And if the guest wants to stay at the house, the house is there…
October 19, 2014 2:14 PM   Subscribe

On 27 June 2014, Puʻu ʻŌʻō Crater of the Kīlauea Volcano in Hawaii started a new lava flow, beheading a previous flow. The flow headed northeast through the Puna district towards Pāhoa, passing right by the Kahoe Homesteads subdivision. At the moment the flow is stalled short of Apa`a Street in Pāhoa, but it could resume and ultimately cut the town in half. What to do?

Diverting lava has been tried in Hawaii several times in the past, but not with much success.

Last month, several public meetings were held in Pāhoa to discuss the flow. Hawaii County is not planning any diversion of the lava, and during the meetings civil defense administrator Darryl Oliveira explained why:
At this point, we’re not exploring or pursuing doing a diversion, because of uncertainty as to whether it would work or actually make the problem worse. It could divert a flow into another subdivision; spare one and sacrifice or compromise another. And as I’ve said before, [we’re] very sensitive to the cultural aspect of what the volcano represents in our communities.
During the September 5th meeting, several Native Hawaiians stepped up to the microphone to explain their view of Pele and their opposition to diverting the lava.

One of them was Piilani Kaawaloa, whose family home has been spared by lava three times in the past 30 years:
It's like me telling you move the Moon because it's too bright... What we need to do is work together... not fight and tell whose house the lava should cover.
Tim Sullivan, another resident of Pāhoa, has also blogged about the flow and comments on the cultural issues.

For those watching from afar, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is tracking the flow and provides status updates, maps and photos.

Previously, previously, and previously.
posted by metaquarry (14 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Forgot this: via io9.
posted by metaquarry at 2:42 PM on October 19, 2014

I'm currently reading a book by John McPhee, The Control of Nature. The second part is devoted to the efforts to divert the Eldfell lava flows from the harbour on the island with mixed success, but McPhee briefly touches on the different approach in Hawaii as well. The general subject of the book is fascinating and definitely worth tackling - you can't help but feel that efforts to tame Mother Nature are ultimately rather futile.

For those interested, another of his books, Annals of the Former World, is a masterpiece in non-fiction.
posted by jamincan at 2:55 PM on October 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

A few weeks ago I thought about putting together a post about this, but decided to wait and see if Anything Happened .... and then I forgot to make the post. So thank you!
posted by rtha at 5:36 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

And as I’ve said before, [we’re] very sensitive to the cultural aspect of what the volcano represents in our communities.

Interesting to contrast this with the response to native Hawaiians, who have expressed concerns for similar reasons about the construction of the TMT atop a culturally-sensitive area of Mauna Kea.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 8:06 PM on October 19, 2014

Not mentioned is the geographic problem. This corner of the island is going to be cut off if the lava flows over Hwy 130. (This road used to go around the south coast of the island, but some years ago was destroyed by lava flow itself, and the National Park Service is reluctant to allow more than a single-lane road through the park.) As a temporary measure the county is improving two roads closer to shore, but they may eventually be overrun as well as the flow continues down the ravine it's in.

The solution may be a bridge over the lava flow. Others may be an artificial harbor to create boat or barge access, or if the NPS allows it, a new two-lane highway linking back to the island road system (and turning a 20-mile trip to Hilo into more like 80 or 100 miles).
posted by dhartung at 10:54 PM on October 19, 2014

Lots of interesting pictures at Hawaii News Now
posted by maryr at 8:03 AM on October 20, 2014

Also interesting: load the small scale Sept 19 projection and the October 17th progression maps in neighboring tabs and look how well the projection matches so far. Thank gods it's stalled.
posted by maryr at 8:14 AM on October 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

My dad lives about 15 minutes out of Pahoa and he says the region is emptying out. Stores closing, people picking up and leaving if they can. The air is smoky and he says his sweet little community is disappearing before his eyes. His wife works in Hilo and has had to rent a place in the city because if the lava goes all the way to the sea, what used to be a 30 minute drive will become a 3 hour drive. State services are being withdrawn from the area, and there are talks of forced evacuations soon. My dad lives on an intentional community where they produce most of what they need, but he has stocked up on emergency rations just in case. He's not planning on going anywhere.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:02 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seems to abruptly be on the move again.

- The narrow lava flow front is now advancing much faster, and has gone 425 yards since yesterday. It is now 0.3 miles from Apa’a Street.
- Hawaii County has closed Apa’a Street and Cemetery Road between the Pahoa Transfer Station and Kaohe Homesteads Road. Civil Defense will be operating in the area around the clock to maintain close observations of flow activity.
posted by rtha at 1:59 PM on October 23, 2014

The lava has now crossed Apa'a Street.
posted by metaquarry at 1:03 PM on October 25, 2014

The lava flow crossed Apa’a Street at 3:50 a.m. this morning and continues to advance in a northeast direction towards the cemetery at about 10 yards per hour.

Maybe you'll think this morbid, I don't know, but if you're going to lose your family cemetery, that is a pretty badass way to do it. Especially if your ancestors may have believed in a volcano goddess.

I mean, cemeteries get ruined by floods and landslides. Everything green is stripped out by forest fires. Given enough time, humans will take over the land, moving the dead down the road or covering them up with concrete or occasionally mounting the bones in a museum display. For nature to permanently entomb them, to make them part of the earth? Part of the rock for the ages? Hot damn (no pun intended), that's about as honorable a burial as I can think of.
posted by maryr at 11:22 PM on October 26, 2014

This photo (facebook, but should be viewable) knocked my socks off. It was taken at night, and so shows the scene in a way that isn't comprehensible from daytime shots.
posted by rtha at 9:45 AM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

A 538 interview with the researcher providing good progress visualizations of the flow.
posted by minedev at 11:29 AM on October 29, 2014

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