By Douglas Scott
Each fall, an energy and excitement arrives along the Washington Coast in the form of wind and rain. As the wind blasts against the coast, and dark-as-night rainclouds dump inches of rain, most residents of the coastal communities around the state stay indoors, far from the inclement elements. Hunkered down in front of the television, or reading a book, comfortable under a blanket, the vast majority of Pacific North Westerners treat fall and winter as a time to hibernate, resting until the sun once again emerges in the spring and summer. Yet, there is a growing number of people who crave being outdoors in the “bad” weather, eagerly watching and anticipating each coming storm.
Heading to the Washington Coast during the wind and rain is considered a rite of passage to be a true Pacific Northwest resident, and the beaches in and around Grays Harbor are perfect for this adventure. For those brave enough to head out during the stormy days along the coast, the rewards and experiences are endless. As the wind and rain continue their endless onslaught, a certain beauty is exposed to those out in the elements. With waves crashing and frothy sea foam blowing onto the beach, the sheer force and magnitude of the Pacific Ocean becomes evident, allowing those outside a closer connection to the rain, the wind, and the weather that makes our region so beautiful.
Experiencing the beaches around Grays Harbor during a storm isn’t for everyone, and folks who do want to brave the blustery conditions need to keep a few tips to keep in mind in order to have a magical day along the coast, even in the nastiest of weather. Remember, always use your best judgement before heading outdoors and follow these five tips:
Know the Tides
Watching a storm at high tide is an amazing experience, but knowing when to best view the storm surge and huge waves can be tricky. Your best bet is to check the tide chart and try to arrive at the beach an hour before the official high tide mark and leave an hour after the tide starts receding. By doing this, you get to see the waves at their best and also witness just how strong and powerful high tide during a storm can be. Tide charts can be found at most stores along the coast and also online through .
Park Far Away
There are two main things to know about driving to the beach during a storm. The first is simple, yet many seem to forget about it once they reach the beach. During a storm, park further away from the water that you think you need to. A storm surge can often push the tides higher than expected. Because of this, do not park on the beach itself. Instead, park at a designated parking area near the dunes or on a bluff. If you park too close to the water, your car can, and probably will, become stuck.
The second thing you need to know is that you don’t have to get out of your car to watch the storm. Around the region, there are numerous scenic overlooks that allow you to watch the churning seas from a safe distance. Whether you go to the jetties at Ocean Shores or Westport, park on the bluffs toward Pacific Beach or even head up to Olympic National Park’s Kalaloch area, you can feel the wind rock your vehicle without having to get out of it. This is an ideal way to experience a storm on the coast for the first time.
Dress Properly and Bring Extra Clothes
We live in an age where the best rain gear of all time is available, and there is no excuse not to bring it with you. To have the best day at the coast during a storm, it is best to dress in layers, with a waterproof jacket and waterproof pants covering your other clothes. Waterproof shoes or rain boots are a must. Heading to the coast during a storm without rain gear is not recommended. Remember to also bring a pair of extra clothes, shoes and a few towels with you to leave in the car. Even if you leave the car for a few minutes, having a warm pair of socks to put on can make even the wettest day enjoyable.
Stay off Driftwood and Out of the Water
For those serious about going outside on the coast during a storm, please remember to be extremely cautious. During storms, avoid standing or walking along driftwood and stay out of the water at all times. Sneaker waves can come at anytime and easily sweep you off your feet and pull you into the extremely cold and turbulent waters. The waves from the storm surge can also toss logs and pieces of wood easily so maintain as much distance from the water as possible.
Bring Your Own or Stop and Get Cocoa
Finally, after a long day of being out in the wet and windy conditions, having a nice warm drink of tea, cider, coffee or cocoa can make even the youngest of storm watchers happy and content. Before you leave the house, make a thermos of your favorite warm beverage so you can enjoy it after your adventure. If you forget to do this, don’t worry! There are dozens of locally- owned and operated restaurants that will gladly let you and your group come in, dry off, and relive your rainy day adventures on the coast.
Explore and enjoy Grays Harbor!