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Red flag warning in effect for leeward side of all Hawaiian isles — and yes, there is some detectable smoke from California wildfires

  • NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
                                A red flag warning is in effect for the leeward areas of the Hawaiian islands from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE

    A red flag warning is in effect for the leeward areas of the Hawaiian islands from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

Weather officials have placed the leeward areas of the Hawaii islands under a red flag warning due to a combination of gusty winds and low humidity, effective from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.

A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly.

“Provided the lack of any significant rainfall through the summer months, fuels have become very dry across portions of the state,” said the National Weather Service. “These dry conditions combined with forecast breezy trades and relative humidities dipping below 45% this afternoon will support critical fire conditions.

With trades of up to 20 mph, and gusts up to 30 mph today, officials warn that any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly. Outdoor burning is not recommended.

Showers were sparse overnight, forecasters said, and a dry and stable trade wind pattern is expected to continue, with possible showers tonight for windward and mauka areas.

Today’s forecast is mostly sunny, with highs from 86 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit, and east winds of 15 to 20 mph. Scattered showers are expected tonight, with lows from 71 to 76.

Weather officials, meanwhile, tweeted on Wednesday that Hawaii residents who thought they saw or smelled smoke recently may have done so, and that experimental forecast data suggested some smoke from California’s raging wildfires was detectable near the isles.

It is indeed possible for smoke from California to travel thousands of miles westward to the Hawaiian isles, according to NWS meteorologist Tom Birchard. This occurred, as well, back in 2007 when California wildfires resulted in hazy Hawaiian skies.

“With a fair amount of confidence, we’re saying some of it has made its way to the islands,” said Birchard.

However, the levels of smoke are very low in concentration, and not of much concern for Hawaii’s air quality.

The red flag warning issued today is the second time this year that one has been issued — the first was issued on Aug. 30 — also for the leeward side of all Hawaiian isles.

Prior to that, according to Birchard, the last red flag warning was issued six years ago because previous summers had been wetter than normal.

The latest red flag warning was prompted, in part, by dry conditions during the month of August, particularly in Maui County, where severe drought has hit portions of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe.

According to NWS’ latest drought information statement, the drought has resulted in the deterioration of vegetation across leeward parts of Oahu, as well as drying pastures along the leeward slopes of Kauai, especially near Hanapepe.

On Maui County, the Farm Service Agency reported dry pasture conditions, particularly along the leeward slopes of Haleakala.

Maui County’s Department of Water Supply mandated that Upcountry and West Maui customers cut back water usage, starting Tuesday of this week. Under the “Stage 1” restriction, customers should postpone the washing of vehicles,landscape irrigation and unnecessary water use due to a strain in reservoir supplies of water.

Surf along all shores should remain below advisory levels through next week.

Surf along north facing shores at 3 to 5 feet today are expected to lower to 1 to 3 feet on Friday.

Surf along east and south shores, meanwhile, remain at 2 to 4 feet today but rise to 3 to 5 feet Friday along south shores. Surf along west shores will remain at 2 to 3 feet through Friday.

The current small, northwest swell will gradually lower today through Friday, with very small or flat surf expected Saturday through the middle of next week. Trades are also expected to die down over the weekend.

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