Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023|
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Most rain gauges on the Big Island recorded less than half the average rainfall for a typical March, the National Weather Service in Honolulu reported Wednesday.
March started moist with strong thunderstorms, but conditions dried out quickly.
Hydrologist Kevin Kodama said during a telephone interview that the Hilo airport reported a total of 3.4 inches for the entire month of March. An average March would have seen rainfall totals closer to the 15-inch mark.
And the dry spell might not be over.
“It’s hard to say, although the Climate Prediction Center, at least for April, is predicting drier conditions,” Kodama said.
Dry spells can affect farmers, fruit quality, production and thirst for such products.
Chad Wasserman, owner of Chad’s Organics of Hilo, said there’s been a little more precipitation lately.
But the weather of 2015 taught him a lesson, he said, and he invested in covered growth chambers for his basil, cherry tomatoes, salad mix, spinach and other produce.
The drier weather, Wasserman said, has “actually been beneficial because we’ve had a lot of sunshine.” Sunlight helps deter plant ailments, which makes for a healthier crop.
“I’m sure banana farmers or ginger farmers are hurting,” Wasserman said. He also noted shallower soils that dry out faster, such as those in Puna, can be problematic. Wasserman said he’s lucky because he’s connected with city water and also has a spring available.
Michael Tarring, president of Ohana Banana Farms in Puna said “this year’s better than last year, that’s for sure.”
He said January and February were quite dry, but that’s expected. March is when rains begin to shower the extensive acres of banana trees and, by July, it’s hard to believe how much rain kicks in.
September of 2016, Tarring said, produced 30 inches of rain for his trees. He worries more about hurricanes than about a month that’s a little short or a little long on rainfall.
In March, he said, “there was a lot of days we got zero rain.” But the days between rainfall were few enough that the crop did fine.
Kodama said the west side of the island is of concern, especially coffee-growing areas in Ocean View Estates, South Kohala and South Point.
“On the leeward side, we’re kind of getting out of the wet season,” he said.
The Weather Service noted in a report that the U.S. Geological Society rain gauge on Saddle Road recorded the highest Big Island rainfall total for March — 13.83 inches, which is 88 percent of average.
Several “significant” weather systems that affected the state in February and March “for the most part dissipated before reaching the Big Island,” the Weather Service report said.
“This has resulted in below-average rainfall totals from most of the Big Island rain gauges for 2017 through the end of March.”
Email Jeff Hansel at email@example.com.
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