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Big waves pound Islands but rain and winds will weaken

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 6:46 p.m. HST, Mar 21, 2012

Skies will clear over Oahu tonight as showers and strong winds follow a cold front toward Maui and eventually away from the islands.

"We've probably seen the strongest winds," said National Weather Service forecaster Pete Donaldson. "The winds will be weakening from now on."

He said the gusty winds were brought by a storm to the north of Hawaii and the cold front moving from northwest to southeast across the state. The cold front caused showers and winds to break out ahead and behind it.

"The front is gradually weakening as it moves southeast," he said. "The heavier showers are done for Oahu."

Expect more sunshine Wednesday with winds out of the north that could bring a few showers over north-facing mountain slopes. 

Tradewinds will return on Thursday and continue through early next week.

A low-pressure band high in the atmosphere was creating strong winds at high altitudes, generating a high-wind warning for Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa with gusts reaching up to 80 mph. The warning will expire at 6 a.m. and signifies a hazard to hikers. A high-wind advisory is also in effect for Haleakala until 6 a.m. where winds will reach 30 to 40 mph with gusts of up to 50 mph. 

A brief period of rainy weather and gusty winds of up to 40 mph was predicted to affect Oahu this afternoon.  On Kauai, heavy rains coupled with gusty winds battered the island due to the passing cold front.

A high surf warning covering Kauai to Maui is in effect until Thursday 6 p.m. with wave heights from 18 to 22 feet expected Tuesday, climbing to 25 to 35 feet overnight with the swell peaking Wednesday and diminishing into Thursday, forecasters said. The warning covers north and west shores of Niihau and Kauai, and northern shores of Oahu, Molokai and Maui. Wave heights on western shores of Oahu and Molokai are forecast to rise to 18 to 22 feet tonight.

A high surf advisory for west shores of Hawaii island has also been issued with waves from 6 to 10 feet expected tonight through Thursday, according to the weather service.

The public is warned that the high surf could cause localized flooding around high tide early Wednesday and Thursday mornings, and that road closings are possible.

Marine forecaster Sam Houston said the greatest likelihood of local flooding from high surf will take place at high tide before sunrise Wednesday.

And the weather service has issued a gale warning for waters from 40 to 240 nautical miles from Hawaii, and a small craft advisory within 40 nautical miles through Wednesday afternoon.

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