Blizzard dumps snow on Hawaii, California set for record winter rain

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As California edged toward historic rainfall totals in one of the wettest winters in memory, its neighbor state across the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii, has been hit with sustained blizzard conditions that have dumped 8 inches of snow onto mountain peaks.

Snow is not unheard of for the higher mountains of Hawaii, which reach above 10,000 feet in elevation, but weather experts say this week's storm was particularly strong and lingered over the state, delivering a heavier than usual punch.

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Deadly storms hit California -- February 2017
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Deadly storms hit California -- February 2017
SUN VALLEY, CA - FEBRUARY 17: A firefighter carries a woman from her car after it was caught in street flooding as a powerful storm moves across Southern California on February 17, 2017 in Sun Valley, California. After years of severe drought, heavy winter rains have come to the state, and with them, the issuance of flash flood watches in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and the evacuation of hundreds of residents from Duarte, California for fear of flash flooding from areas denuded by a wildfire last year. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
A damaged apartment building after a 75 foot tall tree crashed onto it as the strongest storm in six years slams Los Angeles, California, on February 17, 2017. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A large 20-foot-deep (6-meter) sinkhole that swallowed two vehicles in North Laurel Canyon Blvd, in Los Angeles, is cordoned-off on February 18, 2017, after a powerful storm hit southern California. The storm blew in from the Pacific Ocean, hitting California on February 17 with high winds, heavy rain that downed power lines, leaving 60,000 people in the Los Angeles area without power, and prompting hundreds of flight delays and cancellations at airports. Four people have been reported killed due to the storm. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
SUN VALLEY, CA - FEBRUARY 17: The busy I5 freeway is shut down in both direction because of flooding as a powerful storm moves across Southern California on February 17, 2017 in Sun Valley, California. After years of severe drought, heavy winter rains have come to the state, and with them, the issuance of flash flood watches in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and the evacuation of hundreds of residents from Duarte, California for fear of flash flooding from area denuded by a wildfire last year. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Workers work after large 20-foot-deep (6-meter) sinkhole swallowed two vehicles in North Laurel Canyon Blvd, in Los Angeles, is cordoned-off on February 18, 2017, after a powerful storm hit southern California. The storm blew in from the Pacific Ocean, hitting California on February 17 with high winds, heavy rain that downed power lines, leaving 60,000 people in the Los Angeles area without power, and prompting hundreds of flight delays and cancellations at airports. Four people have been reported killed due to the storm. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
A large 20-foot-deep (6-meter) sinkhole that swallowed two vehicles in North Laurel Canyon Blvd, in Los Angeles, is cordoned-off on February 18, 2017, after a powerful storm hit southern California. The storm blew in from the Pacific Ocean, hitting California on February 17 with high winds, heavy rain that downed power lines, leaving 60,000 people in the Los Angeles area without power, and prompting hundreds of flight delays and cancellations at airports. Four people have been reported killed due to the storm. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
K-rails and sandbags are placed infront of homes as the strongest storm in six years slammed Southern California, in Duarte, California, on February 17, 2017 . / AFP / Frederic J. Brown (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
A pedestrian crosses a street as the strongest storm in six years slammed Southern California, in Los Angeles, California, on February 17, 2017 . / AFP / Frederic J. Brown (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
K-rails and sandbags are placed infront of homes as the strongest storm in six years slammed Southern California, in Duarte, California, on February 17, 2017 . / AFP / Frederic J. Brown (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
An officer in a police vehicle mans a roadblock, after a mandatory evacuation order was put in place for residents as the strongest storm in six years slammed Southern California, in Duarte, California, on February 17, 2017 . / AFP / Frederic J. Brown (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
SUN VALLEY, CA - FEBRUARY 17: A firefighter carries caution tape in a flooded street as a powerful storm moves across Southern California on February 17, 2017 in Sun Valley, California. After years of severe drought, heavy winter rains have come to the state, and with them, the issuance of flash flood watches in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and the evacuation of hundreds of residents from Duarte, California for fear of flash flooding from area denuded by a wildfire last year. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
A resident evacuates from her apartment building after a 75 foot tall tree crashed onto it as the strongest storm in six years slams Los Angeles, California, on February 17, 2017. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
SUN VALLEY, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Firefighters prepare to transport a patient by ambulance at the scene of a car stuck in flooding as a powerful storm moves across Southern California on February 17, 2017 in Sun Valley, California. After years of severe drought, heavy winter rains have come to the state, and with them, the issuance of flash flood watches in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and the evacuation of hundreds of residents from Duarte, California for fear of flash flooding from area denuded by a wildfire last year. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
A badly damaged apartment building after a 75 foot tall tree crashed onto it as the strongest storm in six years slams Los Angeles, California, on February 17, 2017. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

