Category Archives: Lava

Warning: This Post Contains Rants and Criticism

I have heard some pretty amazing statements in the last few days.  First, from a contender for either the World’s Calmest or Most Clueless Person: a Hilo-based Hawaii tourism official told a newscaster that it is a “shocker” tourists are staying away because the eruption “is really a normal occurrence.”  Wait, what?  Lava destroying communities is normal?  Would he think it normal if his home was on the street in the picture above?  Where exactly on the island does he live?  Perhaps in a community of caves with no internet access.  I totally get that the local economy (which depends excessively on tourism) is suffering because of the eruption, and that is an awful thing that must be addressed, but if he is going to serve as a public spokesperson, I would suggest he a) become more informed, b) learn new vocabulary, or c) not lie.  What is happening in Lower Puna is very much not “normal.”

There are other contenders for the clueless title: the people who refused to evacuate from an area that yesterday was surrounded by fast flowing lava on three sides and the ocean on the fourth.  In spite of more than four weeks of drama and warnings, they stayed put.  I get not wanting to abandon one’s home.  But doing so in sight of a huge advancing wall of lava, um, yeah, it’s, um, insane.  First responders had to risk their own safety to rescue those – sorry, I’m going to call a spade a spade here – knuckleheads.   Perhaps they are relatives of the tourism spokesperson.  Perhaps there is an isolated, cave-dwelling community that I am clueless about.  If that is the case, I am very sorry for being unaware of your situation.

How about this: a few days ago a resident told me the eruption is a “really good thing” because it is “cleaning out the cults, drugs, and prostitutes down there.”  Yowza.  Ok, this is an example of the kind of thing I call a shocker.  I can’t think of anywho who deserves this.  Nor can I think of anything to say about it other than it is a telling example of what I call “Aloha Spirit, Selective Version.”

In further news, authorities require residents to obtain government-issued placards in order to access evacuation areas and retrieve items from their homes; the checkpoints reduce traffic in case of a rapid flight situation.  In a strange instance of entrepreneurship – perhaps suggested by tourism experts? – some residents are using the placards to get by the checkpoints to make money guiding tourists into the heart of the devastation.  Other people are burglarizing vacated homes.  Other people are shooting or getting shot at.  Sadly, there was an apparent suicide near a shelter.

These are very difficult times.  Yes, humans are being humans and doing and saying things I can’t understand, but there are, of course, great people doing kind and wonderful things.  Most people I speak to are heartbroken and helping out, and I will write about them in future posts.  For now, I can say at least one public persona, a Hawaii Senator, spoke movingly and honestly of the loss and change due to the eruption.

I encourage people to come to Hawaii and bring their cash.  But please, don’t try to sneak in and gawk at people’s suffering.  Make a donation.  Stay in vacation rentals and eat at restaurants.  Consider volunteering at a shelter, maybe even one that includes addicts, cult members, and prostitutes.  Because, you know, aloha – the unrestricted kind.

Photo from Hawaii News Now.

It is not a photo of normalcy.


Green Lake is gone

From Hawaii News Now: After lava entered Green Lake, a 400-year-old freshwater basin in Kapoho Crater, around 10 a.m. Saturday, it created a massive steam plume that helicopters weren’t able to see through for hours. A Hawaii County Fire overflight at 3 p.m. reported that lava had filled the lake, apparently evaporating all of the water inside the basin.

Google Maps is going to have to do a lot up updating.

Warning: this post may alarm

So, yeah, I said a previous post about the eruption was my last, but I have changed my mind.

Today marks four weeks since someone in Leilani Estates heard a hissing noise outside and glanced out the window to see steaming black and red sludge oozing from the ground on to the deep green grass.  I cannot begin to imagine how seeing that, realizing what was happening, felt.  Perhaps the first reaction was, “Wow!”  But if it was, I bet that thrill did not last.  It makes me feel a little sick to close my eyes and think about the yard being mine, about being that person as the ooze did not pause and the enormity of the situation settled in.

Later, as the news spread island-wide, I don’t think anyone imagined what was to come in these last weeks, and what is giving no indication of ending.  Here is a kicker: The lava that is currently coming to the surface is the hottest to date, and hotter lava means faster lava.  Said one official, “We are pretty much tapping mantle temperatures right now.”  That is as hot as lava can get.

Imagine: mantle-temperature lava in your backyard, near the swingset.

The lava has been flowing downhill from Leilani, just as naturally as water streams down to the sea.  It has covered neighborhoods, farms, forests, and roads, and now seems destined to cut off the only remaining exit route for some communities.  Every day the lava-river video footage is more extensive and shocking than the day before.  The ground is cracking open.  Every day, vast amounts of SO2 are pumped into the atmosphere: pictures of folks in war-like masks are common, and the formerly emerald-colored landscape is now burnt brown or black with solid lava.  Every day, first responders are are putting their health and well-being on the line to assist, while dummies are sneaking past roadblocks to get a good photograph.  People are living in wet tents.  People are stressed.  Ahalanui Park, with its warm, crystal-clear water and beloved by many as a place to de-stress, looks likely to be overrun and gone forever.

