The National Weather Service office in Honolulu, Hawaii has issued a Blizzard Warning for the higher elevations of the Big Island of Hawaii, where near-blizzard conditions are expected. The Blizzard Warning is in effect until 6am local time on Thursday and is in effect for Big Island summits above the 11,000 foot mark.
Heavy snow, with accumulations of 6-10″+, poor visibility (less than 1/4 mile at times in clouds and heavy precipitation), and strong winds (45-55mph with gusts to 65mph) are expected.
A Blizzard Warning means severe severe winter weather conditions are expected or occurring. Falling and blowing snow with strong winds and poor visibilities are likely. This will lead to whiteout conditions, making travel extremely dangerous. Do not travel. If you must travel, have a winter survival kit with you. If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle.
While most associate Hawaii with warm tropical tradewinds and sipping icy umbrella drinks on sunny beaches dotted by palm trees, snow is no stranger to Hawaii. During a storm last year, Ken Rubin, Geology and Geophysics Professior at the University of Hawaii said, “It snows here every year, but only at the very summits of our three tallest volcanoes.” Those volcanoes are Haleakala on Maui and Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. “The snow level never gets below 9,000 feet in Hawaii during the winter, but since these mountains are taller…they get dusted with snow a few times a year.”
Snow can also fall in severe storms during other times of the year. Snow fell in the middle of June this year on Mauna Kea and also fell in mid July of last year. The combination of cooler than normal upper air temperatures and thunderstorms bringing in moisture on these high peaks makes it possible.