Life-threatening swell arrives on Oahu’s North Shore

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A high surf warning remains in effect for most of the state’s north and west facing shores until Thursday at 6 p.m.

On Tuesday evening, the first sets of a highly anticipated extra-large swell started to hit the North Shore of Oahu.

The swell surprised many beachgoers when conditions jumped from about 10 feet late Tuesday afternoon to about 20 feet by sunset.

Several groups of people were caught in sudden ocean surges and lucky they weren’t swept out to sea.

Lifeguards started to put up caution tape and warning signs on Tuesday night.

The National Weather Service said there was a high possibility of coastal flooding along North-facing shores due to the extra large surf coinciding with high tide on Wednesday morning.

Around 7 a.m. Wednesday morning people could see the large surf had swept across the sand at Sunset Beach, took out portions of a fence and left ocean debris on Kamehameha Highway.

Lifeguards were warning beachgoers and spectators all day of the hazardous conditions.

Popular surf spots like Pipeline, Sunset, and Rock Pile were washed out and too big to surf, leaving the best surfers to paddle out at Waimea Bay or be towed-in at outer-reef locations.

“Everyone’s been respecting ocean safety’s boundaries and maintaining a safe distance but we did have a few surfers that needed assistance with her rescue crafts to make it back to the beach today,” explained Honolulu Ocean Safety Lt. Kerry Atwood.

Honolulu Ocean Safety North Shore lifeguards made 15 rescues on Wednesday, the majority coming from rescuing surfers at Waimea Bay.

Ocean Safety said the swell on the West Side wasn’t as big as anticipated and more people went into the water at beaches like Makaha.

Lifeguards on the West Side made 32 rescues, the majority coming from Makaha Beach.

Lt. Atwood said the swell was particularly dangerous due to unexpected surges. Lifeguards spent the day warning people to avoid walking on wet sand.

“Part of the problem with this swell today is the long lulls so we have these big giant sets followed by a period of what appears to be calm,” explained Lt. Atwood. “So people show up especially at an unguarded beach, they cross the caution tape walk out to wet rocks it looks calm and then a giant set comes and it could be a complete disaster.”

Several beachgoers knew the risk and watched Mother Natures show from a distance.

“We want to help the lifeguards out as much as possible we don’t want to be a reason to be saved and put them in danger because we know how rough the ocean can be,” said Ewa Beach resident Katie Jones.

The high surf warning is in effect until 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 3.

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