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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 13, 2008

In 2007, Hawaii was too dry or too wet

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Central O'ahu Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Farm Bureau president Dean Okimoto

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Wet weather in November and December helped push overall Hawai'i rainfall totals for 2007 to near-normal levels, according to the National Weather Service.

But while that may sound like Hawai'i had a decent year, most of 2007 was extremely dry, said hydrologist Kevin Kodama at the weather service's forecasting office in Honolulu. And the wet weather in the last couple months of the year was marked by bouts of flash flooding.

"If you look just at the year-end in sum, it's like, hey, no problem," Kodama said. "But it's not like it was evenly distributed throughout the year. It was dry, dry, dry, and then wet, really wet. And, in some cases, way too wet."

December, with damaging winds and flash flooding, was the wettest month since March 2006, according to year-end figures released by the weather service. While O'ahu suffered the brunt of wind damage, Maui County and the Big Island received the heaviest rain.

In early December strong winds and heavy rains knocked out power to tens of thousands of people, closed nearly 100 public and private schools statewide and shut down major thoroughfares. Gov. Linda Lingle signed a state disaster proclamation to help counties recover from the storm damage.

Two consecutive months of wet weather, however, also helped ease drought problems that began in May. A drier-than-normal winter last year exacerbated the dry season, resulting in water restrictions in some parts of the state, Kodama said.

Mandatory water use restrictions in Waimanalo where farmers using irrigation water had to reduce use by 30 percent and Upcountry Maui have been lifted, the weather service said.

In all, conditions were challenging for farmers.

"Summertime shortage of water, and wintertime too much water," said Hawai'i Farm Bureau president Dean Okimoto.

He said the water-use restrictions for some farmers meant a cut back in their plantings. Heavy rain in the winter damaged crops while overcast skies and lack of sunlight slowed growth of new crops, he said.

"That really affected me," Okimoto, president and owner of Nalo Farms, said of the rain. "We're still not totally back."

Still, Okimoto said weather conditions last year weren't as bad as "that 40 days of rain" that wiped out farms in 2006, and that he and other farmers are hoping for more stable weather this year.

"We need the rain though," he said. "At least now the water restrictions are lifted, so it looks like this summer should be OK for the farmers. We should be able to last through the summer with no water restrictions, hopefully."

Kodama said above-normal rainfall is expected for at least the first quarter of this year.

O'ahu rainfall totals last year were in the near-normal range at many locations, while rainfall was in the near to above normal range at most Maui County locations.

Several sites on the Big Island measured near to above normal rainfall. Most sites in Hamakua and Kohala saw below normal levels.

Kaua'i's rainfall totals were below normal despite being home to the wettest spot statewide, Mount Wai'ale'ale. Mount Wai'ale'ale received 336.1 inches, down from its normal total of almost 424 inches.

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com.