ORLANDO, Fla. – Two separate systems are pounding the northernmost and southernmost states of the U.S.
Blizzard warnings are in effect for western Alaska and the tallest peaks of the Big Island of Hawaii for the combination of heavy snow and strong wind.
While the snow will be confined to the tallest peaks in Hawaii, heavy rain, wind and large waves will encompass most of the island chain. Wave heights on the northern islands could approach 18 ft. over the weekend as a Kona low develops in the Pacific.
Kona lows are storms that develop in the north Central Pacific during the cool season. Kona is a Hawaiian word that means “leeward,” characterizing the wind direction from the south in this case. This is a change of pace for the usually persistent trade winds that impact the island.
Up to a foot of snow is possible in the higher elevations of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. At the summits, wind gusts could exceed 100 mph, which would approach category 3 hurricane status.
Snow is relatively common at the peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii, as both summits are more than 13,000 ft. above sea level. While not as common, blizzard conditions on the massive volcanoes are not unheard of.
It has been 1,347 days (or, more than 3 and a half years) since the last blizzard warning was issued by the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
A separate Pacific storm is bringing heavy snow and blizzard conditions to western Alaska. In addition to the whiteout conditions, brutal cold is accompanying the storm with wind chills well below zero.
Typically, when it is cold and stormy in Alaska and the Pacific, it is warmer than normal and relatively quiet in the Lower 48. That has been the case, and this pattern is expected to remain in place through at least the middle of December.