Black ice but no snow atop of Haleakala

Not enough moisture, says forecaster

Black ice shut down the summit of Haleakala for a few hours on Tuesday as chilly conditions swept across the islands, though forecasters did not expect snow at the summit anytime soon.

Haleakala National Park staff posted on Facebook on Tuesday that winter had “officially arrived atop Haleakala,” creating severe black ice conditions that shut down the road from the Haleakala Visitor Center at 9,740 feet to the summit at 10,023 feet.

Nancy Stimson, spokeswoman for the national park, said the road was closed for just a few hours but was back open as of Wednesday.

“We’ve had cooler temperatures, and it’s been very windy, rainy,” Stimson said Wednesday. “But the clouds have cleared away, and right now, we’ve got some bright sun, and the wind has died down. It’s looking very nice out.”

Temperatures at Haleakala hovered just below 40 degrees at around 4 p.m. Wednesday, though with the windchill it felt more like 29 degrees, according to the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy website.

Stimson said employees have been taking extra precautions on the roads, and she advised visitors coming up to the summit to be prepared for cold weather and to drive carefully.

She said she wasn’t aware of any interruptions to sunrise viewings.

Stimson added that so far this winter, there have been some flurries but no snow has accumulated on the summit.

Last year on President’s Day weekend, Maui residents were treated to a surprise 1.5-inch snowfall on Haleakala following a day of drenching rains and stormy conditions. However, it’s a rare phenomenon that only tends to happen every several years. Snow also fell on Haleakala in January 2011, January 2008 and January 2006, though park officials and weather analysts debated at the time whether it was actually snow or hail.

“At this point we don’t expect snow on Haleakala,” said Jeff Powell, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service office in Honolulu on Wednesday.

Powell explained that “we just don’t have the deep moisture needed for something like that.”

In general though, the islands have been experiencing chilly weather, and Powell said that’s because of a low pressure center to the east, which he described as a “counterclockwise swirl in the atmosphere that has a cold core associated with it.”

It’s also because of the northerly winds, which “cause temperatures to drop a bit, even in the tropics, and that’s what we’ve been experiencing the last few days.”

“We expect that to moderate as winds shift more out of the northeast,” Powell said. “It won’t get warm suddenly, but there will be a gradual moderation in temperatures.”

Powell said the normal trade winds likely won’t return until the weekend.

While temperatures hovered in the low 70s Tuesday night through Wednesday morning, Maui was buffeted by gusty winds and showers.

In the 24-hour period ending at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday, Puu Kukui in the West Maui Mountains recorded the most rainfall islandwide at 4.17 inches. The West Wailuaiki gauge in East Maui was second with 2.23 inches, followed by 1.22 inches at the Mahinahina gauge in West Maui and 1.15 inches at Kealia Pond.

On Molokai, the Molokai 1 gauge led the way at 2.71 inches, followed by the Puu Alii gauge at 2.3 inches. Rain on Lanai was fairly light, with Lanai City recording only 0.22 inches during the 24-hour period.

The heavy rains generated stormwater runoff that prompted the state Department of Health on Wednesday night to issue a brown water advisory for West Maui and the coastline from Hookipa Beach Park to Waiehu.

The public was advised to stay out of floodwaters and stormwater runoff because they may contain hazardous material from overflowing cesspools and sewer manholes. The runoff could contain pesticides, animal fecal matter and carcasses, pathogens, chemicals and debris.

Not all coastal areas may be impacted by runoff, but if the water is brown the Health Department advises the public is advised to stay out.

Strong winds also caused power outages throughout the county. At around 6 p.m. Tuesday, about 140 customers in Hoolehua lost power after strong winds brought down a utility pole, Maui Electric Co. spokeswoman Sayble Bissen said. Most customers had power back on by 9:33 p.m. Tuesday, and the remaining customers had power restored by 4:40 p.m. Wednesday.

At 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, about 1,400 customers in Napili lost power when palm fronds came in contact with lines along Lower Honoapiilani Road. Power was restored to a majority of customers by 2:07 a.m.

About 300 customers in the Kaluakoi area also experienced a power outage at around 4:25 a.m. Wednesday, but Bissen said this was because crews de-energized the lines to do work in the area. All customers had power back on by 5:03 a.m.

On Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service also issued a high surf advisory for the north- and east-facing shores of Molokai and Maui through 6 a.m. Friday.

Surf of 12 to 16 feet was forecast along the north-facing shores of Molokai and Maui, while surf of 6 to 8 feet was predicted along the east-facing shores of Molokai and Maui.

For updates, turn on local radio and TV stations or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather radio. NOAA weather broadcasts can also be accessed by calling (866) 944-5025 or by visiting weather.gov/hawaii.

Recorded advisories and notifications also are available 24 hours a day on the Maui County automated information system by calling 986-1200.

For more information on Haleakala National Park conditions, visit nps.gov/hale or check out the park’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. The Institute for Astronomy also posts current weather conditions at ifa.hawaii.edu/hale akalanew/weather.shtml.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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