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01/22/2014 06:42 pm ET Updated Nov 12, 2014

Hawaii's Epic Swell Causes 50' Waves (PHOTOS)

A "giant northwest swell" has brought 40'-50' waves to the Hawaiian islands -- the biggest waves in a decades, according to meteorologists.

A large storm with hurricane-force winds is moving north of the islands, causing the massive waves, which are expected to last through Friday morning.

Big wave surfers were hoping the swell would merit the prestigious Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau surf competition, but event organizers decided that while the waves are big enough (the contest is only called if waves reach 20'), the winds were adverse. (Situations for "the Eddie" must be perfect; the competition has only happened 8 times in 28 years, most recently in 2009.)

While the waves are an exciting spectacle for most, they can be dangerous and threatening to shoreline property owners. Neighborhoods on Oahu's North Shore have experienced unprecedented erosion this winter season, with whole backyards, decks, and even swimming pools getting pulled into the ocean. Homeowners have prepped for today's swell with sandbags and reinforcements, and the Red Cross has volunteers and supplies on standby for those in need.

Beaches have been closed and lifeguards are on duty to keep observers away from the unpredictable waves. "The waves are big, powerful and most positively deadly," warned Mike Cantin of the National Weather Service. "The weight behind these waves can easily break bones and kill you and drown you ... You may be on rocks and think you are safe and that bigger wave set knocks you off and you're gone."

Below, some early photos of the epic swell and live video from Oahu's North Shore:

Watch the conditions live at Pipeline:

Live streaming video by Ustream

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