The National Weather Service office in Honolulu, Hawaii has issued Winter Storm Watches for portions of Hawaii’s Big Island. The vacation destination known for its warm tropical breezes, fragrant flowers, pineapple plantations, and poolside umbrella drinks could see 6″ of snow fall later tonight into Tuesday.
“Difficult travel conditions and significant reductions in visibility are possible,” warns the National Weather Service in their Winter Storm Watch advisory. The watch could be upgraded to a warning as confidence in the forecast increases and/or as snow starts to fall.
A Winter Storm Watch is issued when there is potential for significant snow, sleet or ice accumulations that may impact an area. In the case of this Winter Storm Watch, the watch area is restricted to the highest elevations of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Hawaii, also known as the “Big Island” in the Hawaiian Island chain. The National Weather Service cautions that anyone planning travel to the summits, including hikers and campers, should monitor the latest forecasts and consider postponing their trip until improved weather returns.
The Mauna Kea Rangers had opened the access road to the summit there yesterday. After checking on weather conditions and having remedial grading work done, the summit access road was re-opened to the public on Sunday morning. Vehicular access above the Halepohaku area is restricted to 4-wheel drive only and no 2-wheel drive vehicles will be allowed past the end of the paved road. With more severe wintry weather returning to the area, it is possible the access road will be closed again.
While the thought of snow in Hawaii seems extremely odd; it is a normal occurrence, especially during the winter months. Snow can even fall outside of the winter months; several inches fell in May this year. Blizzard conditions can also impact Hawaii as stiff winds and heavy snow reduce visibility to zero.