By Wendy Osher
Extreme drought conditions remain in place over leeward areas of Maui County and the Big Island of Hawai’i despite excessive rainfall along the windward slopes, officials said.
The update was provided by the National Weather Service as part of the agency’s latest drought information statement.
The most severe drought conditions or D3 “extreme drought” exist in Kihei, Lower Kula, Ulupalakua, and the Lower Kaupo areas of Maui. Similar conditions are reported in the Kawaihae area of South Kohala and the Pohakuloa area of the Hamakua District on Hawai’i Island.
Officials from the National Weather Service say wet trade wind conditions in February brought above average amounts of rainfall to the windward areas of the state; however there was below average rainfall over the leeward areas of Maui and Big Island, which remain the hardest hit by the ongoing drought.
According to the report, Maui County remains under D2 Severe drought conditions, mainly over west Molokai, South Lana’i, and the lower elevations of West Maui from Ma’alaea to Lahaina. Pastures in the existing drought areas on Maui were de-stocked several months ago, according to the report.
Because of the continued dry conditions, the Maui Department of Water Supply has maintained its longstanding request for a 10% reduction in water use by Central and South Maui residents.
On Molokai, a report received by the NWS from the Ho’olehua area indicates that vegetation conditions have improved–an observation that is consistent with improvements seen in health data from remote sensing sources.
Water levels in the island’s Kualapu’u Reservoir remain low, but showed a small increase in the past month, according to the report prepared by Kevin Kodama of the National Weather Service. Because of the low levels, the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture’s mandatory 30% reduction in irrigation water consumption remains in place.
On Lana’i, authorities say there has been no significant changes in vegetation health data since the last report was published in February.
The National Weather Service report notes that the island of Oahu had just a small area of moderate drought over the leeward slopes of the Waianae Range; and Kauai has been able to remain drought-free.
The next drought statement is expected to be released in April.