Sunday, February 23, 2020
Feb. 23, 2020

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Oregon coast sneaker wave threat heightened for New Year’s Eve


The Oregon coast is a great place to celebrate New Year’s Eve — just make sure you keep an eye on the ocean.

The threat of sneaker waves will be high on Dec. 30 and 31 on the coast, the National Weather Service announced Sunday, coinciding with heavy rain and wind forecasted for New Year’s Eve day.

Sneaker waves — sudden surges of water on the beach — can take people by surprise, dragging beachgoers into the water or rolling large pieces of driftwood over top of them.

Earlier this year, a woman was seriously injured on the north Oregon coast after a sneaker wave rolled a large log over top of her. The incident was one of a relatively rare string of sneaker wave injuries in Oregon, but once again illustrated the dangerous power of the Pacific Ocean.

Since 1990, all major sneaker wave incidents have occurred between October and April, peaking in November and March. In that time, at least 21 people have been killed by sneaker waves on the Oregon coast, and several others have been severely injured.

Sneaker waves are impossible to predict, but tend to come when the ocean is more turbulent, during storms when there’s more runoff from the land, and when tides are generally higher, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Staying safe is less about precaution and more about general awareness. If you plan on taking a walk on the beach this season, always keep an eye on the ocean and avoid sitting or standing on large pieces of driftwood.

If you do get swept up into the ocean, don’t try to fight the current. Instead conserve energy and focus on keeping your head above water until rescuers arrive. Bystanders should never enter the ocean to make a rescue, but should instead call 911 and keep visual contact with victims.