In the Emergency Operating Center last night, from left, city Managing Director Ben Lee, Oahu Civil Defense Public Information Officer John Cummings III and Civil Defense Plans and Operations Officer Peter Hirai discussed evacuation procedures on the North Shore.

50-foot waves
to slam N. Shore

Residents are warned
to be prepared to evacuate
if the surf becomes too high

Weekend Scene: Big surf

Star-Bulletin staff

Oahu Civil Defense was preparing for a possible evacuation on the North Shore as "barn-sized" surf of 30 to 40 feet with sets of 50 feet was predicted to hit overnight and today.

A high surf warning was in effect last night and today for northwest shores of all Hawaiian islands.

Both the city and state Emergency Operations Centers were activated last night, and civil defense officials and city department heads were preparing to work through morning monitoring conditions.

An evacuation plan was being prepared, and the city was considering opening three shelters.

The largest swells were not expected to arrive until after midnight.

North Shore residents should "be prepared to evacuate if the instructions go out and stay tuned to a local broadcast station," said Barbara Hendrie, public information officer for the state Civil Defense Agency.

At 10 p.m., police and civil defense workers were monitoring four places along the North Shore with water over the road, including Waimea Bay, Chun's Reef and Sunset Beach, said Police Sgt. Henry Holcombe.

Cars are still able to drive through it and "it doesn't look that dangerous," Holcombe said, but "they're expecting real heavy surf around midnight. If we do have an evacuation it'll probably be about 11:30 p.m."

The high surf could be very dangerous and cause problems for anyone living along the North Shore of Oahu and west shores of Maui and the Big Island, said Bob Farrell, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service.

Surf along west shores was expected to increase to 20 to 25 feet with higher sets of up to 35 feet.

Westerly winds may drive water up along roads of the North Shore of Oahu and cause problems for property owners, Farrell said. The winds will also "mess the surf up for surfers," he said.

Wave heights were expected to remain in the 25- to 35-foot range all day today, beginning to subside tomorrow, said National Weather Service meteorologist Norman Hui. "It will be at least advisory level, over 15 feet, through Tuesday," he said.

The waves are the highest predicted by the weather service since last January, Hui said.

Hui said a powerful storm northwest of the islands is responsible for both the high surf and strong winds experienced on most islands yesterday. A high wind advisory was to remain in effect until 4 a.m. this morning.

Sunset Beach Fire Department Capt. Stephen Johnson said his station was on standby to assist Civil Defense with an evacuation notice if necessary.

"In the past we've driven around neighborhoods and made an announcement" through a loudspeaker system, suggesting evacuation to imperiled neighborhoods, he said.

Oahu Civil Defense is in charge of determining whether to call for an evacuation, he said.

At 10 p.m. yesterday, the mood at the firehouse was calm, Johnson said. "The surf wasn't that big when it got dark," he said, and a recent check of a buoy that measures wave height was showing 28 feet -- not unusual for the North Shore.

However, Johnson said that tides and wind could contribute to potential danger, creating a "stacking" effect. He said it's been a number of years since the North Shore has been evacuated due to high surf.

North Shore lifeguards were busy yesterday, keeping people out of surf in the afternoon. Waimea Bay was closed to all but experienced swimmers.

"We were busy trying to keep people out of harm's way," said dispatcher Rob Miller of the Ocean Safety Division.

E-mail to City Desk


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