Tragedies on Oregon Coast Spark More Warnings
(Oregon Coast) – Two lives were lost this week on an Oregon coast landmark, and videos keep surfacing of people doing extremely unwise things on the beaches, all of which is bringing up the concept of beach safety once again.
A Portland couple were washed away from the south jetty of Newport’s Yaquina Bay this week – a spot that one Oregon official called an “attractive nuisance.” This incident, along with other video of beachcombers wandering around stormy wave conditions and playing near big logs, has coastal officials a little worried. After a decent downturn in death statistics on winter beaches in recent years, they want to make sure this trend continues.
Newport’s chamber sent out a reminder of beach safety and listed some safe spots for storm watching, while specifically saying “do not go onto the jetties.”
Robert Smith, a safety education coordinator with Oregon State Parks and Recreation, said jetties pose special problems during stormy conditions. These areas are not the jurisdiction of state parks, since the jetties are built and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, but Smith did have safety advice for those thinking about playing around on these boulder-covered structures.
“We would love it if they would find other places to play around,” Smith said.
Smith said you have to understand the power of the ocean.
“The jetties are put there to protect the harbors from the power of the ocean,” Smith said. “They are an attractive nuisance. Way too many times have people been washed away off these things. It happens too often.”
Smith noted the last such death for the south jetty in Newport was two years ago.
There are warning signs placed on the jetties by the Corps, but Newport’s south jetty is a bit more accessible than many because of close by parking.
To further illustrate the deadly potential of these jetties, Smith pointed out the boulders that make up the structures are often around 2300 pounds. Yet the ocean moves these quite frequently.
Newport’s visitor center suggests to keep off the jetties entirely, although watching the waves from a distance can be spectacular.
“The north and south jetties are also especially pummeled, although you have to stay clear of them,” the center said in a press release. “Luckily, the broad sandy areas on both sides of the bay mouth let you keep far from them but see all the action. Do not go on the jetties.”
Other beaches to look out for in stormy conditions include small cove-like ones, like Short Sand near Manzanita, Oceanside, Hug Point near Cannon Beach, or some of the smaller ones between Florence and Yachats.
“Any place where the power of the waves is concentrated is not my first choice,” Smith said. “Any place where there are cliffs and you can’t make a quick exit should a big wave come up.”
Smith said you can run into trouble even on a long, sandy beach, but it’s less likely. Still, if conditions are truly stormy, stay off even the broad beaches. Two women were washed out to sea last winter by a sneaker wave in the Gleneden Beach area, which is fairly broad, but enclosed on the eastern side by tall cliffs that won’t allow you a quick way out.
These warnings also include even somewhat heavy conditions and not just stormy ones. Sneaker waves abound in even slightly high surf.
During storms, Smith said to keep up high, away from surf, rocky areas and sand.
“Stay up and away,” Smith said. “We recommend staying up high and off the beaches.”
More Safety Reminders
- Stay off logs under ANY circumstances, as water can lift them up and turn them over onto you
- Stay off rocky areas near the sea during heavy conditions, not just stormy ones, as large waves can toss up logs and other debris onto you
- More beach safety at the state parks website
- More beach safety from Newport
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