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Heightened Sneaker Wave Threat Along With King Tides on Oregon Coast / Washington Coast

Published 11/23/23 a 8:25 p.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Heightened Sneaker Wave Threat Along With King Tides on Oregon Coast / Washington Coast

(Manzanita, Oregon) – The entire Oregon coast and much of the Washington coast are under an increased threat for deadly sneaker waves this weekend, with the National Weather Service (NWS) issuing one kind of beach hazard or another. High waves with a very high timing period between waves that are combined with king tides are going to create many safety issues. (Above: king tides at Devil's Punchbowl near Depoe Bay - waves here don't usually get this high. Courtesy King Tides / Carley Dangona)

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All that coupled with great weekend weather means more of a vulnerable beach-going public as well.

The NWS has issued a beach hazards statement for moderate sneaker wave dangers on Friday and Saturday on the southern Oregon coast, while the northern half of the Oregon coast and bottom half of the Washington coast gets a more severe warning of sneaker waves from Friday through Sunday.

The NWS said it's the timing between waves that will be the real issue, with 16 to 19 seconds on Friday into Sunday. Wave height won't be all that bad at some 9 to 11 feet. However, king tides plus the period timing are going to greatly exaggerate the tidal conditions.

“It is important not to fixate on the highest wave heights as a representation of the peak sneaker wave threat - the period is almost more important as it represents the energy being carried by the swell from the Alaskan low,” the NWS said. “It is this energy that likely supports the 'sneaky' nature of sneaker waves, driving the runup further up the beach than usual for waves of its height, potentially catching beachgoers off guard.”

Many high tide predictions for king tides are up around 8 feet to 9 feet, going from Saturday through Monday. That is enough to fill up most small, narrow beaches. However, larger beaches may wind up even more dangerous as they present a false sense of safety with not all the sandy area covered. Adding sneaker waves with a time period like that creates sneaker waves with much more energy than usual.

The period between waves is what causes the “sneaky” aspect. A long period like 17 seconds causes waves to pile up into one gigantic, larger wave at random.

“Even outside of a King Tide, 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.”

So far, these extra wave pushes don't look like they will be causing any major flooding as they often do. However, some road issues could occur and the NWS has kept open flooding as a possibility.

“The combination of significant incoming swell energy and published tides just a few inches below tidal overflow criteria may result in ocean water spilling over onto some low-lying coastal roads and possibly even some minor beach erosion during the high tides Friday and Saturday,” the NWS said.

Sneaker wave issues are in store for all of the Oregon coast through to Westport on the Washington coast. This includes Gold Beach, Bandon, Florence, Newport, Pacific City, Seaside and Long Beach.

Meanwhile, it will be sunny and relatively warm out on the beaches, which – coupled with king tides photographers – will result in more people out there. This is a time to stay off beaches. The timing period predicted is unusually large.

As usual, both King Tide Projects need the public's help to snap photos of what will be the highest tidal events of the year . They need shots of high tide events at any beach along the coastlines, and hopefully a shot of that same area without the tidal event for comparison.

On the Washington coast, submit them to https://mycoast.org/wa. On the Oregon coast, submit them to www.oregonkingtides.net or the project’s Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/orkingtide/albums.

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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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