With the polar vortex split, it’s probably no surprise to anyone that the country is feeling its effects and dealing with some seriously strong storms that are plaguing the United States. After all, Chicago was at one point colder than Antarctica with a wind chill of -50 degrees. So it’s definitely been a strange year for the United States and people have been sharing their “winterpocalypse” pictures all over social media.
Strong storms have also made their way over to the tropical paradise of Hawaii and have caused some concern among both locals and tourists. Unusual weather has peaked and dangerous swells have begun to surface around the island. While Hawaii is known for its great surf, you’ll definitely want to avoid the water until the storm passes over. Rip tides and powerful currents are present, making the waters dangerous even for experienced swimmers and surfers.
Before we move forward with the article, let’s check out some of the weather highlights associated with the storm.
Quick weather highlights
- Some areas of the islands have been experiencing severe flooding due to high tides and swells.
- The high water levels have also overtaken many coastal roads, making them impassable.
- Major power outages have been reported all around the island.
- Several trees have been downed due to high winds, leaving dangerous debris scattered around the island.
- The storm has caused at least one death- 66-year-old California native who died in the rough surf off of northwest Maui on Friday.
- The extremity of the storm was measured on the Big Island’s Mauna Kea. Here, they recorded a wind gust of 191 miles per hour. The previous record was 150 mph
- Snow is falling on the islands!
Has Hell frozen over?
Yes, you read that last highlight right and yes the picture above is Hawaii! Snow is actually falling on the islands, giving both the locals and tourists a mini winter wonderland. But has hell officially frozen over? Given the fact that snow is falling in Hawaii, you would seriously think so! This winter treat is the result of an upper atmospheric low-pressure system. This system brought enough “cold air” and moisture with it to cause snow in the islands.
The low-pressure system that is responsible for the snow is known as Kona Low. It’s technically a chunk of low-pressured cold air that has been separated from the main flow. The result of which is snowfall on the islands of Hawaii. In its warning, the National Weather Service in Honolulu, Hawaii said that it was highly possible for more than 6 inches of snow to accumulate in areas above 12,000 feet elevation. Temperatures were also set to dip into the 20s and 30s.
Also, Hawaii isn’t a stranger to snow. Surprisingly enough, the islands see snowfall around once a year thanks to high elevation. Ken Rubin, who is an assistant professor geophysics and geology at the prestigious University of Hawaii, states, “every year it snows at least once here in Hawaii. However, the snow is usually confined to the summits of the Haleakala, Mauna Loa, and Mauna Kea. These are the three tallest volcanoes on the islands.”
However, don’t plan to bring your pack skis and head out to Hawaii for some snow and surf! The mountains aren’t a great place to ski at. Ken Rubin was also quick to mention, “we very rarely see snow levels reach lower than 9,000 feet altitude on the islands; even in the middle of winter. However since the mountains reach above 13,700 feet at their tallest and 10,000 feet at their shortest, they receive a blanket of snow each year. The snow typically doesn’t stick to the ground for more than just a few days.” So in other words, you won’t be able to ski on it but there is enough to build a small snowman in if that’s your thing.
Is it possible to ski in Hawaii?
The short answer is yes, but you probably don’t want to.
Mauna Kea Ski Corporation informs us that “Mauna Kea is a National Science Reserve and is not maintained as a ski area.” This is to say that these areas aren’t “maintained” like formal ski grounds; so you won’t have that well-groomed snow that makes for smooth skiing. There’s also unmarked rocks so safety is definitely a concern. Unfavorable weather conditions may also arise out of nowhere.
Because of this, the few runs Hawaii does offer are limited to intermediate to advance skiers/snowboarders; weather permitting of course.
The Hawaii Ski Club also backs the Mauna Kea Skip Corporation and informs us that Hawaii doesn’t have any ski lifts, the snow remains ungroomed, and there’s no resort. There is a road that will take you up to the summit, but from there you must use a 4-wheel drive vehicle to reach the ski location. So skiers must take turns being the driver, picking others up at the bottom of the runs and ferrying them back up.
Yeah, we think we’ll stick to visiting Hawaii for the sun and surf and leave the skiing to Colorado.
A first for a state park
Pictures above are of Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area
As we mentioned, snow isn’t unheard of in Hawaii. However, officials have said that the blanket of snow at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area on the island of Maui is probably a first for any of the Hawaiian state parks. That’s because they’re lower than the 9,000 feet that snow prefers like Ken Rubin said. In fact, they’re well below the 9,000 mark.
Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area sits at an altitude of just 6,200 feet; a low that snow typically doesn’t reach, especially for the islands. However, the park currently looks like a scene out of Narnia. The White Witch would feel perfectly at home in the state park amidst the frozen trees and snow covered grounds. So if you live in Hawaii and you’re into cosplay, please do this for us and send us pictures… We’re begging you!
