Safety Tips in Oregon

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Most Viewed Warnings and Dangers in Oregon

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    They Call Us the Graveyard of the Pacific

    by glabah Updated May 21, 2015

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    They call our coast the "Graveyard of the Pacific" for good reason. We have a long history of deadly shipwrecks on the coast, and the beaches have a history of deadly accidents too under the wrong circumstances and wrong mindset by those visiting.

    For those not properly prepared, a trip here may be your last. However, most people engage in hazardous behavior and never know the difference as they are simply lucky or not prone to statistics. However, a bit of preparation and sense can put you on the positive side of those statistics.

    This tip deals with an assortment of hazards that may be found on the Oregon coast. While none are especially dangerous if you exercise some sense, the fact is that most of these hazards kill a few people every year. Tsunamis are not an annual event and therefore they have not killed people here every year, but when they have hit the Oregon coast they have killed a few.

    So, lets get a few of these out of the way:

    Unpredictable Weather: If all you are doing is visiting the beach, the worst that can happen as far as unpredictable weather goes is that you will be a bit too cold. Just keep in mind that the weather can change radically from one place to another, especially based on elevation but also just by moving a few hundred feet from one direction to another. See photo 4. People at Cape Lookout (inside the huge dark cloud bank) had a much different idea of the weather that day compared to those just slightly north.

    Idiots in Vehicles on the Beach: Many of the beaches in Oregon and Washington are open to road traffic, and even those that are not open to road traffic see road traffic anyway. Some people are OK at driving on the beaches, while a number of others treat the beach as a freeway. See my Long Beach Idiots warning for more. Just do some research about what is allowed where, and keep in mind that if there is heavy highway traffic on one part of the beach you may want to try to find somewhere that doesn't have such heavy vehicle traffic.

    Tsunami: Yes, they have happened in Oregon and Washington. The famous Japanese earthquake and tsunami event hit here, and one death occurred in California. The 1964 tsunami event was much larger. Four people in Oregon were killed (a family at Beverly Beach state park) and eleven in California.

    The Cascadia Subduction Zone has the ability to produce massive earthquakes and tsunamis. The last one was in 1700 and so little is known about the event other than the damage from it was extensive and horrific, and if it happened today entire coastal communities would be washed away. For the most part, places located inland are safe from these events as tsunamis loose power quickly away from the ocean. Shallow water simply can't transmit the amount of deep level power available in cross-ocean transmittal. Places like Seattle, Longview, Portland and other inland cities are probably very safe from tsunamis because the water is much more shallow there than it is along the coast.

    Places such as the Long Beach Peninsula, Westport, Ocean Shores and similar places in Washington, and Coos Bay, Bayocean, Tillamook, much of Seaside, Warrenton, and the Nehalem Bay Peninsula in Oregon are potentially fatal locations. Really, anywhere that is very low and near the ocean is a potential danger zone.

    Your best bet is to pay attention to the little blue signs that tell you the best escape routes. Also, carefully consider if you are better off walking or driving to the nearest high ground. Your answer may be very different in places such as Manzanita, which rise quickly as you go away from the water and is likely to experience massive traffic jams in the event of a tsunami. There, you are probably likely to make faster progress on foot than you are in a vehicle. If you are out at the end of the Nehalem Bay Peninsula you have no choice but to drive as close as you can to Manzanita, for example.

    Some of the information I have seen suggests that there may be as much as 20 minutes between earthquake and tsunami. Therefore, don't panic as you are likely to wind up worse because of that. Instead, just keep a plan in place in the back of your head and enjoy your vacation. If the event happens, you will feel it as a massive earthquake and you should then execute whatever plan you had.

    Most hotels have maps of tsunami safe areas and planned escape routes. They have been reluctant to distribute these because visitors don't like to think about the possibility of such a thing happening. Please enjoy your vacation here, but for your safety also keep in mind what you might do to get out of low lying areas if you have to.

    There are blue tsunami signs in many areas (see photo 3). Watch for these and know your options.

    Driftwood is heavy, and it floats. Every year people get killed because they are playing around driftwood piles that collapse, or they are playing around driftwood piles that suddenly float when the tide comes in. Treat these driftwood piles with respect. Be especially careful of any driftwood "shelters" constructed by visitors, as you have no idea how old they are, how many times the tides have hit them, or when they are in a state of imminent collapse.

