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Increased Sneaker Wave Threat Along Oregon Coast, Washington Coast Today Through Weekend

Published 2/08/24 at 6:45 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Increased Sneaker Wave Threat Along Oregon Coast, Washington Coast Today Through Weekend

(Oregon Coast) – The south Washington coast and upper half of Oregon's coast are the subject of a warning about sneaker waves. From today (Thursday) through the weekend, the National Weather Service (NWS) says that there is a greater risk of sneaker waves happening along the beaches. (Above: Ocean Shores, Washington coast, courtesy Washington King Tides Project / Cherie Fisher)

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This all aligns with the current king tides happening today through Saturday, but that isn't necessarily what's causing or even contributing to it. As the NWS explained to Oregon Coast Beach Connection Wednesday, this set of high tide events are a little too distant from the winter solstice to actually be perigean tides (aka king tides). [Last of Oregon Coast King Tides (Sort of) Tomorrow Through Saturday]

There are some fairly long periods between wave swells offshore, however, and that's why the two coastlines have a greater threat.

“A strong westerly swell will facilitate a high threat of sneaker waves across our coastal beaches today through this weekend,” the NWS said. “Beachgoers are encouraged to remain aware of their surroundings. Never turn your back on the ocean.”

The NWS has not issued a formal advisory or threat, but it has issued a couple of informal statements on its website. Neither the northern Washington coast nor the south Oregon coast have issued any message about sneaker wave threats. Especially in southern Oregon beaches, predicted wave height and period swells are much less for areas such as Port Orford, Coos Bay or Brookings.

Seas offshore are a big part of this as well, clocking in at 10 to 12 feet high for the areas that include Seaside, Long Beach, Westport, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Pacific City, Newport or Florence. That starts to diminish a bit and by Sunday conditions appear to be less impactful, according to NWS predictions.

Holiday Beach near Newport / Oregon Coast Beach Connection

“A westerly long period swell is resulting in waves around 10-12 feet at 15-17 seconds,” the NWS said. “Given the conditions, there is an an enhanced sneaker wave threat through at least Thursday afternoon along area beaches. Beachgoers should maintain heightened awareness for waves running farther up onto the beach
than anticipated. Avoid rocks and jetties and never turn your back on the ocean.”

That period of 15 to 17 seconds is the big indicator of sneaker waves. The longer the period between swells, the more a set of breakers can combine into a larger wave and then charge up the beach without warning.

For the south Oregon coast, swells offshore are around 6 feet at 13 seconds, with wind waves around one foot. Those rise to more like 9 feet on Saturday before backing off on Sunday.

Surf conditions remain calm the rest of the week.

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China Beach near Brookings / King Tides - Pete Chesar

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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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