Enjoy the power of the ocean — from a safe place

The first significant storm of 2020 made its way into Oregon last weekend, and, coupled with extreme high tides known as “king tides,” it made for some pretty spectacular storm watching along the coast.

A 10-foot high tide occurred just after noon on Saturday, and when accompanied by the storm surge, waves crested well above what is normal for our area. Waves crashed into parking lots at a number of viewpoints along the coastline, sometimes leaving debris and even some fairly good-sized logs on the pavement as the water receded.

We admit, it’s a pretty amazing demonstration of the power of the ocean, but it can also be extremely dangerous if people don’t exercise caution while watching this display of nature. In Cannon Beach on Saturday, a Portland man and his two young children were swept into the Pacific Ocean after being caught by a sneaker wave. Rescuers pulled the father and his 7-year-old daughter from the water, but the girl was pronounced dead at the scene. The father was revived and is expected to survive, but a 4-year-old boy was still missing as of press time on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, tragedies like this occur all too often along our beaches. People are understandably enthralled by the awesome power and beauty of the ocean, and winter storm watching is becoming an increasingly popular time for people to visit our area. But it can also be deadly.

We’re not trying to discourage people from enjoying the views of the turbulent surf, but they need do so safely. If you venture to the beach, be aware of your surroundings, and definitely stay off the beach logs — a wave only four inches deep is enough to move a five-ton log, so that is definitely not a good place to go to avoid getting your feet wet.

There are plenty of safe places along the shoreline to watch the ocean without putting yourself in harm's way, so when you’re out there, be smart and stay safe. And if you see people putting themselves in a dangerous situation, say something. Yes, you might offend them, but that’s certainly a better alternative than injury or death.