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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 4:14 p.m., Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Rain a relief for parched Maui, but more needed

The Maui News

WAILUKU — Last weekend's rains provided relief for parched Maui, but they were not enough to lift drought restrictions imposed in June for Upcountry or to silence calls for voluntary water conservation in Central and South Maui, The Maui News reported.

"One rainfall event isn't going to be able to take us out of the drought," said Eric Yamashige, deputy director of the county Department of Water Supply. "We're cautiously optimistic."

Glenn James, senior weather analyst at the Pacific Disaster Center, said Maui has begun its rainy season, with the weekend rainfall marking the "first good autumn rainstorm in Hawai'i."

Another positive sign that the drought may be ending is that the National Weather Service has declared that this fall and heading into this winter, Hawaii residents will begin experiencing La Nina conditions, which are marked by a greater-than-normal amount of rainfall, James said.

The weekend rains dumped immense amounts of water on O'ahu, with the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base in Windward O'ahu getting 14.29 inches in a 24-hour period on Saturday and Sunday. During approximately the same period, rain gauges on Moloka'i and Lana'i recorded more than or nearly 2 inches, according to data from the National Weather Service.

Heavy rains continued to batter Moloka'i on Monday. Two Friendly Isle rain gauges, including one in Kaunakakai, recorded slightly more than 3.5 inches for the 24-hour period ending at 5 p.m. Monday. A gauge on Lana'i reported 1.41 inches for the same period.

On Maui, there was considerably less rain Monday. The highest rainfall figure was at Puu Kukui in the West Maui Mountains. It recorded 0.65 inches of rain. Other gauges received only hundredths of an inch of rain, except for Waikapu Country Club, 0.18 inches, and Oheo Gulch, 0.10 inches.

James said the recent wet weather was the result of a Kona low-pressure area that "dug down out of the middle latitudes into an area northwest and west of Kaua'i."

"This Kona low had a counterclockwise air circulation around its center which helped to draw up rich tropical moisture into the state," he said. "This moisture fed the showers that fell across the length of the entire island chain."

The rainfall that affected Maui was a "light to moderate steady rain," James said, adding that that was beneficial in soaking the soil to replenish underground aquifers and resupply reservoirs.

"It's a little bit early to tell if it broke the back of drought conditions," he said. "But it certainly pushed the drought back.

"We're moving into a time when we ought to see more frequent showers arriving," James said, adding that the rainy season typically runs from November through February.

In addition to recent heavy rains, an unusual southern swell continued to affect the island Monday and into this morning.

The swell was generated by storms in the Southern Hemisphere in the general area of New Zealand, according to Glenn James, senior weather analyst at the Pacific Disaster Center.

Such surf conditions are "very rare" for this time of year, he said. A high-surf advisory for all south-facing shores was extended to 6 a.m. today by the National Weather Service.

He said he expected trade winds to return today and Wednesday, bringing showers to windward areas and dry, sunny conditions to leeward areas.

High temperatures at sea level were expected to be in the mid-80s, with overnight lows 68 to 72 degrees.

For more Maui news, visit The Maui News.