Surge potential briefly closes a few PRNPR beaches

Big surf and storm weather closed several beaches at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve for a few hours Sunday, and it’s possible more temporary closures are ahead this winter, said Randy Mercer, a visitor safety technician with the park.

The Incinerator Rock parking lot, Long Beach parking lot and Wickaninnish

Beach entrances were briefly closed Sunday, Mercer said. Such spots may see just six closures a year for the park, where the winter pursuit is typically storm watching.

“How we make that determination is by looking at different factors – sea conditions, general weather, alerts from the province about those things, Environment Canada,” Mercer said.

Everything from tide levels to water temperatures are in the tool box to determine the hazard rating for the day, he said.

“Over the last few days, there was a combination of very high sea conditions and a storm event which is pushing water towards the short and a very natural cycle of higher tides.

“What ends up happening is that the beaches are so flat and so shallow, it doesn’t take a lot of tide change or ocean swell to push the water up the beach faster and higher,” he said.

Very high tides at 12.8 feet this week combined with the storm event promoted beach conditions that could “take people by surprise,” he said.

“In a cycle of swells, the whole beach could flood out, with logs floating, which would be a risk for the visitors and, if nothing else, an unpleasant experience,” Mercer said.

Typically, closures are for up to an hour-and-a-half before high tide, and the same after.

“You could, very rarely, see allday closures … if it’s a big storm, you can’t walk on the beach all day,” Mercer said.

Beach visitors can hedge their bets by planning outings at low tide, paying attention to hazard signs and heeding closure signs.

Spots like Florencia Bay’s lookout and the Kwisitis Centre viewing platform provide awesome places to storm watch from, Mercer said.

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