Maui County, along with the rest of the state, will see near- to above-average rainfall this wet season, although forecasters say it will probably not be enough to "dig" out areas from ongoing severe drought.
"We probably need some big rain events, or a tropical system to get it moist and dig out of that. There will be some improvement definitely, but not digging all the way out of it," said Mike Cantin, warning coordinator meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
Areas in Maui County under an extreme drought include parts of South Maui and Upcountry, and a portion of the northwestern end of Molokai, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor map.
Kevin Kodama, a senior weather service hydrologist added that the severe drought condition in Kihei went to extreme drought, which also expanded recently to Upcountry. He reflected on how the county's Department of Water Supply has asked for 20 percent voluntary water conservation from Upcountry customers. The Upcountry water system relies on surface water.
Although there will be near- to above-average rainfall in the islands into the early part of next year, the outlook points to an early end of the wet season in April, Kodama said.
He added that the wet season could help drought recovery on Kauai and Oahu but not for the Big Island and Maui.
"Unfortunately for Maui County and the Big Island, their drought conditions have been so persistent and intense or long-standing it will take more than a few rain events to get rid of that drought," he said.
The forecasters' comments came at a weather service press conference Friday on the wet season outlook. The wet season in Hawaii is October through April.
The service encouraged residents to be vigilant of flash flooding, thunderstorms and heavy rains in the upcoming months. Residents were asked to clean out their rain gutters and drains as well as not to cross flooded highways or streams.
An educational video about Hawaii's wet season and how to stay safe during a flood can be found at http://youtu.be/oKHhP8t0JWo.
In reaction to the weather service's comments Friday, Department of Water Supply Director Dave Taylor said in an email: "We listen carefully to NWS predictions but have no in-house expertise related to weather forecasting. We prepare as best as we can for water shortages which could occur at any time."
Taylor said that these shortages are a reason his department is working with the County Council on a water shortage bill that could allow for the department to raise water rates as a way to reduce water use in times of shortages.
Deputy Water Director Paul Meyer said in a email Friday that currently the department is hopeful for heavy rainfall predicted by the National Weather Service for this Veterans Day weekend.
There is a 90 percent probability tonight and Sunday and a 70 percent probability for rainfall Sunday night. Rainfall is also predicted with a 60 percent chance Monday, Meyer said.
He noted that Upcountry did get some rainfall Nov. 2 through 4, which increased the Wailoa Ditch flows temporarily "from very low levels below 30 mgd (million gallons per day) to about 50 mgd."
While the water level was still well below average, the rainfall was helpful, he added. The Wailoa Ditch maximum flow is 199.7 million gallons per day.
Ditch flows on Friday were back down to 22 mgd.
The early November rainfall in the watershed areas also allowed the department to increase the amount of water in the Piiholo storage reservoir from about 50 percent, or 27 million gallons, to about 90 percent, or 45 million gallons.
But the rainfall did not replenish the Kahakapao Reservoirs, which are very low and did not allow the department to restart the Olinda Water Treatment Facility, Meyer added.
The facilities are all part of the Upcountry water system.
During the press conference, Kodama reflected back on the state's dry season, which he said was "not too bad" because there had been near- to above-average rainfall from Kauai at the top of the island chain to Maui.
The Big Island fared the worse because it was dry overall, especially in leeward areas. The dry season runs from May through September, but Kodama said the dry season did begin a little late because it was still wet in May.
Kodama added that some tropical cyclones brought wetter weather during the dry times.
"It was good enough to get under the skin and give us some rainfall," he said.
The systems that brought rain included Tropical Depression Flossie, which brought along a fierce thunder-and-lightning storm to Maui on July 29.
A lightning bolt apparently hit the roof of a Kahului home where there were no reported injuries. A Haiku man was shocked when he reached for the faucet in the kitchen sink during the storm. He was taken to the hospital as a precaution.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.