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Main Threat With Iselle: Flooding Rains

As Hurricane Iselle bears down on the Hawaiian islands, numerous threats could soon impact our 50th state – but one threat in particular sticks out far more than others.

Even with the storm’s general circulation and maximum sustained winds both strengthening on Wednesday afternoon, Iselle’s greatest threat, particularly to the higher elevations of Hawaii’s big island (which is called Hawaii) is going to be flash flooding. Rain totals could exceed a foot in parts of the Kona range in central Hawaii County (which covers the entire big island), making mudslides and flash flooding a legitimate possibility between Thursday and Saturday morning. Flash flood watches have been posted for the entire Hawaiian island chain starting Thursday evening, when the first rains are expected to reach the easternmost portions of the island, through Saturday morning.

A fact that could perhaps be lost in the shuffle is that Hilo and the big island have been struck by unusually strong rains over the last two months. Hilo has received 25.01″ of rain since June 1st, well above the average of 19.96″. Honolulu and Lihue (on the northernmost island of Kauai) are also running above normal on rainfall, though not to the same degree as Hilo. The big island received two big bouts of rain last month, sufficiently saturating the ground and unfortunately making the islands a bit more vulnerable to flooding.

The National Weather Service in Honolulu is officially calling for 5-8 inches of rain in Hawaii County (again, the big island) and 4-7 inches of rain for Maui, Oahu and Kauai, with locally higher amounts in higher elevations.

And if Iselle’s impacts aren’t going to be bad enough, Hurricane Julio is clipping right on Iselle’s heels, poised to potentially impact the islands on Sunday or Monday. The good news, however, is that Julio is expected to move significantly further north than Iselle, and it doesn’t look like Julio will make a direct landfall on Hawaii, although big rains and other effects could also be in the offing by the end of the weekend, once again.

If it holds together, Iselle would become the first hurricane to strike the Hawaiian islands since 1992, and it could make quite the mess this weekend. We’ll keep you posted with all the latest here on WeatherNation, with team coverage from Hawaii coming up as well.

Meteorologist Chris Bianchi

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