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3 Dec, 2021 22:16

Tropical paradise threatened by blizzard

Tropical paradise threatened by blizzard

The US National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Hawaii, normally a reliably balmy destination for honeymooners and other tourists, saying the state could get upward of 12 inches (30cm) of snow this weekend.

The warning will remain in effect through 6am local time on Sunday, the National Weather Service (NWS) said on Friday. In addition to a foot of snow, mountains on Hawaii’s Big Island may have wind gusts of over 100 miles per hour, according to the advisory.

“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” the NWS said. “Blowing snow will significantly reduce visibility at times, with periods of zero visibility.” 

The forecaster added that travel should be restricted to emergencies. Those who must drive should carry a survival kit and, if stranded, stay in their vehicle.

Honolulu’s daily low temperatures average around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celcius) in December. But with two mountain peaks rising above 13,000 feet (3,962 meters), it’s not uncommon for the Big Island to experience snow in winter at its highest elevations.

In fact, there’s already been some snow this year on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The summit of Mauna Loa was closed overnight earlier this week, according to the National Park Service. The state’s record-low temperature of 12 degrees Fahrenheit (-11 degrees Celsius) was recorded on the summit of Mauna Kea in 1979.

Friday’s blizzard warning was the first such advisory for Hawaii since March 2018, according to data compiled by Iowa State University.

At lower elevations, Hawaii is expected to be hit with heavy rains this weekend. The NWS warned of possible flooding.

Hawaii’s blizzard would mark just the latest unusual weather event as the US winter approaches. While Hawaii and Alaska are being hit hard, snowfall has been below normal across much of the lower 48 states. Denver hasn’t had any measurable snow since last April and last month broke its all-time record for the latest-arriving snowfall. The ‘Mile High City’ hit a record temperature of 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius) on Thursday.

Also this week, new December records for high temperatures were set in four US states. Temperatures were forecast to be around 30 to 40 degrees above average levels across the central US, the NWS said.