Homeless flee from large waves on Oahu's leeward coast

Sala'a Falefuafua
Sala'a Falefuafua
Gary Bohler
Gary Bohler
James Champlin
James Champlin

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

WAIANAE (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Oahu's Leeward side, some feared for their lives. The waves didn't peak until sundown, but some swells were powerful enough to wash away some tents at homeless camps.

On Monday evening, many of the homeless camps were abandoned. But some beach residents, refused to evacuate.

Earlier in the day, West facing shores made for a joy ride for surfers and a traffic headache as crews cleaned sand, spilled on the road.

As the sun began to set, the power of the ocean grew.

At one homeless camp along in Nanakuli, most beach residents fled to shelters. Some were doing last-minute packing and a few refused to leave.

"I'm only afraid of one person. The Man above," said Sala'a Falefuafua, a Nanakuli beach resident.

"But all your neighbors have gone to a shelter. Don't you think you should go to a shelter as well?"

"This is my shelter. I built my shelter," said Falefuafua as he secured his tent with ropes.

Some people living on the edge of the shoreline put up barriers to protect their tents. But they learned they're no match for Mother Nature.

Gary Bohler says his tent is among the many lined across the Nanakuli shoreline that drowned in a foot deep of water.

"About 2:00 to 3:00 in the morning, we came over. First wave hit, then the second wave, after the third wave, that was it. Everything was floating down the beach, gone," said Bohler, a Nanakuli beach resident.

Some tried to salvage what the ocean took from them, with one woman going into the ocean to drag her tarp back to shore.

"The waves were breaking real big. I was afraid for my life. I didn't want to be in my tent and be washed away," said James Champlin, a Maili beach resident who checked in to the Red Cross shelter at Waianae District Park.

"I don't want to have that responsibility on my life saying that I had three days {to evacuate}, why did you jeopardize our lives?" said Ipolani Kaahea, a Nanakuli beach resident who also checked in to the Waianae shelter, along with eight of her family's pets.

Forecasters say the waves on Oahu's West side will swell up to 25 feet overnight.

At last check Monday night, the Red Cross said the shelter in Waianae had eight people. The Red Cross says that's the most evacuees out of the three shelters on Oahu.

Three people checked in at the shelter at Queen Lilioukalani Church in Haleiwa, and the Sunset Beach Recreation Center remained empty.

All three shelters will remain open through Tuesday.