HONOLULU (KHON2) — Oahu is beginning to see some big swells in December. With some waves expected to reach as high as 45 ft. on Wednesday and Thursday, Ocean Safety officials are urging beachgoers to stay alert, be aware of all signs posted and take the necessary precautions.
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“If you do come out please be aware of the boundaries ocean safety has established, whether it’s caution tape, warning signs, PA’s from your lifeguards in towers,” said Lt. Kerry Atwood.
As the surf picked up late Tuesday afternoon, lifeguards stayed late to make sure everyone was safe. Officials say they expect to extend their hours again Wednesday and Thursday in areas where waves are expected to be the most dangerous.
“For tomorrow, we’re planning to bring people in early and possibly keep them throughout the day. We’ll do that for the leeward coast as well,” said Honolulu Ocean Safety Chief John Titchen.
However, Hawaii’s oceans can be dangerous all year round, especially for those who aren’t experienced.
A lifeguard’s shift is typically from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but Titchen said, there is a growing need for them to work longer hours, since people often head to the beach before and after work.
There will be hundreds of people in the water long before nine in the morning. There’s no doubt that ocean safety is needed. Our guards there will tell you there have been so many times where we’ve done a rescue before they come on duty.Chief John Titchen, Honolulu Ocean Safety
One solution being implemented in a few months is the “Dawn to Dusk” program. It will start in July of 2021 and will have lifeguards on Oahu’s beaches working, essentially, from dawn to dusk. The program will create two shifts from sunrise to mid-day and from mid-day to sunset. The time when lifeguards will start and end will change based on daylight hours.
“(The shifts will) overlap each other. That period of time in the middle of the day is when we’re going to be able to do things like give people breaks, supply more people or personnel where we have a crowd at one beach or another. It gives us a chance to be more flexible,” said Titchen.
Titchen says the program will start off as a mobile unit and start at areas where they see the most beach traffic, then spread out to the rest of the island. He said the program will be year round.
“It does require more people. It will require more resources, they’ll need to be mobile. Obviously we won’t be able to open all our towers right away for the “Dawn to Dusk” program,” said Titchen.
Ocean Safety will also be hiring in hopes to fill 23 additional positions, which were approved under Ocean Safety’s 2021 budget for the new year. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said these positions will be the backbone for the initial phase of the “Dawn to Dusk” program.