POSTED: 7:55 a.m. HST, Jan 4, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 1:21 p.m. HST, Jan 4, 2012
High surf on Oahu's North Shore has attracted a crowd at Waimea Bay this morning, but there were no major problems overnight. Most islands remain under a high surf warning until 6 a.m. Thursday.
The National Weather Service and emergency workers warn the surf is dangerous for inexperienced swimmers and warn beachgoers to stay away from the shore break and watch the surf from a safe distance.?The high surf is likely to create strong rip currents and sets that could sweep people into the ocean.
By mid-morning firefighters had responded to several reports of swimmers in distress at beaches on the North Shore. A bodysurfer was helped back into shore at Waimea Bay at about 8:30 a.m. after he lost his fins. He was uninjured.
About 35 big wave surfers were in the water at Waimea Bay by 8 a.m. and at least 200 people gathered on the bluff above the bay and along the shore to watch them. Traffic was heavy on Kamehameha Highway.
It appeared the surf had peaked overnight, but sets this morning were still breaking at about 15 to 18 feet on the outer reef at Waimea.
Shane Brittan, a visitor from Australia, said the waves were "spectacular."
Brittan held his baby boy Jay in his arms as he watched the surf from the bluff.
"I'm amazed at how many people are out there," he said.
Dolly Daniel, of North Carolina, said she was mesmerized by the powerful waves washing over the large rocks on the Haleiwa side of the bay.
George Downing, the event director for the Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big wave surf contest, said the waves were too small and inconsistent to run the “Eddie,” which requires consistent surf of 20 feet or higher by local wave measurements.
Overnight, John Cummings, a spokesman for the city Department of Emergency Management, said city workers were called out to the Waianae Coast to set up an emergency shelter for about 22 people and five dogs living on the beach at about 12:30 a.m., but by 1:30 a.m., the number of residents requesting help had dwindled and the shelter was not established.
Kauai County Ocean Safety officials advised people to stay out of waters on north- and west-facing shores. Updated information on Kauai ocean conditions is available at www.kauaiexplorer.com or 241-4984.
On Oahu Tuesday afternoon, civil defense volunteers warned people living on the beach that they may need to evacuate and police and emergency workers were put into place on Tuesday afternoon in case an evacuation became necessary, Cumming said.
Water washed over Kamehameha Highway at Dillingham Airfield at about 1 a.m. and at Laniakea at about 4 a.m., but the roadway remained open.
Surf of 25 to 35 feet was expected to peak on north shores this morning on Oahu and Kauai and peak on Maui this afternoon and Hawaii island this evening.
West shores were expected to peak at 8 to 12 feet.
Some surf was also expected to wrap around to some windward shores, where sets of up to 12 feet are possible, forecasters said.
The surf is expected to drop on Oahu this afternoon, but will remain at elevated and hazardous levels.
Star-Advertiser reporter Rosemarie Bernardo contributed to this story from the North Shore.