August 13, 2022

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Rare Hawaii blizzard warning issued and flood alert in effect across the state as Kona low brings threat of snow

A RARE blizzard warning has been issued in Hawaii as a strong Kona storm with heavy rainfall and powerful winds is expected to strike the drought-stricken region over the weekend.

Across Friday, a strong cold front will move southeast through the Hawaiian Islands before stalling over the Big Island by Saturday morning.

Snow over the Big Island summits is common each year, though blizzard warnings are considered quite rare

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Snow over the Big Island summits is common each year, though blizzard warnings are considered quite rareCredit: Twitter / @CFHTelescope
Across Friday, a strong cold front will move southeast through the Hawaiian Islands before stalling over the Big Island by Saturday morning.

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Across Friday, a strong cold front will move southeast through the Hawaiian Islands before stalling over the Big Island by Saturday morning.Credit: Twitter

Additionally, what the National Weather Service (NWS) called a “stronger upper-level disturbance” will also approach the region on Saturday, bringing an extended period of cold and wet weather that may last into the middle of next week.

Bands of heavy rainfall are expected across the weekend through at least Wednesday, with the potential of dumping more than one inch of rain each hour.

Experts say the expected rainfall carries a significant threat of flash flooding and even landslides – especially in hilly or mountainous areas.

The Big Island and Maui County are expected the see the heaviest of the rainfall, with significant showers also anticipated in Oahu and Kauai early next week.

Scattered thunderstorms are also expected to occur across the weekend, with some likely to turn severe with large hail and strong gusts of wind.

The racing winds, combined with the heavy rain, may lead to power outages from down trees and powerlines, NWS warns.

They may also generate surf heights close to 30 feet along north-facing shores on Saturday and Sunday as a north-northwest swell builds ahead of the weekend.

FLOOD AND BLIZZARD WARNINGS

From Monday afternoon there is a flood watch warning in effect throughout the state.

The Big Island summits will also be under blizzard and high wind warnings over the weekend with winds gusting over 100 mph, and a possible foot of snow, forecasters said.

NWS issued both high wind and blizzard warnings for the Big Island summits from 6pm Friday until 6pm Sunday.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible. Blowing snow will significantly reduce visibility at times, with periods of zero visibility,” forecasters said.

They predict southwest winds from 50 to 80 mph with localized gusts over 100 mph.

“Winds this strong will make driving and walking extremely dangerous,” forecasters said, “The winds can cause significant damage or injuries.”

Snow over the Big Island summits is common each year, though blizzard warnings are considered quite rare.

According to NWS, over the last 10 years winter storm warnings have been issued by the NWS-Honolulu office an average of three times each year.

Blizzard warnings, however, have been issued just five times over that 10-year span. Prior to this week’s warning, the last occurred in March 2018.

For the statewide flood watch, NWS said: “A cold front will move over the islands from the northwest tonight and Friday, initially bringing a relatively short period of heavy rainfall to Kauai and Oahu.

“The front is expected to stall near Maui County and the Big Island late Friday, bringing the potential for an extended period of heavy rainfall as a slow-moving kona low forms west of Kauai on Saturday.

“As the low develops, moisture associated with the front will spread back toward the west, bringing the threat of heavy rainfall to all islands, with this threat likely persisting well into next week.”

ROAD CLOSURES AND LANDSLIDES

Forecasters predict roads and several areas across the state may be closed on account of the inclement weather, including the Big Island’s Belt Highway, and Piilani Highway on Maui.

This may result in “long detours or even the isolation of communities,” NWS said. “Landslides may also occur in areas with steep terrain.”

Forecasters say motorists should never cross a flooded roadway because the water may be deeper than expected and moving swiftly.

Prior to this weekend’s expected storms, Hawaii was considered abnormally according to the United States Drought Monitor, which as of Wednesday was reporting that 29 percent of the Hawaiian Islands were in severe drought conditions or worse. 

On the island of Oahu, Honolulu recorded just three percent of its average rainfall throughout the month of November and October. In fact, since July 1, the city has recorded just 10 percent of its average rainfall.

The Big Island has also been hit hard by this drought, recording less than 40 percent of its average rainfall.

Kailua fared even worse, reporting a measly 12 percent of its average rate.

The Big Island summits will also be under blizzard and high wind warnings over the weekend with winds gusting over 100 mph

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The Big Island summits will also be under blizzard and high wind warnings over the weekend with winds gusting over 100 mphCredit: Twitter / @CFHTelescope
A foot of snow may potentially fall

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A foot of snow may potentially fallCredit: Twitter / @CFHTelescope
The storm will last through the middle of next week, forecasters say

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The storm will last through the middle of next week, forecasters sayCredit: Twitter
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