High tide wallops Venice for second day

People wade through high water in Venice, Italy, Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. The worst flooding in Venice in more than 20 years forced residents and tourists to wade through knee-high water Monday. Luigi Costantini / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Strong southern winds pushed the Adriatic Sea into Venice again Tuesday, submerging parts of the lagoon city a day after an unusually high tide caused the worst flooding in 20 years.

Tuesday's tidal surge peaked at 3 feet, 4 inches (102 centimeters), well below Monday's 5 foot, 1-inch level (156 centimeters), which marked the fourth highest tide in the city's recorded history and the worst since 1986.

Still, the water Tuesday was high enough to flood the city's landmark St. Mark's Square and other low-lying areas.

Tourists and locals waded through the historic piazza with high boots as alarms warned of the latest bout of "acqua alta." At least one person decided to enjoy the flooded square, zipping about with a kite-surf until police stepped in to end his fun.

Not amused by sea's return
Most locals were not amused by the sea's return.

"Today is going a little bit better, but yesterday it was a disaster," said jeweler Adriano Cavassoni as he checked the water flowing in front of his shop's doorstep.

On Monday, the knee-high water invaded shops, damaged merchandise, idled transportation including the city's public water buses and led to some power cuts. Most Venetians were surprised because authorities didn't initially forecast such a high tide level, but no damage to the city's artistic treasures was reported.

The ANSA news agency reported that Venice was planning to spend euro1 million ($1.27 million) to pay for the damages left by the flood. City officials said authorities and shopkeepers would discuss the issue at a meeting Thursday.

Strong southern winds have been driving the sea into Venice's lagoon, causing the unusually high tides. Forecasters said the tides are expected to subside in the next few days as the weather improves.

Will the water scare away tourists?
While many tourists gladly splashed around the city, some hoteliers feared that the images of Monday's high tide would scare away visitors.

"We've been flooded with calls from people who want to cancel their reservation because they think Venice is under water," said Giuseppe Mazzarella, a receptionist at the Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal. "We reassured them that it's all over ... and even if it happens again, it's quite fun for tourists."

Venice is building a system of movable barriers that would rise from the seabed to ease the effect of high tides, but the $5.5 billion project won't be completed until 2010 at the earliest.