Recent rains bring some relief from drought - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Recent rains bring some relief from drought

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Over the past month and a half, forecasters at the National Weather Service have had rain on their radar. The regular rounds of moderate precipitation have been a blessing for areas hit hard by drought.

"This is the type of rain that the farmers need, not too heavy, just a little bit of moderate type of rainfall that allows the moisture to percolate down into the ground, increase the soil moisture and help the pastures regenerate," said weather service hydrologist Kevin Kodama.

For much of the past decade drought has been a villain for farmers and ranchers on the Big Island and in Maui County. The run of rain has improved their outlook.

"We are feeling some relief. For Maui in the upcountry area the good thing is that our reservoirs are now at capacity. They're full," Maui County Farm Bureau executive director Warren Watanabe said.

The driest areas have been getting enough rain to shift the state's drought monitor. The color-coded system categorizes drought conditions according to severity.

"The drought monitor will show some improvement, at least one category in most of Maui County and the Big Island," Kodama said.

Areas listed as having extreme drought will be lowered to show severe drought conditions. Severe spots will be downgraded to show moderate drought conditions.

The US Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency in Hawaii made over $4.5 million in payments to those who suffered weather related losses in 2012.

"Most of the payments were drought related," state executive director Diane Ley said.

The figures for 2013 are still being tabulated.

"Drought is in the headlines when it's occurring. When it starts raining people tend to forget," Watanabe said.

"It's going to take more than just a few rain events," Kodama said. "This is a good trend but they'll need more."

The state's rainy period runs through April.  Those who depend on rain for crops or cattle hope the rainfall will be enough to get them through the summer months.

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