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Sneaker Wave Dangers Today, 20-Ft Waves Later This Week on Oregon / Washington Coast

Published 01/02/23 at 5:05 M
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Sneaker Wave Dangers Today, 20-Ft Waves Later This Week on Oregon / Washington Coast

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(Astoria, Oregon) – Another round of wacky waves is hitting the Oregon coast and Washington coast right now – happening through Monday evening, with more coming this week. It's possible the coastlines of the Pacific Northwest will see 20-foot waves or higher later this week and cause for advisories or warnings on the beach. (Cape Disappointment, courtesy Visit Long Beach Peninsula)

Currently, the National Weather Service (NWS) is simply putting out a note that there is a greater chance of sneaker waves today (Monday) through late Monday night. Wave height of 13 feet to 16 feet is expected, along with a long period between swells of 15 seconds. That long period is what allows the seas to build up energy and create sudden sneaker waves that run up the beach.

Sneaker waves are dangerous situations along any flat, sandy beach, especially those with cliff walls behind them and no open areas like those with foredunes leading up to the street or higher ground. It's easy to get overtaken by these, where the tideline is primarily in and around the same spot for a long time, and then a rogue wave comes barreling up another 40 or 50 feet higher.

Sneaker Wave Dangers Today, 20-Ft Waves Later This Week on Oregon / Washington Coast
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In narrower beaches with cliffs behind, this leaves you no escape. Among these include much of Bandon, Humbug Mountain, Gleneden Beach or some parts of Lincoln City. Even on broader beaches with good egress points like Seaside, Long Beach or Coos Bay, you still run a risk on days like this.

“Seas are forecast to build into the 13 to 16 ft range Monday and slowly subside to 10 to 12 ft by late Monday night,” the NWS said. “Dominant periods around 15 seconds will result in an enhanced sneaker wave threat Monday through Monday night.”

This includes the south coast of Oregon.

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The NWS said there appears to be a break in heavy seas on Tuesday, but larger swells return again on Wednesday and Thursday with 20-foot waves or higher on the northern half of the Oregon coast and southern half of the Washington coast. The south Oregon coast is showing a little more confidence in higher wave action.

“Forecast confidence is higher today compared to the past couple of days regarding the potential for 20-ft seas mid-week,” the NWS said of Washington and the northern part of Oregon's coast.

For the south Oregon coast, the Medford office of the NWS is talking more broadly and of higher numbers for the offshore forecasts. Those reflect what will come ashore. It also outlines higher swell periods which will again bring sneaker waves, but this time much more serious conditions for beachgoers.

“Confidence is increasing that very high and very dangerous seas will develop on Thursday as a very high long period (15 to 17 second period), west-southwest swell builds into the waters combined with continued very steep south wind seas and fresh swell,” the NWS said. “Seas of around 20 to 25 feet, or possibly higher are possible on Thursday. We will continue to monitor and update the forecast as confidence increases in the details of this system.”

Once again, rocky areas like those at Otter Point, Depoe Bay, Shore Acres near Coos Bay, Cape Kiwanda, Washington's Cape Disappointment or the Westport tower will be putting on a show. These all have areas where you can stand back far from the waves and watch in safety.

Weather will likely be gusty and rainy for those days, however.

The NWS said there is a good possibility of even stronger fronts approaching the Oregon / Washington coast on Saturday.

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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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