EAST ISLAND, Hawaii (WSVN) — A Category 5 hurricane has washed away an entire an entire Hawaiian island.
According to CNN, East Island, which was located about 550 miles northwest of Honolulu, was a part of a chain of small island groups in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
However, storm surges from Hurricane Wakala completely submerged the island earlier this month. The storm had wind speeds of 160 miles an hour at its peak.
The island was uninhabited, however two endangered species, the Hawaiian green sea turtle and Hawaiian monk seal, took refuge on the island.
Scientists tell CNN the seals usually know how to get around during storms, and most of the eggs in the turtle nests would have hatched by the time the hurricane hit.
“We have some reason to be optimistic that it wasn’t totally devastating,” said Chip Fletcher, an earth science professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “But the final assessment will rest with the biologists.”
The islands in the area formed as a result of the extinct volcano and lowering sea levels. However, Fletcher said East Island may remain submerged partly due to climate change.
“Sea level is rising around the world, these low sandy islands become more and more vulnerable as the ocean rises,” he said. “If the ocean was rising very slowly, there’s the potential that these islands could adapt, but rapid sea level rise, as is happening due to global warming, puts these islands out of equilibrium.”
Officials said they are assessing the damage to determine the next move.
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