While portions of the northeastern United States are digging out from more than 40″ of snow that fell from an impressive nor’easter, more snow and freezing rain is in the forecast. But it may be in an area you don’t expect wintry precipitation: the Big Island of Hawaii!
The National Weather Service office in Honolulu, Hawaii on the island of Oahu has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for portions of the “Big Island” of Hawaii. The island of Maui sits between Oahu and Hawaii.
Hawaii’s Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, at 13,803 feet and 13,678 feet respectively, rise well above the warm tropical beaches that surround the edges of the island. While it’s the state closest to the Equator, the high elevation of Hawaii’s Big Island peaks are high enough to tangle with cold air found high in the sky. In the winter, storms frequently tap into cold air to produce snow on the volcanic peaks while soaking rains fall at lower elevations. Snow can also fall during other times of the year; strong storms to move over the islands have been known to bring down just enough cold air to produce quick snow even in summer months.
It is these higher summits that are under a Winter Weather Advisory from this afternoon through to Friday evening, local time. A Winter Weather Advisory means that periods of snow, sleet, or freezing rain will cause travel difficulties. The Honolulu office of the National Weather Service warns people to “be prepared for slippery roads and limited visibilities and use caution while driving.”
A surface trough located southeast of the Big Island will be approaching the state today and will bring increasing clouds and showers through the next 24 to 36 hours. This area, rich with moisture, will move into Hawaii Island from the east this afternoon, threatening large parts of the island with heavy rain. Localized flooding, rock slides, and ponding of roadways are expected from the heavy rain moving into eastern portions of the state. But with cold air available at the higher terrain of the Big Island, snow and freezing rain will fall. For now, the National Weather Service expects up to 2″ of snow to fall here in Hawaii, but those amounts could increase if sufficient moisture and cold air mix.