    The Bar(s) If you boat, pay special attention to boating instructions around the "bar" that is formed between the river (all rivers, but especially Tillamook Bar and Columbia River Bar) and the ocean. The hazards associated with the strange currents that happen between river currents and tides are what earned our region the name "Graveyard of the Pacific" due to the number of shipwrecks. Deadly small craft capsizes happen several times per year or so. Know your skill limits and ask for local advice before attempting a bar crossing.

    The Tides This is ocean water, and the tides cover and uncover large areas. Don't go too far out as you want to make sure you have enough time to get back to dry ground when the tide comes in. Realize that your route to where you are (such as around rock formations along the beach) may not be available to you at high tide, so you may be stuck in a place until the tide goes back out again.

    Please Stay on the Trail Wandering off the trail causes erosion, and eventually leads to hillside collapses. This also means stay away from the edges as you never know when the edge may collapse under your weight.

    General Warnings on the Oregon Coast Massive Driftwood Pieces are Sometimes Fatal Blue Tsunami Signs have Escape Route Information Weather is Unpredictable from One Place to Another
    Related to:
    • Beaches

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    tough to watch your weight

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 30, 2009

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    With so many tasty goodies in Oregon it's tough to keep your weight down even if you are being active. The coast in particular seemed to be full of temptation. But what's life if not succumbing to some of them? Actually, it seemed we did to all of them. We ate at quite a few brewpubs everywhere in Oregon and not only was the food tasty and hearty, but the beers too good to pass up. Craft beers are much richer than mass produced ones like Budweiser and along with the great taste comes more calories. Another place to steer clear of if you are watching your waistline is Tillamook. They make some great cheese and of course, the big calling card is their very creamy ice cream. Don't worry, we didn't pass it by. Deep down, I think we spent the night there just to go back for a second time the next day!

    mmmmh, ice cream
    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Food and Dining
    • Beer Tasting

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  • Car clouting smash and grabs

    by robertbeal Written Jul 27, 2009

    This is done with absolute impunity at many places in Oregon, including people's home driveways. But it is at urban/suburban trailheads where it occurs often, suddenly, in broad daylight, and in the near presence of other recreationalists.

    Related to:
    • Backpacking
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Birdwatching

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  • Suicide bicyclists

    by robertbeal Written Jul 27, 2009

    Bicyclists are everywhere in Portland and Eugene and other Oregon cities, and they are often right where a motorist doesn't want them to be. More lives than the bicyclists have been shattered by bicyclists placing themselves in front of moving vehicles. This applies particularly at night, but just now in broad daylight an elderly cyclist coming from behind in a bike lane barely passed my moving front bumper as I made a blinkered right turn.

    Related to:
    • Road Trip
    • Cycling

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  • sharks

    by bllzak Written Dec 6, 2006

    One of the biggest dangers on the Oregon coast may sound like an old wives tail, but in reallity, is very true. A very rare species of shark roam many of our beaches. Unlike most sharks, the "Oregon yellow spotted shark" actually walks on dry land. It also spits a liquid very similar to battery acid. These sharks have been known to abduct young children and elderly folks. It has also been reported that they can actually speak fluently in the english language. If you happen to encounter a yellow spotted shark do NOT make direct eye contact!

    Related to:
    • Diving and Snorkeling
    • Surfing
    • Water Sports

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    Don't Pump Your Own Gas!

    by Hopkid Written Jul 31, 2006

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    Actually you probably won't be able to. But the first time you pull up to a pump and someone comes up to "help" you pump your gas, don't be fooled into thinking that this is a good samaritan doing a good deed. It is actually against the law to pump your own gas. Oregon has a law, enacted in 1951, whose purpose was to protect consumers and gas station owners from potential deadly accidents. Fuel pumping technology has come a long way since then, however, with self-service gas stations becoming popular in most parts of the U.S. But Oregon remains as one of only two states (New Jersey is the other) that require a trained professional to pump your gas. In fact, it's a $10,000 fine if you pump your own gas!

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    traffic laws

    by hindu1936 Written Jan 7, 2006

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    I have lived in Korea for several years but still maintain a home in Oregon. A few years ago, 5 Korean businessmen went home with me to enjoy the golf and sightseeing. I told them they could not drive in Oregon the way the drive in Korea. They didn't listen. After 10 days they had accrued traffic tickets totaling $3,800.00, mostly for speeding, but also for tailgating, failure to yield, and running red lights. Be aware that traffic lawas are taken seriously. A reasonable speed on the freeway is acceptable. The limit is 65mph. I drive at 70mph most of the time and am passed by nearly everyone. As long as you drive safely there isn't much to worry about. However, when you see a sign marked "Construction zone, fines double" pay attention. The fines do double and there is no mercy from the pokice if one happens to catch you. simple solution. obey the laws.

