Volcano Coverage

 

Family uprooted by lava gives thanks

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

A family whose life turned upside down when lava from the Kilauea Volcano set fire to their home of seven years said despite the recent challenges, they’ll be counting their blessings this Thanksgiving.

“We’re gathering with friends and family and having a potluck and we will be so thankful for the family here, our cousins and everybody in Kalapana helping us out. Be thankful for another day,” said Margaret Byrd, whose family was renting the home on Apaa Street that was burnt down from the lava flow on Nov 10.

The 54-year-old Hawaii island resident said the situation has uprooted her and her husband, two daughters, two granddaughters, along with nine cattle, two dozen birds, 40 rabbits and multiple goats.

Unfortunately, some of the animals didn’t survive the stress of the move and Tropical Storm Iselle that hit the island in August.

“The animals took it hard,” she said.  “We lost five goats, three rabbits, half-a-dozen of the birds between the hurricane and the lava.”

The family moved to safety on Oct. 1, and is currently staying on a relative’s ranch in Kalapana, an area outside of Pahoa. The children are living in a tent on the property and the move has more than doubled her husband’s commute to work each day, Byrd said.

When the news came out that the so-called June 27 lava flow could be a threat to the small rural community, Byrd had hoped that their home would be spared. But that all changed in a day, she said.

“When we saw the house burn on TV, it was kind of a closure. It made it real. It’s gone. There’s nothing we can do about it. We have to carry on,” she said.

Currently, the family is taking it one day at a time, and Byrd hopes her family can build a house on her cousin’s property within the next year or so.

“Or when we can afford it,” she said.

And since there’s been no federal money allotted for individuals so far, Byrd anticipates she’ll have to start from scratch.

“We’re the only ones who have been affected and unless anyone else suffers any damages there will be no help for individuals,” she said.

But despite all the challenges in recent weeks, Byrd said she knows that her and her family will survive.

“We have the pioneer spirit, you either live or you die, but you got to make the choice. I always tell my kids you either give up or you buy a bigger shovel and a higher pair of boots,” she said.

Donations to Byrd and her family can be sent to P.O. Box 1266 Pahoa, Hawaii 96778.


Pahoa students view stalled lava flow

By MEGAN MOSELEY | December 8, 2014 | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Crackling sounds resonated under foot while geologists walked along the stalled lava flow along the fence line of the Pahoa Recycling and Transfer Station on Monday afternoon.

“Lava is sharp, even though it’s not hot,” warned Janet Babb, a geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. “So be very, very careful. The Band-Aids are back in the car.”

Babb and fellow geologist Frank Trusdell led media through the black mounds of the cooled so-called June 27 lava flow amid the persistent odor of smoke. Downed trees sprawled across the rolling pahoehoe.

This spot is slated to become a public viewing place as soon as next week, but as of Monday, Hawaii County officials were still working out the details, said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira.

Earlier Monday, more than 300 local students became the first to witness the recent flow. During the tour they could see where lava severed Apaa Street and penetrated the fence around the $3.9 million waste and recycling facility.

Farther up the street, lava had ignited a house and took over a cemetery.

The students also viewed seven different stations hosted by scientists and experts from the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes and Hawaii Electric Light Co.

According to a news release, each station featured hands-on activities, including a video, demonstrations of the speed of the lava and interactive games.

The students also offered a makana, or gift, to Hawaiian goddess Pele at the edge of the now-stalled flow and talked about their feelings about being at a new school. Many of the area’s students were relocated in preparation for the lava flow.

After offering their gift, students touched the fresh lava, still warm below the surface, according to the news release.

The tour ended with a viewing of the lava breakthroughs around the perimeter of the transfer station. Those fingerlike breakthroughs stalled eerily close to the facility.

AnaLisa Yanagi, a sixth-grade teacher at Pahoa Elementary, said her students were “really excited to see it.” Yanagi is teaching students who were relocated from Keonepoko Schools in October and calls the opportunity to see the lava firsthand “really eye-opening.”

She added, “I think it took away the troubles they’ve been feeling. Depending on the child and what they’re experiencing during this roller-coaster ride of change, they all seemed excited to go through this experience together.”

Hawaii County officials extended an invitation last week to students to view parts of Apaa Street and the Pahoa Transfer Station. Tours for 600 more public school students will be conducted throughout the remainder of this week.

Keone Farias, principal of Keaau Elementary School and incoming complex area superintendent for Kau-Keaau-Pahoa, said it was an opportunity for the students to learn about what all has gone into the event.

“I think what they learned is that this episode is so much more than science,” he said.

The new leading flow front had advanced about 250 yards since Sunday and was about 2.3 miles upslope of the area’s main highway near Pahoa Maketplace. According to the observatory website, a Civil Defense overflight on Sunday found that the flow had widened but had advanced very little since Saturday.

The front of the flow is in area where several lines of steepest descent nearly converge due to flat topography and, according to the website, is probably th ze main factor in the drop in speed. Until the flow passes this area of flat  topography, its future path is uncertain.


Pele burns hale

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Lava from Kilauea Volcano’s so-called June 27 flow ignited its first house in Pahoa on Monday and threatened more destruction in the days ahead.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oli­veira said a finger of the flow entered a residential property on Cemetery Road on Sunday morning, then inched around the sidewalk before setting the house ablaze at about 11:55 a.m. Monday.

The house collapsed at about 12:45 p.m., he said.

It was the first house to go up in flames since the lava moved into Pahoa more than two weeks ago. Since then the lava has crossed Apaa Street, overrun a Buddhist cemetery and destroyed multiple structures.

Oliveira said a garage/barn structure also on the property remains intact — for now.

“The flow is widening enough, and we’re hopeful that things will cool down enough that the structure will be spared, but it’s possible it could catch on fire as well,” he said.

As of Monday afternoon the width of the flow on the property was about 150 feet and was nearing a fishpond.

According to county documents, the 45-acre lot belongs to Mary and Woodrow Pelfrey as part of a trust called Four Pelfrey TR, based in Fairview, Ore.

They bought the property in 1985 for $54,700.

Until Monday the value was about $200,000, Oli­veira said.

The Pelfreys built the ranch-style two-bedroom, two-bathroom house in 1992.

