Wet winter restores Lake Waiau

Lake Waiau’s water levels are almost back to normal, a state official said.

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Lake Waiau’s water levels are almost back to normal, a state official said.

Department of Land and Natural Resources Natural Area Reserve System Specialist Ian Cole credited the winter’s rains for the improvement.

“It has had a very positive impact on the lake level,” Cole said Thursday, adding the level was back to about 75 percent of what would be considered full. “The west side rains, the snow pack, after January, the return of rain has done wonders.”

Cole was looking into the low water levels, noted by scientists, cultural practitioners and other visitors last fall.

“The best hypothesis was there’s just four years of sublevel precipitation,” Cole said. Some people were “worried it just couldn’t recover.”

This winter’s weather produced enough precipitation to pull all of the Big Island out of drought conditions, National Weather Service Hydrologist Kevin Kodama said last week.

“It rained a little more than I was expecting,” Kodama said. “I was expecting some drought to remain on the Big Island and Maui.”

Statewide, it was the 10th wettest winter season in the last 30 years, “just slightly wetter than normal.”

The rain has picked up in Kona, Kodama said, which is the only leeward area of the state that records more rain in summertime.

“As you’re seeing on the Kona side, you’re getting a good half inch per day,” he said.

Twice this week, a National Weather Service rain gauge recorded more than an inch of rain in a 24-hour period, according to the NWS website. Kealakekua had 1.29 inches on Thursday, and 1.07 inches Tuesday. A gauge at Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park saw 1.12 inches of rain Tuesday.

“It has indeed been wetter than normal on the Kona side in some spots,” he added.

On Monday, when West Hawaii residents reported hearing thunder from Kona Palisades into Kealakekua, several areas recorded significant rainfalls. Kealakekua and Puuhonua O Honaunau had 0.67 inches, Kainaliu had 0.64 inches. Kona International Airport recorded 0.28 inches that day, while nearby Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park recorded slightly more, 0.29 inches.

In just the last week, that rain has given Kealakekua more than half of the amount of rain the gauge records on average, and through Thursday had nearly doubled the monthly average, getting 9.71 inches so far this May, compared to the average of 5.35 inches. That made for the wettest May in the 23 years the NWS has been tracking rainfall there, Kodama said Friday morning.

Honokaa had also topped the monthly average, with 7.88 inches, compared with the average of 6.64 inches. The gauge at Kona International Airport recorded less than average rainfall so far this month, with 1.43 inches. The average May rainfall there is 2 inches. Still, this year will be the wettest May at the airport since 2004.

April 2014 began as a particularly wet month for the Big Island, according to the NWS data.

“Unstable conditions from an upper level trough of low pressure helped enhance the trade wind showers over the Big Island on April 1 and produced 3 to 5 inches of rainfall in a 24-hour period,” the April 2014 summary said. “For the entire month, several of the gauges exposed to trade wind showers on Maui and the Big Island recorded the wettest conditions in over 10 years.”

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Leeward areas were drier, remaining at or slightly below average, the report said. And Kealakekua’s 0.87 inches was just 20 percent of average, the lowest April total since 1996.

Rainfall totals for 2013 through the end of May were in the near to below average range across the Big Island, the NWS said.

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