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    High theft rate

    by hindu1936 Written Jan 7, 2006

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    NEVER! NEVER leave anything in easy sight in your car, locked or unlocked it is likely to be gone. This includes shopping malls, grocery stores, or driveways, beaches, sightseeing, or trailheads. I have been robbed four times from my car and my home has been burlarized three times. My sons have "just ran into the store for a minute to get xxxx" and come out find their radio, briefcase, toolboxes gone. Oregon is beautiful. The air is clean, the water is pure, and the whole state is underemployed. Theft is rampant, especially around Salem, Woodburn, and N.E. Portland. Oregon has been my home for more than 60 years, born and raised. I love my state, but cannot and will not cover its faults. lock it up out of sight, or take it with you if you want it to be there when you get back.

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    Horizon Air/Alaska Air

    by cochinjew Written Oct 26, 2005

    I am Platinum Member of Continental Airlines and used to the good services of that airlines. this weekend I had to fly to Sacramento with alaska and come back on Horizon. the alaska crew at the counter had no clue, she charged more more than what i had booked the e ticket for, couldnt tell me where the lounge was and the flight was full, service hardly existent. i know the services on american domestic airlines are bad but this was the worst.
    i dont recommend flying these airlines if you have another choice.
    coming back from sacramento to portland on a CRJ 700 aircraft of the horizon airlines, the plane had the look of an abused child and the air hostesses had anger within them as if they had just been to their therapists.

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  • TashieKitten's Profile Photo

    Oregon Coast Tsunami Hazard

    by TashieKitten Written Jul 6, 2005

    Since the December 2004 Indonesian tsunami, there has been renewed interest on the Oregon coast to keep people safe should a tsunami occur. There is much concern because an earthquake in Alaska caused a tsunami that hit the Oregon coast in 1964.

    http://wcatwc.arh.noaa.gov/64quake.htm

    Several years ago I noticed "tsunami evacuation route" signs that show people how to get to higher ground. This July, for the first time, I noticed signs posted on highway 101 letting drivers know they were driving into or driving out of "tsunami hazard zones." People at the coast and in the state legislature take this as a real and constant threat (constant because of the potential earthquake activity in the region). So when at the coast, just be aware of where you can go in an emergency.

    Tsunami Zone sign

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    Logs at the Coast

    by TashieKitten Updated Jan 13, 2005

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    A few people have died at the coast from playing in the surf near or on logs. Along came a wave and it threw up the log and the person on it was pinned under the log, killing them. It is an absolutely awful way to die. They have posters in beach towns to stay off logs. Most coastal towns have info about this, posted on store windows, for example, telling people to stay off logs. Water is powerful and fast-moving.

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  • ZanieOR's Profile Photo

    Cold water

    by ZanieOR Written Apr 4, 2004

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    If you go swimming, wading or toe dipping in any water except a heated swimming pool in Oregon, be forewarned. It is COLD.
    Though my son for one loved to challenge the waves on the Oregon coast when he was younger, he would always come out blue.
    The water is the kind of briny water they use to make ice cream in a homemade icecream maker.
    It is very, very, very cold. Only children and surfers in wet suits are hardy enough to brave it.
    That is also true of Wallowa Lake, though sometimes after a very hot August the top layer is almost bearable.

    My son and friend running in the Oregon waves.
    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Beaches

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    Speed Photo and Traffic Light Photo

    by Easty Written Jun 28, 2003

    I saw signs in Portland, Newport, and Medford warning motorists that speed photo and red light photo was in use. I do not know whether it was in use or they were trying to scare you. But it made me pay attention to what I was doing.

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    Overexposure

    by mtncorg Updated Jun 15, 2003

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    When your are taking pictures of mountains wrapped in clouds - for it is not always clear in the mountains, afterall, this is Oregon - take care of your exposures. The brightness of the sky and the darkness of the lake is a little too much for the ability of my little digital camera.

    The view to Mt Hood is from Burnt Lake on the west side of Mt Hood.

    Mt Hood is in all of those white clouds!
    Related to:
    • Hiking and Walking
    • Camping
    • Fishing

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    Mountain streams don't all have bridges

    by mtncorg Written Jun 15, 2003

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    Mountain corgis go for miles, but it is important to realize that males will plow through the occasional stream - a bit stubbornly, but plow they will. Females are another thing. They do not prefer to get wet - water is for drinking to them. So, you might have to give them an assist.

    Mountain corgi assist
    Related to:
    • National/State Park
    • Hiking and Walking

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