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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 8, 2010

Isles' drought worst in U.S.

Hawaii Tribune-Herald

No other state in the nation has a drought as bad as the one now hammering Kohala and Ka'u.

Leeward North Kohala, South Kohala and the southernmost region of Ka'u are suffering under an "extreme" drought, the next-to-worst designation of the U.S. Drought Monitor. After more than a month, the rain gauge at South Point has not detected any precipitation this year.

The entire island is under some degree of drought declaration, ranging from moderate in East Hawai'i and the Kona Coast, to "severe" and "extreme" in other places.

A broad swath of the island's interior is under a "severe" drought.

Most of the rain gauges statewide have reported less than 50 percent of normal rainfall, the National Weather Service said in a statement released last week.

"More than three-quarters of the state is under at least moderate drought and is the only state in the country with D3-category (severe drought) conditions as of Feb. 2," forecasters said.

They continued:

"Pasture and general vegetation conditions are very poor in many areas of the western and southern sections of the Big Island, and are vulnerable to brushfires. Recent fires in the South Kona district have highlighted the enhanced risk. Residents dependent on rainwater catchment, including those in the normally wet windward slopes, have been increasing water hauling requests to satisfy basic needs."

The situation is similar, if not as severe, on other islands in the archipelago.

Pastures and other vegetation remain in a "highly degraded state" across western Maui and western Moloka'i.

O'ahu is the only island without drought areas.

The winter storms that usually bring rain are being hampered by a peaking El Niņo and creating dry conditions across Hawai'i.

Forecasters say moderate trade winds will bring light showers to windward and mauka areas this week, while the rest of the state will have to wait.

Elsewhere in the nation, much of the mountainous West is experiencing abnormally dry conditions, with a few places in Washington state, California, Nevada and Arizona in a severe drought stage.

Only Hawai'i faces extreme drought conditions.