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Tsunami Advisory Over for Washington / Oregon Coast - Images, Video

Published 01/15/22 at 6:33 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Tsunami Advisory Over for Washington / Oregon Coast - Images, Video

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(Coos Bay, Oregon) – The National Weather Service (NWS) has finally closed its tsunami advisory for the Oregon coast and Washington coast as of late Saturday afternoon, after reissuing the message at 1:30 p.m., maintaining people should stay off beaches and out of harbors or bays. (Photo above courtesy Tom Horning: Gearhart with lots of raucous waves)

Friday afternoon, an underwater volcano off the South Pacific nation of Tonga erupted with major force, eventually causing small tsunami surges along the Oregon coast and Washington coast. The NWS first issued a statement about 4 a.m. on Saturday morning saying this distant event was being evaluated for any tsunami threat, and then about 5:20 a.m. the agency issued a tsunami advisory.

The surges coincided with an already-raucous ocean, on a day with plenty of sneaker waves, which the NWS warned about on Thursday. The largest surge was recorded underwater off Port Orford at a little over one foot, while others on the Washington coast and Oregon coast were documented as being under that.

There were no injuries or damage reported.

January 15, 2022 did produce plenty of interesting images and some drama along the Oregon coast, including an errant tsunami siren going off in Cannon Beach, causing confusion there.

In most cases, surges were not discernible along the coastlines, except some reports from the southern Washington coast and one video from Neskowin showing a large surge barreling up the creek.

See the video above: the travel center for Coos Bay / Charleston / North Bend, Oregon's Adventure Coast, sent this video to Oregon Coast Beach Connection. It showed a scene typical of the day: Shore Acres and Sunset Bay had plenty of wave activity but it was impossible to tell if any major surges were coming through, certainly at least during the period Executive Director Janice Langlilais was taking video.

There were some reports of periodic surges in Sunset Bay early in the day, but they could not be confirmed.

Waiting for the volcanic tsunami from Tonga. January 15, 2022.

Posted by Tom Horning on Saturday, January 15, 2022

However, in Gearhart, on the north Oregon coast, there was much wild wave activity near the mouth of the Necanicum, where Seaside geologist Tom Horning stood and watched the surf butt up against the dunes, which are normally clear of ocean water.

His observations summed up the day best. He called Saturday's ocean action “One part tsunami, ten parts sneaker wave.”

“It was hard to distinguish a potential tsunami of small size from a typical surge of a sneaker wave, which are happening today,” Horning said. “I stationed myself at the south tip of Gearhart above the mouth of the Necanicum River. Two-minute surges followed by four minutes of ebb were typical from 8:30 AM to 9 AM. At 9:01 AM, a surge of 10 minutes followed by a two-minute ebb by a surge of six minutes occurred. Later surges were from three to five minutes with five minutes of ebb until around 9:40 AM, when we left. Possibly, the 9:01 AM surge could have been a sneaker wave with some tsunami momentum. The run-up in the bay during these bigger surges was not very impressive. One really had to work pretty hard to believe that a tsunami had struck. More likely, the tide was at the right flood stage for sneakers to mimic what we would want to see as a tsunami. Not very convincing.”

However, a major surge in Neskowin seemed to show considerable evidence of an extra large push.


Photo courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium: you can see the wide berth of the waves by looking at the distance between the wet sand close to the dunes and the tideline - hundreds of feet

Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium echoed Horning's sentiments and provided some photos to Oregon Coast Beach Connection.

“There were a few surges but nothing extremely noticeable,” Boothe said. “It looked a lot like a really high tide with heavy surf. The surf came up to the base of the dunes but didn't touch the Turnaround. Sneaker waves are still forecasted through Monday, so stay vigilant while one the beach this weekend.”

In Cannon Beach, things got rather awkward and confusing.

The Cannon Beach Fire District activated its Emergency Operation Center, and among other things, fire personnel hit the beaches to keep people off them as the surges and sneaker waves powered up.

However, the district tried to use the tsunami alert speakers as a loudspeaker to try and warn people off the beaches. This malfunctioned and the sirens went off, including the famed cow noises, which alarmed residents and made many think an evacuation was in effect.

“During that attempt to use the loudspeaker function, the sirens were set off,” the district said in a statement Saturday. “This was not the intention, and unfortunately created confusion. Cannon Beach Fire District would like to apologize for this, and everyone know that we are looking into why this happened.”

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