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Top Oregon Coast News of 2016: Mysterious Finds, Vandalism, Storms

Published 01/01/2017 at 7:53 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

bedrock at Newport exposed by storms early in 2016

(Oregon Coast) – Topping the headlines this year along the Oregon coast were the stories about a despicable act of vandalism and a tornado, but other nature news also stood out. 2016 was a frenzied year of changes, landmark events and discoveries for these beaches. Some articles on Oregon Coast Beach Connection (OCBC) received tens of thousands of readers, and others made a bigger mark on the publication's Facebook page. (Above: bedrock at Newport exposed by storms early in 2016).

Many of the largest-yield stories in terms of audience were about the various storms and weather warnings along the beaches. Some were about big events coming up, such as the glass float drops in Lincoln City or the tall ships coming to Newport. Other big attention-getters were about the stuff found on the beaches – and in some cases – beneath them.

Here's what acquired the most attention on OCBC over the year.

In February, one story that caught fire (with tens of thousands of readers) was Oregon Coast Showing Its Underbelly: Ghost Forests, Prehistoric Bedrock. Storms had really moved a lot of sand off some beaches, revealing bedrock some 22 million years old and a few ghost forests. It happened more on the central coast than up north, interestingly enough.

On November 9, a small quake shook near Warrenton. A mere magnitude 3.8, it was centered ten miles west of the coastline and 21 miles down, but it was felt for about a second or two in Warrenton, Astoria, Gearhart and as far south as Seaside.

Certainly one of the most widely read stories published this year was Weird Little Purple Critter Returns to Oregon Coast, by the Millions. The famed velella velella returned again this year, this time in really big numbers. It started earlier than usual as well, beginning in February.


Gooseneck photo courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium

A popular feature story this year was “The Other Mystery Creature Washing Up on Oregon Coast: Gooseneck Barnacles” back in March. About the time that tons of those purple velella velella began piling up, there was also a run of logs and other debris covered in alien-looking creatures. Paradoxically both brightly colored and yet a dark shade of blue, they exist entirely by attaching themselves to other things. In fact, they can't live without that.

Logs are the most frequent place these are found, but this type of barnacle is also known for making its home on ropes, garbage, and other debris.


Photo courtesy Amy Van Dyck

The highest profile event on the entire Oregon coast took place in Manzanita and Oceanside on October 14 when both places had a tornado lumber through. In Oceanside there was no damage, but Manzanita had over 100 homes and buildings torn apart, power lines ripped out and the town was actually cordoned off for a few days. Most dramatically, the town lost one third of its trees.

It was later designated and EF2. Footage of the event even made national TV news.

Almost as big a story was why this happened. Tornadoes along the coast are nearly unheard of. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), this one was the combination of a lot of different elements coming together, some of them quite unusual. The NWS called the storm itself “rare,” in that it was a low pressure system that coincided with a storm that was atypically strong for this time of year, making things so much more unstable.

This particular event caught the NWS by surprise, but when it became obvious what was happening the agency posted a record ten tornado alerts for the state.

The other biggest news item of the year was the vandalism of a much-loved landmark atop Cape Kiwanda in August. First, news spread quickly that the structure nicknamed Duck Bill Rock was found destroyed – a feature found at a dangerous spot where people should not be treading in the first place. Just days later, video emerged of a group of visitors pushing the structure over.

State authorities are still hoping to identify those in the video and they intend on pressing charges. This story and the video footage received by far the largest response on OCBC's Facebook page.

OCBC caught some amazing natural events in still and video with Weekend of Rare Oregon Coast Science: Novaya Zemlya Effect, Glowing Sand. In June, with a gnarly heatwave chasing land lubbers to the coast, a somewhat rare occurrence of the Novaya Zemlya effect was filmed and photographed just south of Cannon Beach. This wondrous sight creates an illusion where it seems the sun is setting in two places at once. The upper part is often distorted in appearance, most of the time showing as a series of lighted bands of a rectangular shape. Yet you always see at least part of the real orb just underneath, descending below the horizon

There was also a hint of the green flash in that photo set, and later at night OCBC caught a tiny glimpse of the glowing sand effect, caused by bioluminescent phytoplankton.

Talk about Stranger Things. Finally, while the biggest hard news was the vandalism at Cape Kiwanda and the tornado in October, when it comes to nature by far the most significant story was that of the pyrosomes – puzzling tube-like objects found all over this fall. Yet OCBC has been the only media outlet to cover it.

Facebook is still covered in posts with beachcombers trying to figure out what this mysterious object is. They are, in fact, a “they.” Each pyrosome is a colony of hundreds of tiny clones, and together they're almost a foot long on average. Even stranger, they glow when still alive in the water. They are bioluminescent.

Yet another remarkable aspect is that this appearance is really quite rare. While they're known to inhabit these waters, initially many Oregon coast experts didn't know what these were. It's still unknown what's caused the pyrosomes to wash up. Where to stay in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

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