Severe weather conditions that led to flash flooding and severe thunderstorm warnings around the state are similar to those of exactly five years ago, when a tornado damaged Lanikai homes and dropped record sized hail in Kaneohe.
According to the National Weather Service, it's a coincidence. But research shows that such conditions are more likely to happen here in March than in any other month.
One of Thursday's severe thunderstorms developed over the Saddle Road area to the west of Hilo. It dropped large amounts of pea-sized hail around mile markers 17 and 18.
NWS meteorologist Bob Ballard said another, more dangerous storm formed offshore to the northeast of Maui, with radar indicating hail at least three inches across.
"We know that a storm like this could have produced very large hail, probably a large waterspout, and most certainly damaging winds with it as it was trucking along out there," he said.
Ballard said that particular storm is very similar to the one that roared ashore in Kailua early on the morning of March 9, 2012. That's when a waterspout made landfall and damage several homes in the Lanikai area. It also produced the largest hailstone ever recorded in Hawaii, one that was four and-a-half inches across.
The same ingredients that fueled the 2012 storm also are present in this week's system. Basically, an upper level disturbance with very cold air aloft is triggering isolated but intense thunderstorm cells.
"We're lucky that this cell wasn't over some populated area, or we probably would have had the same kind of damage," said Ballard.
At least the storm over the Big Island produced something that residents won't soon forget.