Drought Sets in Before Summer

By Catherine Cluett Pactol | Editor

As the rainy season comes to a close with a dry finish, weather forecasters are predicting drought conditions to continue on Molokai. 

“The October through April Hawaiian Islands wet season is the time of year where most of the leeward areas get the bulk of their rainfall,” said Kevin Kodama, senior service hydrologist at NOAA’s Honolulu Forecast Office. “After having a rather wet December, Molokai has been quite dry since early January. As a result, severe drought has quickly returned to the island. To make matters worse, we are quickly running out of days with a reasonable expectation for relief in these areas.”

According to the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources, most of the state is already starting to experience drought conditions, during the time of year when rain is normally plentiful and regular.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, a nationwide resource for tracking drought conditions, shows much of Hawaii, including the entire island of Molokai, currently classified as level D2, or severe drought. 

The County of Maui is suggesting voluntary water conservation in West Maui. The State Commission of Water Resource Management (CWRM) is advising residents take immediate actions to reduce water use in Maui County, describing current drought conditions as “historic.”

“A significant lack of rainfall across the island [of Maui] has resulted in a lack of groundwater recharge and surface flow,” said CWRM Deputy Kaleo Manuel. “Normal wet season rainfall has not materialized and streams that are normally gushing with water are barely flowing. This is deepening our already grave concerns about the effects of seasonal drought on water supplies.”   

In recent years, along with drought, Molokai has seen the devastating effects of deer overpopulation compounded by lack of vegetation. 

Last week, Gov. David Ige signed an extended emergency proclamation to assist Maui County in getting assistance for conditions caused by axis deer overpopulation, championed by Sen. Lynn DeCoite. The new proclamation will extend the emergency period through May 20.

“Last year, large numbers of axis deer started migrating into agricultural and developed areas, seeking food and water during a period of drought in Maui County,” stated a news release last week. “This contributed to the loss of farm crops and native species, soil erosion, and the devastation of area farms. Hundreds of deer have died, and decomposing carcasses threaten to contaminate streams and the ocean.

“These conditions have continued, and while we have made progress in addressing the issues, the new emergency proclamation is needed to help with further reduction and control the axis deer populations in Maui County,” said Gov. Ige.

Meanwhile, the chances of drought recovery for Molokai are looking slim this year, said Kodama. 

“For leeward areas, I’m expecting the existing drought to intensify through the spring and summer, which means the next realistic chance for drought relief is the next October through April wet season,” he explained. “Windward portions of the island, roughly east of a line from Kalaupapa to Kawela, should have a better chance of drought recovery since this area should receive showers as the trade winds become more frequent.”


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