City crews started sandbagging Vancouver beaches on Monday to protect against the king tides that are expected to start hammering shorelines this week.

Brian Crowe, Vancouver’s director of water, sewers and district energy, said the extremely high tides should only pose a problem if they strike at the same time as a major storm.

“What we’re preparing for here is the possibility of king tides coinciding with severe weather,” Crowe said at a press conference just off Locarno Beach.

Those conditions can create a “storm surge,” Crowe said, which could pose a potential flood risk for homes in the area.

The last time a king tide coincided with a serious storm at Locarno was in 2012, when flooding stopped just short of wreaking havoc for some homeowners.

“The park was flooded, the street was not – but it was very close,” Crowe said. “So we want to be sure that we’re protected and we avoid the possibility of the water crossing the street and going into the neighbourhood.”

Vancouver predicts the highest king tides will hit on Nov. 28, 29 and Dec. 27, when the water level is expected to reach 4.9 metres.

The water reached about 5.5 metres in 2012, but the city said the sandbags piled a Locarno this year would protect against up to about 5.8 metres.

“There’s a fair likelihood that it won’t be needed,” Crowe reiterated. “But given the length of sidewalk area here that we’ve sandbagged, you can imagine it wouldn’t be practical to run out here in the middle of a storm and try to do it, so the city’s acting proactively.”

King tides are an annual concern for Vancouver, particularly because of what Crowe described as the gradual impacts of climate change, and the city is looking at potential long-term solutions besides sandbags.

That could include raising pathways, building higher sidewalks, or even raising roads – though the latter would be much more costly.

Similar remedial shoring is being done in nearby municipalities as well, including Delta and West Vancouver, both of which have suffered king tide flooding in recent years.

Crowe said homeowners whose properties are at risk can also protect themselves by cleaning leaves and other blockages away from catch basins.

During heavy rainfall on Saturday, city crews received about 80 flooding calls, and Crowe said most issues were preventable.

“Almost all of them were leaves in catch basins, which were easily dealt with with a rake, and we ask the public to help us to keep everybody safe and dry,” he said.

Anyone who witnesses flooding is asked to report it to the city by calling 311.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Peter Grainger