‘Severe’ drought grips south side

HANAPEPE — The drought has gotten worse.

The National Weather Service’s drought monitor for Hawaii moved from “moderate” to “severe” on Kauai’s south side, said Kevin Kodama, hydrologist with the weather service. That’s only two levels away from D-4, the most severe drought indication.

He said Big Island has reached D-4 levels of drought in the past, but Kauai has never gotten to that point. The most severe reading Kauai has garnered from the drought monitor has been a D-3 reading.

“That was mainly because of agriculture concerns,” Kodama said.

The most recent average rainfall numbers available from the National Weather Service paint a picture showing that some places on Kauai have had less than half of the average rainfall in 2016.

In Hanapepe, year-to-date rainfall is at 3.16 inches, 42 percent of the average 7.49 inches. In Hanalei, the YTD rainfall is 8.65 inches, which is 58 percent of the average 14.89 inches. The Lihue Airport received 1.91 inches YTD, 28 percent of the average 6.91 inches.

Wailua received 28 percent of the average rainfall in the first two months of 2016, a total of 3.55 inches compared to the average of 12.25 inches.

Mount Waialeale, which is hailed as one of the wettest places on Earth, received only 31 percent of the average rainfall of 49.20 YTD, with a total of 15.21 inches.

And as Hawaii moves toward the tail end of the rainy season, which runs from October through April, it could prove more difficult to recoup water losses. Kodama explained Hawaii really has two seasons; it’s either “wet and cool or warm and dry.”

“The beginning part of last year was pretty dry and it definitely wasn’t statewide,” Kodama said. “This year is quite a bit worse, not on Kauai as much, though. The other islands are worse off than Kauai.”

And going into the weekend, there is only a slight chance of rain.

National Weather Service forecaster Peter Donaldson said clouds will be hanging out around the Hawaiian Archipelago, and they might be dropping some rain.

“There’s a fair amount of clouds, but most of it will be banked up over the north and east parts of the islands,” Donaldson said. “So, in places where most of the people are going to be, it’s going to be fairly sunny over the weekend.”

The forecast this weekend is for scattered showers on Saturday, cloudy skies on Sunday, and then scattered showers through the beginning of the week.

Expect big waves

While rain might not be on the main stage this weekend,waves are expected to reach around 20 feet in height on the north-facing shores of the Kauai, with a possibility of a few 25-footers thrown in the mix.

The swell isn’t expected to pick back up after Sunday until the middle of next week, but the traditional winter big surf generally continues through May, according to the weather service.

“Starting Sunday night the waves are going to be dropping off, though it’ll be rough with the north winds blowing,” said Donaldson. “Biggest stuff is what’s going to be coming in the next few days where we’ll probably have high surf advisories through the weekend.”

Slightly cooler spring

Sunday is expected to bring with it those traditional and unpredictable weather patterns, but this time around the air is slightly cooler than usual.

Wednesday, for instance, Lihue’s high of 75 was 3 degrees cooler than normal and the temperature on Thursday morning was 2 degrees below average.

But Donaldson said there’s been a north wind recently that’s had a hand in the temperature.

“It isn’t super cold,” Donaldson said. “I think the north wind and the fact that humidity is low have more to do with why it feels cool, than the actual temperature.”

Humidity and dew point is lower than normal because of those north winds, Donaldson explained. The north winds are also going to be keeping the vog — volcanic residue from the Big Island — from trekking over to Kauai.

“You need winds blowing out of the southeast to get the vog to go to Kauai,” Donaldson said. “It’s possible you’ll see it again next week, but for the next few days the trade winds will be keeping it away from Kauai.”

The breezy tradewinds and sunshine are expected to continue through Sunday.

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