Hurricane Lane Adds to a Wet Year for Big Island Farmers

Aug 30, 2018

A double rainbow over O.K. Farms in Hilo. Farmer Troy Keolanui hopes for sunshiny skies ahead to help the 900-acre farm dry out after Hurricane Lane.
Credit OK Farms

Hawaiʻi Island is still drying out from record-breaking rainfall it received during Hurricane Lane. But as HPR’s Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi reports prolonged wet weather could have a lasting impact on Big Island farmers.

Hurricane Lane’s timing could not have been worse for Big Island farmer Troy Keolanui - its smack dab in the middle of harvest season at OK Farms in Hilo. He and his wife ‘Ala grow coffee, macadamia nuts and tropical fruits on 900-acres along the Wailuku River. They also run a large mac nut farm in Kaʻū. 

An aerial view of OK Farms. Wailuku River can be seen to the right of the farm.
Credit Andrew Hara / OK Farms

Luckily for them, the storm’s impact so far has been minimal.

KEOLANUI: We did get record amounts of rainfall. We lost a lot of gravel roads, a lot of culverts got overrun, but by and large we really dodged the win that was associated with this storm.

KU’UWEHI: And winʻs a big conern for your farm in particular?

KEOLANUI: Absolutely...you know once the soil becomes saturated and then you get hit with the wind on top of that then the roots tend to loosen up and the trees just go down. So the fact that we didn’t have any trees go down you know other than a few branches here and there was just short of miraculous really to dodge a storm like this.

Pre-Hurricane Lane field of macadamia nuts on Keolanui's Big Island farm.
Credit OK Farms

KU’UWEHI: Any idea if this is going to have an impact dollar wise on your normal harvest seasons?

KEOLANUI: You know that’s a good question and it’s something that we’ll have to look at as the numbers and the harvest totals start to come in…You know short term, looking around, it’s really hard to say. But we’re just very fortunate that those 100-mile plus winds never got to us. If it does, you know that kind of a storm could take us out of existence in a very short matter of hours.

Coffee cherries grown and processed at OK Farms are used in their award-winning Rainbow Falls Hilo Coffee. Keolanui hopes the heavy downpours from Hurricane Lane haven't exacerbated his crops, which have had an already wet year.
Credit OK Farms

KU’UWEHI: And you guys have assessed the damage what does it look like so far?

KEOLANUI: It’s going to take some time to fix things back to normal once hurricane season is over. It’s been a tough year. I’ll say that much. It’s been a very wet year. We can’t seem to catch a break. We’re looking forward to some sunny periods but honestly once the weather turns we can dry out in a very short amount of time you know four or five days of dry weather and it’s amazing how quickly the island can dry out.

Keolanui is optimistic the Big Island’s resilient spirit will pull everyone through. Plus, he says, rain is nothing new to anyone who’s lived in Hilo.