Oliveira said one of their family members living on the north side of the island visited the house Monday.

KHON2 quoted that family member, James Pelfrey, as sending his thoughts and prayers to the renters of the property and reminiscing about the home that’s been in his family for decades.

Officials previously said homeowners will be allowed to make arrangements to watch their homes burn down as a means of closure and to document the destruction for insurance purposes.

While it’s still uncertain as to where the pahoehoe lava will go next, Civil Defense officials said they’re watching the flow closely.

Three active breakouts are being monitored in the areas of the cemetery below Apaa Street, in the area west or above the transfer station, and upslope about 0.4 mile from Apaa Street.

One lobe is approaching the fence of the transfer station, another is heading toward abandoned buildings across the street and a third is moving along the margin of the existing lava flow and approaching a power pole.

The lava was moving at a rate of 3 to 5 yards per hour Monday.

And while the front of the flow remained stalled about 480 feet from Pahoa Village Road, Oli­veira said, county officials are still apprehensive about opening the road to through traffic. Thermal imagery shows there’s still some activity near the flow front.

Over the weekend, volcano scientists released photos of lava on Apaa Road that showed how the flow has been inflating since the front stalled.

The contrasting photos show lava crossing Apaa Road on Oct. 25 and the lava on the road on Nov. 4. When the lava first crossed the road, it was 3 feet thick, but 10 days later, on Nov. 4, it was 12 feet thick.

A power pole, surrounded by lava in the photos, gives some perspective on the inflation and how high the lava has risen.

Also on Monday about 400 students whose school is in the projected path of the lava flow started classes in portable buildings set up in the parking lot of Keaau High School. The newly created Keone­poko North School replaces Keone­poko Elementary School in Hawaiian Beaches.

Another 450 students at other Pahoa-area schools also started classes Monday in Keaau.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, a spokes­woman for the Department of Education, said the transition went well Monday.

“Overall it went pretty smoothly,” she said. “There were several absences. We’re waiting to see what happens on Wednesday.”

Tuesday is Veterans Day.

She said there was some confusion with parents taking kids to the wrong schools, but other than that there were no reported problems.

There has been increased traffic in the area, but school officials intend to address traffic concerns over the next few weeks, she said.

Schools in the area were closed last month to prepare for the transfer of about 1,700 students and 300 employees to other schools on their side of the lava’s projected path.

Classes resumed Friday at Pahoa High School with hundreds of new students who had been attending Keaau High School.


Doomed school’s last day has kids coming to grips

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Teachers and students’ laughter, tears and aloha marked the last day before the approaching lava flow breaks up Keone­poko Elementary School.

Half of the school’s students will move into new portable module classrooms in the parking lot of Keaau High School. The new school, dubbed Keone­poko North, will open Nov. 10. The other students will enroll at Pahoa Elementary or Pahoa Intermediate.

On Thursday the state Department of Education will close Pahoa High and Intermediate, Pahoa Elementary, Keaau High and Keaau Middle schools because of the encroaching lava. “It does impact all of the Pahoa schools in the area,” said Keone­poko Elementary Principal Bran­don Gallagher.

Keonepoko is not yet directly in the path of the lava, but roads could be jeopardized, Gallagher said.

On Tuesday the school’s students and staff bid aloha to their school during a schoolwide assembly that educators described as an emotional experience.

“We wanted to bring them together one last time,” Gallagher said of Keone­poko’s 620 students and 80 teachers and staff.

Hawaiian-studies instructors Kumu Kenny Elliott and Kupuna Rosa­lina Bareng spearheaded the event at the school, where more than half of the students are of Hawaiian descent.

“It was chicken-skin and tears were flowing,” Elliott said.

The instructors started with chants and songs. They also shared a compelling story about how a Hawaiian princess prayed to Pele at the base of Mauna Loa in the 1800s in an effort to stop lava from destroying the town of Hilo.

According to the story, Princess Ruth Luka Keano­lani Kau­ana­hoa­hoa Kee­liko­lani, member of the ruling Kame­ha­meha family, traveled to Mauna Loa to pray for Hilo to be spared from lava-fueled destruction. Shortly after placing her hoo­kupu, or gifts, at the mountain’s base, lava engulfed her offerings and the lava stopped.

Elliott and Bareng, along with other Keone­poko faculty members, then asked the students to write down what the experience meant to them on little pieces of paper, which they fastened to the school’s fence.

Bareng said that sharing Hawaiian traditions and history is helping the schoolchildren cope with the anxiety tied to the situation.

After the assembly, “everyone seemed more calm. They seemed to accept what will be, and they were able to release their feelings without feeling scared or frantic,” Bareng said.

Elliott and Bareng said they are also building an ahu, or stone altar, behind the school.

“It’ll be here forever unless Pele decides she wants it,” Bareng said.

Gallagher said that overall the last day of school went well.

“We ended on a positive note. It was not a somber event,” he said. “It was a buildup to carry that spirit of Keone­poko to whatever campus they’re going. We sang out, way out of there, this morning.”

While Keonepoko is not in immediate danger, Gallagher said of this week’s transition, “If we waited until the last second, it could be too late to get things done smoothly.” He added that in the aftermath of tropical storms Iselle and Ana, which moved through Hawaii in August and earlier this month, respectively, “we wanted to minimize the loss of time due to this situation for the students. We don’t want to wait much longer.”

For Gallagher, who recently moved to Hawaii island’s Puna area from Southern Cali­for­nia, the last few months have been busy and interesting. Some 39 homes in the island’s Puna district were reported heavily damaged or destroyed after Iselle hit the island Aug. 8, and 260 people reported some degree of damage, according to Hawaii County officials. The flow from Kilauea’s Puu Oo Crater, which is now inching into Pahoa town, began June 27.

“It was not what I thought it was going to be,” he said. “Now I’ve done two hurricanes and a lava flow.” He quipped that the Federal Emergency Management Agency “can call for a principal any time now. I’ll be ready.”


Lava failed to scotch Saturday’s mochi-pounding event

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

The Japanese New Year tradition of mochi-pounding lived on in Pahoa last week despite the threat of lava.

Saturday, a group of more than 50 members of Nikkei Jin Kai, a Japanese Buddhist association, gathered together to pound out mochi for good luck in 2015.

