Most people don’t think of Hawaii as a place that has any chance of snow. To us mainlanders, the chain of eight islands is a beachy paradise of palm trees and balmy temperatures. Right now, though, Hawaii is receiving a record snowstorm.
But don’t start flipping out about climate change just yet—because snow on the highest mountain peaks in Hawaii is actually a normal occurrence, and those peaks are getting one of the biggest snowfalls ever this year.
In fact, the National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for the summits of Mauna Loa (13,600-feet) and Mauna Kea (13,800 feet) on the Big Island (also named Hawaii). Up to two inches of snow and ice are expected in these areas, as a result of a weather system that’s bringing in quite a bit of moisture (although in other parts of the islands, the moisture is manifesting as plain old rain).
As this slightly older photo of Mauna Loa (taken from Mauna Kea) shows, snow isn’t that much of a rarity at these high elevations in the tropics. In fact, people do occasionally even ski and snowboard on top of Mauna Kea.
But it doesn’t look like any winter sports are going to be possible at this time, especially since the road to the summit of Mauna Kea has been closed. Check out this current photo from the top of the mountain. Wow!
This video tweet from the AMHQ team at The Weather Channel shows low visibility and tough driving conditions, as well.
Officials at the Mauna Kea Weather Center issued this statement: “Inoperable conditions will continue to be the norm as extensive fog, ice, high humidity, overcast/thick clouds and periods of rain/snow plague the summit through the next 4-5 nights.”
Wind gusts of 15 to 25 miles per hour are also predicted, along with temperatures of 33 to 27 degrees Fahrenheit. Stay safe out there, Hawaiians!
While I’ve never been to the big mountains on the Big Island, I have been to one of the rainiest spots on earth, Mount Wai’ale’ale, smack dab in the middle of the island of Kauai. And I will say it was much colder up there than I ever thought any place in Hawaii could be!
I’m betting the mountain summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa won’t be seeing any sun-seeking tourists this week. Here’s hoping visitors are taking advantage of the Big Island’s amazing hidden waterslide instead.