Tourists visiting Hawaii this weekend are not experiencing the sunny winter vacation they may have anticipated due to a barrage of heavy rain and even snowfall that is sweeping through the state. This is the result of a Kona low, a cold-weather storm system that is carrying tropical moisture over the islands, causing rainfall from Thursday and Friday and throughout the rest of the weekend.
“Kona lows are most common during the late fall, winter and spring and are associated with a southward plunge of cold air over the central Pacific Ocean,” explained AccuWeather Meteorologist Maggie Samuhel.
“When a Kona low sets up to the west and northwest of Hawaii, it disrupts the normal trade wind patterns. A more southerly wind flow pulls deep tropical moisture northward across the island chain,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said.
The term “Kona” in the Hawaiian language refers to the western or southwestern region of an island. When a Kona low occurs, the wind direction causes the most intense precipitation to occur on the leeward side of the islands, which typically receives minimal rainfall.
According to Pydynowski, the risk of landslides, flash flooding, and road closures is higher during a Kona low since areas that typically do not experience such heavy precipitation in a short period are suddenly flooded with water. Experts suggest that only skilled surfers venture into the waters along the east-facing shores of the islands, where wave heights may reach seven to eleven feet.
The heaviest precipitation occurred over the weekend in the Aloha State, and by Monday, the current Kona low should be moving away from the islands. However, the respite from severe weather may be brief, as another Kona low is expected to arrive mid-week, bringing feet of snow and a month’s worth of rain across the islands, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.