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King Tides Safety on Washington / Oregon Coast: Or How Not To Get Killed

Published 11/05/21 at 4:51 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

King Tides Safety on Washington / Oregon Coast: Or How Not To Get Killed

(Manzanita, Oregon) - 'Tis the season - to possbily lose your life.

Last year's king tides season on the Oregon and Washington coast was a mammoth one, where everything got supersized. Surges were larger than usual, mostly because they combined with extra large storms that happened to coincide with these highest tides of the year. Participation in the King Tides Project itself was even higher, ironically thanks to COVID, as photographing them was an activity easily done with plenty of social distance. (Above: king tides at Westport, Washington, courtesy Shian Klassen / Washington King Tides)

Now, as king tides begin again on November 5 – 7, and the King Tides Project groups from both Washington and Oregon ask people to go out and take photos once more, safety is on their minds even more so.

This weekend's first tidal show of the season and the first installment of the King Tides Project probably won't be as eventful as last year's, but there will be some extra powerful coming to the Oregon coast and Washington coast. Offshore swells will be rather large, and thus affecting the strength of these high tides. 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:


Stormy mishap at the Cove in Seaside (courtesy Tiffany Boothe): proof of why you should not be in a low-lying parking lot

“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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