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Friday, July 06, 2012

20 years' mystery wave from Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach News Journal recent published an interesting article written by Mark Lane.  It was his ttitle that attracted my attention: "Rogue waves rolled in 20 years ago and mystery remain".  I guess I am too far north from Daytona to be aware of what was happening 20 years ago and 20 years ago I had not turned my attention to freque waves yet!

Here is Lane's article in full:
Twenty years ago yesterday, an hour before midnight, a freak wave rolled into shore here.
The "rogue wave" as it was called thereafter, was felt from Ormond Beach to New Smyrna Beach, but hit the area near the Boardwalk with particular force. An 18-foot wave, The News-Journal reported. Later estimates put it a little smaller. A scientific paper published later said it was "3 meters above normal tide" or just short of 10 feet above normal waves.
This happened on a clear, hot evening with placid seas. Parking on the beach was allowed at night near the Daytona Beach Pier, so cars were parked on the beach. This was the buildup to the 400, then the Pepsi 400, so a lot of people were in town.
The wave batted the cars around and washed over them. About 100 were damaged. Beach toll booths were knocked over. Garbage barrels washed out to sea.
Initial reports said 75 people were hurt, but that number seemed to shrink every time the story was revisited. By the time the wave was mentioned at the end of the year, 20 were reported injured.
Still, a scary thing to have happened with no warning. What if this happened just a little later, on a busy Fourth of July beach day? It would have been a disaster. And why did it happen?
Data buoys near Cape Canaveral didn't detect anything out of the ordinary there. Nothing but calm seas were reported north of here.
The first theory floated was that a near-shore undersea landslide caused the wave. If so, why was it so localized? Was it an earthquake? None recorded. A county official speculated about whether "a big burp of natural gas" was to blame.
Without any good explanation, speculation got silly. President George H.W. Bush was supposed to attend the race which got people thinking about national security. Maybe a submarine caused it? Heck, maybe it wasn't even one of ours. Maybe it was the Soviets!
Personally, my favorite theory was the meteorite strike.
That's the theory espoused by writer Patrick Huyghe, author of "The Field Guide to Extraterrestrials," in The Anomalist, a magazine devoted to weird phenomena. His article on "the Daytona Mystery Wave" was included in the first issue in 1994 along with stories on the handwriting of UFO aliens and whether dinosaurs were so big because the earth's gravity was different.
Since then, the accepted explanation for the wave is that wind gusts in front of a heavy but localized line of storms created it. "A shallow-water gravity wave forced by a propagating squall line" as the title of a 1995 article in the Bulletin of American Meteorological Society put it.
Well, maybe, but a meteorite splashdown is more fun to imagine and easier to say.
Still, it never happened again, which is a good thing. But nobody can really say why, which makes me scan the horizon every so often when I walk the beach.
I guess other than the UFO reference, it is a pretty well written article.  He is correct in mention that AMS article characterize it as " A shallow-water gravity wave forced by a propagating squall line " which has been also called as 'meteoro-tsunami' or something similar to that effect.  But I am wondering about his saying "it never happened again".  Twenty years is really not that long to be called a  "never". Nevertheless here's another topic we don't seem to know -- Does a freaque wave ever repeat itself again?

1 comment:

Brian from medigapgroup.com said...

That is so strange! I don't recall hearing about this incident when it happened... I guess I wasn't that interested 20 years ago, either. Still though, it's scary to think about what would happen if something like this were to reoccur. How do we stop it from happening again if we don't even know what caused it in the first place? Scary to think about! Thanks for sharing. Check out medigapgroup.com if you get the chance!