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Sneaker wave warning issued across Oregon coast

OregonLive.com logo OregonLive.com 1/12/2022 Zane Sparling, oregonlive.com
A man and his dog watch waves crash into the rocks at Boiler Bay, an Oregon state park site in Depoe Bay. Tourists don’t tend to flock to the coast during the rainy season, leaving summer favorites like Seaside and Cannon Beach empty, beaches and state parks quiet. © oregonlive.com/TNS A man and his dog watch waves crash into the rocks at Boiler Bay, an Oregon state park site in Depoe Bay. Tourists don’t tend to flock to the coast during the rainy season, leaving summer favorites like Seaside and Cannon Beach empty, beaches and state parks quiet.

Oregon coast beachgoers should stay alert for sneaker waves through Wednesday night, forecasters warned.

Sneaker waves are unexpectedly large crests of water that move with more force and speed than most other waves. If caught unaware, people on the shore or shallows can be dragged deep into the water.

Miles Higa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, reports that a storm system far offshore in the North Pacific Ocean is energizing waves and creating the higher swells.

“Sneaker waves can happen in relatively calm winds,” he said. “It could be a nice day at the coast and the surf zone looks pretty good, but you get this odd wave that runs up the shore.”

The warning is in effect across high and low tides. Sneaker waves are more common in the winter, particularly when stormy conditions are not immediately evident.

“The sneaker wave is a perception that it’s fine where you are,” Higa said.

Tragedy has struck before. Two Portland children, aged 4 and 7, died after being swept away by a sneaker wave near Cape Falcon in January 2020.

Visitors are cautioned to stay alert and avoid standing on rocks, jetties, or logs within the surf zone.

— Zane Sparling; zsparling@oregonian.com; 503-319-7083; @pdxzane

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