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UPDATE: Beach Warnings, First Big Waves for Oregon / Washington Coast; Waves Close to 30 Ft

Published 12/25/22 at 6:25 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

First Big Wave Storm on Track for Oregon / Washington Coast; Waves Close to 30 Ft

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(North Bend, Oregon) – UPDATE: WAVES UP TO 35 FT FOR SOUTH COAST, BEACH SAFETY WARNINGS, Tues through Wed. This weekend's King Tides event was supposed to be the biggie, right? (Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection - at Yachats)

Nope. It looks like the Oregon coast and Washington coast will go out with quite a bang as the year ends – well, more like the startling wallop of heavy wave action. Waves over 20 feet will be smacking the sands in some places, and period swells will be rather long: a recipe for sizable erosion and beach safety warnings due to sneaker waves.

The National Weather Service (NWS) offices in Seattle, Portland and Medford are showing some mighty big wave height offshore starting Sunday night and going through Wednesday.

Coastal flood advisories have been issued along the Washington coast's Juan de Fuca Strait, with a storm watch and gale warnings for nearshore along the entire Pacific Northwest coastline. There is a high wind watch for the Washington coast down through Oregon's central coast, with gusts possibly as high as 65 mph.

On Sunday, the northern Oregon coast and half of Washington's coastline will start seeing seas reaching 15 to 20 feet, resulting in at least numerous gale warnings and / or small craft warnings nearshore. At sea, they're looking at storm-force winds by that night or Monday - but on the beaches it won't be near as chaotic. It's heavy winds offshore that create big waves, however.

“Active weather for this last week of December, with another strong frontal system arriving on Tue,” the NWS in Portland said. “Still some questions in how strong winds will be, as all depends on where surface low tracks. For now, will maintain strong gales with potential of storm force winds for late Monday night and Tue. At same time, seas will be building, likely running 22 to 27 ft for Tue. Seas will subside Wed to the upper teens, then lower to middle teens by Thu.”

On the beaches and rocky areas like Ocean Park, Manzanita, Shore Acres State Park or Gold Beach, what comes ashore may be slightly less in height as these waves can lose some energy on the way in, but so far the NWS hasn't indicated that.

For the area from Raymond, Washington, down through Newport, Oregon, Sunday could see wave height building to almost 20 feet high. The period between swells will be a rather high 14 seconds, which means sneaker wave action on top of the high waves.

UPDATE: Beach Warnings, First Big Waves for Oregon / Washington Coast; Waves Close to 30 Ft
Shore Acres will likely look like this: photo courtesy Oregon's Adventure Coast

A long time between swells means the waves have a better chance of combining energy into one big wave, which often tears up the beach at a greater distance. Hence the term sneaker waves.

On Monday, combined seas will be about 19 feet with a period swell of 15 seconds. Tuesday is forecast as similar, but in this area Wednesday may have the highest values at just over 20-foot waves.

On the southern Oregon coast, wave height is expected even higher – dramatically so in some areas. There is now a high surf warning in effect for the region, predicting waves 25 to 35 feet running up the shoreline. This is for Tuesday at 4 a.m. to Wednesday at 4 a.m.

Westport on Washington coast, courtesy Experience Westport Washington

Sunday hits the 15-foot range, while Monday ups it to almost 20 feet – also with long period swells. Something even bigger is right around the corner for the south coast, said the NWS in Medford.

See Oregon Coast Weather - Washington Coast Weather

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“Dangerous marine conditions are expected during this time with high end gales likely, possibly reaching storm force,” the NWS said. “Very high and steep seas are expected due to a mix of a long period west swell and very high and steep south wind waves. There is increasing evidence that seas will reach 30 feet north of Cape Blanco on Tuesday. These wave heights will result in dangerous surf conditions along the Oregon coast beginning Monday morning and continuing into Wednesday morning. The maximum high surf may occur Tuesday afternoon and evening.”

There could well be more advisories and warning issued for other beaches. Keep an eye Oregon Coast Beach Connection's Oregon Coast - Washington Coast News page.

This will mean excellent storm watching all over: just stay away from beaches and stick to higher areas. The most dramatic will be rocky shelves where you can stay back at a distance. Shore Acres down by Coos Bay should be an absolute rager, and rocky spots like Depoe Bay, Yachats, Otter Point and chunks of Port Orford will be putting on quite a show.

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