U.S. Coast Guard advises strong caution to beachgoers in the Pacific Northwest

Coast Guard Boat in Morro Bay, CA 04 Dec 2007

Due to the recent number of fatalities the Coast Guard strongly cautions beachgoers to be aware of possible dangers to stay safe while enjoying the Oregon and Washington coasts.

During the past two months, the Coast Guard has responded to numerous reports of beachgoers swept out into the ocean along the Pacific Northwest coast. Since July 3, four of these cases have resulted in fatalities. These include a 10-year-old girl in Long Beach, Washington, July 3, a 53-year-old man in Seaside, Oregon, July 22, an 18-year-old man in Ocean Shores, Washington, July 26 and a 19-year-old man in Garibaldi, Oregon, Monday.

“In each instance, the people who got caught in the currents were visiting from out-of-town,” said Cmdr. Bill Gibbons, chief of response, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “Visitors are more likely to enter the water unaware of the unpredictable and extreme dangers posed by beach surf along the Pacific Northwest coast. In one instance, a victim was only in water up to his knees when he was knocked down by a wave and pulled out into the ocean.”

Beachgoers are reminded to always be aware of their surroundings. Water depths can change rapidly along the coastline and waves and rip currents can be very strong and unpredictable.

“The only way to avoid the risk is to avoid going in the water,” said Gibbons.  “At a minimum, people should never enter the water alone, children should never be allowed near the water unattended, and people who are near the edge of the surf line must be prepared for what many refer to as “sneaker waves” – disproportionately large and powerful coastal waves that can appear without warning.”

Additionally, since ocean temperatures in the Pacific Northwest remain around 55 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months, wet or dry suits are advisable during prolonged water exposure.

“Tragic experiences such as the ones over the last couple of months highlight the need for beachgoers to be fully aware of the dangers while enjoying their time along the coast,” said Capt. Daniel Travers, commander, Coast Guard Sector Columbia River. “Incidents like the aforementioned can be reduced by planning ahead, being aware of your surroundings and observing beach safety guidelines.”

For more information on general beach safety along the Pacific Northwest coast visit http://visittheoregoncoast.com/beach-safety/ and http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov.

Coast Guard Boat in Morro Bay, CA 04 Dec 2007