Drought intensifies around state - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Drought intensifies around state

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Kevin Kodama (Image: Hawaii News Now) Kevin Kodama (Image: Hawaii News Now)
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Dean Okimoto (Image: Hawaii News Now) Dean Okimoto (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Image: Hawaii News Now Image: Hawaii News Now
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

It was just last summer when the state recorded record rainfall for the dry season, leaving the islands drought-free. But the wet season is closing with nearly the entire state parched.

One needs only to look around to see brown where it should be green because of what's normally the "wet season" in Hawaii.

The latest monitor map from the National Weather Service shows 98 percent of the state is "abnormally dry" or worse, with extreme drought conditions for the Hualalai and South Kona areas of the Big Island.

"The reports we're getting from the Kona side is that they haven't seen conditions this bad at least since 2010 and maybe even farther back," said NWS senior hydrologist Kevin Kodama.

Kodama said he has already received reports of Big Island ranchers losing dozens of cattle because of the lack of rain. Some ranchers are also reducing the size of their herds.

"A lot of the pastures that they feed the cattle on is just on rain, and when they don't have rain they probably have to ship their cattle of younger than they expect to the mainland," said Nalo Farms owner Dean Okimoto, who's also a former president of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation.

Kona Coffee growers on the Big Island also said their crops are being adversely affected by the drought.

"Their yields are probably gonna be down," said Okimoto. "Also when it gets drier like that, they get more bug problems because the bugs do well in that kind of weather." 

You also know its dry when Diamond Head has a brush fire in April.

"We've already seen some significant fires, and not just Diamond Head," said Kodama. "Maui had a pretty big brush fire and they've had several smaller ones. And it's just going to keep building."

That's bad news for the state, which has already busted this year's budget to fight wildfires, like the one that burned for several days in Nanakuli last month.

The dry winter can be blamed on the current El Nino, which is the strongest one since 1998.

"If you recall back then, that was the first year of a four-year drought," said Kodama. "Now there's no guarantees that this will happen again, but it's certainly within the realm of possibility."

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