The annual affair has been occurring in Pahoa for decades, but with lava about a half-mile from the area’s main highway, organizers were waiting to see if and when Madame Pele would call for a change of events.

However, Craig Shimoda, president of Nikkei Jin Kai, said the affair went off without a hitch, as the leading edge of the flow had stalled just days before Christmas.

“This organization worked together and pitched in to help make it a successful event,” he said.

The festivities lasted two days and three types of mochi were made with the help of members of the organization. Traditionally, the Japanese treat is made from pounding rice into chewy dough with the addition of something sweet placed inside the confection.

Some mochi was used as an offering at a temple and some was put up for sale, with all proceeds going back to Nikkei Jin Kai.

Earlier this year, when the lava began its approach from Kilauea Volcano, the group moved a lot of their items out of the town’s Young Buddhist Association hall. “We moved some items out as a precautionary measure, and then had to bring things back” for the mochi-pounding event known as Pahoa Nikkei Jin Kai Mochi Tsuki, Shimoda said.

Honolulu resident Ryan Kawamoto said he was glad to see the gathering at the hall, where it’s been for “many, many decades.”

He added, “For the people of the event, it was business as usual.”

Nikkei Jin Kai member Jason Hashimoto said he hopes things will go smoothly in the future.

“And hopefully we can do it there again next year,” he said.

Meanwhile, the lava flow, which started in late June, continued to move sluggishly Tuesday and advanced another 40 yards.

Hawaii County Civil Defense said the front or leading edge of the lava flow was situated a half-mile upslope from the Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road intersection and 660 yards from the Pahoa Market Place complex.

Surface breakouts and activity along both margins of the flow continued upslope of the front, but did not pose an immediate threat to area communities, county officials said.

Smoke and vog conditions were light to moderate Tuesday morning, with a light south wind blowing the particles across the entire eastern area of the island, from Puna through Hilo.


Lava flow stalls again while burning, breakouts continue

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Pahoa residents enjoyed a bit of temporary relief Wednesday when the leading edge of the lava flow heading toward the area’s main highway and marketplace stalled.”Looks like the community will have a quiet New Year’s holiday,” said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira.


Since late June, the lava flow has traveled more than 13 miles from Kilauea Volcano and is now situated about a half-mile upslope of the Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road intersection and about 660 yards from the Pahoa Marketplace complex.The flow has advanced about 165 yards since Dec. 27, volcano scientists said.While even a short reprieve is good news, Oliveira warned that the flow is still very active.

Burning continued Wednesday along the perimeter and surface of the flow and 150 to 200 yards behind the flow front, which had advanced anywhere between 50 and 70 yards since Tuesday.

In addition, many small breakouts were active along the length of the flow up to about 2 miles upslope from the front as well as about 2 miles downslope from the Puu Oo vent, the lava flow’s starting place, according to Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists.Also, a brush fire that ignited Tuesday had been contained by Wednesday, Civil Defense officials said.Residents are not yet under an immediate threat.

“Everything is very sluggish at this point. We’re just having to wait and see and watch,” Oliveira said.

Smoke conditions were light to moderate Wednesday morning with a light variable wind. As Pahoa residents mark the start of the new year, the Hawaii island community’s sense of resilience appears to be holding steady, Oliveira said. Less than two months after the lava flow began its slow slide, Tropical Storm Iselle made landfall in the Puna District on Aug. 8, ripping off roofs, knocking down hundreds of trees, and touching off flooding, coastal evacuations and prolonged electrical power disruptions. Many residents contending with damage to their homes were disappointed when individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was denied.

“And then here comes the lava flow that triggers a moratorium on new insurance policies — combine that with the fact that the community has a very high percentage rate of unemployment,” Oliveira said.

The lava threat has also prompted the state Department of Education to relocate many students and teachers, several businesses to shut their doors shortly before Christmas, and the county and state to funnel millions of dollars into road repairs on alternative access routes in and out of the area. But Oliveira maintains that if any community can handle the stress of a hurricane followed by a lava threat and then another hurricane, it’s the residents of Puna. Hurricane Ana threatened the area in October but never made landfall, instead brushing by more than 100 miles south of the state.

“Yet when you walk through the community faced with all that adversity, there’s still a very strong resilient attitude,” Oliveira said. “We’re here to stay and we’re going to make the best of it.”


Lava flow eats structure, sets tires alight, stalks houses

 By DAN NAKASO | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Megan Moseley contributed to this report. She also was the first to break this news via social media.

After traveling a circuitous 13.5-mile route over four months from Kilauea Volcano, the threat from a river of lava suddenly became real Tuesday when it destroyed its first structure on Hawaii island, took on a utility pole wrapped in untested, anti-lava technology and blackened the sky after setting tires on fire.

Dozens of unarmed soldiers and airmen from the Hawaii Air and Army National Guard were to arrive in Pahoa town Wednesday to help deal with an expected onslaught of traffic and tourists drawn to the slow, molten advance that seems to have no end in sight, Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oli-veira said.

The threat from the streaming lava — dubbed the June 27 flow for the date it started — kicked into higher gear over the weekend when it crossed Apaa Street in Pahoa and approached the post office.

But the destruction of its first building on Tuesday is “definitely going to change the dynamics,” Oli-veira said as smoke from an afternoon tire fire ignited by lava hung in the sky.

And more homes and businesses lie in the lava’s path.

Martin Cambra, a Hawaiian Beaches resident, said Tuesday’s destruction suddenly made months of threats real for him.

“It’s been a while since they said it first started flowing,” Cambra said. “I was kind of in shock myself. We all hoped it would slow down.”

Early Tuesday morning a two-story rental house on an agricultural lot appeared to be the first building that would be claimed.

But the flow suddenly turned at about 7:30 a.m. and instead ignited a 10-by-15-foot utility potting shed on an anthurium farm owned by a contractor, Oli-veira said.

The rental home remained at risk Tuesday night, as did the farmer’s warehouse and home.

Civil Defense officials prepared to issue evacuation orders to nearly a dozen homeowners and businesses also in harm’s way, although there was no decision on whether to make the evacuation mandatory.

