The city of Ocean Shores Washington sits on the Pacific coast about halfway through Washington state. It rests on an inlet into Gray’s Harbor, which is a large harbor in western Washington. The beach at Ocean Shores is a popular tourist destination, drawing tourists to the beautiful open beaches by the thousands. Visitors can enjoy amazing views of the Pacific ocean, or wander into town for some great food and good company.
But beneath the beauty and tranquility of Ocean Shores lies a secret. This secret comes in two parts. The first bit of knowledge is available to anyone willing to listen. Even simply driving down the road in Ocean Shores you will see signs on the side of the road hinting to it. On the main streets you will again find references to this secret in shop windows, or sometimes even in the names of the shops themselves.
The Tsunami is Coming
There have been a few articles in recent years which have mentioned the Ocean Shores region in national news. One of the best of which can be found here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one. As it turns out, the sleepy town of Ocean Shores is very soon going to be the landing site of one of natures most spectacular displays of force. We know this because of the work of some very talented geologists. We don’t know when, but we know it will happen, and very possibly, it will happen quite soon. Some estimates put the likelihood of the event at ~1% per year for the next 50 years. While that means it’s unlikely to happen at the exact moment you are reading this, the clock is ticking, and every single second, a many sided die is being rolled. One of these times, it will turn up a 1 and the earth will begin to shake.
But this isn’t really a secret. I mean, it has been in the national news a number of times. And while we may not like to think about it, the signs are literally there, on the road as you drive in to the area. So… what’s the big deal?
Everyone in Ocean Shores is Going to Die
When we think of events that might happen or might not happen within the next fifty years, it’s really easy to dismiss them. Especially when you can very likely drive down to Ocean Shores, spend the weekend, and have a great time. You drive home with a feeling of having ‘conquered’ – when really you should be feeling grateful. You see, you didn’t conquer anything. If you’ve spent time in Ocean Shores recently, or god forbid if you live there…. then you’re no master of nature. Rather, nature has chosen to let you live for another day. Do not tempt fate.
Here’s the real secret that nobody is talking about. There will very likely be no escape from Ocean Shores when the earthquake happens. Now, models of what the quake and the wave are going to look like can differ. For the sake of the souls that live in that city I truly hope that I’m wrong. But if you look at the available data. The best and most likely estimate of what is going to happen, is that 99% of the people in the area of Ocean Shores will die on that day.
There are always going to be deaths from an earthquake. Sometimes from being trapped in a collapsing building, often from fires triggered by broken gas lines or other destruction. But far beyond the earthquake, the thing which will devastate Ocean Shores will be the wave(s). The estimates say that a series of waves up to 40 ft high will strike Ocean Shores ~25 minutes after the start of the earthquake.
The advice given by Washington Department of Natural Resources on their official website is a joke. They state:
Go to the nearest high ground—at
least 50 feet above sea level, if possible. If
you don’t have time to travel to high ground,
but are in a multi-story building, go to an
upper level. If you are on the beach and
unable to get to high ground, go inland as
far as you can.
Here’s the thing, while this is valid general guidance. There is no high ground in Ocean Shores. There is literally nowhere in Ocean Shores that will not be underwater when the wave hits. So there is nowhere to go. There are many ways to prove this, such as reviewing topographical maps of the area. But one way to see this clearly is by watching a simulation of the wave as it strikes Ocean Shores.
In this video, you can see Ocean Shores will be completely covered by the wave. There will be nowhere to hide, no buildings to climb on. There is no high ground in the entire city that you can quickly run to.
Now, there is high ground outside of the city. If you look at the following photo you can clearly see where it is. This photo, taken from Google Earth shows the approximate area of the most accessible ‘safe zone’ outside the city.
So… the plan is to ‘run to high ground’ right? And we know there’s high ground… what’s the problem?
Well see, if you’re staying on the northern most tip of Ocean Shores in the Lighthouse Suites, about as close as you’re likely to be to the safe zone. Just getting from your hotel to the area around the edge of the safe zone, is almost 3 miles.
While this might be no more than a couple of minutes in the car. You’re very unlikely to be able to drive this route after the earthquake is done with it. The earthquake is going to be massive. It is not simply going to knock trees down over the route. It is going to tear the earth open. It is also going to flip your car on it’s side. It may even drop the very earth itself enough that the route has already flooded by the time the shaking stops (the earthquake is predicted to drop the earth by about 6 feet). This earthquake is not going to be tame at all. It is estimated to be a 9.0+ and while I hope that the road will be passable… you should not remotely expect that it will be. The odds are probably that it will be devastated.
This is by the way, the only route out of Ocean Shores that you can easily pass. There is this one route. If there is even a single tree down on the road (and the road side has many many trees) then you are not going to make it out in your car.
So you need to walk/run the route. Which as you can see from the map above is probably going to take the average person the better part of an hour. Google estimates 53 minutes from the Lighthouse Suites, to the intersection prior to the safe zone (there is still maybe 5 more minutes of walking / running after this).
But you don’t have an hour…
Remember the simulation video from earlier. You have maybe… about 30 minutes from the start of the shaking until the wave is hitting that part of the road. But you don’t get to run/ walk that whole time. Assuming you don’t die in the earthquake… Or get stuck under something which holds you in place while the wave comes to drown you… Even if you’re good to run, you won’t get to start running until about 5 minutes after the shaking started. The shaking of a magnitude 9.0 will last for 5+ minutes. This is all time that the wave is getting to catch you.
While you are attempting to crawl out of your hotel, the wave is already on its way.
If you stay at the lighthouse suites, and you are a fit runner. There is a chance you can make it. Not your pets, not your backpack, not your kids. You alone might survive.
For anyone else even remotely further south, deeper in Ocean Shores… the exact moment that the shaking starts, they are already dead.
The Event Horizon
I’m actually somewhat fascinated by the conundrum that Ocean Shores presents in this case. It reminds me of the idea of a gravitational force so strong that no matter how fast you go, you can’t escape it. You’ve probably heard of the ‘event horizon’ of a black hole. Where once you cross the line, you can never escape.
Ocean Shores has an event horizon. For most of us, it is inactive. But as some moment in time, some moment that we cannot predict; the earth will start shaking. At this exact moment, a race will be set, between humans almost entirely on foot, and a wall of water up to 40 feet high. The race will be lost by almost everyone.
There is a map which shows the ‘walking times’ from ‘north ocean shores’ that is distributed by Grays Harbor County (https://cms5.revize.com/revize/graysharborcounty/Emergency%20Management/ger_tsunami_walkmap_north_ocean_shores_300dpi.pdf). The picture it paints is very grim. Note that they don’t even attempt to distribute a walk times map for the entire city. Only for the ‘northern’ portion. And even there, they note the walk times as greater than the time it will take the wave to hit in most all cases.
What this means, is that at any time, the shaking could start. And you and your family – if you are beyond the ‘event horizon’ in Ocean Shores, will have 25 minutes left to live, regardless of what you choose to do. If you are in Ocean Shores at that time. You will likely try to run. But in all honesty it may be better to spend that time holding your loved ones close. Their bodies will soon be eaten by fish.