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2012 Was Dry in Hawaii and Across Much of US

Posted January 9, 2013, 06:04 PM HST Updated January 10, 2013, 05:24 PM HST
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Leeward sections of the state have been particularly dry, as shown in this US Department of Agriculture graphic. "S" designates short-term drought, while "L" indicates areas with dry conditions of typically six months or more.

A typically rainy December didn’t make up for 11 months of below-normal rainfall on the Big Island, and elsewhere in Hawaii.

Statistics from the National Weather Service released today show that virtually all of the Big Island was drier than normal in 2012.

Of the island’s 37 rainfall gauges for which data was available, only the one at Kawainui Stream exceeded average yearly rainfall. The area near Waipio Valley averages about 135 inches annually, but last year it received 182 inches, 35% more than normal.

Gauges around Hilo – the nation’s rainiest city – received at most 71% of average rainfall. That was at the University of Hawaii’s Waiakea Experiment Station on Komohana Street, where 116 inches of rain was recorded, compared to 161 in a normal year.

The upslope area of Waiakea Uka receives average rainfall of more than 196 inches but saw only about 129 last year, 66% of normal.

A total of 90.39 inches fell at Hilo’s airport which on average receives 126.72 inches of precipitation.

The wettest area in which a gauge is located, Glenwood in upper Puna, received only 61 percent of normal rainfall, 141.67 inches compared to 233.53 inches.

Hamakua fared worse when it came to moisture, with Honoka`a getting 43.30 or 45% of its normal 96 inches.

But West Hawaii was even drier, with few of the stations even exceeding 50% for the year.

Only 3.77 inches fell in 2012 at Keahole Airport, 21% of the average level of 18.39 inches.

Rainfall in upper South Kona areas like Kealakekua and Honaunau saw only about 50% of their normal levels of 50-some inches, while Pu`uWa`awa`a in North Kona received just under 7 inches, 29% of normal.

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But it was South Kohala and the leeward side of the Ka`u District that saw the driest conditions.

Waikoloa finished the year with 2.51 inches, 20% of its normal rainfall of 12.72 inches. Kahuku Ranch near South Point averages 34.91 inches but last year received only 3.68 inches, 11% of normal.

It was a similar situation across the state.

Only two other gauges in the state recorded above-average rainfall in 2012. They were both on Kauai which came closest to normal rainfall with about two-thirds of the stations reporting 80% of average or higher.

Mount Waialale, the rainiest place in the state and one of the wettest in the world, received 326.44 inches, 83% of its normal rainfall of 393.85 inches.

None of the stations in Maui County were above 72% for the year, and Oahu was only a little better with a handful of gauges above that mark.

The ongoing drought conditions in some leeward sections of the state prompted the US Department of Agriculture to include the Big Island and Maui in its latest list of counties designated as disaster areas.

The designation allows additional aid to farmers, ranchers and other businesses impacted by the 2012 drought.

In all, the USDA included 2,245 counties in 39 states in the disaster declaration announced today, representing 71% of the nation.

“As drought persists, USDA will continue to partner with producers to see them through longer-term recovery, while taking the swift actions needed to help farmers and ranchers prepare their land and operations for the upcoming planting season,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

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