December storm dusts Big Island summits

Hawaii Island’s December dalliance with winter weather ended up being an affair of little note.

Despite some ominous peals of thunder in the late afternoon and a few brief periods of rainfall, Thursday’s weather produced little in the way of flooding, with no areas on the Big Island amassing more than 1.8 inches of rain within the 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m. Friday.

The area of Kawainui Stream put up the biggest numbers, with 1.82 inches, followed by Pahoa with 1.81 inches. The rain gauge at Hilo Airport totalled 1.51 inches of rain during the 24-hour period, while Mountain View saw 1.44 inches. The rain missed areas further north, including Waimea and Honokaa, which both saw no rain water collected.

Most of the rain appeared to fall offshore of East Hawaii, said Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

“The system produced thunder yesterday and quite a bit of activity just offshore in Hilo and Puna, but over land it wasn’t too bad, or at least as bad as it could have been,” he said. “Most of the activity just didn’t reach the island.”

The main weather concern on the Big Island on Friday revolved around the heavy surf impacting beach parks along the leeward coast, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira.

No major damage or flooding was reported in East Hawaii on Friday, he said.

Meanwhile, forecasts had also called for a second snowfall atop Mauna Kea on Thursday evening into early Friday morning.

Isle tour company operator Erik Storm said he and his wife, Malia, celebrated their wedding anniversary at the summit of Mauna Kea on Thursday, in the spot where they got engaged seven years ago.

“We had been planning to go up there for several weeks, so it was nice to get the snow. The majority had melted away already, but there was still some on the northwest facing side, and we enjoyed that. Talk about a blessing from Poliahu. She obviously approves of what we have been doing,” he said.

On the way back down the mountain around 7:30 or 8 p.m. Thursday, Storm said the weather was beginning to get windy and icy again.

“The conditions were definitely beginning to get a little bit scary. Snow was starting to build up again,” he said.

Those who chose to make the trip up Mauna Kea’s summit road Friday morning were met by cinder cones topped with the lightest dusting of snow and ice that melted quickly with rising temperatures.

Rangers with the Office of Mauna Kea Management opened the roadway to the summit around 9:30 a.m. after allowing time for the sun to melt away any patches of ice that might pose a danger to motorists.

Four friends who drove up from Hilo — Eric Reynoso, Skylynn Chavaries, Ari Janado and Devon Fernandez — made the best of the situation, however, finding a spot of unmelted snow hidden behind one of the large observatory domes. There, they managed to scrape together enough of the precious white flakes for a quick snowball fight.

None of the group had been up to see the snow in years, “so we’re kinda stoked,” Chavaries said.