Officials are also certain that this is quite possibly the lowest elevation snow ever recorded in the state. Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, or DLNR for short, took to Facebook to share the special moment with social media users around the world. “Snow has fallen for the first time ever in a Hawaiian State Park,” the post read. “Maui’s Polipoli Park has a fresh blanket of snow and it’s also the lowest snow elevations that have been recorded or seen in Hawaii.”
A historic moment
Forecasters have been calling the snowfall in Hawaii an unprecedented event. Sam Lemmo, administrator of DLNR said, “we concur that we rarely if ever have seen the combination of gale force winds coupled with record high on-shore waves.”
While people are definitely out celebrating the strange weather, they’ve also been warned to be careful and a few areas have been shut down. After all, there are debris in the form of large sticks and rocks all over the island as well as flooded roads. The water swells are also dangerous and locals/tourists have been cautioned to stay out of the water. But honestly, who’s going to get into the water when it’s this cold and there’s snow on the ground?
As we mentioned, some of the parks are also closed off to the public due to hazardous conditions. There is a visitor’s station on the 13,308-foot mountain that is just one of many that were closed due to the storm. It was closed early and will remain so until Tuesday ‘due to the fact that we foresee this weather continuing rather than improving’, the news station’s website read. While it’s likely due to debris and thick layers of snow and ice, the main reason behind the closure is the poor visibility of the road that leads to the station. This road is shut down anytime visibility drops below 50 feet and the gusts of winds are 65 mph or stronger. Currently, visibility is well below 50 feet and the gusts are much, much stronger than 65 mph making it too dangerous to traverse.
While it’s easy to get distracted by the images and thought of snow falling in Hawaii, snow isn’t the only thing happened to the islands: strong thunderstorms are also making their way across Hawaii and breaking havoc with them.
Considered rare by local weather stations and locals, a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for southern Kauai on Saturday. Wind gusts of 67 mph were recorded in the ocean side town of Port Allen in Kauai and forecasters expected the conditions to only worsen as the storm goes on. Luckily for Port Allen, the community is on the south side of the island and is large protected from the harsh weather conditions making their way from the northeast. However, this doesn’t mean that locals shouldn’t take precautions.
In addition to strong winds and heavy rains, wave heights in the area were near around 40 feet. This measurement was taken just north of the island on Sunday and forecasters don’t see the swells going down anytime soon. So locals have been told to stay out of the waters until the storm passes.
The strong winds have done more than just blow down trees; over 27,000 customers across the islands have been without power since the storm first rolled in. As of Monday morning, just over 2,400 customers were still without power according to PowerOutage.us.
Lots of damage
It’s easy to get captivated with the images of beautiful snow fallen areas but once again, we want to remind everyone that the storm didn’t bring all good things with it. Lots of damage was done to homes, roads, and areas. Several power lines were brought down by the heavy winds, homes and roads were flooded, and there was significant damage all around the islands.
So while a lot of the island was out enjoying the snow-covered grounds, some local residents were busy removing debris from their driveways and homes. While most of the debris has been picked up from the major roads, several residents still remain without power and others have significant water/wind damage. The state is working as fast as possible to restore power and normalcy to those affected by the storm.
Let’s switch gears; a cause for celebration
People all over the island have been celebrating what the National Weather Service office in Honolulu is calling a “historic first for the island.” Many have taken to building snowmen in their yards, hosting impromptu snowball fights, and of course snow sledding across the frozen terrain.
The event has attracted more than just children; adults seem just as keen to get in on the snowy action as their younger counterparts. Take Lance Endo for example. His friend was camping at a state park on Maui when he texted him early on Sunday to let him know there was snow on the ground. Lance wasted no time getting into his truck and making the hour-long drive to see it.
“I really just wanted to play in the snow,” Endo said with a chuckle.
Endo ventured to the park on the slopes of Haleakala where the weather service stated that there were snowdrifts of around 4 feet. Definitely unheard of for the state! Endo also brought his two children to the park to enjoy the historic moment.
“I wanted my kids to see something that’s very unusual for Hawaii,” Endo said.
We’re absolutely positive that this won’t be something his kids will ever forget. We imagine that this is a story they’ll tell their grandchildren for years to come.
What are your thoughts?
While we’re definitely interested in knowing what you think of this historic moment, we’d like to ask all of our readers a question: what would be the first thing you’d do if you were in Hawaii and it snowed? Would you grab your children and run out to the snow to play in it and capture the moment? Or would you grab some boiling water and create your next viral Instagram video? We also want to know what you think of this historic moment in general. Were you shocked to learn that about this massive snowstorm in Hawaii or were you more surprised to learn that snow isn’t that uncommon in the state?
We’re also patiently waiting on the “snowpocalypse” videos to surface of people carrying boiling hot water outside and throwing it into the air to watch it come back down as a cool mist. We personally think it would be even cooler to see such videos come from a place that’s known for its heat and sun! So if you live in Hawaii, do us a solid and send us some videos!
If you have any additional photos of videos of the snows in Hawaii, we’d like to see them. Whether they’re pictures you took or ones you found on the Internet, we’d gladly look them over. This is such a cool, rare event that we can’t get enough of!