Hawaii reaches worst drought level - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii reaches worst drought level

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The new drought numbers are out and for the first time Hawaii has reached the worst level possible on the drought scale. 

Oahu is the only island in Hawaii without any drought classification however the leeward side of the Big Island has the worst drought conditions in the country. 

"This is the most difficult time I've ever seen. I've watched a number of other growers in the area go out of business walk away from their property and their farm and house the whole thing and let it go back to the bank. It's really seriously a problem," said Dan Wegner, Aloha Protea Farms Owner.

Wegner and his wife Dona Foster have been growing protea for 26 years in Ocean View.  There were plenty of good years, but this has been the worst.

"We just estimated recently that our production will be off by 95 percent. So I may cut up to 5 percent of what I would normally expect to cut. I'm out of business basically," said Wegner.

He spends several hundred dollars a month trucking in water but still loses thousands of dollars of revenue and his own rainy day fund is drying up.

"Wall street managed to take away what we had put away for a rainy day with our 401k's," said Wegner.  "I'm probably the first one to start the protea business in the Ocean View and I'll probably live long enough to see it die."

It's not just farmers, ranchers are suffering as well.

"Livestock farmers have been hard hit, the coffee farmers, ornamental flowers, all have been hard hit. It's really affecting the bottom line," said Kevin Kodama, National Weather Service Senior Hydrologist.

For the first time since the drought monitor was established 11 years ago.  Hawaii has gone into the exceptional drought status the worst possible D-4 condition.

"If you think of it as hurricanes have Category 1 through Category 5. Tornados have the F scale. Drought is the D scale and it starts at D-0 and goes to D-4 and D-4 is the worst and we're at D-4 over the South Kohala district," said Kodama.

"Is there any end in sight?" I ask.

"Actually, no. We're coming up on the dry season," responded Kodama.

Wegner is especially frustrated because he says there hasn't been any help other than low interest loans but the last thing he says he needs is more debt.

Copyright 2010 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly