Big Waves and Brown Waves Make a Splash on Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) – Coastal residents and tourists gasped with glee this weekend and Monday at massive waves that pummeled the beaches and rocky areas of the coast, while those in ships offshore cursed the storm as conditions prevented them from entering major ports.
But even before all these wild storm conditions hit, the coast saw some oddities hit in the form of brown waves.
Brown surf was spotted on the north Oregon coast on Friday, in between the first and second storm sessions. It was wandering up the beach at Manzanita that day in spurts, in the midst of an unruly tide that hinted at the crazier conditions to come. Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, said it showed up in stronger tones in the Seaside area, which is where it generally shows up in a much more prominent way.
The brown waves are sometimes confused with pollution or with an environmental problem by tourists and even some locals who aren’t used to it. It is simply a larger than normal bloom of diatoms – a form of phytoplankton. It is a sign of a healthy ocean.
Diatoms are actually the creatures largely responsible for the sea foam you see as well. They’re microscopic skeletons combine with the air to make all those suds and bubbles.
No one knows why they periodically show up in such strong numbers that they turn the surf brownish, but Seaside’s area is rich in the nutrients that feed these – richer than many areas of the coast.
Over the weekend, the brown waves were replaced by huge surf, often with swells in the 25 foot to 35 foot range.
“Now it’s just a boiling cauldron of death out there,” Chandler said.
He added conditions were so wild - even on the long, somewhat ascending beach of Seaside – that a rare sight was caught Monday.
“Some storm surges actually made it up to the Turnaround,” Chandler said.
Throughout the rest of the coast, massive waves made a big – and somewhat dangerous – show, especially on rocky spots like in Yachats.
In Depoe Bay, the seawall was a huge attraction, with the Spouting Horn going bonkers, shooting high up into the air, along with other spectacular wave action on this powerful chunk of basalt.
Meanwhile, conditions were so rough the U.S. Coast Guard closed off the Columbia River bar, along with other ports on the Oregon and Washington coast. The entrances to Tillamook Bay and Suislaw River at Florence were also closed.
Ocean swells have already dipped down to the 20 foot category as of Monday, which is still causing wild sights, however.
For continued surf warnings, wind advisories and such, see Seaside weather, Cannon Beach weather, Manzanita weather, Rockaway weather, Oceanside weather, Pacific City weather, Lincoln City weather, Depoe Bay weather, Newport weather, Yachats weather.
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