Mose saved Venice from floodings on October 3.

High tides in Venice.

Today, October 3, 2020, is a Biblical day for the high tides in Venice… Or the absence of them. The winds and the rains were whipping Venice. The temperature was high, summerish, and the high water season seemed to start out with a whopping 135 centimeters. 135 is high. You can’t walk over Saint Mark’s Square, not even in rubber boots. You would need waders.

high tide VeniceSo, we tugged in, started up the coffee machine, and prepared for a day inside.

But a saint came down from above, a miracle by the hands of MOSE, he who divided the red sea, and who shattered the Egyptian chariots with his staff, thousands of years ago.

Well, no, not that Mose. But another, a technically advanced Avant-guard solution, with enormous sluice ports on the bedrock of the lagoon… Ready to rise up and close the gates to the Adriatic sea. A billion euro savior for the floating city.

The MOSE is operative. 

The forecast was for 135 centimeters, later 130, at 12.05 pm. At 8.45 the authorities started the procedure. Technicians had been working all night to make the necessary preparations, and at the first sun, the 78 gates were ready. Immediately after that the ships waiting to enter or to exit were all ordered to anchor and wait.

MOSE VeniceAt 9.52 am, all the gates were up and the closure of the lagoon was enabled. At that time the water level was ca. 70 centimeter. That level was kept in Venice during the whole flood cycle. Inside the city, it never reached 75 centimeters, and we could confirm that the gates really closed off the sea, and prevented it from coming in.

We all went out, and we were all astonished about being able to walk around in shoes. For a thousand years Venice has been fighting off the regular high tides, she’s been soaked, flooded, and destroyed by the saltwater that every year threatens to consume her.

High tides in Venice – The MOSE deniers.

I have to confess… I was one of them. And maybe I still am. But today my opponents have achieved a very strong argument. Because today wasn’t a test, it wasn’t just rising the sluice-ports on a beautiful summer day to see if it could be done at all. No, today was the real deal, the actual, fierce enemy…The whole Mediterranean trying to enter Venice. No mitigating circumstances, no staged show-off in front of the cameras.

Today it was in bad conditions, it was windy, and the tide was high… Not a little over the normal, but well over a normal high water. It never reached 135 centimeters, but the 129 actual centimeters would have been enough to put half the city is under water.

So it was with metaphysical awe we walked around in Venice, down to Saint Mark’s Square, over Rialto, San Polo. We all felt that we were part of something historically important. In a hundred years, maybe they will talk about this day, the 3rd of October, 2020, as the day when the high tides in Venice were defeated.

But it still isn’t ready.

July 10, the total of the 78 gates was up and functional. But even though it was a calm day without any Venice high tides for miles around, the problems persisted. 6 of the sluice port didn’t settle into their housings after the test.

high tide VeniceThe Commissioner for the MOSE project, and commanding chief of the operations, Elisabetta Spitz, said at that moment:

  • The MOSE won’t be ready until the end of 2021. 

All the politicians present, the Major, Luigi Brugnaro, and the President of Veneto, Luca Zaia, coughed and tried to smooth over saying that they would do their best to have it up and running by fall.

I think we, the bystanders, all thought…

  • Yeah, right… If you can get it working at all, let alone by the end of next year… Then I’ll eat my hat.

I’m still not convinced that this will save my city, but I have to admit… It’s impressive. They’ve really succeeded in doing something extraordinary. Elisabetta Spitz deserves respect.

But anyway, it was just a test.

Venice Autumn 2019

Already tomorrow the forecasts are for 115 centimeters, but the MOSE won’t be raised. We will not be able to put away our rubber boots for good. The city will still suffer floodings. At least until December 2021.

But after that…? Will Venice once and for all be dry? Will the high tides in Venice become something that we will tell our kids and grandchildren?

  • You may not believe this, but once upon a time, Venice was full of water.
  • But Grandpa…. How’s that possible?
  • It was a constant struggle. A few times every year, we couldn’t even walk around without rubber boots… And on Saint Mark’s Square, the were Gondolas… in the middle of the Square…
  • Nah… Come on… You’re kidding me…