KAPAA — Under the blaze of a punishing midday sun, Jeffrey Redding slurped up a mouthful of fresh coconut water with a straw. Instantly, his face softened.
“I needed that!” he exclaimed.
Coconuts are only part of the beat-the-heat survival kit the Napa, California, resident and his wife Ingrid utilized as temperatures hovered in the high-80s during their weeklong Kauai trip.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in the water,” Redding said Thursday. “And we’ve had a few pina coladas. That’s helped, too. But only for the medicinal value — it’s not because we enjoy them.”
Redding grinned and took another swig from his coconut.
The first heat wave of the year took hold of the island July 1, when the mercury soared to a record-breaking 89 degrees. That beats the old record of 87 degrees recorded on that same day in 1992.
Chris Brenchley, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said the temperature gauge in Lihue has been running about 2 degrees above normal ever since. Temperatures are expected to stay above normal through August.
“If you look at June it averaged out to be about a half degree above normal in Lihue for the whole month,” Brenchley said. “So it looks like right around July 1 is when it became much warmer than normal.”
High humidity has also played a role in the hot-and-sticky weather. At the same time, the trade winds have weakened, adding to how hot the ambient air feels against skin. Then there’s the abnormally warm ocean temperatures, which help increase the temperature of the air.
All these factors combined have made a perfect brew for the start of a sweaty summer.
“It is expected to be a hotter than normal summer,” Brenchley said. “It has a lot to do with sea surface temperatures around Hawaii. All the way from Hawaii to California it’s a big area of water that has above normal temperatures right now.”
Josh Tamaoka, co-owner of Wailua Shave Ice in Kapaa, said the heat means more sales of the food truck’s icy, sweet treats.
“It’s shave ice weather in full effect,” he said.
At Kalalea Juice Hale, where the specialty treat is an acai bowl topped with peanut butter, kale, fresh bee pollen and coconut meat, the hot summer weather also means business is booming.
“When it’s hot you don’t want a steak for lunch, you want an acai bowl,” said manager Robyn Curley.
She cast her gaze up at a blaring sun.
“I go to Tahiti and Indonesia a lot and it feels like that,” she said.
Lounging on a wooden bench in Anahola, Dana Nalven, 25, kept cool Wednesday with a blueberry-banana smoothie. That and the kukui and avocado oil she’s been carrying with her.
“We drench ourselves in oil,” she said, her skin glistening in the late morning heat. “It captures the moisture in your skin and seals it in so you stay hydrated, because your skin’s an organ, too.”
One silver lining of the high humidity levels, Brenchley said, is that it could bring some badly needed rain.
So far this year, rainfall gauges across Kauai have recorded precipitation at levels that are about 50 percent below normal, according to the NWS in Honolulu. Lihue Airport had 12 inches of rain from October to April, the driest wet season recorded there in the last 30 years.
A 45-mile stretch of coastline from Kapaa to Polihale is in the throes of a moderate drought. The Westside and South Shore have been in a moderate drought since February, with lower portions of the Eastside gaining that status last month. Interior Kauai and Niihau are one mark less severe, which is abnormally dry. Streams and falls normally running strong this time of year have been reduced to a trickle.
“The excess humidity could bring about more clouds and then, in turn, more rain,” Brenchley said.
Precipitation levels are expected to rebound over time, and the island should see near normal rainfall by the end of August, he said.
Meantime, beach umbrellas, electric fans and bottled water are flying off the shelves of Ace Hardware’s Princeville location. Manager Maile Kimura said the store stocks up on these items starting in May because the demand for them skyrockets every year as soon as the summer heat hits.
“It doubles,” Kimura said. “We sell like two to three dozen more fans now through August. The inflatable tubes and all the swimming stuff just goes.”
For many the heat brings discomfort. But for some, it feels a bit more like home.
Daniel Valdivieso of Princeville said the weather of late reminds him of his roots in Venezuela.
“It feels so much like home and really it makes me hyper,” he said. “I drink more water, I get in the ocean more, I’m moving all around. I love the heat.”