King tides roll in with high surf advisory in effect for south-facing shores


South shores got a double-whammy with the high tide coinciding with high surf, all as locals and visitors flock to the beach for Memorial Day weekend.

The king tide peaked a few minutes after 6 p.m. Saturday, and a high surf advisory is in effect for south-facing shores through 6 a.m. Sunday.

Surf was expected to reach 6 to 10 feet Saturday, then lower to 5 to 8 feet Saturday night into Sunday.

Out in Waikiki, the high surf was bringing in big waves. The water moved past the walls in some areas and splashed onto the sidewalk making it somewhat difficult for runners.

The ocean was packed with surfers trying to catch the waves. The Beach Boys told KHON2 that business has picked up since the king tides rolled in. This is the biggest swell of the summer season so far so lots of people are trying to take advantage.

However, there are also a lot of inexperienced people in the water, so there’ve been some injuries.

“I had one bloody nose today, that was about it. Not too bad. There was one dislocated shoulder where the ambulance came, but my props to the lifeguards out there. They’re on point on the jet ski,” Beach Boy Tony Scarfone said.

Lifeguards have been keeping a close eye on beachgoers today and been busy in the process.

Ocean Safety told KHON2 there were 15 south shore rescues and there were also two rescues at Spitting Caves and another at Pokai Bay.

At around 4:00 p.m., lifeguards rescued five military service members and a sixth man at Spitting Caves. A 19-year old man jumped off the cliff and got into trouble quickly. His four companions jumped in after him along with a sixth man.

Lifeguards on rescue watercraft rescued all six men, and brought them all safely to shore at the Maunalua Bay.

Then at 4:30 p.m., lifeguards rescued five people off of Pokai Bay. A boy was swept out by the tide pools off Glenmonger St. and four adults went out to rescue the boy. All five people were rescued by lifeguards on rescue watercrafts. EMS reported no serious injuries.

No one was seriously injured.

Since Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick off to summer, officials are reminding the public to be careful when there’s high surf.

Ocean Safety is advising people to stay off wet rocks, watch children playing at the shoreline, and always take a mobile phone if you’re going out on a kayak or boat.


Businesses along the coastline are also doing as much as they can to prepare for the highest tides in years, and the city’s Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services Division has been preparing for this king tide event for weeks.


Justin Cruz was on Facebook Live just as the king tide reached its peak.


“We’ve been kind of evaluating the impacts and how this is going to affect different spots on the island. Of course a lot of focus has been on the impacts down in the Waikiki area with the over topping of some of the beaches and into the basements and things like that, but there are impacts on other parts of the island as well,” said Jim Howe, Emergency Services Department director.

With the combination of the king tides and high surf, ocean safety officials say they’re concerned about areas where people usually play with children. There aren’t any extra lifeguards on duty this weekend, but those on the beach will be keeping a look out for toddlers who could be swept into the ocean by the high tide.

“With the higher tides and with the surf activity, the water moves up the shorefront and of course, when it recedes back down, it’s very simple for these children to be tumbled back down into the ocean. They’ve just got to be watched at all times,” Howe said.

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.

5/26 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

Hotels have also been preparing for the king tides this week, digging trenches and using sandbags to protect low-lying areas.

University of Hawaii researchers have been working with the hotel industry letting them know just what they should prepare for.

“Some of the feedback we are getting is there is concern over underground parking lots and basements, so we are advising hotels in Waikiki to pay attention to their lower-elevation properties, particularly the basements if they have electronics or power generators, things like that, in the basements to secure them and try to keep the water out,” said Dolan Eversole, Waikiki beach management coordinator for the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program.

Waikiki Beach isn’t the only area of concern for these king tides.

Water levels in the Ala Wai Canal also rose, and researchers are paying close attention to what’s happening in the canal.

The area is low-lying, and any flooding from the king tides is really considered more of a nuisance, but it has the potential to cause some damage over time.

UH researchers have been working to understand the impacts of sea-level rise on waste water systems in Hawaii, and there are several important pieces of infrastructure underneath the banks of the Ala Wai. They say it’s possible we’ll see flooding and ponding on streets near the Ala Wai because of overflowing storm drains.

“We’re very concerned about some of the underground utilities and infrastructure. Some of the infrastructure does include wastewater systems, so old cesspools in particular are a concern because they’re very old and they were designed with the water table being lower,” said Eversole.

At the Ala Wai Canal, water crept past the banks, causing concern for the keiki in canoe clubs.

“When you’re dealing with kids who are water kids anyway and they swim and they surf and they boogie board, they have cuts on their feet. You get a little bit worried about them touching the water too much and possibly getting an infection,” Sally Moses, a coach with the Hui Lanikila canoe club, said.

Some paddlers we spoke with told KHON2 they’ve never seen the water this high before.

“I was pretty shocked, I was kind of like whoa what the heck, why is it?” Tiara Martinez said.

“It never gets to this point right here. Next month it’ll probably be over the road,”Jay Tada, a coach with the Hui Lanikila canoe club, said.

“We anticipate the waves to be bigger than they ever actually manifested themselves at this point with the reported wave heights of 8-foot faces. We were very concerned about overtopping on the benches and ledges from Portlock Point around to the mark up to tide pools,” added Howe.

Despite the forecast, paddlers said it won’t slow them down.

“The love for the sport, it’s still there, even with the rise of the water. It doesn’t affect the paddling. It’s just more concern for the equipment and how things are going to be overnight,” Martinez said.

Ocean Safety officials are reminding the public to be safe when going in the water.

Lifeguards will be keeping a close watch on beachgoers, especially toddlers to make sure they aren’t swept out while playing in the sand.

The flooding is also affecting areas in Mapunapuna.

On Thursday, the city told us that crews inspected the duckbill valves that were supposed to prevent the floods during high tide. A spokesman says workers could not see the valves because the water wasn’t clear enough, but the city is in the process of hiring a contractor to clean and inspect the valves.
Work should be completed in mid-June.

Water levels were high in Hilo as well. Miles Matsumura shared before and after comparisons of Liliuokalani Park and Gardens and Hilo Bay:

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.

Click here for more information and to participate.

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