Westerly winds, swells cause shifting sands at Waikiki Beach

Westerly winds, swells cause shifting sands at Waikiki Beach

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - [Update 3/2/15]

The stairs to the beach near the Royal Hawaiian Hotel are now closed. State officials said they're working with the hotel to mitigate the erosion hazard where pieces of metal and concrete have been left exposed. Management from the Royal Hawaiian added sandbags to the area and says they're hiring a contractor to make the stairs safe.

[Original story]

Metal bars, pipes, and concrete blocks form a gauntlet fronting the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki.  Caution signs warn of the beach erosion, and at least one of the signs appears to be a victim of it.

Beachgoers say it's not only ugly, but hazardous.

"Yeah that's kind of a little dangerous…someone should do something about it," said Scott Smith.

Smith said just a few weeks ago, the sand came up to the fourth step on the stairs behind the hotel and guests could easily walk down to the beach. Now, the sand is gone and the stairs are exposed and people have to jump down onto the beach.

"I just think it looks uncared for.  Erosion just doesn't look good.  It looks as though nobody's taking any notice," said a visitor.

"Not only that, they're spending big bucks here. And if they're spending big bucks, they should be able to do it in safety and harmony and not have to balance their way around the real estate," another one chimed in.

But on the other end of Waikiki Beach, an opposite yet equally drastic shift in sands.

About three months ago, a concrete foundation from the old Waikiki Inn was exposed near the Banyan tree at Kuhio Beach. Now, that foundation is buried under several feet of new sand.

The National Weather Service's lead forecaster in Honolulu says the shift of sands is because of a string of especially large west swells and a long run of west winds.

"In the 62 days since Christmas Eve 2014, according to the calculations that I've run, 31 of those days have had some component of westerly wind at the Honolulu Airport.  So that means half of the days since Christmas Eve, we've had westerly winds here on Oahu, and that is very unusual," said Tom Birchard.

Birchard says normally, west winds in Hawaii last a day or two.  But this winter, we've had stretches up to ten days at a time.

A spokesman for Kyo-ya, the company that owns the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, says they are taking action.  Even though the beach is state property, he says the hotel is hiring a contractor to make the stairs safe again by the end of the week.

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