Funnel Cloud on Kaua’i

The strange weather continues: after a week of rain off and on, my wife spotted this small funnel cloud over Wailua on Saturday morning (March 3) around sunrise (7am):


She didn’t even bother to wake me up, so these are all her photos.


After about 30 seconds, it seemed to dissipate (hover over the photos to see the timestamps in each filename):


About a minute and a half later, it was strong enough to be visible again:


With the backlight from the sunrise, you could see the hollow tube shape:


Here is a closeup of the funnel cloud, at its thickest:


As it weakened again, it lost its shape:


About 3 minutes later, it finally dissipated, just as the rising sun found a hole in the clouds. You can still see the very thin and faint shape of it to the center-right of the image:


I did some searching on the internet, and funnel clouds are fairly unusual in Hawaii. I remember reading about one on Oahu during the storms in May last year–here are some photos of a double waterspout and a video. And there was another one in September that was nicely lit at sunset. However, funnel clouds, waterspouts, and tornadoes are not rare or unheard of: this research paper (PDF) reports 31 sightings between 1949 and 1960. And they do touch down and cause damage and injuries, the worst being 4 injuries and several million dollars of damage in Kailua-Kona (Big Island) in 1971.

The odd thing is that this happened the day after deadly tornadoes and storms hit the midwest United States, so we had storms and tornadoes on our minds. While we were fortunate to be spared such extreme weather, it was another rainy weekend with over 13 inches (330 mm) in one day at Hanalei (the bridge was closed again), and 17 inches (430 mm) at the summit of Wai’ale’ale. Here on the east side, we got over 9 inches (230 mm), and it’s again raining hard tonight.

Update: At least one person had a worse day. Jack Thompson’s house on the Big Island was flooded with several feet … of molten lava. He had the last house in the Royal Gardens subdivision.

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  1. Tina Lukco says:

    My 31 year old daughter has been hiking the Kalalau Trail for a couple of weeks. Has this strange intense rain and wind affected that area as well? No word from her since Feb 12th.

  2. Andy says:

    Hi Tina,

    Yes, the whole island has been affected by these storms, but to different degrees. Looking at the rain gauge data I’ve posted tonight and last week, Kalalau doesn’t seem to be getting more than 3 inches of rain at a time. Kalalau valley is closest to the gauge that recorded 3.36 inches in the past 24 hours. That’s still a lot, but not so much as to cause damage, just a swollen stream. Chances are anybody in Kalalau valley got wet, the stream probably ran high, but I don’t think it’s a dangerous place. There’s nowhere to flood, it’s all downhill, and there are some caves to take shelter in. The main issue is that the trail is no longer hikable, it’s too slippery in all that rain and the streams can’t be crossed. So they are kind of stuck there, and it would be dangerous to try to hike out. This just isn’t a good season to be staying in Kalalau.

    The good news is that after a day without rain, the streams are almost back to normal, and by the second day, the trail can be hiked. Last week, there was a window for hiking, so it’s very possible the campers are resupplied, or even safely out of the valley. But her phone may have been damaged by all the water, and there may be other reasons she might not have been able to call.

    I am a bit concerned your daughter is not camping with a permit, not really because it’s illegal, but because if the state parks don’t know she’s there, they won’t know to rescue anybody. When there is severe weather, or if the trail becomes impassible due to a landslide, they sometimes send in a helicopter to get campers out. I’m not sure what they do with the illegal campers, though I doubt they’d refuse help to someone. The risk is that if they avoid the helicopter for fear of rangers, they would have dwindling food supplies and possibly no way to get out. But I haven’t heard of any landslides on the trail, or of any helicopter rescue, though if it just happened, the news wouldn’t have been reported yet. Keep you eye on the local newspaper, The Garden Island.

    If it’s unusual for your daughter to be out of touch for so long, and you’re concerned for her safety, you could notify the Kaua’i office of the Hawaii State Parks (808-274-3444) and possibly the Kaua’i Police department (808-241-1711). I hope for the best for your daughter and you.

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