Hawaii has been home to the wildest weather in the U.S. The island chain saw rare blizzard warnings as a powerful storm system moved across the island chain over the weekend and into the early part of the week.
The blizzard warning was the result of a storm system known as a “Kona low” that formed west of Kauai over the weekend. Both the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, which stand well above 13,000 feet (3,962 meters), were blanketed in powder. Webcam images captured by the Mauna Kea Weather Center show the mountain shimmering over the weekend, with timelapse imagery revealing the storm moving by as stars emerge.
Though the images of Hawaiian snowfall are shocking, it’s really the torrents of ensuing rain that have had the most dramatic effect on Hawaii residents. Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency this week with some areas experiencing more than a foot or rainfall in less than 48 hours. Some parts of the lowlands experienced tropical-storm-force winds with gusts topping 50 mph (81 kph). Cold weather (relatively speaking) also besieged the state.
On Monday, parts of the Oahu island experienced two inches of rain per hour. Heavy rain is expected to continue throughout Tuesday for parts of the island chain and rivers and streams are struggling to keep up with this much precipitation. Much of the western Hawaiin islands remained under a flood watch for Tuesday afternoon, while Maui and Molokai were under flash flood warnings over fears of “significant and life-threatening flooding.”
Snowfall on Hawaii’s tall mountaintops isn’t rare; powder fell on Mauna Kea this January. But it’s happening just as snowfall is absent from more familiar grounds. According to the National Weather Service, the majority of the country experienced below-average snowfall during November. Denver, Colorado, which is normally a haven for skiers and snowboards this time of year, recently broke its 87-year record for the latest snowfall day and saw a high of 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius) last week. Salt Lake City meanwhile has gone snowless through November for only the second time since 1976. Temperatures for much of the U.S. are almost comically hot as well. Montana, North Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming all set December temperature records last week thanks to a snow-killing heat dome. That type of extreme heat is climate change’s calling card, one we’ve seen dropped with increasing regularity.