Hawaiian Electric and Light Co. also suffered a setback Tuesday when the first of four power poles its crews wrapped in new technology on Apaa Street suddenly sank 10 feet and started smoking — but remained standing — after it was surrounded by lava. Whether it would ultimately withstand the lava was uncertain.

HELCO crews had wrapped four poles in an initial layer of insulation that’s used to keep power plant boilers from overheating; a concrete base with holes normally used to let water flow through dry well culverts; and cinder held onto the pole by “horse wire,” HELCO spokes-woman Rhea Lee said.

But the lava that hit the first pole Tuesday apparently set its wooden base on fire, causing it to drop 10 feet, Lee said.

Crews then shot water onto the pole, which seemed to lower the temperature to 100 degrees from more than 200 degrees.

“Hopefully that stopped the burning, if that’s what was happening,” Lee said. “For now the steam or smoke has stopped. In terms of cooling down that pole earlier, that might need to be a step that we will take.”

HELCO officials are now considering whether to retrofit the remaining three poles — or change their approach for poles farther down the lava’s path.

“Every day we’re learning more,” Lee said.

The lava had advanced only 20 yards by 11:30 a.m. but suddenly gained new speed and traveled another 100 yards by 3 p.m.

Between the anthurium farm and Pahoa Village Road — about five football fields away — lie another six to 12 homes, businesses and a bed-and-breakfasts that are also at risk, Oli-veira said.

Police, firefighters and Civil Defense officials once again planned to go door to door Tuesday night to warn residents of the dangers.

“It’s unlikely we’ll need to issue a mandatory evacuation, but we’re prepared to do that,” Oli-veira said.

But the decision to leave will be up to each person, Oli-veira repeated.

Allowing people to remain would be “part of the overall grieving process” in losing a home, he said.

Oliveira also continued to debunk un-sourced media reports of looting, saying there was no evidence.

Tim Orr, a geologist with the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, walked along the path of the lava Tuesday and said the front of the flow was knee-high and about 15 yards across, sparking tiny methane explosions.

Kilauea Volcano has been erupting continuously since 1983. In the 1990s about 200 homes were destroyed by its lava flows.

The last evacuations from the volcano came in 2011. One home was destroyed and others were threatened before the lava changed course.

“Kilauea” means “spewing” or “much spreading” in Hawaiian, and for several weeks the lava has stopped and stalled, picked up speed and changed direction — a phenomenon that’s “likely to happen for the near future,” Orr said.

None of that was reassuring Tuesday to Rich Rice of Pahoa.

He was praying the lava would change direction and leave Pahoa town alone.

But Rice was steeling himself for more destruction to come.

“It still may, now,” he said.


Emergency status extended as lava flow slows to a crawl

By MEGAN MOSELEY & DAN NAKASO | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Lava from Kilauea Volcano was still threatening Pahoa on Hawaii island Monday but continued to slow its approach.

The front of the flow, which was about 100 yards wide, remained on the outskirts of Pahoa about 1.4 miles upslope from Apaa Street.

It had advanced “very little” from Sunday, according to Janet Babb, spokes­woman for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Monday added to his Sept. 5 emergency proclamation by signing a supplemental emergency proclamation that extends the disaster emergency relief period through Dec. 1. The supplemental proclamation also allows for the restoration of Chain of Craters Road, which previously was overrun with lava and would be rebuilt as one of three emergency routes out of lower Puna if lava were to overrun Highway 130.

“Even though the lava flow appears to have slowed to a halt for the time being, the state and Hawaii County are prepared and moving forward together with contingency plans in the event the lava does pro­gress farther,” Abercrombie said in a statement.

The National Park Service said Monday it would work with state and county officials on the emergency Chain of Craters route.

Before the flow began to slow, volcano scientists Friday estimated that lava could reach Highway 130 in 21 days, increasing the urgency for work to reopen the 19-mile Chain of Craters Road that runs from the summit of Kilauea to sea level.

Since it opened in 1965, Chain of Craters Road has been blocked by lava for 37 years of its 49-year existence, according to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

About eight miles of the coastal section of Chain of Craters Road is covered by lava, park officials said.

An overflight of the area Monday morning showed that the flow had moved little since Sunday, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense. But a smaller breakout flow had moved upslope in a northeastern direction into a forested area, according to Civil Defense officials.

Volcano scientists theorized that the slowing lava flow may be due to “a reduction in lava supply related to ongoing summit deflation,” adding, “if so, the flow advance rate could rise again in the coming days as the summit resumes inflation.”

Since the flow broke out from Puu Oo Crater on June 27, it has advanced 10.2 miles.

If lava were to cross Highway 130, the main artery into and out of lower Puna, Hawaii island police plan to have officers on both sides of the flow to keep order.

“They’re in preliminary discussions now with a number of possible sites they could use on the lower Puna side,” said county spokes­man Kevin Dayton.

Meanwhile, construction continues on Railroad Avenue and Government Beach Road — two roads that will be essential to area drivers if lava severs Highway 130.

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said the roadwork will be done by Wednesday.

On Sunday night more than 100 people gathered behind the Pahoa Community Center to send their prayers and blessings to all those who may soon have their lives turned upside down by the lava flow.

Smoke from the lava heading toward the small town of about 900 people was visible in the sky as pastors from several different area churches led prayers for the attendees.

“You know, the people here are in turmoil,” said Morris Niimi, New Hope pastor. “I sense the anxiety. That’s why we want to be available to the people and lift their spirits.”

Niimi said that if lava progresses into Pahoa village in the next few days to weeks, he along with other church members are prepared to help those in need by opening up their doors and providing assistance where they can.

“We’re willing to help the people, no matter what it takes,” he said.

The next lava flow community update meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Pahoa High School cafeteria.

County officials are running an Incident Command Center and Informational Resource Center at Pahoa Community Center. Residents with questions are welcome to visit the center from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.


Students acclimate to new school after lava-prodded transfer

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Students contending with a lava-prodded transfer from Pahoa High to Keaau High are using mapping technology to acclimate to their new campus.

On Friday hundreds of students from Pahoa schools, which continue to face threats tied to the June 27 lava flow, began attending other area schools. Additional students displaced by the lava will start attending school at a temporary site or another area school next week.

To help ease the stress tied to switching schools, Brendan Brennan, an educator at University Laboratory School on Oahu, led some students at Keaau High in a fun and interactive activity that aims to help the new students feel at home. 

