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Practice Ocean Safety

Photo by Catherine Cluett Pactol

This winter has brought “unprecedented” ocean fatalities on Maui, according to the Maui Fire Department. Though there have been no close calls reported on Molokai so far this season, officials are warning those entering the water to use caution, as winter swells bring strong current and high surf.

“In the last few weeks, Maui has experienced an unprecedented spike in ocean drowning incidents,” said Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto. The month of January brought what he called an unfortunate “string of fatal drownings,” with the latest Feb. 3 drowning of a visitor from Alaska off Wailea marking the 10th ocean related death in Maui County in 2018, he said.

“If in doubt, don’t go out,” cautions the Maui County Ocean Safety Guide. If you get caught in a rip current — a powerful flow away from the shore — the guide advises swimmers to stay calm, go with the flow and tread water, then when the current releases you offshore, swim at an angle away from the current towards shore. Don’t go swimming alone, know your limits, heed all posted warning signs, and remember, ocean conditions can change quickly, the guide cautions.

Though not all ocean-related accidents happen to tourists, those not familiar with Molokai waters should take extra caution. Julie Bicoy, director of Destination Molokai Visitors Bureau, advised visitors to watch and ask locals at the beach, and if no one is swimming, don’t go in the water either.



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