Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hawai'i gripped by historic drought; heavy rain predicted for winter

It's hardly news that Hawai'i is dry, but the extent of the drought may reach record proportions.

Lawns are brown, pasture colors in some areas have gone from yellow to gray, water bills are spiking as residents try to keep their yards alive, cattle and horses need special attention because food is short and normal water sources have dried up.

(Image: the U.S. Department of Agriculture drought map for Hawaii, effective Oct. 12. The darker the red, the dryer it is. Yellow is just “abnormally dry.” Credit: USDA.)

Hawai'i is in the grip of a historic drought—maybe a record drought year if late-year rains don't fill in soon. (And they should, but not until after November. More on that later.)

Agricultural ventures report significant farm losses for tree crops, flowers and any unirrigated fields, pasture production down by as much as 90 percent in some areas, and cattle herds being culled by 30 percent.

The federal government has a drought monitor with five levels of severity, and much of leeward Hawai'i is under the worst conditions, “D4, Exceptional drought.” (The Drought Intensity Categories are: D0 … Abnormally Dry; D1 ... Moderate Drought; D2 ... Severe Drought; D3 ... Extreme Drought; and D4 ... Exceptional Drought.)

Many parts of the state are working on all-time record dry conditions, with small fractions of normal rainfall. Here's the state drought map.

The comparative severity is graphically shown on the national drought monitor map.

The only good news in the scenario is that the National Weather Service predicts the drought will break sometime after November, and that a wet winter is forecast.

It seems bizarre under these arid conditions to be planning for heavy rains and floods, but that's the recommendation of the Weather Service:

Wet season preparedness guidelines:

Clean gutters and drainage ditches

If you live in a flood-prone area, identify your evacuation routes ahead of time

Plan for more rainy weather impacts

Increased road travel times or possible detours due to flooding

Outdoor activities may be postponed, canceled, or adjusted

Increased potential for lightning strikes

Be prepared for possible power outages

Move indoors during a thunderstorm

Do you have a NOAA Weather Radio?

© Jan TenBruggencate 2010

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