WAIMANALO, Hawaii — A hurricane watch was canceled as Hurricane Lester tracked north of the Hawaiian islands and residents flocked to beaches Saturday morning to marvel at the big waves the storm created.
Lester was expected to generate large and dangerous surf across exposed shorelines of the Hawaiian islands over the weekend, the National Weather Service reported.
Honolulu couple Bailey Matsuda and Anne Smoke headed to the east shore and stood at Halona Blowhole Lookout to watch waves pounding the rocks. “It’s beautiful, actually,” Smoke said, sipping coffee. “I’ve never seen them this big on this side.”
Her husband, Matsuda, said they will remain prepared during this year’s hurricane season. “There are more hurricanes headed our way,” he said, recalling when Hurricane Iwa struck Hawaii in 1982 and Hurricane Iniki, which was the last hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 1992. “It’s a matter of time and odds.”
Hurricane Madeline threatened the Big Island earlier in the week but was downgraded to a tropical storm and passed without causing major damage.
Hurricane Lester was located about 175 miles east of Honolulu late Saturday morning, weakening and moving west-northwest at 17 mph, the weather service said.
Smoke and Matsuda headed to another beach just as tour buses arrived carrying tourists armed with selfie sticks. Tourism officials said they hadn’t heard of mass cancelations of trips or other major impacts to the tourism industry.
Surfer Martial Crum cautioned visitors to watch the waves from a safe distance as he and surfer Kahai Fukumitsu monitored conditions at an east Oahu surf spot they called the “best-kept secret.”
“Even if you’re an experienced surfer, the conditions are tricky,” Crum said of waves he estimated to be about 12 feet high. “It’s a swell. It’s enough to get our attention, so we drove out here.”
Surf heights exceeded 20 feet along the Big Island’s east-facing shores, Hawaii County’s Civil Defense Agency said.
Hopena Pokipala declared the waves “chaotic” after surfing a few sets at east Oahu’s Makapuu Beach. “It was fun, just a lot of paddling,” he said.
After breakfast, Bert and Tia Hartsock took their 1-year-old daughter, Maya, to watch the waves at Makapuu. “It’s pretty impressive,” Tia Hartsock said. “I love watching the ocean.”
Heavy showers or thunderstorms were possible over the weekend as Lester passes, the weather service said.
Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen contributed to this report from Anchorage, Alaska.