US winter storms bring rare snow to Hawaii | News | DW | 12.02.2019
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US winter storms bring rare snow to Hawaii

Winter storms in the US have been felt in Hawaii, with snow falling in some areas. A viral "boiling water challenge" where people throw boiling water into the icy air has caused several hospitalizations in the US.

Winter snow storms hit northwest America again on Monday as a large weather system caused schools to close down in Washington state and even brought snow to Hawaii.

Hawaii officials said the blanket of snow at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area was likely the first for any state park.

Polipoli is at 6,200 feet (1,900 meters) and is possibly the lowest elevation snow was ever recorded in the state.

Read more: Understanding the polar vortex

Hawaiian newspaper the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that the storm caused trees to fall on several islands, as well as power outages and roof damage. Two ground hornbill birds escaped from the Honolulu Zoo after the storm damaged their enclosure, the paper reported.

Hawaii local Lance Endo's received a text from a friend who was camping at a state park on Maui who told him snow had settled there.

Endo said he hopped in his truck and drove more than an hour to see it. "I just wanted to go play in the snow," Endo said. He then went to pick up his two children so they could see the snow, saying he wanted his kids to "see something that's very unusual in Hawaii."

Black volcanic cinders are covered in a dusting of snow at the Polipoli State Recreational area on the slopes of Haleakala near Kula on the Hawaiian island of Maui (picture alliance/AP Photo/B. Edwards )

Black volcanic cinders are covered in a dusting of snow at the Polipoli State Recreational area on the slopes of Haleakala

Joe Zagrodnik, a scientist studying the atmosphere at the University of Washington, said the larger weather system — namely the position of a cold jet stream — was causing warm temperatures in Alaska and unusual weather in Hawaii.

With a north-south ridge of high pressure situated off the coast of Washington and Canada, Zagrodnik said, cold air being drawn southward inland was being replaced by warm air moving north offshore, pushing temperatures up in parts of Alaska despite Seattle facing freezing weather.

Read more: Can the weather make us ill?

A section of cold, low-pressure air separated from the main flow was also drifting further west. Known as a Kona Low, the system caused unusual snow on the island of Maui.

Seattle battles more snow storms

In Seattle, a storm left up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) of snow. More than 6 inches of snow fell on Monday with rain and snow expected Tuesday as a lingering jet stream drives cold arctic air into the normally temperate region.

In the state capital of Olympia, lawmakers cancelled meetings and the University of Washington in Seattle and Washington State University in Pullman called off classes.

As far away as Northern California, Humboldt County beaches that have not seen snow in more than 15 years received a light coating and blizzard conditions caused whiteouts on mountain roads.

Read more: The world's deadliest hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones

The snow's effects in Seattle were amplified by a long stretch of cold temperatures.

"You've got storm after storm sliding down the sweet spot to produce low-level snow," said Kirby Cook, a meteorologist at Seattle's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office.

He described weather systems pulling cold air from Canada and combining it with moist air pulled east from the Pacific Ocean.

When snow does fall in the area, enough warm air is usually drawn from over the Pacific to melt it not long after after it falls, but the steady stream of cold air has kept normally-mild western Washington colder than usual and allowed the snow build up.

"It's really rare for us to maintain this pattern," Cook said.

'Boiling water challenge' goes viral

The freezing temperatures across the globe have sparked a new viral challenge — the "boiling water challenge."

Participants take a cup of boiling water and fling it over their heads, creating a dramatic effect as it freezes when it hits the air.

But failed attempts have resulted in several people being hospitalized.

Eight people who did the challenge have been treated at the burn center of Chicago's Loyola University Medical Center since the deep freeze happened last week, CNN quoted spokeswoman Chris Vicik as saying.

"We strongly warn people to not perform the boiling water challenge," Loyola University burn surgeon Arthur Sanford told the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. "There is no safe way to do it."

law/jm (AP, Reuters)

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