When will ‘wild’ weather end?
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
The turnaround from December's record-low rainfall has been an unusually wet March in Hawai'i as the storm watch continues with no end in sight.
The National Weather Service forecast called for scattered showers today but with conditions deteriorating over the next few days.
"No one is getting spared," lead forecaster Henry Lau said last night.
"It's got to end sometime," Lau added. "This is wild. I've never experienced this kind of weather event or episode to my recollection.
"This kind of persistent trough is very, very rare. Like a one-in-a-hundred-years kind of thing."
The weather service was reviewing data yesterday to confirm if this has been the wettest March on record in Hawai'i.
Forecaster Tom Birchard said it already is the wettest month ever in Lihu'e, Kaua'i.
In fact, yesterday's rainfall of 4.5 inches by 8 p.m. in Lihu'e had already shattered the previous March single-day high of 1.34 inches recorded in 1963, said Birchard.
From March 1 through 8 p.m. yesterday, Lihu'e had recorded 32.95 inches of rain. The previous high for the entire month of March was 14.54 inches, Birchard said.
By comparison, the rainfall gauge at Honolulu International Airport had recorded 10.28 inches for the month as of 4 p.m. yesterday. Birchard said 1.64 inches is the average March rainfall at the airport.
"So far, February was wetter than normal and we're coming up to 40 days of excessive rains," Birchard said. "December was dry statewide, so I guess we're getting Christmas weather now. It's a balancing act, tipping the scales on the extremes."
Much of O'ahu was drenched again yesterday, but O'ahu Civil Defense said there were no major problems. Waialua Beach Road was closed for part of the day because of high water, and Kaonohi Street in Pearlridge was closed for about an hour yesterday afternoon when a large tree toppled.
The rain also sent boulders onto highways and caused five sewage spills in Windward O'ahu.
Forecaster Birchard said Lihu'e's rainfall numbers are expected to be reflective of what has been going on statewide. He said March is viewed as a "transition month" that could be wet or dry but not expected to be the wettest or driest.
Lihu'e received a total of 3.39 inches from November through January — about 10 1/2 inches less than normal rainfall for that three-month period.
Things changed in February, as it did for most of the state. Lihu'e got 8.64 inches of rain for the month — 5.38 inches more than its average for February.
The ongoing rains have contributed to rockfalls, mud and landslides, flooding and unhealthy conditions in many swimming areas as well as problems for local farmers that will affect consumers down the road.
Peter Young, chairman of the state Department of Land & Natural Resources, is advising people to stay off hiking trails for a while because the ground is saturated. Young said the state has hired consultants to address the slide issues occurring on Round Top Drive and Manoa Valley.
"Manoa is an area of interest because we want to take a look at what is causing (the slides) — is it uphill development, is it a new diversion of water, or is it simply just that we're having a lot of water?" Young said.
State Board of Agriculture chairwoman Sandra Lee Kunimoto said the month-long rains have affected crops, particularly papaya, taro and leafy vegetables.
"They're really struggling," Kunimoto said of the farmers.
Kunimoto said she is getting a mixed reaction when she asks farmers about whether this is the worst weather they've encountered over a period of time.
"I'm hearing different things from different farmers," Kunimoto said. "Some have said to me, 'We've been through this before' and there's others saying to me, 'This is way longer than I've experienced in the past.' So I think it tends to be from spot to spot."
Reach Rod Ohira at email@example.com.
Correction: Before this year, the highest rainfall recorded in Lihu'e, Kaua'i, for the month of March was 14.54 inches in 1951. The total was incorrect in an earlier verison of this story.