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Hidden Summer Danger of Oregon Coast No One Talks About

Published 08/30/2017 at 5:43 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Hidden Summer Danger of Oregon Coast No One Talks About

(Oregon Coast) – There's a hidden danger in those tide line waves that are tempting to wade in during summer – one that has killed a few people in the last decade. When summer sand levels get really high, with those large tufts of sand and massive pools of ocean water between them, you'd best be careful when you tread around those pools. You can't always see the bottom of those, and that's when some could drop suddenly a few feet to as much as ten feet, and you run the risk of drowning. (Above: watch for large pools like these at Manzanita in summer).

It only lurks at the tide line where you can wade up to your hips or so, and only in summer. This makes it all that much more dangerous, however, because there are more people out on the beaches and more flopping around in the surf.

Luckily, it doesn't happen very often, but unfortunately it's not talked about enough because of that. It's the big hidden danger of the Oregon coast at its busiest time.

On the north Oregon coast, they have the nickname of “crab holes,” but there doesn't appear to be a technical name for them. They basically refer to lower parts of the sand beneath the breakers that you can't see. These can suddenly drop a foot or two, or much more – even up to ten or 15 feet.

A good example: note the massive patterns and dips in the dry sand at Newport. These happen underneath the tide line as well, and you can't see those sudden dips when they're filled with water.

If you drop abruptly a couple of feet, it will hurt. The shock will shake up your system as well, but that sudden dip won't injure most people. The problem comes when these drops are over a few feet, and especially when it comes to children whose lesser heights put them at more risk. If you or a child falls into one deep enough, you could find yourself under water. Worse, that shock may not allow you to pull up fast enough and your lungs begin taking on water.

Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, said comes about because of the piles of sand that build up during summer's more mellow wave action. They build up just beyond the surf as well right in plain sight on the beaches. You can often see this striking sight on many beaches around the coast: areas where the sand rises and falls in height.

It's this kind of terrain under the breakers you have to worry about.

“The sand under the ocean is not flat,” Chandler said. “There are holes, deeper spaces between those sand bars, and they can be deeper than you realize.”

For kids, a three- to four-foot drop can mean serious trouble.

On the extreme end, those ten-foot crab holes are just plain deadly.

Chandler said the shock of abruptly landing in such a way often causes you to breath in hard and fast. If for some reason the drop-off is low enough to put you under water – even if it's something you could normally swim out of – that instinctive breathing in means you've swallowed a mouthful of water.

What to look for? That's kind of complex.

“If you can't see the sand at your feet, it's too deep to go into,” Chandler said. Where to stay in these areas - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours

He went as far as to suggest not to go wading in the ocean at all, since people really need a trained eye to know what to look for.

Another important point, according to Chandler: walk back the exact way you came if you have gone out wading beyond your knees. Since these mounds of sand can drop off suddenly to the right or to the left of you, make sure you come back the same path you took.

Note the deeper area you must wade through to get to the main breakers a ways away. Be cautious of spots like this.




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