Mayor Harry Kim, who earlier opened shelters that are not only pet-friendly but also provide meals for the displaced, has today lay down the law about evacuation in certain areas, even going so far as to frighteningly “suspend laws” if “necessary.”  Yes, the evacuation order was labeled “mandatory” before today, but now he apparently means it.  The order took effect at 12:06 p.m. and residents have until Friday afternoon to get out.  Those who do not heed his words face arrest and liability for the costs of rescue operations.

Oh, my heart aches for the residents of Lower Puna.  When the Mayor addressed the community, he said, “We will be alright.”

Yes, eventually.  But for now, not so much.

Image: Andrew Hara, via Hawaii News Now.


Just one more

The photo above, from Hawaii News Now, is the craziest photo of the eruption I’ve seen so far.

It’s fitting that it’s a doozy because it’s the last one I’m going to post – this will be my last entry about the eruption. Yesterday a friend called my posts alarmist, and the last thing I wish to do is cause needless worry.

I’ll be back when I have other news about my neck of the woods.

Take care, everyone!

Thank you 3M

As I waited in my car outside the Volcano community center to pick up free ash/particle protection masks (donated by 3M and distributed by the Hawaii Department of Health), my car rocked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth from a series of 2 pointer earthquakes.  Earlier in the day, I was driving when a 4.0 struck, and before I realized it was a quake, I thought something was terribly wrong with my old CRV.

Fortunately my air purification unit arrived because I’m gonna need it this weekend: the trades are expected to still.  Most years Memorial Day weekend is a time of beach parties; the State parks are full of families grilling, fishing, drinking, and watching kids learn to surf, but not this year, not in Puna.

summit cluster

This shot is of today’s quakes near the summit, suggesting an explosion preparation party. Glad I got the air purifier.  And the masks. And that I have no outdoor plans for the long weekend.

Lava: Transforming land, transforming lives

Today a friend told me the story of losing her home to lava – in 1992.  The tale began with her tinkering in the yard of her Kalapana Gardens house on January 3, 1983, when she heard a jet pass low overhead, only it wasn’t a jet and it didn’t pass: it was, in her words, “the birth of Puʻu ʻŌʻō.”  She could see the initial fountaining from her driveway; the photo above was the beginning of the end of a life that she knew.

Access to her property was cut off by a flow at some point; the county bulldozed a way in, but her home was ultimately consumed by lava in 1992.

That’s nine years of a life.

Yet . . . her story was absolutely not one of regret and despair.  She spoke of the event as a catalyst for transforming lives in wonderful ways: of people getting sober; of temporary roommates morphing into life-long, life-affirming friendships; of reconciliations; of divorces; of making it crystal clear what is actually important in life.

What I find astonishing about this is that I have been friends with this person for at least 15 years, yet this is the first time I heard this story.  In other words, the heart of who she is is not that terrifying time but the wondrous changes that followed. I was wowed.

And now for something completely different: this morning, and I’m not quite sure why although I bet a psychologist might have an idea, I put my house somewhat back in order by returning art to walls, restocking shelves, reperching plants.  Hopefully I am not daring the earthquake boss.

And lastly, the image below was in the news today.  A reality check for me.  I have to admit, though, the image on the left feels truer to me, even though the one on the right is factual.

comparing maps

Daily quakes: my new norm

While standing at my kitchen sink washing dishes this morning, I calm-as-I-could-be reacted to the shaking of my house from another earthquake: I focused on its duration, its intensity, and of course whether or not I should run, not screaming, out my front door and down the stairs to the relative safety of the great outdoors.

It turned out to be a small quake: a 3.4, about 13 km away from me and 7.3 km deep.  In the final analysis, not a big deal.  But during it, waiting to see how it played out, it was a very big deal.  Before it happened this morning, I had come to feel some hope; it had been more than a day since my house shook that much.  Also, the language in the alerts from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory has been gentler lately: the words “small amount” and “minor” have been employed, and I was started to relax a bit.

Okay, so that was dumb of me.

However, there are things that are good: the image above is from May 6, and the dots represent quakes in a 24-hour period.  The image below was captured a few minutes ago, and it is definitely more pleasing to my eye.  (I live near the “c” in Volcano.  The far right of the island is where the lava is terrifying people.)

few quakes

Besides fewer quakes, there is other good news.  A geographer friend of mine whose home is on the recently-in-the-news-a-lot Kamaili Road has found some solace wrapped up in this disaster; she writes about the good geography lessons emerging from all this craziness: “people are looking at maps (yes!) and calling Kamaili Road by its name.”  (Kamaili Road is often misidentified as Opihikao Road.) 

But the best part is that the same email also included this:

It’s been interesting here: one hour elated the next in great fear. We had everything in the cars except the cats and ourselves last night. I slept in my clothes waiting to smell smoke. A cop had come by at 5:30 pm advising evacuation.

I am trying to imagine how in the world she was able to fall asleep under those conditions, yet she is able to rejoice in map awareness!  I think this is so fabulous.

I have a bumper sticker that I bought from a woman in a parking lot in Keaau; it reads “Puna. Not for wusses.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Lastly, I have more proof of the invincibility of coqui: if you watch the videos of the flowing lava, not only do you hear the cracks, hisses, and booms, you can also hear the frogs croaking.  Unbelievable. Nothing shuts them up.