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Hilo not so rainy; much of Hawaii island in drought

    The waters around Queen Liliuokalani Gardens and Hilo Bayfront started to rise late Thursday afternoon as Hurricane Iselle moves toward the Big Island.

HILO >> One of the nation’s rainiest cities in a drought.

National Weather Service hydrologist Kevin Kodama told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that Hilo and most of Hawaii island is in a moderate drought.

Hilo International Airport has had less than 3 inches of rain so far this year. That’s less than one-fifth the normal level of 15.6 inches.

It’s also hot. The temperature hit 87 degrees on Thursday — a record high for Feb. 19. The previous high was 86 degrees, set in 1992.

Dry conditions are boosting business for water-haulers because many Puna residents rely on rain catchment systems for their household water.

Loke Medeiros, who owns JB Water Hauling with her husband, said her company has been delivering about 200 loads a month. It normally hauls about 40 3,000-gallon truckloads a month this time of year. Business has been “pretty chaotic,” she said.

The company’s biggest problem is not having enough trucks. People who have tanker trucks aren’t leasing or selling them.

“People should check their tanks and don’t wait till they’re empty and then call and yell. It’s a drought,” Medeiros said. Her company is booked through next week Sunday and other haulers are booked about three weeks in advance.

This winter’s storms have been fast-moving and mainly delivered rain to the western two-thirds of the island chain, National Weather Service hydrologist Kevin Kodama said. When cold fronts have reached Hawaii island, it’s rained primarily on the west side instead of the normally wetter east side.

The driest February on record in Hilo is 0.52 inches in 2000. Only a trace amount of rain has fallen so far this month, but Kodama said tradewinds and showers in the near-term forecast should prevent the city from setting a new February record.

Rain is forecast for the windward slopes of Hawaii island as an approaching cold front weakens and stalls between the island and Maui.

“I think the nice, clear days over Hilo are going to be over, at least for the next few days. But how long it’s gonna last is still a matter of some uncertainty,” Kodama said.

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