Forecasters urge Hawaii to prepare for drenching rains, flooding as another wetter-than-normal winter looms

As a cold front makes its way to the islands this week, the rainy conditions serve as a potential indicator of what’s to come over the next several months.
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 11:51 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 19, 2022 at 10:53 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As a cold front makes its way to the islands this week, the rainy conditions serve as a potential indicator of what’s to come over the next several months.

The National Weather Service released its outlook Wednesday for the upcoming wet season and above average precipitation is in the forecast.

Hawaii residents don’t need to think back too far to get a sense of how intense the rainy season get.

March 2021 brought historic flooding in Haleiwa and along Oahu’s north shore as stream levels rose to their highest in nearly 50 years.

“Just all along, Hauula, Punaluu, that area of Kahuku that was a big rain event and that produced record breaking flow within Opaeula stream,” said National Weather Service senior hydrologist Kevin Kodama.

“So even aside from what the statistics show, it’s an indication of how severe our events can be.”

Looking ahead to the next six months, the projections are very similar ― as Hawaii will be in a La Nina event for a third straight year, which has only happened twice since 1950.

On Wednesday, the approaching front prompted the DLNR to close the Kalalau Trail on Kauai’s Na Pali coast due to heavy rain and flooded waterways.

By afternoon on Oahu, a steady rain had left muddy conditions over windward and central areas of the island. At Kaneohe District Park, the softball field was soaked and low visibility obscured the view of the Koolau mountains under gloomy gray skies.

There were no reports of flooding on Oahu. Instead, windward areas got a needed steady soaking with beneficial rainfall.

La Nina typically indicates more rain for windward areas.

“Because of our terrain, that rainfall distribution really depends on how the strength of the La Nina shapes up,” Kodama explained. “So if you have a stronger La Nina event, where you have more persistent trade wind conditions and you end up having wet conditions over the windward slopes, the leeward areas remain dry.”

For some spots, that means really dry.

Leeward areas of the Big island are experiencing drought and this year, Maui’s drought levels went from from extreme to exceptional.

“Some of the pastures are just dirt,” Kodama said.

“It’s just in really bad shape. It’s not just one event that can solve it all. You talk to ranchers and they say, we need multiple events to get the soil waste for water to percolate down and restore the soil moisture.”

While NOAA’s models don’t highlight exactly when the rains will be coming down, Kodama says he’s noticed that March has typically become the most active month of the wet season.

But severe weather can develop within moments.

“It can be not raining on one side, but just incredible impact on the other side of the mountain, so you never know, always stay tuned,” Kodama said. “Always stay on your toes. always be prepared this time of year.”

This story will be updated.