tide Fluctuations Along The Mid-Maine Coast...

The cause of yesterday's unusual tide fluctuations along the mid coast of Maine remains a mystery...and may never be known. Significant rapid rises and falls in tide levels were observed around 3 pm in Boothbay Harbor, Southport, and Bristol. Only very minor fluctuations were noted at tide gauges along the coast.

There are several possible explanations for yesterday's event. Rapid surges can be caused by the underwater movement of land, most often due to an earthquake, or due to the slumping of sediments along a steep canyon or shelf. No earthquakes were reported in the area yesterday. In rare instances, large and rapid surges can be generated by storms. In either case, the bathymetry of the ocean floor reflects and refracts the wave energy and can causes significant variations in tide levelsalong the coast...and rapid changes in tide levels at a particular location. These surges are quite unlike the much slower surges normally associated with coastal storms.

Eye-witness reports from several locations indicated that water levels fell and rose from 4 feet to as much as 12 feet along the coast during the event. These rapid changes in tidal levels generated the strong currents that damaged piers and boats in the area.

Although these events are rare along the Maine coast, they have occurred in the past. On January 9, 1926, an event similar to yesterday's event was observed in Bass Harbor. During that event, the harbor drained rapidly and then was followed by a 10 ft surge of water, followed by two other smaller waves. There were no earthquakes reported on that day. No one was injured in that event but about 50 fishing boats were hurled ashore.



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