Hawaii Volcano Alert: Jacob Rascon's up-close look from the Big Island
KPRC2 reporter Jacob Rascon is in Hawaii as a part of the Big Island deals with the latest eruption of the Kilauea volcano.
It was a sad day for the island Tuesday. It was the most destructive 24 hours since Kilauea started erupting in early May. Overnight, lava flows buried hundreds of homes along the coast.
The communities of Kapoho Beach and Vacationland have been all but wiped out. The beautiful bay there, one of the island’s most popular beaches, is now filled with lava rock.
The National Guard brought us closer to the action. Fissure eight has been spewing nonstop for more than a week and is responsible for most of the damage. This time, we could actually hear it roaring. Incredible.
Outside the evacuation zone, we walked around a community help center where free meals are served three times a day. The help center offered hundreds of dresses, pants, shirts, shoes and other clothing, boxes and of diapers, crackers, cereal, piles of bags of rice, fruit and giant stacks of canned foods, baskets filled with toiletries; every essential, all free to Kilauea victims and donated by neighbors.
"This is hope,” a woman named Vaigna said. “We give them love and serve God.”
Some who have lost homes also volunteer, serving hot meals to the growing homeless population.
“One day at the shelter, four days at a hotel, then I stayed at a friend’s home for a month,” evacuee David Brennan told me.
The tourism industry is hurting. Millions of dollars, and counting, in reservations, have been lost. But we met a few Houstonians in Hawaii for vacation. Only a small portion of the island is affected by the volcano.
Most of the Big Island and all the other islands are open for business as Hawaii county officials work on long-term solutions to the volcano crisis.
The number of homes destroyed by lava keeps climbing. When we arrived, there were 87. Monday morning, 117. Monday night, 159.
One of those homes belonged to the West family, who lived in Brazoria County in the 1970s. They built their Hawaii home from the ground up 30 years ago.
They never had a problem with lava. In fact, they were told lava had not flowed through their land since the 1700s.
“We thought we were safe,” they said. Safer than Texas or tornado alley, where they also lived for a time.
The USGS says the current lava flow is similar to one in 1960 that lasted for 36 days and covered much of the same land.
Two dozen fissures near Kilauea have spewed lava here since May 3, the USGS said, covering an area of about 7.7 square miles, or roughly five times the size of downtown Houston.
About 2,500 people have been ordered to evacuate, the National Guard said, and the overwhelming majority have now listened. Dozens of families have stayed behind.
The lava fountain spewing from fissure eight, the most active, is stunning up close. Even Jim West says he has “reverence” and “respect” for the phenomena.
You hear locals reference “Pelé,” who they believe is the goddess of fire and volcanoes.
“She’ll do whatever the hell she wants to do,” Jim West said.
We arrived in Hilo late Sunday. A family from the Big Island flying with us said, “The volcano has never been this active. It’s crazy!”
Lava flows reached Kapoho today, which was destroyed by lava in 1960 after another Kilauea eruption.
“Why do people build houses near the volcano?” Another Hawaiian on the plane asked, and answered: “The same reason people might build houses on the beach [in Galveston]. Nobody thinks a big eruption or devastating hurricane will happen in their lifetime.”
More than 2,500 people in the Puna district of Hawaii, near the volcano, have been told to evacuate. If they don’t, they could be arrested, or forced to pay for rescue efforts if they become necessary, the mayor said.
The lava flow from fissure eight made a hard right turn in the last few days toward Kapoho, home to a beautiful beach and $1 million vacation homes. Lava also crossed major highways that would have served as escape routes for many, and several people had to be rescued.
The tourism industry, which drives the economy here, has lost millions of dollars since lava started spewing one month ago. Thousands have canceled their reservations as a precaution.
Also over the weekend, geologists recorded a record number of earthquakes at the Kilauea summit. Scientists say it’s impossible to predict whether that means Kilauea is more likely to explode again.
The orange glow of the lava fountains can be seen 10 miles or so away. At their hottest, the Kilauea lava flows can consume up to six football fields of new land per day, scientists said.
It’s midnight in Hawaii, 5 a.m. in Houston. Tomorrow, the National Guard will escort us to the front of a lava flow. We will need heavy-duty respirators and a hard hat, which we will buy in the morning.
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