Reporting from Seattle ——Moderate surges were reported along the Oregon coast as coastal communities in the Pacific Northwest were pounded with waves of up to 6 feet, but the effects by mid-morning Friday were moderate and there were no reports of substantial damage.
A couple swimming in southwest Oregon between Brookings and Gold Beach were swept about 50 yards out to sea, but were quickly rescued by the Pistol River Fire Department, emergency officials said. "I can tell you both of them were recovered from the ocean and placed in an ambulance," Curry County Sheriff's Deputy Kim Wood said. "We're actually getting some huge surges right now."
High water hit Port Orford in southern Oregon at about 7:30 a.m. PST with a surge of about 1.7 feet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported. LaPush, on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, also saw a surge of 1.7 feet, while it had dissipated to only half a foot at Neah Bay, on the peninsula's northwest tip.
Port Orford city administrator Mike Murphy said the high water hit much like an extreme low tide, followed quickly by a high tide. "The water just receded to a fairly low level, like one of our minus tides, and then the next thing it comes back to a high tide level," he said. "It's like a regular tide change, except instead of taking six hours, it takes 30 minutes -- just rocking back and forth. But it's noticeable. Obviously, something's going on that's clearly not normal."
Mike Allegre of the Oregon Emergency Management Agency said the highest surges were forecast along the southern Oregon coast near Gold Beach and Brookings, as well as Port Orford, but there were no immediate reports of damage. "We're not expecting anything more than probably some local flooding up in the bays and estuaries. We've asked people continually to stay off the beaches," he said.
Videos of the earthquake
In Newport, on the central Oregon coast, Yaquina Bay saw a 2-foot water rise in the course of just an hour at mid-morning.
Law enforcement agencies up and down the coast of Oregon and Washington set in motion advisory evacuations and warning sirens overnight, though many evacuees at emergency gathering centers appeared to be leaving to return home by mid-morning.
By late morning, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber said the state had managed to avoid significant problems. "We've been very closely monitoring the situation, and I'm very thankful that Oregon appears to have missed the worst of this event," he said at a news conference in Portland.
State geologist Vicki McConnell said state officials had recorded waves of only 1.5 to 2 feet. "We were very fortunate, because the waves as they came through were actually on ebb tide. The tide was going out as the waves were coming in, so we had strong currents, but we didn't see any actual high waves coming in -- so we were very fortunate," she said.
Photos: Scenes from the earthquake