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Posted at 6:30 PM ET, 01/19/2011

Huge Pacific storm to bring high surf to Hawaii

By Jason Samenow

Pro surfers await waves, possible tournament

pac-storm-012111.jpg
Surface weather map (from this morning) of large Pacific storm centered west of the Aleutian islands. The storm is bringing wind and snow to Alaska and surf to 40 feet in Hawaii.

A massive storm in the northern Pacific ocean, that deepened to levels equivalent to a category 4 hurricane Monday, threatens the coast of Hawaii with 30-40 foot waves. The same storm - with an incredible geographic reach - is bringing snow and gusty winds to coastal Alaska.

According to Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington and blogger, the pressure at the center of the gigantic Pacific storm dropped to 933 mb Monday. Amazingly, the pressure to the north of the storm was 1038 mb. The remarkable pressure difference has generated very high winds. Although the storm weakened as it neared the Aleutian islands yesterday, winds gusted to 77 mph in Dutch Harbor according to the National Weather Service.

Although Hawaii is too far away from the storm to experience winds of that magnitude, the storm's vast circulation is pushing a ton of water in its direction.

As Dr. Mass describes:

A huge, deep, slow moving storm like this produces very large waves, since waves depend on wind speed, fetch (length of area where winds are influencing the sea surface), and wind duration--all very large in this case.

The National Weather Service in Honolulu, in its morning forecast discussion, cautioned:

WE SHOULD SEE THE SWELL RISE IN DRAMATIC FASHION. THE SOURCE LOW IS HUGE AND NEARLY STATIONARY OVER THE NORTHWEST PACIFIC...SO SURF ONCE UP WILL REMAIN UP FOR SEVERAL DAYS. THE SWELL WILL PRODUCE WARNING LEVEL SURF STARTING THIS AFTERNOON ON KAUAI...AND SPREADING DOWN THE ISLAND CHAIN TONIGHT AND THURSDAY.

A high surf warning is in effect for a large portion of the coast across the Hawaiin islands through Friday. Peak surf height of 35 to 40 feet are expected for north facing shores, with 25 to 35 heights along west facing shores.

If big waves materialize, a premier surfing event only held when waves reach 20 feet will occur on the north shore of Oahu. CNN reports the special tournament called the "The Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau" (a legendary lifeguard and surfer) has only been held seven times in 26 years due to the infrequency of adequate waves.

Some are skeptical the big waves will materialize. Professional surfer Mark Healey told Honolulu's Star Advertiser: "I try not to get too emotionally attached because the (weather) models always kind of err on the side of safety, which means they forecast swells to be bigger than they are. They go for the high end of the spectrum, so you have to take any long range forecast with a grain of salt, but I've been pretty much looking at (the incoming northwest swell) constantly for the past few days."

(Sounds like some Washingtonian snow lovers when there are predictions for flakes...)

By Jason Samenow  | January 19, 2011; 6:30 PM ET
Categories:  Latest, U.S. Weather  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Another glancing snow blow Friday morning
Next: PM Update: Today's warmth transitions colder

Comments

It's the 40-year storm Bodhi!

Posted by: voltron88x | January 19, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse

It's the 50-year storm Bodhi!

Posted by: voltron88x | January 19, 2011 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Surfline.com has a cool feature article on the one that hit last week. http://www.surfline.com/surf-news/solid-swell-ignites-hawaii_51734/

Posted by: voltron88x | January 19, 2011 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Add to that storm the crazy conditions we had down in Stafford Airport today according to NWS:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ab9Cysv3_RE/TTckVvYsUoI/AAAAAAAADkU/DLnuK9FDj9I/s1600/weather.png

145 degrees at 12:20pm with a heat index of 607 deg F

Posted by: panthersny | January 19, 2011 6:53 PM | Report abuse

It's the Eddie! The hubs and I were lucky enough to be there for the last one (2009, 25th anniversary) and it was epic!! You can't imagine how massive a 50 foot wave is until you're in front of one.

Posted by: HappyArmyWife | January 19, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse


Eddie Would Go!!

Lived there for almost 4 years and had the pleasure of seeing those waves in 95. Words can not convey the awesome power those waves hold. Incredible.

Posted by: worldtraveler83 | January 19, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

What an incredible parallel! I had never thought of it like that, but big wave surfers are very similar to us in the DC area who become fixated on potential snow storms. Even the most die hard snow lovers like myself don't compare, though, to the big wave folks.

Many of them feel an almost spiritual connection to these big waves, so much so that they are prepared to not come back. Just read the quote above- he talks about becoming emotionally attaches to long range models. This may be crazy talk, but I think he may be talking about a level of emotional investment even greater than BobMiller2 and his love for the GFS after 200 hours :)

Posted by: 4seamed | January 19, 2011 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Anyone know of a good webcam at one of these north-facing beaches? Would love to see it.

Posted by: mmurphy70 | January 19, 2011 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for this post. Having just read the recent book entitled "The Wave" by Susan Casey, this has a lot of relevance. The book mixes discussion of freak wave phenomena with the surfing circuit and especially about Laird Hamilton.

Posted by: novajeffc | January 19, 2011 9:25 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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