Rainfall still below average on much of Big Island


Much of Hawaii Island continued to see below-average rainfall during the month of October, with severe and extreme drought conditions persisting in several locations, according to a National Weather Service report filed Wednesday morning.

The highest monthly total reported at any of the island’s 51 rainfall measurement gauges came from Pahoa, which saw 8.51 inches during October. That represents “an unusual distinction for this site,” wrote Kevin Kodama, a Honolulu-based hydrologist with the National Weather Service. Despite logging the highest total of the month, the gauge received only 73 percent of its average rainfall for October.

The highest daily total was recorded at Kapapala Ranch in Ka‘u, with 1.65 inches falling Oct. 16.

Meanwhile, “the Kohala region of the island was exceptionally dry with records for the driest October broken at the Kamuela and Kahua Ranch sites,” Kodama wrote.

The “Kamuela Upper” site had its driest October since 2003. But Kapapala Ranch and Pahala experienced their wettest Octobers since 2006.

“Most of the gauges on the Big Island have recorded below-average rainfall totals for 2013 through the end of October,” he said.

The highest year-to-date rainfall total on the island was measured by the U.S. Geological Survey gauge at Kawainui Stream, which saw 104.23 inches, representing 92 percent of its average year-to-date rainfall.

With drought conditions persisting across the state for several years, last month, Ka‘u was once again declared to be experiencing extreme drought conditions — the most severe classification. Molokai also moved into an extreme drought watch.

Molokai and Ka‘u joined the Big Island’s Pohakuloa region of the Hamakua District and the lower leeward elevations of the North Kohala District south of Hawi, which had already been designated as under extreme drought, according to a report filed by Kodama in early October.

Other areas of extreme drought in the state include Maui’s lower southwest slope of Haleakala from Kaonoulu to Ulupalakua Ranch.

Meanwhile, portions of Hawaii Island’s North and South Kona districts and western Ka‘u remained categorized as being under severe drought conditions. Severe drought is the second most severe classification for climate conditions.

“Almost daily rainfall has been occurring on the windward slopes” of the Big Island, Kodama wrote. “But the amount per day has been well below normal.”

Some ranchers in the Hamakua District were forced to haul water onto their property to fulfill their needs for their livestock, while ranchers along the lower slopes of the southeastern Ka‘u District reported inadequate feed supplies, he said.

Meanwhile, “some ornamental plant growers in southwest Ka‘u have resorted to costly water-hauling services to sustain operations,” he wrote.

On Friday, Kodama and other representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service will present their outlook for the 2013-14 wet season, which runs from October to April.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.