When the surf’s up in Hawaii, so are the dangers involved. That’s why the National Weather Service has taken extra precaution by adding a rating system for wave impact that will give beach goers the brutal honest truth: “Inexperienced swimmers could face injury or death.”

Prior to the new rating system, beach goers might have read something like, “h3 currents could exist.” Now, a “moderate,” “high,” “very high” or “extreme high” impact label will be slapped onto those reports as well, according to the National Weather Service. The new warnings can be found on their website or on Ocean Safety’s website.

This is a much needed addition to the already extensive high surf warning and advisory reports we get in Hawaii. Oftentimes, people not familiar with the ocean conditions assume that it’s safe to snorkel or to swim near the shore. They see that the big waves are breaking far out to sea, but they don’t always take into account the resulting rip currents that may quickly suck them out to those waves.

Usually, lifeguards are the ones to warn beach goers against jumping into the unsafe waters. Who knows how many lives they’ve saved with these gentle warnings? Thousands, probably. But with almost 200 beaches on Oahu, only a fifth of them have lifeguards on duty. The remaining beaches without lifeguards are left opened to possible dangers. That’s why it’s imperative to know before you go, via online resources like the National Weather Service.

The new rating system will even be helpful to those not considering a swim or a snorkel. Sometimes when the waves are really big in Hawaii, they crash up onto roadways, making it impossible for cars to drive through. The wave impact labels will make note of that and therefore, allow people to plan ahead in their routes.

RATING WAVE IMPACT • National Weather Service, http://www.weather.gov/hawaii and Ocean Safety, http://oceansafety.soest.hawaii.edu/

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