NOAA, COAST GUARD WARN ABOUT "SNEAKER WAVES" UNPREDICTABILITY
They’re not completely understood, but one thing that is certain is “sneaker waves” can have fatal results.
"People can protect themselves against “sneaker waves” by not being fooled by an ocean that looks calm," NOAA Warning Coordination Meteorologist Troy Nicolini said.
Nicolini said they’re called “sneaker waves” because they sneak up when it’s least expected.
On the North Coast, icy waters can play a significant role on whether or not someone gets out alive.
"The key to survivor-ability is to maintain consciousness so you don't drown,” said Lt. Roger Barr of the United States Coast Guard. “Without protection like a wet suit or dry suit you're going to lose function very quickly."
Lt. Barr said when someone is reported drowning, three definite things happen:
"You’ll launch a helicopter, you'll launch a boat and use local resources."
But how do “sneaker waves” happen? Nicolini said usually two waves will combine to make a larger wave.
"And at other times, they cancel each other out and that's what produces 20 minutes of smaller waves followed by say, 7 to 10 waves that are a lot bigger," Nicolini said.
He adds that it's difficult to know when “sneaker waves” will occur.
"But we will tell folks when we think there's a good chance of ‘sneaker waves’ and on those days people should be particularly cautious around the water," Nicolini said.