East Hawaii News

Isle Drying Out After 2+ Feet of Rain; More Coming

January 2, 2014, 1:47 PM HST
* Updated January 9, 6:12 PM
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Sunny skies prevailed over nearly the entire Big Island today, giving Big Islanders a breather from a doozy of a winter storm that soaked some areas with more than two feet of rain.

But that respite will be relatively short-lived, as another system approaching the state is expected to impact the Big Island by the weekend.

The National Weather Service said the cold front approaching from the west will begin to affect Kauai tonight.

According to meteorologist Matt Foster, the front will then continue its march down the island chain, reaching Kona as early as Friday night and the Big Island’s windward side on Saturday.

That means showers are likely from Friday on for both sides of the island.

The front, which resides relatively low in the atmosphere, is expected to stall Sunday just east of the Big Island. There it will be enhanced by an upper-level low-pressure system, resulting in more locally heavy rains and possibly thunderstorms.

Foster said this storm is not likely to be as strong as the one that hammered much of the island over the five-day period ending at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Weather service rain gauges tallied double-digit rainfall in at least five windward locations during that period, with the Island Dairy gauge in Ookala registering the most with 27.93 inches.

That was followed by the mauka Hilo area of Waiakea Uka with 23.14 inches,  Honokaa with 18.47, Hilo with 14.96 and Pahoa with 10.82 inches.

According to Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira, an independent weather observer in Paauilo recorded 33 inches of rain during that time.

The rainfall also set a record.

On Monday, 7.51 inches fell at Hilo’s airport, eclipsing the previous record of 4.58 inches for Dec. 30, which was set in 1951. The wettest December day on record at the airport was Dec. 2, 1970, when 9.33 inches of rain fell.

The New Year’s Day rainfall was focused mainly on a narrow area that included the western end of Saddle Road and in the Honokaa area on the other side of Mauna Kea.

The thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday occurred after the low-pressure trough had moved away from the Big Island.

“It was a really funny system,” Foster said. “It was taking a while to dissipate.”

Those rains forced the closure of Saddle Road beginning early New Year’s Eve.

Oliveira said that night a county crew was able to clear the last remaining county section of the road known as the “Seven Steps” which passes through Waikii. That allowed cross-island traffic to resume after several hours.

He said unlike the Hamakua Coast, where landslides consist of rocks, trees and other large items, the debris on Saddle Road was smaller stuff like dirt and twigs, which are easier to clear.

The state was not able to muster a crew and reopen the Saddle Road’s new Keaumuku section until Wednesday morning.

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