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The Associated Press

A Seattle oceanographer who has been tracking debris from the Japanese tsunami says a huge debris field, hundreds of miles across, is about 400 miles off the Washington coast.

Retired University of Washington oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer told The Daily Herald it could hit the coast around mid-December, depending on weather and currents.

A spokeswoman for the state Ecology Department is more cautious. Linda Kent says government officials don’t know when the debris may wash ashore or how much.

Some fishing floats, pieces of plastic foam, plastic bottles and other items believed to be from the March 2011 tsunami hit Washington beaches last spring. There was a lull over the summer, but officials expected more to wash ashore after winter weather patterns took hold.