Relaxing day at the beach except for almost dying

So we pack up the terrier and drive to the coast for the day. It only takes about an hour and then there you are by my Pacific Ocean. (I do share it.) We stop in a state park right on the beach and open the car’s hatch and I am suiting up Max the Westie there in his harness-vest thing for walking…and suddenly there is this horrific siren sounding overhead, LOUD, like maybe there is a nuclear attack, and it goes on almost forever and then it stops.

I look across the sand at the breakers, and then the horizon beyond. I’ve been coming to this coast all my life and I’ve never heard a siren before. I try to imagine a big wave out there, moving our way. Is this how I die?

I report to Mr O that maybe we should kinda sorta get the hell back inland.

“Why no,” he says casually, “That’s not what we should do–we should walk up a hill, and watch.”

“You want to stay and WATCH? What kind of a sick guy-curiosity thing is THAT?’

He speaks calmly. “Do you prefer to get stuck in traffic and drown?”

I notice a woman by a car, holding a phone and looking hysterical. Here, I realize, is someone I can relate to.  I ask her if she lives here, if she knows what that siren meant. “I’m calling my husband in Seattle,” she says. “He keeps track of these kinds of events.” But the husband in Seattle isn’t answering.

In all the coast towns there are signs, about evacuation routes and being prepared, stuff I never read. Max is excited to hit the sand and keeps wondering why he is still in the back of the car. I give him familiar commands: “Sit. Stay. Get ready to run for your life.”

Finally Mr O (aka Mr Cool) wanders back from wherever he’s been. “There’s a sign on the siren pole,” he says. “They do a 30-second test every now and then. If there’s a real tsunami coming the siren stays on.”

30 seconds. That’s what it was.

I relax and breathe and wonder how many tourists die of siren heart attacks here. I find the Seattle woman and tell her we probably aren’t drowning today. I think of what she will say when she finally reaches the news-tracker husband. (“You weren’t there for me Frank. I needed you and you weren’t there.“)

Here’s the pole with the loud thing at the top.

tsunami warning siren

During the ride home I did some online reading about the Pacific coast and tidal waves. Just like Mr O, the official websites say to walk– don’t drive– up whatever hill. And  then they say you should know the route and you should have an emergency kit: “Get a kit. Make a plan.”

I visualize a tiny light backpack with water, maybe chocolate and nuts, a flashlight, your iphone in your pocket… But it turns out the emergency kit is more like a steamer trunk. You need a sleeping bag and cans of sterno and enough food and water for three days for each person and extra batteries for the flashlight and and a radio and warm clothes, a recliner chair, inflatable raft, your computer on a long cord…

Okay I exaggerate. But I can imagine people floating, drowned wearing their enormous backpacks, so heavy that they couldn’t climb the hill and now full of water and sinking…

The officials also say that if you can’t leave the house then tie a white sheet or towel prominently on your front door and maybe someone will help you but probably not so really get a kit, make a plan.

[You can think of this post as a public service message if you want to.]

Having escaped death-by-ocean we proceeded to enjoy the day. Remarkably, there were almost no people around–perhaps they were all off shopping for kit supplies, I don’t know. The beautiful beaches were so empty that Max had a lot of off-leash time, or what we call freedog!freedog!

Oregon coast JuneThe sun peeked out now and then–we had our smoked salmon and beer on the sand and lots of walks and all the way home I pondered tidal waves which I can tell you is not a healthy sort of thinking. But I learned some things on this trip. If I lived at the coast I would do a lot more research, and I would get some really expensive chocolate for my kit too.

Thankfully the gardens were waiting for me at home and, other than a little fear-mongering here just to share my trauma, I’m done thinking about giant overwhelming walls of water for a while.

morning sun on the fence borderNow I’m going online to make a reservation for a few days in September, to stay at one of the pretty beach houses we saw. It was uphill a bit from the ocean.


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
This entry was posted in Max the Westie, Oregon coast and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Relaxing day at the beach except for almost dying

  1. kininvie says:

    Hi Linnie, I’ve found a reassuring clip for you: I’d stick to the garden, were I you. So much less dangerous than a walk on the beach.

    • linniew says:

      Oh dear. A reassuring clip? I watched it in the car on my iphone and I have to say it was not easy for Mr O to drive with me screaming like that…

      Remind me to never post about our pending giant earthquake. And how come your islands never have any of these nightmarish geological events? (I will not accept any answers having to do with morality.)

  2. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Nothing quite so relaxing as the gentle song of birds, the rush of the surf and a loud as hell blast from a siren. I’m glad you didn’t die. In watching the clip in the above comment I kept thinking, “If only these people had their kits and plans, everything would be just fine!”

