Sea levels returning to normal in parts of the Pacific

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Sea levels in the eastern Pacific are expected to return to normal after days of heavy swells that have caused flooding in the Cook Islands, both Samoas, French Polynesia and Hawaii

Flooding damaged infrastructure, including American Samoa’s main airport, and resorts in the Cook Islands. Some domestic flights were stopped in French Polynesia.

American Samoa declared a state of emergency over the weekend after large swells caused flooding including at the airport.

Nevertheless, a wave alert remains in place in the Cook Islands and could peak at up to 4.5 metres on Wednesday afternoon local time.

Meteorologist Dereck Wroe from the (U.S) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said waves of up to six metres high, resulted in the closure of beaches across Hawaii.

“We had a couple of instances where waves crashed ashore. Some of the largest waves came through and crashed in some of the more prone areas.

“Right now, our tides aren’t any different from what we expect to see at this time of the year. It was just that period of extremely large swells where we had some impacts.”

Wroe said the swells are the largest in 25 years.

“That swell is currently declinging here in Hawaii, it’s been declining for many days now in Samoa, so it’s on the way down and right now we don’t see anything on the horizon that’s out of the normal for this time of year.”

Wroe’s colleague Christopher Brenchley said the swells originated from a storm system near the Roaring Forties – the area between latitudes 40 degrees and 50 degrees in the Southern Hemisphere – where the prevailing winds blow persisitently from the west.

Brenchley said the storm’s powerful jetstreams pointed directly at Samoa and the north-east Pacific.

“So a really strong jet stream and storm system that developed in the South Pacific, down in the Roaring Forties where you have strong winter time storm systems and this one was a very strong storm that had a lot of wind pointed in the direction of all these islands,” he said.

SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS