Damaging swell waves: November 1979

In 1979 large swell, likely coinciding with high tide levels, caused overwashing of the coastal berm resulted in damage at Walung including houses being washed away and the school at Leap damaged.

  • Walung Village, Kusaie. Bare area where waves washed away houses (Photograph: UH Image Archive of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands)

Although no date is available for the above photographs, Spennemann (undated) summarises similar flooding in Majuro in late November / early December 1979 which is likely to be related to the same event:

In late November 1979 a subtropical high pressure system had formed some 2000 miles east of the Marshall Islands, creating higher than normal sea-level at its perimeter, as well as creating a storm surge, sent out as a swell with a wave amplitude of over 6m. The first set of waves inundated parts of the D-U-D area in the morning of 26 November 1979. Since the weather forecast came too late, there was no warning and a great number of personal belongings were destroyed. During the night of 27 to 28 November a second inundation occurred, and a third inundation took place on 4 December when a third storm hit Majuro, this time accompanied by gale-force winds and a 20 foot surf. Before the second storm surge hit the atoll, some 4000 residents of the already devastated D-U-D area had been warned well ahead and had relocated themselves to Laura. On the morning of 28 November some 80% of the affected area was still covered by seawater. This high tide and flooding was made worse where the waters pushed by the strong winds had been channeled and funneled into the embayments of the former inlets now barred by causeways, and had washed over the causeways and adjacent reclaimed areas.


Spennemann, D.H.R. undated.  Non-traditional settlement patterns and typhoon hazard on contemporary Majuro Atoll, Republic of the Marshall Islands. Downloaded from: http://marshall.csu.edu.au/Marshalls/html/typhoon/Stormy_Years.html