Massive 15 To 20-Foot Waves Hit Hawaii

Since Tuesday, West Hawaii shores have been target to massive 15- to 20-foot waves that have been dangerously inching inward. And though the ocean may currently look like a playground for big wave surfers, officials are warning everyone to stay out of the water.

“Anyone entering the water could face significant injury or death,” according to a coastal hazard message issued by the National Weather Service. “Inexperienced persons should remain off beaches and adjacent beachfront areas.”

The NWS issued a high surf warning in effect on Tuesday that will last to 6 p.m. Thursday. Large surf, shore breaks, and dangerous currents have so far occurred, along with overflows across beaches, lava shelves and roads. The NWS added that powerful harbor surges and large breakers are likely at harbor entries such as Honokohau.

“We are urging anyone who visits North Shore beaches to stay away from the shoreline as a safety precaution,” warned ocean safety supervisor Kalani Vierra. “Surging waters will sweep over beaches and can easily knock people off their feet and suck them out into the water.”

So far, the heaviest effects were felt on Wednesday in Kauai, where currents generated from a storm far to the north brought in in 30- to 40-foot waves. Meanwhile, fisherman and mariners all over have been asked to use extreme caution when entering or leaving ports and when mooring or launching their boats.

Hawaii County Civil Defense has been coordinating with the NWS to oversee the approaching swell, Civil Defense Chief Darryl Oliveira said.

“Listen to your ocean safety officers, and as a precaution, stay off the beach,” Oliveira said.

Initially, residents along the coast and in low lying areas were advised to take precautions, while boat owners were told to safely secure their vessels. Everyone was told to complete these activities before noon Wednesday, Civil Defense said.

After Thursday, the ocean’s swell should slowly diminish, but beaches will likely remain dangerous for several days—currents can continue to run heavily even after the ocean looks safe.

“We’re going to get a reinforcement of swell later this week, and the swell should remain elevated probably through Friday and into Saturday,” said NWS forecaster Bob Burke.