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How Not To Get Yourself Killed Shooting Washington / Oregon Coast King Tides

Published 11/05/21 at 6:31 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

How Not To Get Yourself Killed Photographing Oregon / Washington Coast King Tides

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(Long Beach, Washington) – Looking to make an impression this year while photographing the king tides on the Oregon or Washington coast? Looking for your 15 minutes of fame? Maybe think about not following basic rules and getting yourself in the news for getting swept away by a big, nasty wave. (Stormy mishap at the Cove in Seaside, courtesy Tiffany Boothe. Proof of why you should not be in a low-lying parking lot )

Photographing king tides and submitting them for the sake of science is a worthy cause, but not one worth dying for. Last year's perigean tide season was a monster, resulting in far larger-than-normal surges because the tides coincided with major storms. This year, some sizable wave action is gearing up out at sea and may well provide some more deadly surges as well (there are some coastal flooding advisories in effect).

Thus, officials at the King Tides Project for the Washington and Oregon coastlines are more concerned than ever about imparting safety. King tides started today, November 5, and go through November 7. See King Tides Along Oregon/Washington Coast May Have Extra Power; Flood Advisory

CoastWatch is one of the groups spearheading the citizen science event on the Oregon coast, and the group's volunteer coordinator, Jesse Jones, is concerned.

“We're focusing as much on safety as we are on science,” she said. “ ‘Stay off the beach' is a message even more than ‘Take photos from a distance.' “

Washington's King Tides Project - https://www.oregonkingtides.net/

So how to photograph the king tides without getting killed?

The big rule of thumb everyone hears is “don't turn your back on the ocean.” Except in the case of king tides, you don't want to go anywhere near the ocean as Jones indicated.

Oregon Coast Beach Connection is offering these three main guidelines, often used in storms of any kind:

Stay Off Beaches – stay off any beaches during these high tide events

Stay Off Low-Lying Areas – like jetties or even parking lots just above the beach

Stay Off Cliffs – They can suddenly crumble

The first and foremost in these warnings is tides in general. They pose dangers any time of year.

“I am stunned by how many Oregonians don't know about our 6 to 8-foot twice daily tides,” Jones said. “These tides in the summer time can trap people in coves, or on rocky shores. Overall, more education about tides needs to happen and the Oregon King Tides Project is a platform to share about the Oregon coast tides in general.”

Also threatening during such conditions are low-lying parking lots or other areas near the tide, such as the 804 Trail at Yachats. The tidal overflow conditions inherent in king tides often means some flooding, and these surges combined with the offshore swells of 15 – 17 feet in many coastal areas this weekend may cause you to get swept out as if you were on the beach anyway.

Jetties are a big no-no essentially anytime of year, but especially during king tides.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) puts all this very simply in its storm watch warnings and advice:

King Tides Safety on Washington / Oregon Coast: Or How Not To Get Killed
Above: king tides at Westport, Washington, courtesy Shian Klassen / Washington King Tides

“Look for locations well above the action and away from cliff edges. Just because the parking lot may be relatively safe, the nearby trails may not be. This hopefully goes without saying, but jetties are not a safe place to watch a storm. That Instagram shot is really not worth an encounter with high waves and sharp, barnacle-covered rocks.”

Cliffs are a seriously bad idea as well, and even more so venturing beyond fencing. Cliffs can crumble, and sometimes all it needs is a slight human presence to do so.

Jones said she recently did a slew of media interviews about the project, and safety kept coming to the center of the conversation.

“And the question keeps coming up: how can we ask people to come to the beach during these tides when they are so dangerous? It's a tricky one,” she said.

Jones said she's been using the analogy of a volcano lately. In various parts of the world, some people live with volcanoes in their backyards, and they never know when one will blow.

“The sea is like this,” she said. “If there is rain and wind, the surge will be huge and dangerous.”

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