Groups of students Friday canvassed the Keaau campus with a camera that takes 360-degree photographs. They snapped shots of everything from hallways to classrooms. The pictures were then uploaded to a website using Google Images to serve as a private map for new students and their families. 

“We thought we could help Keaau High School kids use mapping technology to help these new kids know their way around,” said Brennan, noting that his school focuses on research education and problem-solving. 

“Here we have a local problem: More than a hundred displaced kids are being separated from friends, school, teachers and their community. That’s a huge problem,” he said. 

Dean Cevallos, Keaau High’s principal, said more than 100 new students were welcomed with open arms Friday. 

“I wanted to make sure that today was a day just for them so they could come and explore the campus,” he said. “I wanted to do the best I could to tell them that here you’re ohana, too. You will be accepted.”

Since the June 27 lava flow started threatening Hawaii island’s Pahoa town, the students’ lives have been turned upside down, Cevallos said. 

“They’re having to leave everything they know; actually, it’s been ripped out from underneath them,” he said. 

Schools in the area have been closed since late October in order to prepare for the relocation of students from the Pahoa Complex and Keone-poko — a school in the projected path of the lava flow. 

About 850 Pahoa Complex students north of the flow will attend Keaau starting Monday. 

The transition process is affecting about 1,700 students and 300 employees.

The school week wrapped up with lava stalled about 480 feet from Pahoa Village Road where it hasn’t advanced for a week. On Friday, Hawaii County Civil Defense said it was another quiet day for the lava flow and that the most recent activity occurred 1.5 miles of Apaa Street where lava has advanced about 100 yards since Thursday. 

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oli-veira said the county has not determined a date to reopen the road and that thermal imagery shows there’s still some activity at the stalled front of the flow.

Donalyn Dela Cruz, director of communications for the state Department of Education, said the combining of Pahoa and Keaau High students is going smoothly, especially given their history of school rivalry. 

“If you’re the rival high school and you’ve been a Cougar (at Keaau) and now have to be (a) Dagger (at Pahoa), it can be a little sensitive,” Dela Cruz said. 

But students Friday appeared to be happy to be on the same team.

Keaau freshman Reichael Abella said she’s looking forward to helping the new students Monday. 

“Today I told them ‘good morning’ and asked them if they needed any help,” she said. 

Keaau senior Jasmine Peda-mada said she’s also excited to offer to help new students get settled on campus “and maybe make some new friends.” 

Meanwhile, the Keaau administrators are keeping track of their additional expenditures taken on during the transition, Cevallos said.

“Right now the state is … saying, ‘Order what you need, and we’ll put it on a lava account,’” he said. 

Dela Cruz said state officials are hoping they can get reimbursed federally. President Barack Obama on Monday signed a disaster declaration for public assistance, which will provide federal funding for emergency work done in preparation for the lava.


Puna lawmakers offer plans to ease impact of lava flow

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

lava opening at transfer station

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

An area for viewing cooled lava will open in Pahoa on Wednesday, even as a breakout from Kilauea Volcano continued advancing toward a shopping center and prompted the closure of a gas station.

Public access at the Pahoa Recycling and Transfer Station, where lava oozed through a fence and onto asphalt in November, will be allowed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The access will be limited to the transfer station and nearby Apaa Street, where lava crossed the road in October. Apaa is a paved, two-lane road and the county has created a parking and traffic plan in anticipation of an influx of visitors.

Volunteer attendants will be on site to assist drivers and pedestrians sharing the road while buses will drop off passengers at the transfer station. Access will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day, Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said.

The flow also crossed onto private property nearby, which will not be open to the public, he said.

Meanwhile, the active flow advanced about 275 yards overnight Monday on course to reach the area’s main shopping center, which has a gas station and a supermarket, in seven to 10 days. The lava is now about 1 mile from Pahoa Marketplace near the intersection of Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road, Civil Defense officials said after an overflight Tuesday. The shopping center also contains a hardware store, pharmacy and auto repair shop.

The supermarket, one of the biggest stores in the center, began removing equipment on Tuesday and will shut down Thursday. Malama Market said in a statement it was encouraging customers to keep shopping until its doors close.

While no evacuations have been ordered, Malama Mart Gas N Go fuel station closed about 6 p.m. Tuesday. The station is operated by Malama Market staff and is co-owned by the Kalama Beach Corp. and Aloha Petroleum Ltd. Fuel will be removed from underground storage tanks.

The state Department of Health has installed three temporary monitors to measure air quality levels in the area. According to a news release, two monitors are located in Pahoa and one in Leilani Estates. Additional monitors may be installed as the lava flow continues. The monitoring data and advisories may be viewed online at health.hawaii.gov or airnow.gov.

The University of Hawaii School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology has developed a model to forecast lava flow smoke, which can be viewed online at weather.hawaii.edu/ vmap/smoke.

There’s still a great deal of uncertainty about when the lava might reach the center and what it could hit. The lava could smother one structure in the complex or cover them all, Oliveira said Tuesday.


Lava stops flowing near Pahoa Transfer Station

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Lava is no longer flowing at a breakout that burst through a fence at Pahoa’s $3.9 million waste and recycling facility, Hawaii County Civil Defense officials said after an overflight Friday.

The flow moved over a parking lot in the rear of the facility and came within a few yards of the buildings before stopping.

Asphalt is no longer burning in the parking lot. But the flow continues to burn vegetation around its margins.

Smoke conditions Friday are moderate to heavy with a light south wind blowing the smoke in a north-northeast direction towards the Ainaloa, Hawaiian Paradise Park and Keaau.

Residents downwind that may be sensitive or have respiratory problems should take necessary precautions and remain indoors, officials said.

The weather service expects south winds for the next few days.

The leading edge of the flow remained stalled about 480 feet above Pahoa Village Road.

But other breakouts area active near the area of the cemetery below Apaa Street, above Apaa Street, upslope of the transfer station, and 300 yards upslope of Apaa Street.

The breakouts do not pose an immediate threat to residents, Civil Defense said.

The closest active breakout is about 550 yards upslope of the stalled flow front, below the Pahoa cemetery.

