Bad weather coming ashoreBy
We’re sitting here holding a sort of tense little domestic vigil awaiting the end of the world, which is predicted to reach Venice some time tonight.
Briefly, a huge weather system is moving across Italy and will be bringing high winds, torrential rain, and acqua alta, or high water, sometime tonight. I say “sometime” because Things Might Change (at least slightly — maybe the wind won’t settle into the southeast after all, for example) but we’re going to be getting wet. Just how wet is the question that is keeping the lights burning in our little hovel.
The tide is going to turn and begin to rise about 3:00 AM. Which means we can expect to hear the municipal high-water warning sirens begin to wail not very long after that.
The tide forecast is: Maximum at 9:30 PM tonight at 75 cm [29 inches above mean sea level] ; minimum at 2:25 AM at 45 cm [17 inches]; maximum at 8:35 AM at 130 cm [51 inches]; minimum at 3:40 PM at 20 cm [7 inches].
My only hope and prayer at this point is that the tide will only reach the three-tone level, because that means we’re still dry. We discovered last December 1 that when we hear four tones, we’re basically doomed.
We had water in our very own domicile; what was unnerving wasn’t so much its height (I guess it never exceeded an inch on the floor) as its inexorability. I can’t recall a sensation to compare it to: The realization that you can’t do one single thing to stop it. I suppose going into labor might be something similar.
I can tell you that the garbagemen are working an extra shift right now, setting up the temporary walkways in the parts of the city which will certainly be submerged to some extent, especially around the Piazza San Marco, the lowest point in the city.
There is also absolutely no doubt that Paolo Canestrelli and his band of hardy forecasters are working the lobster shift at the Tide Center, refining their predictions probably minute by minute. What they really, really hate is to turn out to have gotten the numbers wrong. People may snicker at them when the tide doesn’t rise as high as they thought it would, but people rage and snarl and shriek when they estimated too low. Not a job I’d be at all interested in having.
For the record, a normal tide (measured in height above mean sea level) is between -50 cm and +79 cm [minus 19 – plus 31 inches.] One siren tone.
Code Yellow (“sustained tide”) is between +80 and +109 cm [31 – 42 inches.] Two tones.
Code Orange (“very sustained tide”) is between 110 cm and 139 cm [43 – 54 inches.] Three tones.
Code Red (“exceptional high tide”) is over 140 cm [55 inches.]
In case anyone has heard about the MOSE floodgate project (perhaps to be operational in 2012), intended to block high tide from reaching the city, I want to point out that it is intended to be used only in the case of Code Red. Which means that for 3/4 of the high-tide events, we’re still going to be pulling on our wellies.
Another point: The numbers don’t really tell you much because Venice is not uniformly level. So a number in one place isn’t going to signify the same experience in another — sometimes even just 50 yards down the street.
More tomorrow, at some point. Going back to doing laps around the rosary.