While much of the country hasn’t seen much snow in recent weeks, Hawaii is about to be hit by its second snowstorm in as many days. The National Weather Service in Honolulu, Hawaii has issued a Winter Storm Watch for the higher terrain of the Big Island of Hawaii. The Winter Storm Watch is in effect from Friday night through Saturday night and includes the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.
Several inches fell on Mauna Kea on Tuesday, prompting officials to close roads due to ice and snow conditions there.
According to the National Weather Service, up to 4 more additional inches of snow are possible between Friday and Saturday; however, what will make conditions really bad will be the powerful winds. Wind gusts higher than 100 mph are possible, which is the equivalent of a mid range Category 2 Hurricane’s winds on the Saffir Simpson wind scale. “Blowing snow will significantly reduce visibility at times, with periods of zero visibility,” the National Weather Service Warns.
A Winter Storm Watch means there is potential for significant snow or ice accumulations that may impact the summits. Anyone planning travel to the summits, including hikers and campers, should monitor the latest forecasts and consider postponing their trip until improved weather returns.
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. Just one storm last January dropped 2-3 feet of snow on Hawaii Island and created snow drifts that were far deeper.
In addition to coating Mauna Kea, this new snowstorm could bring snow to Mauna Loa, considered to be the world’s largest active volcano. While it’s larger in volume than Mauna Kea, it’s a tad bit shorter, standing up at 13,678 feet compared to Mauna Kea’s 13,803. Because Mauna Loa is an active volcano and Mauna Kea isn’t, there isn’t much in the way of buildings or telescopes on it. While there are science stations and the HI-SEAS Lunar / Mars simulating lab are on Mauna Loa, a single narrow road rides up the slope and it stops short of the summit. Both roads up Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are likely to be closed during and immediately after the storm.