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10/21/2013 08:24 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2014

Two Hawaii Beaches See Unprecedented Erosion

Two of Oahu's most popular beaches are experiencing erosion at unprecedented levels. Kuhio Beach in Waikiki and Sunset Beach on Oahu's North Shore are more than 40 miles apart, but the growing winter swells and extreme tides have caused rapidly shifting sands in both spots.

At Kuhio beach, an old concrete wall along the shoreline resurfaced seemingly overnight. It poses a safety risk to tourists who walk, swim and learn to surf at the spot. The city of Honolulu trucked in sand to cover the concrete, but the solution was short-lived; after only one day, half the new sand had been swept away. Experts told the city that tidal bulge -- or higher than normal high tides -- was causing the rapid erosion, and the city has since decided to wait until the bulge is over to try replenishing efforts again.

Since Waikiki was actually wetland until it was developed as a tourist destination, interfering with the beaches' natural patterns is nothing new, according University of Hawaii geology and geophysics professor Chip Fletcher. "Waikiki Beach has not been in a natural state for nearly a century," he told Hawaii News Now. "It's a heavily engineered and managed environment and as such it's appropriate to think of it as environmental infrastructure, just like our highway infrastructure."

Over on Oahu's North Shore, the shifting sands are causing problems for several homeowners. As the northeast swells gain momentum and power, a handful of houses are seeing years of erosion in a matter of days. Backyards, staircases, and even a swimming pool have been swept away in the past weeks. Sunset Beach homeowner Ryce Reeves told KITV that he's lost 15 feet of property in the past few days. "There's not much you can do," he said matter-of-factly. "We're at the mercy of nature here."

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