Lava from Kilauea volcano pushed through a fence surrounding Pahoa’s $3.5 million waste and recycling center just before noon Tuesday, one day after it burned a nearby home.

The lava forced its way through the fence along the southwest corner of the transfer station, then flowed down onto asphalt. Hawaii County officials said the fence is about 100 yards from the building.

A ravine and catchment pond lie between the lava and the building, where Apaa Street becomes Cemetery Road.

Hawaii County officials said Tuesday afternoon that three active breakouts continue to advance behind the stalled flow front. The breakouts are in the area of the cemetery below Apaa Street, above Apaa Street in the area west or upslope of the transfer station, and .3 miles upslope of Apaa Street, officials said.

They said the breakouts do not pose an immediate threat to area residents but will be monitored closely.

On Monday, a finger from the flow that began June 27 ignited its first house nearby on Cemetery Road around 11:55 a.m. The house collapsed at about 12:45 p.m.

It was the first house to go up in flames since the lava moved into Pahoa more than two weeks ago. Since then the lava has crossed Apaa Street, overrun a Buddhist cemetery and destroyed multiple structures.

Oliveira said a garage/barn structure also on the property remains intact — for now.

According to county documents, the 45-acre lot belongs to Mary and Woodrow Pelfrey as part of a trust called Four Pelfrey Trust, based in Fairview, Ore. They bought the property in 1985 for $54,700. Until Monday the value was about $200,000, Oli-veira said.

The Pelfreys built the ranch-style two-bedroom, two-bathroom house in 1992.


National Guard to demobilize as lava remains stalled

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

The Hawaii National Guard stationed in Pahoa since the end of October will be demobilizing as the lava flowing from Kilauea Volcano remains stalled.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said the county has requested the demobilization.

While activity from the so-called June 27 lava flow continues at various break-out points, the front of the flow that was heading towards the Pahoa Marketplace remains stalled and merchants are returning to area.

The county is also pulling back personnel guarding Apaa Street, where lava had crossed the road, and near the Pahoa Recycling and Transfer Station that was previously used as a public lava viewing site.

Oliveira said the troops will return if the threat of lava becomes imminent again.


Lava advances 50 yards, edging closer to highway

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Hawaii County Civil Defense said Monday the latest lava flow moved 50 yards overnight after almost a week of little activity.

Civil Defense Director Darryl Oli­veira said there was more activity occurring at the new advancing flow front, with lava moving northeast.

The leading edge is about 30 yards wide and about 0.36 mile from the area of Highway 130 that is west of the Pahoa police and fire stations.

Lava was originally heading toward the sea, but Oli­veira said it did not appear to be moving consistently in that direction.

Last week Steve Brantley, with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told residents at a community meeting in Pahoa that the flow could take two paths: one that heads toward the highway and another that would take it toward an anthurium farm.

Jim Kauahikaua, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge, said Monday the flow still has about 50 more yards to go before it makes a decision on which path to take.

The latest breakout started earlier in January about several hundred yards behind the original flow front, which remains stalled. That previously advancing flow is idle, about 660 yards behind the Pahoa Marketplace and about 0.5 mile away from the Pahoa Village Road and Highway 130 intersection.

Breakouts continue along the north side of the flow about 1 to 1.5 miles behind the front. These breakouts remain active but have not advanced significantly, Civil Defense reported.

Meanwhile, an overnight rain helped prevent brush fires, Oli­veira said. Multiple brush fires caused by lava broke out during the past few weeks as weather conditions were relatively dry.

An early morning inspection Sunday showed no flames but some smoldering, the Hawaii County Fire Department said.

The public viewing area at the Pahoa Recycling and Transfer Station will close Tuesday and Wednesday for student visits. The area will close again Sunday as work begins to reopen the facility.

Oliveira said he is looking into alternative public viewing areas.


Lava flow ‘very much active’ although front is still stalled

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

The path of the lava oozing from Kilauea Volcano remained uncertain Friday as the flow sat not far from Pahoa’s main highway.

Lava from the flow’s most active breakout remains 0.4 mile from the Pahoa police and fire stations, where it hasn’t made headway since Wednesday.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oli­veira said the flow was widening and exhibiting some signs of inflation.

Meanwhile, two other breakouts along the north margin of the flow that are on a path toward an area of Highway 130 near the Maku‘u Farmers Market showed little activity and had gained no ground.

But the flow is still “very much active,” Steve Brantley, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge, explained to a small group of Puna residents who were at the Pahoa High School cafeteria for a community meeting Thursday night.

Since lava moved into Pahoa in October, it’s crossed Apaa Street, overtaken a Buddhist cemetery and destroyed multiple structures including a home. The lava also penetrated the fence of the Pahoa Recycling and Transfer Station a few months ago, where public viewing of the lava will end come March 1. The transfer station will reopen its services to residents at that time.

In the past week, multiple businesses announced plans to return to the Pahoa Marketplace after closing down before Christmas because lava was expected to reach the area but instead stalled.


Lava sets 300-acre fire near stalled flow front

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

The Hawaii County Fire Department on Wednesday contained a lava-sparked brush fire burning near the stalled lava flow front in Pahoa.

The blaze, which covered about 300 acres, ignited at about 1 p.m. Tuesday west of Highway 130, about 1.5 miles from the Ainaloa subdivision, Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said. The fire still had hot spots and smoldering activity, and had yet to be extinguished Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the flow front and its south margin breakout have been stalled since Friday about a half-mile from the intersection of Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road. However, surface activity and widening was noted about 300 yards upslope of that area.

Two breakout areas about 1 to 1.5 miles upslope of the stalled flow front had moved about 20 yards since Monday.

Smoke and vog conditions were heavy Wednesday, with wind blowing northeast over areas of lower Puna and Hilo on the east side of Hawaii island.

Before the lava flow slowed and stalled, it was on course to reach the highway’s intersection with Pahoa Village Road and nearby Pahoa Marketplace during the Christmas holiday. In response, several businesses in the lower Puna area, including a gas station, grocery store and a Longs Drugs, shut down as a precaution.

Since the Kilauea Volcano lava reached the Pahoa area in October, it has crossed a street, flowed into a Buddhist cemetery, destroyed multiple structures, burned a house and penetrated the fence line of the Pahoa Recycling and Transfer Station.

