Anyone who has played golf is probably aware of that term – something you want to avoid when you are enjoying a round of golf. Well, near the ocean there are water hazards which can do much more than add strokes to your score…. they can take years off your life.
The most innocent is High Tide. There are signs many places warning visitors who may not be familiar with the rhythms of the ocean to be mindful of incoming tides which can leave them trapped against a cliff with no possibility of escape.
Next on the list – “sneaker waves”. I had never heard this term before but these are random waves much larger and more powerful than ones preceding them. A cute term, perhaps, but this is the warning written on the official Redwood National Park map:
“Very large, powerful “sneaker” waves can occur at any time. They will probably pull you into the water and survival is unlikely. Never turn your back on the ocean.”
Ok, now you have my attention….
I have not seen surfers since I was in southern California, largely because much the coastline is extremely rocky. If you get sucked out into the water you will likely be battered about the rocks, both above and below the surface. There are even warning signs advising people who aren’t trained lifeguards to resist the temptation to try and rescue a stranded swimmer because they may not survive the attempt.
Last on the list – tsunami’s. I stopped at the Visitor Center in downtown Crescent City Wednesday morning and saw a sign with a summary of the March 28, 1964 tsunami which struck the city. That tsunami, triggered by a series of powerful earthquakes up near Alaska, sent waves racing towards the coast of California at 500 miles per hour. Those waves (several waves of waves, actually) struck the unsuspecting community a little before midnight and destroyed 29 city blocks. 11 people lost their lives. Crescent City also experienced a much milder tsunami a few years ago after the earthquakes which triggered the major tsunami’s in Japan.
I’ve seen tsunami signs all up and down the coast while I’ve been in California and they tell you when you are going into a tsunami zone (low elevation, close to the water) and when you are leaving it (getting back to higher ground). The rule of thumb is – be mindful of where you are and what your options are, especially if you feel what might have been an earthquake. The potential of deadly tsunami waves could follow soon thereafter.