Hurricane Walaka Basically Erased Hawaiian Island

East Island, Hawaii, a home for green sea turtles, now just a strip of sand.

Hawaiian island
A Category 5 hurricane nearly eliminated a remote Hawaiian island.
Getty Images

East Island, Hawaii was nearly wiped off the map after Hurricane Walaka, a Category 5 storm, tore through the Pacific Ocean.

The uninhabited, 11-mile-long stretch of land was blown over in early October and was almost undetectable by satellite imagery in the storm’s aftermath.

“I had a holy sh-t moment, thinking ‘Oh my God, it’s gone,’” University of Hawaii climate scientist Chip Fletcher told the Honolulu Civil Beat. “It’s one more chink in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled.”

Although the loss didn’t directly affect humans, East Island was a known nesting ground for about half of Hawaii’s green sea turtles and about one in seven endangered Hawaiian monk seals were born there, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

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