Public viewing of the lava flow is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the transfer station. The viewing area will close Feb. 1 while county officials begin to assess the damage to the facility caused by the so-called June 27 lava flow.


2 little Big Isle earthquakes join area’s mix of lava, snow

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Mother Nature rattled Hawaii island with a pair of small earthquakes Monday as lava breakouts continued upslope from the stalled flow front in Puna and scores of Hawaii Electric Light Co. customers remained without power in the aftermath of an intense storm over the weekend.

The Kilauea Volcano lava flow, which was on course to hit the Pahoa Marketplace on Christmas Eve before stalling, remains about 580 yards from the complex and 880 yards from Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road, the area’s main throughway.

Hawaii County Civil Defense officials are now watching breakout flows about 1 to 1.5 miles upslope of the shopping area.

Those breakouts advanced about 150 yards between Monday and Tuesday morning. In addition, officials noted some surface activity at a breakout about 200 yards above the flow front.

Two small earthquakes were recorded Monday.

The first temblor, with an initial magnitude of 3.2, struck shortly after 3 a.m., about 7 miles west-southwest of Wai­ko­­loa, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The second, a magnitude-3.1 quake, struck at 10:09 p.m. about 10 miles northeast of Ocean View.

Meanwhile, by Tuesday, electrical power had been restored to all but about 120 of an estimated 46,000 HELCO customers affected by outages touched off by a winter storm that toppled trees and struck power lines Friday and Saturday.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. spokes­woman Rhea Lee said that most of the affected customers were without power for a short period of time. On Monday, HELCO announced there were still about 360 customers without power.

“We’re hoping to have everyone up and running by tomorrow (Wednesday),” Lee said.

Keith Okamoto, deputy manager of the Hawaii County Department of Water Supply, said the storm left 2,000 customers in the island’s north town of Kohala without water for a period of time. It also affected about 600 customers in Wai­mea along with 100 customers in Wai­ohinu and South Point.

Okamoto said many residents had access to water by Monday and that the water problems were caused by power failures.

Also, on Saturday a cold front delivered a record-low temperature of 59 degrees to Hilo and blizzard conditions to the island’s summits. The National Weather Service estimated Mauna Kea’s summit received between 6 inches and a foot of snow along with heavy wind.


Activity at breakout increases as lava front remains stalled

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

While lava flowing toward Pahoa Marketplace continued to stall, Hawaii County Civil Defense reported some activity Monday at an upslope breakout area.

An overflight of the flow Monday morning showed the front of the flow and lava activity along the south margins remained stalled about 880 yards from the intersection of Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road and about 580 yards upslope of the marketplace. The front of the flow hasn’t advanced since Wednesday.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oli­veira on Monday noted an increase in activity and advancement upslope along the north side of the flow. The most active breakout, 1.5 miles from the marketplace, had advanced 200 yards since Sunday. 

Oliveira said it’s too early to tell what path the breakout might take or whether it will head toward the marketplace.

Jim Kauahikaua of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said it’s possible that an upslope breakout could become the new leading edge of the flow. 

Smoke conditions were moderate Monday with a northwest wind blowing smoke south.

Hawaii County officials will close Railroad Avenue at noon Wednesday, Oli­veira said. The alternative access route opened last month to give drivers time to adjust to the road. Oli­veira said the county will close the road for maintenence work. ­The road will reopen if the lava threatens to the area’s main highway. 

The next lava flow community meeting is 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Pahoa High School cafeteria.


Senator’s bills to seek Puna district lava relief

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

A Hawaii island legislator has announced plans to seek support for proposed lava-relief measures when the Legislature convenes for its 2015 session later this month.

Sen. Russell Ruderman (D, Puna) said the aim is to provide home insurance relief for Puna homeowners as well as emergency funds for two area charter schools and a medical clinic, according to a report in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. The clinic, along with several other businesses and services, has shut down its operation in Pahoa Marketplace as a precaution. Recently stalled lava flow is situated 660 yards from the shopping area.

Ruderman’s proposed insurance bill would require companies to renew policies for properties if the owner’s payments are current. The potential loss of insurance from private providers has been an ongoing concern for Puna residents.

Ruderman told the Hawaii island newspaper that insurance moratoriums, such as the one that was introduced for Puna in September, makes it difficult for residents to sell their homes.

The senator and businessman also said he intends to introduce bills to create a harbor and airstrip that would secure access to lower Puna if the lava flow cuts off road access.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oli­veira said Friday there was little movement at the flow front, but breakout activity continued.

“It hasn’t moved for at least two days. Some parts were crusted over, very few spots of orange glow or anything this morning down at the flow front,” Oli­veira said.

Currently the front remains stalled at one-half mile upslope from Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road intersection.

A breakout along the south side of the flow near a firebreak road about 150 yards behind the flow front had some activity but had not advanced since Thursday afternoon.

Since late June the current leading edge of lava has traveled more than 13 miles from the breakout near Kilauea Volcano’s Puu Oo vent, about the same distance of the flow’s initial leading edge that ignited a house, crossed a road and overtook a cemetery before stalling, cooling and inflating in October.

The public can view parts of that flow at the Pahoa Transfer Station from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Smoke conditions were moderate Friday morning with a light northwest wind blowing smoke in a south-southeast direction over the Pahoa and lower Puna areas.

Civil Defense announced Friday that the community’s next lava update meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.Thursday in the Pahoa High School cafeteria.


Lava flow from Kilauea slows significantly

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

The new leading edge of the Puna lava flow from Kilauea Volcano that was advancing toward the area’s main highway has slowed down significantly during the past few days.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said the breakout along the north side of the flow is active but sluggish, advancing a mere 15 yards since Monday.

“This morning’s overflight showed not much movement or advancement in the downslope breakout,” he said.

Earlier last week the lava was heading downslope at a steady rate, but the last time the flow moved a significant amount was about 70 yards from Saturday to Sunday. The breakout did not move from Sunday to Monday.

The leading edge of the breakout is still about 0.4 miles from the area of the highway that is mauka of the Pahoa police and fire stations.

And while the slowdown in advancement rate is good news for area residents, it does not mean there’s less lava going into the tube system.

“There’s not a diminished magma supply, but it is fluctuating,” said Jim Kauahikaua, scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.  

