PORTLAND, Ore. — Editor's note: The video in the media player above is from 2019.
Sneaker waves can be and have been deadly. The waves, which at first appear smaller than they really are, can suddenly knock people over and even sweep them out to sea. The cold ocean water can paralyze people within minutes. The waves can wash more than 150 feet up the beach, according to the National Weather Service. In 2020, two children died after being swept out to sea from an off-beach trail by a sneaker wave.
Sneaker waves earned their name "because they often appear with no warning after long periods of quiet surf and much smaller waves," according to the NWS. The waves also carry lots of sand and gravel, which can fill a person's clothes and "weigh them down like concrete rendering them powerless to keep from being dragged off the beach by the receding wave," the NWS says.
Sneaker waves are also powerful enough to lift heavy logs and debris on the beach and bring them crashing back down on people. A woman suffered serious injuries in Nehalem in 2019 after a wave lifted the log she was sitting on and flipped it, crushing her underneath.
People visiting the coast should never turn their back on the ocean, officials say.
Here are some other tips from to stay safe at the beach:
- Expect and listen for changes in incoming waves
- Stay farther back from the ocean than you think is necessary
- Stay off rocks along the surf or near the water
- Never stand on logs on the beach