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Tsunami surge continues at Waikiki Beach

More than seven hours after the all-clear was given, reflected wave energy from yesterday’s tsunami continued to be felt at Waikiki Beach.

Several times an hour, the water would recede, revealing offshore rocks. A strong surge would come in, catching by surprise some beachgoers who waded out.

Jim Howe, city Ocean Safety operations chief, warns people that surge from yesterday tsunami is expected to continue through Sunday.

After last year’s Chilean earthquake, tsunami effects were felt at Hanauma Bay for three days, he said. This effect is most amplified in bays, he said.

Lifeguards yesterday revived a 79-year-old male visitor who had been knocked down by an incoming surge, Ocean Safety Capt. Paul Merino said.

The surge “swept 11 people off the beach while we were performing CPR” on the man, Merino said.

The near-drowning occurred about 75 feet off the beach fronting the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, he said.

“The water was waist-deep as it receded, it got sucked back with the high tide surge, and it came in and knocked him down and he rolled under the water by the incoming surge,” Merino said.

“I’ve been a lifeguard 35 years in Waikiki and I’ve never seen it recede and come in as frequent with this force,” he said.

Lifeguards closed Hanauma Bay yesterday. A rising tide yesterday afternoon starting at 1 p.m. added to the effects of the surge, Howe said. The surges would come every 15 to 20 minutes.

With 25,000 to 30,000 beachgoers in Waikiki and Kapiolani Park yesterday, lifeguards had their hands full.

In Waikiki, lifeguards made 25 rescues, gave 7,500 warnings, patrolled the area with a personal water craft up and down the beach.

People were walking out when the water had receded, then suddenly found themselves in deep water, especially in an area called the “Ponds,” which are enclosed by crib walls, fronting the Pacific Beach Hotel and the Hawaiian Regent Hotel.

“The current takes you right out and there’s deep holes,” Merino said.

Frank Vehec of Kapolei said “it was just amazing” to see the water recede about 150 to 200 yards from the shoreline, then gradually come back.

“It was like the world was tilted and set back into place,” he said.

Annette Pallesen, 31, of St. Paul, Minn., said she was on the beach near the Duke Kahanamoku statue at about 1:45 p.m. yesterday.

“My mom was freaking out about it, but she freaks out easily,” she said. “The first time it freaked us out, too.”

Her friend Ryan Kenny, 29, said, “People who were laying like this (on the sand) just jumped up. That’s when people started paying attention and the water receded 150 to 200 yards from the shore.”

“It happened within two minutes. It was just bare rock.”

Kathy Worden, 41, of Spokane, Wash., said, “The whole reef was exposed. It was like low tide and high tide all within 20 minutes and every 20 minutes.”

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