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Department of Emergency Management


Press Release Detail

Monday, October 24, 2016  08:51

Issued: Friday, May 28, 2010  00:00

Unforgettable Clam Dig


Unforgettable clam dig


Reader Opinion – The Daily World, March 17, 2010

t was a beautiful day, very quiet, no wind, little swell but the surf was running a long ways. A young girl with a baby in a stroller was beside us watching her mother dig clams.

Suddenly Dick noticed the water had receded out about two blocks. I then noticed a wave about three-feet high which seemed to be growing and coming in from off shore at a pretty fast pace. I yelled at Dick to alert him, he waved back and I turned to walk up to a drier area.

Dick, who is over six feet tall, soon noted that the water had risen rapidly from his ankles to his knees so dug his long-handled shovel into the sand for better balance. All at once, the water hit him in the chest, kicked his feet out from under him and sent him swimming.

I started to run but it was too late. The wave hit me from behind knocking my feet out from under me and rolling over the top of me.

Dick and I were tossed and rolled over and over in the water like so much driftwood, never touching the ground until the water deposited us about 60 yards up the beach. What probably only took a minute, seemed like hours.

In looking around afterward, people up and down the beach had been “bowled over” by this wave. Considering most of us were in chest waders, someone could have drowned! We talked to the young girl and she said she watched the wave just rise out of nowhere, knocking her mother down and then Dick and me. Luckily she had outrun it. Our friend Eddie said that several more waves after this one did the same thing. They looked like stair steps, like they were just piling up on top one another.

Thinking this must have had something to do with the recent tsunami scare, I contacted Todd Ehret at NOAA. The following are excerpts from his e-mail: “The wave event you described was NOT related to the earthquake in Chile or the Tsunami which that earthquake created. Whenever there is an earthquake in a coastal region, or underwater in the ocean floor, the possibility of a Tsunami is created. The term “tsunami” is often misinterpreted to be a very large, destructive wave; sometimes called a “tidal wave”. A tsunami has the potential to be a large, destructive wave, such as the one which devastated Sri Lanka a few years ago, but most are only a foot or two in height, and have little if any dangerous or destructive potential.”

“What you probably experienced is commonly referred to as a ‘rogue wave.’ A wave (often a series of waves), which is much larger than other waves occurring at the same time. There are reports of conditions in which the average wave was 8-10 feet and a “rogue wave” of 4-5 times that size (40-50 feet high) occurred without warning.

“There are well documented reports, videos and radar imagery of such waves. It is believed that such ‘rogue waves’ are the result of several different waves (each traveling at slightly different speeds) merging together to create a single, much larger wave. When such a wave is encountered at a shoreline area, it is said that the water level lowers dramatically which exposes portions of the beach which were underwater only moments before. Then there can be a single wave (or a couple of waves) which quickly cover the exposed area and can go even farther up the beach.

Such a ‘rogue wave’ can impact a small area of the shore, a few hundred yards or less, or can extend for several miles depending on the size of the wave and angle it approaches the beach. Based on your description, it is very likely that you encountered such a ‘rogue wave.’ Although they may have the same “signature” as a tsunami, rogue waves have different causes and are not predictable.” — Todd Ehret We’ve dug clams many times when there were large swells off the coast, never imaging a wave like this possible without a good cause.

Now we know better. This letter is not meant to scare people but to reinforce the idea of staying alert.

Will this event keep us from going to the beach? NO WAY. Will it make us a lot more aware of our surroundings, YOU BET!

Carolyn and Dick Calhoun are residents of Westport.
Article from the March 17, 2010 The Daily World
There was a Tsunami Advisory for the Washington Coast on February 27, 2010