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A Hurricane Just Swallowed a Hawaiian Island Overnight

Hawaii's map of its islands need to be updated, because a hurricane just caused East Island to disappear — overnight.


Hawaii's map of its islands need to be updated, because a hurricane just caused East Island to disappear — overnight.

According to Honolulu Civil Beat, Hurricane Walaka wiped away the island in October. The storm was one of the most powerful ever seen in the Pacific.

You can see the destruction below as the GIF flips between an old image of the island and what it looks like now:

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CNN reported that the Category 5 hurricane came with winds over 157 miles an hour.

That's how this 11-acre island was destroyed in a matter of hours.

The news was so shocking to University of Hawaii climate scientist Chip Fletcher that his immediate reaction was a little NSFW. "I had a holy sh*t moment, thinking 'Oh my God, it's gone,'" he told the Civil Beat.

After getting over the initial surprise, Fletcher started thinking about what the island's disappearance might mean for the local inhabitants. And it's probably not good news.

CNN reported that no people lived on the island, but plenty of ocean animals called it home.

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Huffington Post reported that monk seals, green sea turtles and seabirds all visited the island often.

About half of Hawaii's green sea turtles nested on the island and 30 percent of the area's monk seals were born there every year, per HuffPost.

In the short term, these animals may have at least weathered the storm.

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HuffPost reported that, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, most of the turtle nests had already hatched by the time the storm hit, and all but one of the monk seals had likely been weaned. That means if the newborn seals and turtles and their parents could survive the storm at open sea, they could be alright.

However, it's the long-term future of these animals that's in jeopardy, thanks to the island's disappearance. They won't be able to use it as a nesting or pupping ground next year and will have to find another beach to suit their needs.

Plus, this is a troubling sign of what could be to come for even more islands.

As Fletcher told CNN, "Our understanding is that these islands are formed as sea level falls. ... Sea levels are rising right now, so the fundamental basis for forming these islands no longer exists."

As climate change causes sea levels to rise faster and hurricanes to be even stronger, more valuable little islands could disappear quickly. And it totally disrupts the delicate balance of the ocean's ecosystem when animals' homes are destroyed and they're displaced.

Sadly, there's not a whole lot we can do but just sit and watch and hope it doesn't happen again.

And be grateful that at least this one didn't hit while all the turtles and seals were still there.

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