Stronger high surf message ready to roll - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Stronger high surf message ready to roll

Posted: Updated:
Mike Cantin Mike Cantin
Jim Howe Jim Howe
Scotty McCommon Scotty McCommon
HALEIWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Big waves create big concerns. Now, a big change is coming.

Starting Thursday, National Weather Service high surf warnings and advisories will include a rating system for wave impact.

"We're going to give it a label. We're going to say this is a moderate impact, a high, very high, or extreme impact," NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Mike Cantin said.

"Extreme" impact could mean roads will be closed, with harbor and home damage a possibility. Ocean safety calls the strengthened system "actionable information."

"We do post signs at the beach to warn people. But often times people have traveled across the island only to find out that the conditions really are too dangerous for them to, for instance, go snorkeling," Oahu Ocean Safety operations chief Jim Howe said.

For beach goers, instead of just hearing strong currents could exist, the new report may say "inexperienced swimmers could face injury or death if they go out."

Texas tourist Scotty McCommon snorkels and swims whenever he visits Hawaii. He said the new system is a good idea.

"You want to have some idea what's going on," he said. "You don't want to go out there blind."

Howe hopes the stronger safety messages will prevent accidents.

"It's really critical for folks that they have good information, what to expect when they go to a particular beach," he said.

There are about 189 beaches on Oahu, but lifeguard towers are set up at only 37 of them.

"We love the ocean here in Hawaii. But for those who are inexperienced with it, it can be a very dangerous place, especially when the surf is up," Cantin said.

The detailed warnings will be posted on the National Weather Service Hawaii web site at http://www.weather.gov/hawaii and Ocean Safety's web site at http://oceansafety.soest.hawaii.edu/.