If you were expecting something about the eruption, here’s an interesting tidbit I read this morning: After Kilauea’s 1924 summit explosions, the volcano entered a decade of piddly rumblings, followed by 18 years of silence. Experts say Kilauea may be heading toward years — even decades — of little or no activity.
“Piddly.” We shall see. Silence would be nice. As would fresh air. And no lava eating houses. Or lava bombs in the backyard . . .
And now, I turn to another past. In preparation for a photography course I plan to take (gotta figure out the blinding white parts), I started dredging up photos from previous travels, necks of temporary woods.
These are from one of my trips to Egypt, land of contrasts. They were all taken in or very near Cairo (with an old camera). Many Cairenes jostled to have their picture taken. Some, not so much.
Sad days. Kapoho used to look like the above photo. Right now it looks like this:
This video is worth a million words: June 5, 2018 Lava Torches Hundreds of Homes
Screenshot from Google maps; photo from Hawaii News Now.
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.
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.
On Friday I went north in search of Hawaii Island not under the thrall of the eruption, and to my great surprise, I readily found it.
I had an agenda but got distracted. I made new friends. I found indications of Puna Pride, yet I also spoke with people who did not know what was happening in Lower Puna. I saw a lot of lush greenery and tourists posing in front of waterfalls. I stopped into a cemetery I passed along the way.
The day was a relief for me, but a relief tinged with guilt I could not shake.
Here are photos in lieu of more words.
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.