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Hidden Danger of Summer Sands on Oregon Coast; Video

Published 08/24/2018 at 10:37 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

Hidden Danger of Summer Sands on Oregon Coast; Video

(Oregon Coast) – Summer sands on the Oregon coast can create the loveliest of patterns, especially if seen from a distance and looking down on the terrain. Sand levels pile up high during this season, and they create enormous mounds that get windblown into beautiful designs.

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These also create something potentially deadly, however. Notice there are large spaces – or drops – between the piles of sand in the photo above. The problem is this kind of terrain also exists beneath the breakers at the tideline, and if you go wading in this you could suddenly, abruptly drop as much as ten feet and not come out alive.

It's not talked about much as it doesn't happen often. But you can fall into mysterious “holes” in the sand in those oh-so-pleasant breakers. Dangerous sudden drop-offs exist while you're wading in the waves, which can drop just a little bit to several feet or more and cause you to drown.

The biggest issue is if you are walking on one of these sandbars in the tide, you can’t see how deep the hole is. These can suddenly drop a foot or two, or much more – even up to ten or 15 feet.

On the north Oregon coast, they have the nickname of “crab holes,” but there doesn't appear to be a technical name for them. They basically refer to lower parts of the sand beneath the breakers that you can't see.

It's unclear how often this kills or injuries someone. There are no good, firm statistics on the subject. However, there was one confirmed incident several years ago in Cannon Beach where a local man died because of one of these sandbar changes.

The other problem is that they happen in summer when more people are out on the beach.

When Oregon Coast Beach Connection started publicizing this issue a few years ago, including the video shown here, a load of responses came in. Plenty of people have experienced this – and it’s painful. You don’t need to drown to feel that hurt that hits when you unexpectedly step down two or three feet more than you thought were there.

Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, said these holes literally hide beneath the breakers.

“The sand under the ocean is not flat,” Chandler said. “There are holes, deeper spaces between those sand bars, and they can be deeper than you realize.”

If you suddenly drop a few feet it can jolt your system. That shock of such a harsh landing causes you to breathe in hard and fast. If you’ve dropped so far that your head is underwater, you often can’t recover given the shock to your system, and then you can't pull yourself out.

You’ve swallowed a mouthful of water, and that’s curtains for you.

What to look for? That's kind of complex. Chandler said it's important to know the terrain before you go wading in.

“If you can't see the sand at your feet, it's too deep to go into,” Chandler said. “Look at the area at low tide first, and see where the sand bars are and the spaces in between.” More photos of what to look out for below. Oregon Coast Lodgings in this area - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours

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