Wet season expected to have ‘above average’ rain

Report comes on heels of dry July to September on Maui

An “above average” rainy wet season from October to April is expected to wash away drought conditions in Maui County on the heels of a very dry July-to-September period, the National Weather Service said.

Releasing its “Wet Season Rainfall Outlook” for Hawaii on Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report said climate models “favor above average rainfall through the wet season.”

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center explained that current El Nino-Southern Oscillation-neutral conditions (with neither El Nino or La Nina) is likely to continue through spring.

“In the last 30 years, eight out of the top 20 rainiest wet seasons have had ENSO-neutral conditions,” the report said.

Upcountry has been under Stage 1 water shortage declaration, calling for voluntary water-use reductions, since May. Last month, the water department asked West Maui residents from Puamana to Mahinahina to conserve water due to the dry conditions, without officially declaring a Stage 1 water shortage.

Hydrologist Kevin Kodama said Thursday that he believes the drought conditions will end by the end of April.

Maui and the rest of the state have been experiencing record-breaking days of heat since May, in part caused by warmer oceans to the east and northeast, from where the trades blow, meteorologists have said. The warmer oceans also are expected to play a role in increased rainfall this wet season.

“Warmer oceans put more moisture into the lower atmosphere, which helps fuel more rainfall,” Kodama said.

The lack of rain during the later part of the dry season helped contribute to the record-breaking days of heat, he said.

The El Nino early in the year led to moderate to severe drought in all Hawaii counties in early May, the report said. An unusual June storm relieved the drought conditions only to have it return from July to September in Maui County.

During that three-month period, Kahului Airport reported 0.64 inch of rain, 46 percent of normal, Kodama said. Currently, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows “extreme drought” from Kihei to Maalaea and from Kepuni to Kaupo and “severe drought” from Maalaea to Lahaina. This assessment is based on rancher reports and satellite-based vegetation health data.

The drought affected ranching operations and contributed to an increase in brush fires, the report said. This included a 9,000-acre brush fire in Central Maui in July, a 5,300-acre brush fire from Pukalani to Omaopio in August and a 4,100-acre pali fire earlier this month.

Despite the drought conditions on Maui in the later part of the season, the dry months were the seventh wettest in 30 years statewide, based on eight key reporting sites, the report said.

Kahului Airport reported significantly lower precipitation but the Maalaea station logged 0.32 inches, 107 percent of normal, and Ulupalakua, 8.76 inches, 203 percent of normal.

The wet dry season scenario applied to parts of Maui County, Kodama said. “Ulupalakua Ranch had its eighth wettest dry season,” he said. “Molokai Airport had its seventh wettest dry season. On the other hand, Kahului AP was 19th wettest.

“Averaged ranks for eight sites across the state ended up with rank of seventh wettest.”

The report offered some wet season reminders:

• Do not drive on roads with fast-flowing water. Two feet of fast-flowing water can sweep most vehicles off the road. In addition, the road could be undercut by the rushing water.

• Do not walk across flooded streams. If stranded while hiking, wait for water to recede. Streams in Hawaii tend to recede quickly.

• Be aware of potential lightning strikes. Move indoors when hearing thunder.

• Clear debris from gutters and drainage ditches.

• If living in a flood-prone area, have an evacuation plan in case floodwaters threaten the home.

• Conditions can change rapidly. Sunny skies can turn cloudy with intense rainfall in less than an hour, stay informed.

The National Weather Service Honolulu website is www.weather.gov/hfo/.

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


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