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Greater Sneaker Wave Dangers on Oregon Coast / Washington Coast: King Tides and Sunny Skies

Published 11/21/23 a 5:45 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

(Long Beach, Washington) – Plenty of elevated sneaker wave threats are coming to the Oregon coast and Washington coast over the holiday weekend, which started today (Tuesday) with a sneaker wave alert that is expiring right about now. However, the National Weather Service (NWS) said more are on the way after sneaker wave threats lessen on Thanksgiving, then ramping up again over the weekend as the king tides hit. (Photo courtesy Rick Poecker / King Tides Project: Bandon's Coquille Point access under water)

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“The sneaker wave threat will remain elevated through Wednesday,” the NWS said.

Even so, both coastlines are looking at stellar weather for the entire week and weekend, with sunny skies and relatively warm temps in the upper 50s.

Those tidal predictions are for the entire Oregon coast and south Washington coast – from Brookings up through Westport. Large swells offshore at 10 to 14 feet are expected over the weekend, coinciding with the king tides from Friday through Sunday, which bring high tides up as high as 10 feet.

Those, combined with a long period between waves, create larger sneaker wave dangers, as waves can pile up together offshore and come in as one very large single wave that shoots up the beach much higher and more powerfully.

They are called sneaker waves because they literally sneak up on you and surprise you.

With the high-density weekend of king tide observers and holiday visitors, NWS is ramping up their warning messages. Do not turn your back on the ocean.

In fact, it is likely there will be more stern warnings for the entire Oregon coast and Washington coast over the weekend, as king tide surges combine with the already-heavy waves piling in offshore beginning today.

Heavy wave action begins taking a break on Wednesday, backing off somewhat on Thanksgiving. Then more powerful – and worrisome – waves begin.

“Another large, long period swell appears poised to arrive Friday or Saturday, and this swell appears more energetic than today's with model guidance suggesting the swell arriving as a 10-12 ft/17-19 sec swell,” the NWS said.

Cape Disappointment at left; Shore Acres at right

A 17- to 19-second period between swells is unusually large and does not bode well for beach safety. It's going to get spectacular to watch but more dangerous.

The NWS said it is seeing a good possibility that some of its wave predictions may be on the low side right now. Surges could well be even higher.

See Washington Coast Weather - Oregon Coast Weather

King tides are where the sun and moon combine to create much larger-than-usual high tides, which happens about four times a year in the winter. The King Tides Project of Oregon and Washington State's King Tides Project are asking people to go out and photograph the high tide impacts and then submit them – see the king tides article.

However, safety must be kept in mind: stay up on high ground, far above the beaches as you document these unusual but dramatic situations.

Even if you're not snapping pics for the King tides projects, rocky ledge areas like Yachats, Depoe Bay, Oceanside, Cape Disappointment or Shore Acres will be amazing.

Sunny and warm skies are expected along both coastlines through Monday, leaving ideal conditions to enjoy the manic wave action – but from afar.

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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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