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Extreme Sneaker Wave Danger on S. Oregon Coast, Yet All of Coast Sunny, Near 70 This Week

Published 10/17/23 at 4:52 a.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Extreme Sneaker Wave Danger on S. Oregon Coast, Yet All of Coast Sunny, Near 70 This Week

(Coos Bay, Oregon) – From Reedsport down through Brookings, there will be “an extreme sneaker wave threat” for the entire south Oregon coast, with the National Weather Service (NWS) saying not to go on beaches Tuesday night through Wednesday evening. While the northern half of the shoreline won't be quite as unruly, wave height is falling just below warning levels. (Photo courtesy Gleneda Borton / King Tides: Bandon at extreme tides)

Ironically, all this will be happening as the entire Oregon coast gets really sunny for the next few days, with unseasonably warm temps, especially down south where it will get as high as the mid 70s. There's a good run all along the coast of sunny conditions for Tuesday through Friday, even though sneaker waves in the south will make the beaches too dangerous.

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The NWS said on social: “Tuesday night through Wednesday afternoon will NOT be a good time to be walking the beach.”

They also issued a special weather statement – which is just shy of a warning.

“Waves can run up significantly farther on a beach than normal, including over rocks and jetties,” the NWS said. “These sneaker waves can suddenly knock people off of their feet and quickly pull them into the cold ocean waters, resulting in serious injury or death.”

The culprit is a big swell from the west with a high period timing of 20 seconds coming in on Wednesday, according to the NWS. This refers to the timing between waves. If that timing is the mid teens or higher, waves can build up considerable power by bunching together into one much larger wave. Hence, a sneaker wave.

20 seconds is an extreme number for timing – rather unusual. The timing and wave height are considerable on the north Oregon coast as well, but just below the sneaker wave statement threshold, even though timing is at a whopping 24 seconds sometimes.

However, for now, the NWS is concentrating its warnings for the southern beaches in a statement made at 2 a.m. on Tuesday.

“While tonight there will be a high risk for sneaker waves, the risk increases to extreme around 5 AM PDT Wednesday and lasts into the afternoon,” the NWS said. “We are anticipating the sneaker wave risk to decrease later Wednesday evening as the period decreases and an overlapping swell 'merges' into one wave group by Thursday.”

Basic Forecast:
Tuesday: sunny with highs in low to mid 70s on south coast, upper 60s on north coast.
Wednesday: forecast is nearly identical.
Thursday: Same.
Friday: Mostly sunny with highs more in the 60s for both areas.

With such warm temps close to the mid 70s and sunny skies, it will be tempting to wander the beaches of the south coast. Do not do so. Stay on high ground and watch the spectacle.

Suggestion: Shore Acres by Coos Bay should be nearly maniacal.

Even up north, be prepared for sneaker waves in areas like Florence, Newport or Seaside. The NWS is looking at some rather extraordinary wave patterns.

“We continue to monitor the progress of a large swell train associated with a strong Aleutian low that will move into the Gulf of Alaska Tuesday,” the NWS said of the north coast. “While there are no ship reports nearby as ships are wisely avoiding this storm, wave heights on the order of 40-50 feet were modeled for swell generation region of this storm. While wave heights will be nowhere near that by the time these waves arrive at the coast, they will likely only decay to around 13-16 ft by the time they reach the US West Coast.

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“Forerunner swells on the order of 5-8 ft with dominant periods of 20-24 seconds are currently forecast for the coast Wednesday, which will result in a highly elevated threat of sneaker waves during a period of nice warm and sunny beach weather.”

On Wednesday, conditions up north get a little more dicey.

“Wednesday night into Thursday, periods decrease to 16-19 seconds, but swell height increases to 13-16 ft. While this remains below High Surf Advisory criteria, the concurrence with some of the higher tides of the month could lead to significant runup and potentially minor beach erosion as these waves reach shore.”

In short, from Florence northward it is a time of caution on the beaches as well. This may well turn into beach hazard warnings for that area too.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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