The state moved fast to mitigate damage after the record-breaking waves closed roads and beaches and flooded property across the islands.
HONOLULU — Hawaii shores were rocked this past weekend by the “highest south shore surf in more than 25 years.” Wave faces at Honolulu’s Diamond Head reached heights of 25 feet on Sunday, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
The high surf caused coastal flooding in Lahaina on Maui, road closures on Kauai, and – as a viral social media video captured – waves crashing into condos in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii Island.
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In Honolulu’s waters alone, there were over 2,000 rescues, mostly of surfers, over the weekend, Shayne Enright, a spokeswoman for the Honolulu Emergency Services Department told USA TODAY on Tuesday.
“Fortunately there were no serious incidents resulting from the high surf on Oahu,” she added.
Hurricane Darby, which weakened into a tropical storm as it passed under the islands, brought the “historic” swell to south-facing shores.
According to Public Information Officer for the County of Kauai Alden Alayvilla, the National Weather Service dropped Hawaii’s high-surf advisory as waves tapered off.
Travelers to Hawaii may be wondering what to expect now that the surf is on its way out. Here’s what you need to know in the aftermath of the historic swell.
Are any Hawaii beaches closed from the high surf?
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Pu’u o La’i, or Little Beach, remained closed on Tuesday due to continued high surf. The beach, located on Maui’s south shore, is known for its intense shore break. DLNR said they closed Little Beach due to a lack of lifeguards. Brian Perry, spokesperson for the County of Maui, told USA TODAY Monday, crews cleaned up any debris and sand from the beaches.
Talmadge Magno from Hawaii County Civil Defense saidTuesday that the only beach area that’s still closed is the Old Kona Airport, a popular beach to snorkel in Kailua-Kona.
“They’re still cleaning up sand and rocks that were pushed in the parks on the beach,” he said.
Are there any road closures?
Flooding caused by the swells did cause immediate road closures in some parts of the state, but as of Wednesday, there were no longer any closures.
Maui closed a portion of South Kihei Road during the period of high surf, according to Perry. “Waves washed over the road and caused flooding,” he said. “Crews had to go in there and clean up the sand and whatever debris was washed onto the road.”
On Kauai, Ho’one Road from Pane Road to Pe’e Road was closed due to “extensive damage” from the swells.
Was there any serious damage?
As of Wednesday, most counties said they are still assessing any damage to public and private property caused by the swells. It seems like there is no “damage of note” so far, a spokesperson for the Department of Emergency Management City and County of Honolulu told USA TODAY on Wednesday.
Some oceanfront businesses and homes were damaged when waves broke over rock walls. Honu Oceanside Restaurant in Lahaina closed down to “rebuild as our restaurants were hit by many waves over the weekend,” according to its voicemail. The restaurant replaced its sinks and floors and plans to reopen tomorrow.
Can I go into the water again?
Enright told USA TODAY that the warnings for Hawaii’s south swell have “quieted down.” People should practice caution when at south-facing beaches that may still have dangerous conditions. Officials ask people to “remain vigilant,” according to a County of Kauai press release.
“Until further notice, Ocean Safety Bureau officials continue to advise no swimming and snorkeling on south- and west-facing shores due to these dangerous ocean conditions. Beachgoers are urged that large, breaking surf, significant shore break, and dangerous currents make entering the water hazardous,” reads the release.
There are no active alerts for the state’s beaches, according to Hawaii Beach Safety, a nonprofit run by the Hawaii Lifeguard Association, Hawaii Tourism Authority and other agencies. People can check the hazard ratings and real-time conditions for beaches on Hawaii Island, Kauai, Maui and Oahu online before venturing out.
People hoping to experience iconic Waikiki’s waves can still take surf lessons from most companies in Honolulu. Aaron Rutledge of Star Beachboys told USA TODAY that during the swells, they limited rentals to experienced surfers only.
“We did continue surfing lessons as normal, but did stay on the inside and away from the larger surf for safety reasons,” he said.
As Hawaii lifeguards always say, if in doubt, don’t go out.