There was unusually intense lightning over the state Wednesday night, with many Maui County residents venturing outside to watch the dazzling light show.
On Oahu, National Weather Service forecaster Maureen Ballard said it was enough to keep even the professionals "gawking" that night.
And they were still talking about it Thursday morning.
It was unusual but not unprecedented.
In part, she said, the lightning was so noticeable because the rainfall accompanying it was patchy. If rain is falling nearby, it obscures an observer's view of the lightning.
But if the storm is far off, lightning can be seen for miles - 40 miles in her native Kentucky, Ballard said.
In East Maui, weather service gauges, which are miles apart, did not record very heavy rains: for the 24 hours ending at 8 a.m. Thursday, Kahului Airport had 0.89 inches, Haiku (near the shore) 1.46 inches and Kipahulu 2.23 inches. But Pukalani showed only 0.13 inches.
Rain between the gauges must have been heavier, because Paia flooded. Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. gauges showed between 2 and 3 inches in areas that drain toward Paia.
Historical climate records show the islands get only about half a dozen thunderstorm days a year. Ballard said that likely was an underestimate.
Even so, 2011 has been unusually active.
"We've seen more fronts moving through," she said. "Scientists can't tell which storms will have a large amount of lightning."
The lightning can be from the cloud to the ground, from cloud to cloud or within a cloud. Unless an observer sees a bolt, the flash doesn't reveal which type has occurred.
Ballard said there had been no official reports of damage from lightning Thursday, although she had heard of some damage on Oahu.
People from around the state sent pictures of the lightning to the weather service, and Ballard said they were impressive.
Forecasters predicted mostly sunny days and clear nights today through Sunday, with scattered showers. High temperatures are expected to be between 76 and 81 degrees, with overnight lows of 64 to 69. Winds were expected to be variable, up to 15 mph.
* Harry Eagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.