Acqua Alta Flooding Strikes Again in Venice (PHOTOS)

By Lorraine Boissoneault
Published: October 9, 2013

Waves crash on the Saint Mark's banks during the first acqua alta of the season on October 7, 2013 in Venice, Italy. The high tide, or acqua alta as it is locally known, is a natural event most commonly affecting the city during autumn and winter. (Marco Secchi/Getty Images)

For centuries, Venice has been prone to occasional flooding known as "acqua alta," a phenomenon caused by a combination of high tides and strong winds blowing across the Mediterranean called scirocco. And early this week, the acqua alta made its first appearance in the Floating City, with tides reaching a height of 100 cm, enough to flood small parts of the city, said local Italian newspaper la Nuova. 

The flooding is unlike events caused by rain or rising rivers and dissipates after three to four hours, once the tides have gone back out. Venetians have plenty of experience dealing with the acqua alta, since the city is built on 118 small islands connected by 160 canals. According to Fodor's, electrical and telephone lines are built to be watertight, and museums have all the valuable artifacts and works of art stored well above the high water mark. In fact, more damage is caused to the foundations of buildings by the vibrations of cruise ships than by the sporadic acqua alta flooding. 

(MORE: Thailand's Temple of Dawn Closed by Climate Change)

Normally major flooding events -- when waters reach above 140 cm -- occur once every four years on average, usually during the winter, from October to January, says Italy's tourism site. But with sea levels rising and Venice slowly sinking, the city faces more regular flooding events from the tides. 

For now, the acqua alta is more of a nuisance than a danger, and you can still explore St. Mark's Square and other low-lying parts of Venice with boots on. 

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A general view of Venice during the 65th Venice Film Festival on Sept. 1, 2008, in Venice. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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