A potent winter storm is about to bring heavy snow and strong, frigid winds to an area most people don’t associate with winter weather: Hawaii.
While most people don’t associate the tropical paradise Hawaii is known for with snow, they’re surprised to learn that it does snow in the winter due to the elevation of these volcanic peaks. Mauna Kea is the highest of the bunch at 13,803 feet. Maui’s Haleakala is much lower at 10,023 feet. Because of that difference, Hawaii Island will see snow more frequently than the lower Maui Island. Mauna Kea saw very heavy snow last January; a winter storm dropped 2-3 feet more and created snow drifts that were far deeper.
With heavy snow on the way, the National Weather Service office on Oahu island at Honolulu has raised a Winter Storm Watch for the Big Island of Hawaii for this evening through Tuesday afternoon. The watch, in effect for Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa above 11,500 feet, has been issued for threats of heavy snow and high winds. The National Weather Service says total snow accumulations over 12″ is possible while winds could gust as high as 40 mph. “Travel could be very difficult or impossible,” the National Weather Service warns.
Hawaii joins California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois as states featuring counties currently under a Winter Storm Watch.
At the lower elevations of Hawaii, heavy rain, gusty winds, and rough surf are expected as the storm system responsible for the heavy snow moves through.
Starting tonight, a trough west of the Aloha state will slowly move closer and then lift north of the state. This will cause the winds to shift toward the southeast, bringing an increase of moisture across Hawaii with the greatest moisture expected over the Big Island. A Flash Flood Watch has been issued for the Big Island starting tonight and continuing through Tuesday. During this time, east and southeast slopes of the Big Island is expected to see a prolonged period of moderate to locally heavy rainfall. More than 5″ of rain is possible in some locations. Tomorrow, moisture associated with this weather system is forecast to spread west to the other islands. However, due to the low level flow mainly being out of the southeast, there will be some rain shadowing from the Big Island; because of this, areas across Maui County and Oahu should see less rainfall than the Big Island.