Cold weather lingers

LIHUE — Little rain. Low temperatures. Unusual winds.

“You don’t need a weatherman to tell you that,” lifelong Kauai resident Jerry Ornellas said with a laugh.

Ornellas lives in the Kapaa Homesteads and keeps track of rainfall using an official USGS gauge. He said this winter has not only lacked its usual precipitation, but has had more nights that dropped into the 50s than he remembers in a long time.

“I looked at my thermometer this morning and it was 57,” he said.

And the National Weather Service is calling for more of the same — cool and dry.

“It’s just been a stagnant pattern that we’ve been having,” said Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

Wednesday morning, the temperature at the Lihue Airport dropped to 57 degrees, tying the record set in 1962. The morning before it reached 59 degrees, just shy of the 1967 record of 57 degrees.

Steffan Welch, who’s lived on the island for 10 years, said he was beginning to wonder if the colder weather was just him, because he recently lost some weight. As for the lack of rainfall, the avid waterman definitely noticed.

“It makes it more enjoyable,” he said of the island.

One downside is increased water bills for people like Kapaa resident Catherine Stovall.

“All my plants are really suffering,” she said leaving Costco. “I don’t usually have to water, not in February. It’s odd that I have to water like this.”

While March has brought wetter weather to the eastern part of the state, including the Big Island and Maui, Kauai has, for the most part, stayed dry.

During February, the northwestern slopes of Kauai received near to above average rainfall while the rest of the island had below average totals, according to NWS. The highest monthly total of 11.77 inches (101 percent of average) came from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Waialae rain gauge. Mount Waialeale — known as one of the wettest spots on Earth — had the highest daily total of 2.83 inches on Feb. 2, but it rained only 45 percent of average for the month.

At the Lihue Airport, it rained only 0.75 inches — 24 percent of average and the lowest February total since 2000. Many of the year-to-date totals from sites on the eastern and southern sides of the island were below 50 percent of average, according to NWS data. The USGS Kilohana gage had the highest year-to-date total of 19.83 inches (67 percent of average).

Kauai’s higher elevations are listed at D-0, or abnormally dry, on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Lower elevations along the island’s east, south and west-facing shores are listed at D-1, or moderate drought.

“That’s mainly affecting the livestock folks because of pasture conditions,” Kodama said of the D-1 status.

One of those ranchers is Robert Farias Jr. of Farias Cattle Company, located above the Kapaa Bypass Road, and the president of the Kauai Cattlemen’s Association.

“The cold weather has really slowed down the grass growth,” he said. “Anyone who mows their own lawn knows there has not been much to mow lately. We got spoiled with all the rain and unusually warm weather from September to the end of the year, which resulted in lots and lots of grass.”

Farias said 1994 or 1995 was the last time he remembers having such an unusual winter, but that this year has been even more extreme due to the cold.

“That is the big problem,” he said. “Grass grows better in a warm environment. This winter has been dry, cold and windy, which are all bad for grass growth.”

A few scattered showers are expected through the rest of the week.

Don Bogowitz, who has captained boats on the island for decades, said the winter weather is not unusual, simply the result of an El Niño, which in Hawaii can cause a strong high-pressure ridge to sit over the islands and rainfall to be sharply below normal.

And it’s not all that bad, he said.

“Enjoy it,” he said. “And hope it lasts another year.”

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