Buoys Repaired

Wes Browning
Wes Browning

KEWALO (KHNL) -- The National Weather Service gets a key forecasting tool up and running, just in time for a week of rising surf.

While surfers are enjoying an out-of-season swell on the southern shores at Kewalo Basin, much bigger waves are hitting our north and western shores. It's a swell that is once again tracked closely by buoys far off shore.

Long before our big winter waves form near our islands, powerful storms in the Western Pacific form and point winds in our direction.

"They create a huge wind field 50 to 70 knots, up to hurricane-force, and sweep toward the islands," said Wes Browning, National Weather Service. "And have huge waves generated."

Those waves are normally monitored by a buoy, like one south of the Big Island.  It was one to two hundred miles to the northwest of the state that failed in December. It's a critical piece of equipment that went down just as the big wave season was beginning.

"Buoy one is very important to us," said Browning. "It helps us fine tune and predict when that big swell is going to come in, and just how big it will be."

The information gathered also shows the direction of the swell, and can give forecasters a lead time of about 10 hours before high surf hits.

And after being without the information for two months, a pair of buoys is back in the water, on a temporary basis until two permanent ones are installed this summer.

A second buoy will be a backup, in case the first one fails again, so forecasters won't be left high and dry without critical information that could save a life.

"The biggest killer in Hawaii is surf -- the biggest hazards we have," said Browning. "We depend on that information for lead time for when the very large, warning-type surf that will be coming in."