Tropical paradise threatened by blizzard

The US National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for Hawaii, normally a tropical paradise for honeymooners and other tourists, saying the state could get upward of 12 inches of snow this weekend.

The warning will remain in effect through 6 am local time on Sunday, the National Weather Service said on Friday. In addition to a foot of snow, mountains on Hawaii’s Big Island may have wind gusts 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 in December. But with two mountain peaks rising above 13,000 feet, 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 for overnight use earlier this week, according to the National Park Service. The state’s record-low temperature of 12 degrees 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 broke its all-time record for the latest snowfall of the season last month. The “Mile High City” hit a record temperature of 73 degrees on Thursday.

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

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