After living in Venice for two and a half months and recently having amazing, sunny, and warm weather given the time of the year (thanks climate change) I knew the occurence of “Acqua Alta” or “high tide” had to happen eventually (worse than usual now, again, thanks climate change).
For those who don’t know, “Acqua Alta” is the weather system where the water levels rise in Venice in the late fall-early winter time of the year. Mainly the water in the city rises because of the tide, wind, and gravitational forces which exist between the Venetian lagoon and the Adriatic Sea. Normally, water can flow out of the lagoon into the Adriatic Sea, but during this time of the year the current of the Adriatic Sea flows northwesterly which doesn’t allow the water from the lagoon to exit, and thus creating a rise in tide. Kind of not ideal. On top of this, marshes around the lagoon are disappearing (this increases level of water), water traffic is increasing in the canals, and rainfall increasing during this time of the year all add to the exacerbation of the water rise.
Today, sirens sounded throughout the city followed by loud, sharp beeps (every beep signifying a 10 cm increase of tide) alerting the inhabitants of the city that in 2 hours the high tide would reach its peak for the day, roughly 125-130 cm. To put that in perspective, normal tide is between 50-80 cm.. so today’s tide was classified as very intense, just 10 cm off from being above 140 cm which is the most intense classification for the Acqua Alta phenomenon. Lots of sharp beeps to follow which are quite distinct and audible to say the least.
In order to walk around the city in Acqua Alta, boots are necessary, not unless you want to get soaked by the not so clean lagoon water (saw some people in sandals… even barefoot – must be tourists). Thankfully, I got a pair of boots for Christmas last year in anticipation of exactly this. Well really, my parents were anticipating it, as parents do.
As I walked outside, it was like seeing snow for the first time. But in a kind of wow and kind of sad way (knowing that rising tide isn’t quite good for the city). The city did completely transform and the appearance is unlike many things I’ve witnessed growing up in suburban Pennsylvania. Sloshing along in the water which rose halfway up my boots I noted the little barriers in front of the passageways of shops to keep water out, the raised walkways for people to avoid the deep water, pigeon feathers and some trash floating along in the water, and the either excited or super gloomy look on people’s face. There was simply no boundary between calle and canal which often crept into many of the stores/shops with or without the barriers. Again, wow and sad. Nevertheless, clearly something the city is prepared for.
What a spectacle it was. Ignoring the distressing parts of high tide, I felt like a kid on Christmas! Fortunately, a kid who had gotten nice rain boots the Christmas before that Christmas. The scene was so magical, new, fascinating, and different from the Venice which I’m used to seeing. The closest I’ve been to Atlantis for sure. Which is probably not a good thing. I’m sure my perspective is only slightly different than the locals…
To be certain, as fascinating as it was (for me), it is one of the biggest issues in Venice. The ticking time bomb, which sounds with sirens and loud beeps, is how to keep Venice from sinking and getting constantly destroyed by these high tides which cost the city extreme amounts of money to fix the damages every year.. along with money spent trying to develop ways to prevent it from happening.. Example, the 5 billion euro Moses project! That’s a story for another day, perhaps. But, the more important one.
For this day, although some would see it as miserable (understandable for the residents), it was quite the phenomenon to experience.