While portions of the eastern United States have been asking themselves “where’s winter?” after a prolonged drought of snow there, people in the Aloha State are bracing for yet another winter storm that’s prompted the National Weather Service to upgrade Winter Storm Watches to Winter Weather Advisories for portions of Maui and Hawaii islands.
According to the National Weather Service in Honolulu on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, a potent mid-level low centered just northeast of the islands has destabilized the island atmosphere, thereby turning typical trade wind showers into heavy downpours. Some rain showers could be heavy at times tomorrow, but because they’ll be moving very fast to the west-south-west at 30-40mph on those strong trade winds, widespread, significant flooding is not expected.
However, at the higher summits of Maui and Hawaii Islands, which rise 10,023 and 13,803 respectively, cold air is abundant, and non-liquid precipitation is likely. While some freezing rain was observed at Haleakala on Maui and Mauna Kea on Hawaii this morning, more is expected as those more substantial pockets of precipitation move through later today into tomorrow. With even colder air able to dip down into these higher elevations, snow will also fall.
Due to the threat of freezing rain and accumulating snow, the National Weather Service replaced the Winter Storm Watch that was in effect with a Winter Weather Advisory, reflecting the hazardous winter conditions that are impacting these areas right now. The Winter Weather Advisory is in effect through 6pm tomorrow evening Hawaii time and is valid for both Haleakala on Maui and the Big Island summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Hawaii. There, more freezing rain, additional snow accumulations of up to 3″, and winds gusting as high as 50mph are possible.
A Winter Weather Advisory is issued when periods of snow, sleet, or freezing rain will cause travel difficulties.
The Honolulu office of the National Weather Service warns, “Travel could be very difficult, leading to road closures. The roads to the summits will likely be impacted with ice and patchy snow. Postpone travel plans to the summits until weather conditions improve.” The weather service adds that they expect warmer and drier conditions to return by Monday to these areas.
While Hawaii is better known for its warm beaches and tropical weather, higher elevations often get snow, especially in the winter months. Earlier this month, snow fell at elevations as low as 8,000 feet on both Maui and Hawaii, forcing roads and parks to close. Last month, upwards of 1-2 feet of snow fell on Hawaii Island, much to the delight of snowboard and ski enthusiasts who took to the volcanic slopes for winter sports fun.
— the Weatherboy (@theWeatherboy) January 17, 2020