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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 5, 2010

Isles had dry February

by Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer

It's shaping up to be a dry year.

Rain gauges across the state recorded the lowest February rainfall totals in a decade, according to the National Weather Service.

At Līhu'e International Airport, rainfall totals were 25 percent of normal in the first two months of the year. It's the same story at Honolulu International Airport and Kahului Airport. Hilo International Airport was at 12 percent of normal.

Meanwhile, gauges sprinkled across the state recorded their lowest totals since 2000, including at Moanalua, Waipi'o and Kunia on O'ahu, Hāna and Ulupalakua Ranch on Maui and Mountain View, Glenwood, and Kamuela on the Big Island.

The Ha'ikū gauge on Maui posted its lowest February total since 1992.

You don't have to tell people in Ka'ū and Kona on the Big Island or in parts Maui that rainfall totals are down. Those are the only places in the country where the drought is in the "exceptional" category, the worst on the drought intensity scale.

The lower-than-average rainfall is part of the El Niņo weather pattern, which typically brings drier conditions and big surf, said National Weather Service forecaster Jonathan Hoag.

An update on the drought conditions in Hawai'i will be issued Thursday by the National Weather Service. But it doesn't look like there will be much reprieve anytime soon, Hoag said.

"There may be some brief wetter period on Wednesday," Hoag said. "But the week will be dominated by trade winds."

On Easter Sunday, scattered showers dampened egg hunts, but not enough to make a big difference, Hoag said.

"It will take prolonged rainfall, not excessive rainfall, to alleviate the drought areas," he said.

More rain would be good for business, said Leonard Gines, an orchid farmer in Kea'au on the Big Island for more than 30 years. This year he's had to bring in water more weeks than not.

"It's an added cost for me," Gines said. "We depend on catchment systems here, and without rain I have to haul in water."

Lately there has been rain, he said. But for a while, he spent $130 a week to bring in 4,000 gallons of water.

"You can't water your plants any less. You have an investment in them," he said.

The National Weather Service said areas of "extreme drought" are present along the leeward slopes of the Big Island, including most of Ka'ū, north and south Kona areas and south and leeward areas of Kohala. Drought conditions also extend to parts of Maui, Moloka'i and Kaua'i.

O'ahu is the only major island without any areas under a drought classification, according to the weather service.

Trade wind showers haven't been significant enough to improve pasture and soil moisture conditions, the weather service reported.

"We're not done yet with winter," Hoag said. "But we're moving into the drier time of the year once we go into late spring. We have some chances of cold fronts for April and those could provide some precipitation."