State braces for potential of unprecedented flooding over busy holiday weekend

KHON2 is starting to see the beginning of what could be significant flooding along our coastal areas.

For the past few weeks, we’ve reported about king tides that have the potential to wreak havoc in some low-lying areas across the state.

Although coastal inundation started as early as Tuesday, it’s just the beginning of a situation that could worsen over the next few days. The king tides are expected to peak Friday and Saturday at nearly 2.5 feet, and should subside by Monday.

The following are the daily forecast tide levels and times for Honolulu, as provided by the National Weather Service. Be advised that observed tides are running higher than these values. Click here for neighbor island tide levels.

5/24 Wednesday 3:36 PM HST 2.3 feet
5/25 Thursday 4:21 PM HST 2.4 feet
5/26 Friday 5:07 PM HST 2.5 feet (south shore surf expected)
5/27 Saturday 5:56 PM HST 2.4 feet (south shore surf expected)
5/28 Sunday 6:47 PM HST 2.3 feet
5/29 Monday 7:40 PM HST 2.1 feet

Water levels were already elevated in Waikiki Wednesday.

Dolan Eversole, the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program’s Waikiki beach management coordinator, says he’s working with hotel managers during this high-water event.

“For the most part, we could consider this to be a nuisance flooding event. It’s inconvenient. The beaches will be mostly wet, and we may see sand in unusual places,” Eversole said. “It becomes more severe when it starts to get into basements in the building infrastructure itself, and if it was to come in contact with some of the electrical conduits and things like that, then we have more significant problems.”

The city’s Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division will not bring additional staff on board, but Jim Howe, director of the Emergency Services Department says they are fully staffed and ready for a busy holiday weekend with elevated water and a south swell.

“From the Makapuu Tidepools all the way around to Portlock Point, all of those benches and ledges that folks go and access for fishing and other activities, most likely those are going to be underwater or waves are going to be consistently washing through there,” Howe said.

Howe says when the water washes up onto the beach, it also goes back out and can drag small children with it.He says the impacts will be felt island-wide.

“If you are headed out to Kualoa and you think you might want to go out to Chinaman’s Hat, there is a small underwater walking trail that people use that will be very, very dangerous. In these high tides, you will not be able to walk. You have to be able to swim or have a flotation device,” he warned.

At Ala Moana Regional Park, water was creeping on the sea wall, and boards and sandbags have been put up to protect against the tides.

Preparations were underway for Lantern Floating Hawaii on Memorial Day, and organizers say the ceremony should not be affected.

In Mapunapuna, cars drove through water on the street in an area that tends to flood.

On Tuesday afternoon, water from the Ala Wai made its way over the concrete barrier on the mauka side of the canal.

Mark Merrifield with the University of Hawaii’s Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research says what once was a 100-year event is becoming more common.

“By the end of the century, we’re seeing maybe once or twice a decade now, we’re seeing it on average about every two to three years we’ll see something that high,” Merrifield said.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources says the tides could possibly bring at the very least erosion, high wave run-up, and flooding in low-lying areas and storm drains.

Merrifield says beaches could also be in trouble. “Beaches are going to be in peril. Beach erosion is a big problem when sea level rises,” he said.

As for impacts to homes and businesses, the state recommends people who live in low-lying areas take precautions such as placing sandbags or moving electronics to high areas.

Merrifield says the University of Hawaii is even asking people to document the tides.

The Hawaii Sea Grant Center for Coastal and Climate Science and Resilience is asking island residents to help document high water levels and related impacts through the Hawaii and Pacific Islands King Tides “Citizen Science” project by submitting photos online through the program’s smartphone app or website.

“We’re particularly concerned that people look at that (website) first before you download the app and get some instructions on how to do this safely so you’re not putting yourself at risk,” Merrifield said.

Click here for more information and to participate.

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