Thirty-foot waves swept over seas off the Pacific Northwest coast on Thursday, producing deadly awesomeness for onshore videos and presaging a wild weather weekend.
Northwest weather guru Cliff Mass, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, explained in his blog that the waves were caused by a “HUGE, intense and slow-moving storm” over the northeast Pacific Ocean.
“I mean a stunningly big storm,” Mass added.
The National Weather Service reported waves as high as 33.5 feet on Thursday afternoon. That height, which is twice the norm, was recorded by a buoy off the coast of Washington near Grays Harbor.
The crashing waves made for a stormy display in videos captured by the Coast Guard as well as civilian wave-watchers. “Batten down the hatches,” one observer could be heard saying, in a video that shows streets being flooded in Westport. Another video, clearly captured by a drone, shows cars being caught in the tide at Ocean Park.
The winds and waves were so strong that seismic stations along the British Columbia coast detected significant ground shaking.
At least one wave-related fatality was reported: a 46-year-old man who was swept out to sea at Depoe Bay in Oregon, reportedly when he climbed over a seawall to get a closer look.
“The report is that he hopped over the wall and climbed down the rocks to get a better look at the Spouting Horn,” Portland’s KATU quoted the Coast Guard’s Adam Johnson as saying. “And when he was looking down into one of the crevices a wave came up and knocked him over, he fell into the hole and was washed out to sea.”
The good news is that the wild waves have returned to heights nearer to their normal state. The bad news is that the National Weather Service is predicting strong winds on Saturday night along the Washington state coast as well as interior areas such as Bellingham, Mount Vernon and Port Townsend:
Strong winds Sat night for areas along the Coast (incl #Quillayute & #Hoquiam) & N Interior areas (incl #Bellingham, #MountVernon, #FridayHarbor & #PortTownsend). Winds of 20-40mph, gusts to 60mph; Tree damage & power outages possible. #WAwx pic.twitter.com/aOJFCDYI80
— NWS Seattle (@NWSSeattle) January 19, 2018
The forecast also calls for heavy snow in the Cascades, amounting to as much as 18 inches at the passes and up to 2 or 3 feet on Mount Baker and Mount Rainier.
Bottom line? Let’s be careful out there. And let’s hope the Really Big One doesn’t hit anytime soon.
Here are some more scenes of Thursday’s storm from social media:
Even professional surfers aren't crazy enough to go for these waves.
Huge waves are crashing into the West Coast today, causing sea spray to shoot over 120 feet in the air in some areas. pic.twitter.com/iTJJpgxDrm
— Earther (@EARTH3R) January 19, 2018
BIG waves on the Oregon coast yesterday. Here’s the Tillamook lighthouse being owned by the Pacific Ocean. Photo by Peterson Photography. pic.twitter.com/yhe599rpDE
— quecoop (@kmc1952) January 19, 2018
— KGW News (@KGWNews) January 19, 2018
RT @JayTCullen: Collection of images from #ucluelet & #Tofino on west coast of #vancouverisland during yesterday's #BCStorm. 9 meter (3-storey high) waves rolling in along the coast https://t.co/wcNaJ5HRtm pic.twitter.com/VgL2qQH01K
— Tourism Tofino (@tourism_tofino) January 19, 2018
People watch as storm driven waves slam and explode on the Oregon Coast at Shore Acres outside Charleston, Oregon. I always wanted to witness one of these events that happen only every couple years and was lucky enough to just before hitting the road. No… https://t.co/3uD74dTrWe pic.twitter.com/6l4GxxWICU
— Jim Urquhart (@jimurquhartpixs) January 19, 2018
Waves as high as a three-storey building were recorded from the west coast of Vancouver Island on Thursday, as peak wind gusts reached Category 2 hurricane strength https://t.co/IJDIjVE2RK #BCstorm #BCwx pic.twitter.com/p7FqYBClQ3
— The Weather Network (@weathernetwork) January 19, 2018