    • linniew says:

      Oh Peter, you totally get it. When the big earthquake hits the PNW I will text you and we can commiserate or maybe rescue each other from the rubble.

  3. Katie says:


    Those sirens are terrifying. When my girls were babies, we lived a couple of blocks from Trestles in San Clemente. When they went off we all peed our pants. (They were babies. I have no excuse.) Now we live in a place where the power goes out regularly. Any civilized emergency kit should include a nice bottle of red wine.

  4. Cathy says:

    Linnie, I love the beach when no one is there – early AM, evening, when it’s cold, foggy, overcast. We don’t worry about tsunami’s here… we have our own nightmares….. hurricane’s, nor’easters. a nuclear power plant just 9 miles away. They warn us locals when they are going to test the sirens, but I’m sure the tourists must feel exactly as you did… I can imagine them looking out over the glorious beach, seeing the gulls flying against the bright blue sky, and then hearing that siren.

    Your garden and fence are lovely! Isn’t it always so nice to come home!

    • linniew says:

      I know you have more scary weather on your coast than we do on mine Cathy– all those hurricanes, so frightening. We’re more about volcanoes and the Big One, which is what they call the pending earthquake, promised by the geologists. I do think you should consider moving farther away from that nuclear plant… You know Portland, Oregon is called The Rose City.

  5. Alberto says:

    Dear Linnie, have you noticed the lighthouse on the background of the pole sending fake tidal alarms is a fake itself? It’s painted on a wall!!! Are we sure that was the actual Pacific Ocean?! Because I’ve never seen any ocean but with all this talking about tsunamis I’m really going to stick with my same old flat Adriatic Sea.

    Anyway the people who writes those safety instructions… Have they ever been to a beach? Do they know people have barely they trunks on? How could they have enough food for three days? Well, maybe my mother could…

    BUT your garden looks wonderful, I want to see more! You have roses and clematis and geraniums and white painted fences… This is a gardening audience, yo!

    • linniew says:

      No Alberto I did not make up a whole ocean. But I would like to see the Adriatic sometime, and also to have dinner at your mother’s house. Have I pushed you to the limit with my non-garden diversions? Okay I will promise to do a really garden-y post next time, because it is June and all is flowery and green out there. You’ll see.

      • Alberto says:

        Oh no, you didn’t push me anywhere, I only meant with a garden looking so good you shall show it off a little more… Other than that I’m gonna treasure your anti-tidal wave advice, just in case an earthquake in Slovenia would move a giant tsunami over Venice I’m going to have the best chocolate in town on my pockets. 😉

        • Alberto says:

          PS: mum said you’re welcome.

          • linniew says:

            You just never know about things like tidal waves, so do be vigilant. And I intended a flowery garden post next anyway Alberto so I appreciate your interest–I’m so tired of potato plants and cucumbers etc. It’s rose time!

            Looking forward to dinner with Mum.

  6. That would be very scary. This test the emergency sirens on our island in Maine every Sunday at 1 pm. Sometimes they forget and do it at 2—that makes me nervous.

  7. When we lived in SD, tornado sirens would scream during the summer sending us scurrying into our basement. It was always nerve wracking, but also reassuring. I’d much rather be warned that not. Your garden photo is beautiful!! Wowza!

    • linniew says:

      Honestly Tammy I don’t know how people live in tornado places. We get little tornadoes and only very rarely but dark low swirly clouds always look threatening.

      I plan to post more garden images next time because Alberto reminded me to do that…

  8. Would defo be with ‘ Mr O Cool’ climbing the hill to watch whatever is happening below. Coiuld never understand why anyone would want to be amongst traffic on the highway! But your garden looks fab !

  9. Grace says:

    Linnie, would you believe this is something that really troubles me too? And only since I got dunked in the creek in a mock-baptism by moonlight. I actually have a phobia of the beach. I know it’s silly. The beach is probably safer now than it’s ever been with all of the emergency tactics operating (and being tested at ungodly intervals). Still, I’m always (calmly) asking my kids when they go to the coast, “If you feel the ground shaking, what should you do?” hoping I’m not freaking them out. Did you ever read ‘Island of the Blue Dolphins’? Great book. It describes a tidal wave without the familiar labels.

    Back on land, great photos of your incredible garden!

    • linniew says:

      I’ve not read the blue dolphins book. Perhaps I better not. That siren conjured up images enough for a while. I’m so sorry you have a beach phobia but I can certainly imagine it, following your dunking experience, which had some things in common with drowning. I worry about the Big earthquake at home, and wonder which of the two chimneys will fall on me.

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