Wet season among the wettest in years

With March rainfall coming in “above average,” the National Weather Service’s senior hydrologist said that this may be the wettest rainy season in Maui County in nearly a decade.

“Yes, (this is) one of the wetter wet seasons we have had in a few years,” said Kevin Kodama on Monday.

Kodama said that this has been the rainiest season in Maui County since maybe 2004. He noted that weather officials consider 2006 as a watershed year for rain in Hawaii; the year is often referred to as the one with “40 days of rain,” though Maui was left out of much of that.

The March rainfall data from the weather service provide some corroboration. Puu Kukui, one of the wettest spots in the world in the West Maui Mountains, had its wettest March since 2004 with 59.46 inches, 156 percent above average.

Gauges in Ulupalakua (5.89 inches, 252 percent above average), Kula Branch Station (10.7 inches, 318 percent above average) and Kahului Airport (3.75 inches, 153 percent above average) had their highest March rainfall since 2006.

Maui County has been pretty much under drought conditions since 2008, and the situation at the Kualapuu reservoir on Molokai continues to be a concern, Kodama said. But this year Maui County has been “getting storm tracks that are in our favor. . . . (that) put us in the sweet spot for rainfall,” he said.

Most of the rain this winter has come from the trade wind flow, he said. While there have been some trade wind disruptions, there have not been those solid southerly Kona storms, “big rain dumpers,” prevalent in the 1960s through the

’80s, he said. Those Kona storms, which Kodama called “endangered species,” are still around but are missing the islands.

Still, there was enough rain in Maui County in March to push totals above average levels, according to the weather service said. Other places of high rainfall in the county were Kaunakakai (4.54 inches, 249 percent above average), Kanepuu on Lanai (5.73 inches, 311 percent above average); and Lahainaluna (4.41 inches, 188 percent above average).

The first quarter rainfall totals also were in the “near to above average” range at most of the gauges, according to the weather service. Puu Kukui’s total of 85.04 inches (89 percent of average) led all totals statewide for January to March.

By the averages, Kodama said, the wet weather is “tailing off,” though he indicated that the rains could last into May and June. The typical wet season runs from October to April.

Kodama could not explain the wet season on the heels of many dry years. Looking ahead, he noted that there could be an El Nino, characterized by warm sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, that usually means dry conditions during the winter.

“There is still uncertainty,” Kodama said, adding that the last official El Nino was in 2009-10. “The signs are pretty significant. There is a pretty good chance an El Nino will develop.”

Today will be windy and partly cloudy with isolated showers. Winds from the east will blow 15 to 30 mph. High temperatures will be from 79 to 84 degrees with lows from 70 to 75 degrees. Tonight will be partly cloudy and breezy with scattered showers in windward areas and isolated showers in leeward areas.

High-wind and high-surf advisories are in effect until 6 p.m. today.

The wind advisory, which covers Lanai and Kahoolawe, calls for northeasterly winds at lower elevations of 20 to 35 mph with gusts more than 45 mph.

The high-surf advisory is for east-facing shores of Molokai and Maui. Surf is expected to be 6 to 8 feet.

Due to the high wind and surf conditions, the Coast Guard urged mariners to use caution on the water today. Winds can be unpredictable and strong through island passes and channels, according to the Coast Guard.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.