What’s With The Wacky Weather?


These hailstones fell in early morning March 9 in Kailua. Nathalie Walker photo nwalker@midweek.com

Is it me or has anyone else recently asked the question, “What’s with the bizarre weather in Hawaii?” And, no, I’m not talking about natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunami scares. I’m talking about weather-related events that we normally don’t see in the Islands.

I often joke with Justin Cruz, my dear friend at KHON2, about the need for expanded weather reports in Hawaii. For years the nightly forecast sounded the same: Windward and mauka showers; highs in the mid-to-upper 80s, lows in the upper 60s and tradewinds, 15 to 20 mph.

But recently those reports have included one weather phenomenon after another. And on those days and nights when severe weather hits, those expanded reports are not only packed with information, they’re highly appreciated.

Sure we exaggerate when we say things like, “I’ve never seen this in my life” or “I’ve lived here for 40 years and this is a first.” But it seems like we’re experiencing more firsts and more “that’s the wildest thing I’ve ever seen” than ever before.

I started to take notice back in March 2006 when Mother Nature flexed her muscles and drenched Oahu and Kauai with 40 days and nights of rain. The wicked storm produced you guessed it “one of the worst floods in decades.” It was also a factor in the Ka Loko Dam break that sent 500 million gallons of water into Wailapa Stream, killing seven people.

Then, in February 2009, a rare weather phenomenon touched Oahu in the form of two tornadoes in Kapolei. Thanks to Twitter and other social media it was seen by thousands.

Two years later, Feb. 23, 2011, Mother Nature lit up the skies “like nothing we’ve ever seen before.” A nasty storm brought hail, waterspouts and torrential rain to the entire state and packed an electrical punch that rocked Oahu and Kaua’i. Residents watched in delight and some in absolute fear the 21,000 lightning strikes in a five-hour window when a storm system stalled over Hawaii. One of those strikes jolted three fishermen who were returning to shore on their boat. No one was seriously injured. The stories and images were on Facebook pages all across the state.

It happened again several months later on May 3 when the Worldwide Lightning Detection system tallied nearly 45,000 lightning strikes over Oahu and Kauai over a 30-hour window, including 6,700 strikes in one hour. A Waianae family reported that lightning struck an antenna on their home, shocking someone lying on the floor. Emergency officials say he was briefly unconscious but was not seriously injured.

The latest nature show happened March 6. After several days of drenching rains, a severe thunderstorm quickly approached Kaua’i and Oahu. The line of thunderstorms also was packing winds of 58 mph and higher, and had the potential to produce water spouts and tornadoes.

The system did not disappoint. In fact, it brought an extra weather phenomenon residents from Waimanalo to Aina Haina had never seen in their neighborhoods: nickel-sized hail.

“I’ve lived here for many years and I have never seen hail before,” says Hannie Anderson. “I can’t believe it, hail in Waimanalo. Never thought I’d see the day.”

“It was coming down so fast, not just one at a time but a whole slew at one time and I was thinking, oh my goodness, I wonder if it will crack the windshields on cars,” says Waimanalo resident Harriet Seabury.

And then it happened again in Kailua and Kaneohe early last Friday.

Many people have their own theory to the weatherrelated events; everything from simple science to global warming and even Armageddon 2012. Others chalk it up to mere coincidence. I don’t have a theory, but I do know that advances in technology including the phenomenal number of smart phones out there along with the wonders of social media have made these events far more visible than ever.

It may not explain the number of “I’ve never seen this in my life” stories, but it certainly explains why so many of us have the opportunity to make such statements.