Largest swell in decades hits Hawaiian shores, 40-50 foot waves roll in
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Giant waves with 40 to 50 foot faces pounded north shore beaches on Wednesday.
An intense storm northwest of the Hawaiian Islands triggered the super swell, which had been rapidly building throughout the day and into the evening.
The National Weather Service said around 9 a.m. Buoy 101, which measures open ocean swells northwest of the Hawaiian Islands, reported an ocean swell of 31 feet at 17 seconds. That translates to 50+ feet on the north shore around 7 p.m.
North shore beaches are seeing 30 to 40 foot faces, west shores 15 to 25 feet and west shores of the Big Island 10 to 15 feet. Currently a high surf warning is in effect until 6 a.m. Friday for the north and west shores of Niihau, Kauai, Oahu and Molokai, the north shore of Maui and the west shores of the Big Island of Hawaii.
As of noon Wednesday, all coastal roads were open and passable. But a closure at Waimea Bay will likely extend through Thursday as Ocean Safety lifeguards reported that surf washed up onto the beach and into the parking lot and has undermined several large trees.
Meanwhile, lifeguards at Makaha reported wave heights in the 12-15 foot range and that Waianae Boat Harbor is impassable at this time. Lifeguards also reported that Haleiwa Boat Harbor and Ali'i Beach Park are also closed.
The wave heights are the largest we have seen in decades. "Back on Feb. 23, 1986 we saw swell heights of about 30 feet with periods of 20 seconds (Buoys) and what that translates to is really big surf, over 50 feet and that is similar to what we seeing today," said Robert Ballard Meteorologist at the National Weather Service.
We have already received photos showing Haleiwa Boat Harbor under water and Civil defense is reporting that Waianae harbor is impassable to marine traffic due to breaking waves.
"The National Weather Service has told us that this is a once in a ten-year period high surf event. What increases the hazard is the forecasted wave heights in combination with the long duration these swells will be impacting our shorelines." said Melvin Kaku, director for the Department of Emergency Management. "The long duration means that ocean waters will pile up in the surf zone allowing the larger waves to impact further into beach areas. This battering effect can cause increased shoreline erosion and damage to homes and infrastructure as well as blocking coastal highways with sand, debris and water." said Kaku.
The dangerous swell will continue to bring large surf to the north and west facing shores over the next couple of days.