Low August rainfall brings drought conditions across Hawaii

HONOLULU — Hawaii is experiencing drought in many parts of the state after an unusually dry August, which is normally the peak month of hurricane season.

There was no rainfall or storms in some areas and the U.S. Drought Monitor said 50% of the state is experiencing drought conditions, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.

Maui County recorded below-average rainfall last month, including at Puu Kukui in West Maui, one of the wettest spots in Hawaii, which posted its lowest August rainfall total since 1985.

Drought also caused water restrictions in parts of Maui and wildfire warnings across the state.

“We’re not expecting the conditions to improve any time soon,” said Kevin Kodama, senior service hydrologist for the National Weather Service’s Weather Forecast Office Honolulu.

Kodama said even windward areas of the islands are being impacted by the summer dry season.

“You think that with persistent tradewind conditions, windward slopes would see showers, and they are, but the amount per day is low, so we’re starting to see signs of drought stress and stream flows are low,” Kodama said.

August is historically the most active month for major storms in the central North Pacific basin, Kodama said.

“However, there were no tropical cyclones during the entire month, and that doesn’t happen too often,” he said.

Mark Thorne, a range and livestock management specialist with the University of Hawaii’s Cooperative Extension Service, said conditions are “getting pretty dire” for many ranching operations.

Ranchers can sometimes manage short-term drought with rotating grazing systems, but longer drought causes difficulties because animals cannot easily be moved to greener pastures around the islands or out of state.

On Hawaii island, ranchers reported dry pasture conditions in Waikii and Mana, with degraded conditions over the eastern slopes of Mauna Kea and lower slopes in parts of the Kau District.

Sumner Erdman, president of Ulupalakua Ranch in southwest Maui,said there was no measurable rainfall over the past six weeks, leaving sections of the ranch unusable.

The extremely dry conditions forced the ranch to reduce its herds by shipping younger animals to the continental U.S.

“To be honest it’s pretty dismal,” Erdman said.

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