Meanwhile, two other breakouts along the north margin of the flow, approximately 1 to 1.5 miles further upslope, are also active but remain sluggish and are showing little signs of advancement.

Hawaii County Fire Department personnel continue to monitor burning activity caused by the lava flow within lower Puna. All fires that occurred are contained and burning activity is limited to hot spots and flare-ups, Civil Defense reports.

There is currently no fire threat to area residents and properties.

Smoke conditions were light to moderate Tuesday with a light northeast wind blowing the smoke in a southwest direction.


4 places to cast vote open in Pahoa despite threat from lava flow

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

The leading edge of the lava flow from Kilauea Volcano remained stalled Monday, easing any fears that the molten rock would further disrupt Election Day for disaster-weary Puna.

But scientists at the Volcano Observatory said active breakouts of lava were present just above the stalled front.

As of 5 p.m. Monday a small finger of lava was advancing down along the north edge of the private parcel that the flow entered last week. It was about 175 yards behind the stalled front and moving parallel to it at about 11 yards per hour, scientists said.

So Pahoa is by no means out of the woods, although scientists cannot predict when the flow might resume its destructive march — or be overtaken by a second finger.

Unlike Tropical Storm Iselle, which smacked the district with little warning in August, the June 27 lava flow has given election officials plenty of time to plan.

Pat Nakamoto, elections program administrator for Hawaii County, said election officials began preparing in October for the possibility that lava might pose a problem on Nov. 4.

“There was a possibility that the lava flow would cross over the highway and there wouldn’t be access and that precinct would have been split by the lava flow,” she said.

Since the lava moved into Pahoa more than a week ago, it’s crossed Apaa Street, overrun a Buddhist cemetery and destroyed two structures: a 10-by-15-foot potting utility shed on a farm lot near Apaa Street on Oct. 28; and another farm structure on Friday made out of four wooden posts and a corrugated iron roof designed to give shelter to cattle near Cemetery Road.

While the lava was heading toward the area’s main highway at a slow place, the county was taking a better-safe-than-sorry approach since a whirlwind of confusion surfaced following the August primary during Tropical Storm Iselle.

Damage from the storm made roads impassable and prevented some residents from getting to polling places. Two precincts in the area were closed.

While there was a makeup vote held for both precincts, the situation sparked an attempt by the American Civil Liberties Union to reopen the primary election to people who were unable to vote. That complaint was dismissed by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Chief Election Officer Scott Nago said Monday that all polls, including the four in the Pahoa area, will be open on Election Day.

Voters assigned to Pahoa Community Center will still have the option to vote at Hawaiian Paradise Park Community Center.

Department of Education facilities that were closed because of the lava flow will still serve as polling places on Election Day. These schools include Keone­poko Elementary School and Pahoa High and Intermediate School.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration Monday in response to the June 27 lava flow, a move that authorizes federal reimbursement of state and county relief efforts.

Money will go toward certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures taken as a result of the Puu Oo volcanic eruption and lava flow in Hawaii County.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures in the county.

Eligible projects under the declaration can receive 75 percent federal reimbursement with a 25 percent match from the state or Hawaii County.

The county has spent more than $6 million on emergency expenditures related to the lava flow, according to Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s request for federal assistance.

An additional $16 million was estimated to be needed in response to the ongoing disaster, which continues to threaten Pahoa homes.

Most of the funds so far have been spent on building alternate routes along Railroad Avenue, Government Beach Road and Chain of Craters Road should lava cross Highway 130 and reach the sea.

State efforts that could be reimbursed include measures to accommodate about 900 schoolchildren who have to take classes elsewhere because of the flow, and to support additional air quality monitoring.


Residents playing the waiting game

By MEGAN MOSELEY | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Lava ignited small fires behind Pahoa Village Road on Wednesday night while a resident stood with her Pahoa neighbors and watched in awe.

“It’s supposed to hit this road by midnight, but I doubt it,” Theresa Zendejas said.

Zendejas spent the day Wednesday preparing for a possible evacuation and talking story with her neighbors, all of whom were playing the “wait-and-see” game.

Hawaii County officials said earlier this week that an evacuation order seemed close at hand Tuesday but backed off and have continued to monitor the slow-moving lava.

Zendejas said it appears as if it’s anyone’s guess when she should move, if at all.

“I’d like to stay if I can get in and out of my street,” she said. “If the breathing part bothers me, then I’ll leave.”

She and her husband decided to take a stroll down the blocked-off road Wednesday evening to see if they could capture a glimpse of the flow. Along the way, the couple ran into neighbor John Hutchinson.

Hutchinson, who said his house is situated parallel to the flow, handed off a jump drive to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser with pictures of the lava seen from his front yard.

“People need to see this,” he said. “This is history.”

Hutchinson then left the area while Zendejas and her husband took a few last-minute looks at the flow.

“The one good thing about all this is that it’s getting me up and moving,” she said.

Zendejas has lived on Hawaii island for more than 20 years and said she’s never seen the lava up close.

“Never in my life have I experienced anything like this,” she said.

Since the flow began picking up speed last week, Zendejas has made headlines as the outspoken, charming and self-proclaimed 80-year-old “island girl.” She’s seen an influx of visitors at her front door, too.

“You know how many people, my goodness, come to my gate? A lot. Oh, my gosh,” she said.

The influx of tourists and media attention caused Hawaii County officials to block off access to Apaa Street and parts of Pahoa Village Road for security purposes.

Still, media outlets and others are doing their best to get the story.

“This morning I got a phone call from Al Jazeera! Who the heck is that?” she asked, laughing.

During an interview at her house earlier that day, Zendejas said that sometimes she feels anxiety from not knowing what’s going to happen, but in the end she’s doing her best to see the silver lining.

“I’m living on a living, breathing island,” she said. “It’s awesome. It’s magical. When you sit here long enough, you’re going to feel that.”

She also said her current situation is one that others in Pele’s path should pay attention to.

“Yeah, don’t wait until the last minute to pack,” she advised. “You cannot wait two or three days to pack. It’s impossible.”

When asked if she has had any positive experiences throughout the process, she responded: “Life is positive. What can I say? You have to do what we have to do. We have no control over Mother Nature. We don’t. We just go with the flow.”


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