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.