A man boards a bus on a flooded street as a powerful storm moves across Southern California on February 17, 2017 near Sun Valley, California. After years of severe drought, heavy winter rains have come to the state, and with them, the issuance of flash flood watches in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and the evacuation of hundreds of residents from Duarte, California for fear of flash flooding from areas denuded by a wildfire last year.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

A damaged apartment building after a 75 foot tall tree crashed onto it as the strongest storm in six years slams Los Angeles, California, on February 17, 2017.

(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

K-rails and sandbags are placed in front of homes as the strongest storm in six years slammed Southern California, in Duarte, California, on February 17, 2017 .

(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

People watch the large waves at El Porto beach as the strongest storm in six years slams Los Angeles, California, on February 17, 2017.

(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

A pedestrian crosses a street as the strongest storm in six years slammed Southern California, in Los Angeles, California, on February 17, 2017 .

(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

A driver moves along a flooded street as a powerful storm moves across Southern California on February 17, 2017 in Sun Valley, California. After years of severe drought, heavy winter rains have come to the state, and with them, the issuance of flash flood watches in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and the evacuation of hundreds of residents from Duarte, California for fear of flash flooding from areas denuded by a wildfire last year.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

An officer in a police vehicle mans a roadblock, after a mandatory evacuation order was put in place for residents as the strongest storm in six years slammed Southern California, in Duarte, California, on February 17, 2017 .

(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman walks past a roadblock as the strongest storm in six years slammed Southern California, in Duarte, California, on February 17, 2017 .

(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Motorists drive by waters as a powerful storm moves across Southern California on February 17, 2017 in Sun Valley, California. After years of severe drought, heavy winter rains have come to the state, and with them, the issuance of flash flood watches in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and the evacuation of hundreds of residents from Duarte, California for fear of flash flooding from areas denuded by a wildfire last year.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

A pedestrian crosses a street as the strongest storm in six years slammed Southern California, in Los Angeles, California, on February 17, 2017 .

(FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

A badly damaged apartment building after a 75 foot tall tree crashed onto it as the strongest storm in six years slams Los Angeles, California, on February 17, 2017.

(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

SUN VALLEY, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Motorists ford a flooded street as a powerful storm moves across Southern California on February 17, 2017 in Sun Valley, California. After years of severe drought, heavy winter rains have come to the state, and with them, the issuance of flash flood watches in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and the evacuation of hundreds of residents from Duarte, California for fear of flash flooding from area denuded by a wildfire last year. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
A badly damaged apartment building after a 75 foot tall tree crashed onto it as the strongest storm in six years slams Los Angeles, California, on February 17, 2017. / AFP / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

People with umbrellas walk across a street in Los Angeles, California, U.S. February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

A woman holds her umbrella in the wind and rain in Los Angeles, February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

People walk around a tree branch felled by wind and rain outside a restaurant in Los Angeles, February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

A woman walks through heavy rain in Los Angeles, February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

Cars drive through heavy rain in Los Angeles, February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Ringo Chiu)

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"The reason for the snow amounts being heavier than we usually see is that the upper low (pressure system) really persisted down there, that has allowed colder air to remain locked in place," said Andrew Orrison of the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center.

But the blizzard conditions in a state normally thought of as a tropical paradise have made national headlines, accompanied by pictures of snow-capped Hawaiian mountain peaks.

In California, meanwhile, heavy rains have swollen rivers and reservoirs and blanketed the Sierra Nevada mountains with twice as much snow as usual this winter, helping power the state out of five years of severe drought. Orrison said with winter not yet over the state was already among the top two to three seasons on record for snow and rainfall in Northern California.

He said that while there was still some "lingering concern" for Southern California, which has not had as much snow and rain, the northern and central part of the state were no longer considered to be in a drought.

"It's a very good story to have and there has just been substantial improvement, even in Southern California," Orrison said.

On Thursday, the National Drought Mitigation Center said that less than 10 percent of the state remained in drought – the lowest amount since 2011.

By comparison, on the same day last year more than 95 percent of the state was in the throes of an unprecedented, five-year drought that led farmers to fallow fields and cost billions to the economy.

Forecasters said it was too early to predict what could be in store next winter, although there were some preliminary indications of a so-called El Nino climate pattern that warms the ocean and typically brings more rain and snow to California.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; Editing by David Gregorio)


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