After a protracted search on Saturday, Pacific and Grays Harbor police found the bodies of two women on opposite sides of the mouth of Willapa Bay, just north of the Oregon border on the Washington coast.
Both women were out digging clams at about 9 pm Friday night, and both were accompanied by their spouses. In rough surf and inclement weather, both were swept out to sea. The two were separated by only eight miles of water, though the drive between the two locations would have been two hours by freeway.
According to the Pacific County Sheriff's Office, the first incident occurred in the north county near Grayland at 8:57 pm, when a 70-year-old woman, identified by the Chinook Observer as Jeri Reinke of Ocean Park, was reported lost by her husband while the pair were out clamming.
A 61-year old woman from Toledo, not yet identified, was also out clamming with her spouse on the north side of the cove near Warrenton Cannery Road. She had become separated from her husband, and was reported lost at 9:01 pm.
The U.S. Coast Guard was apparently unable to respond immediately because its helicopter was involved in a bird strike. The rough weather also contributed to the delay in response. The Coast Guard was later able to send a ground crew.
The body of the Toledo woman was found at around 5:30 am Saturday morning. Reinke's body was not found until 5 pm.
The Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson urged caution in a Facebook post about the drownings.
"These incidents serve as a tragic reminder that one must always be vigilant of the powerful surf and waves that are often present on our ocean beaches," Johnson writes. "Always stay close to other clammers, bring a flashlight or lantern, a waterproof cell phone, and never turn your back on the surf as 'sneaker waves' can appear at any time."