Puna Community Briefed on Evacuations, Communications & Preparedness

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Emergency Officials discussing current conditions in the evacuation zone of Leilani Estates on May 29, 2018 on Kahukai Street. PC: Crystal Richard.

Emergency officials updated residents on the status of evacuation orders, evacuation routes, communications and personal preparedness during the Puna community meeting at the Pāhoa High School Cafeteria on May 29, 2018.

Mayor Harry Kim began the meeting by asking the community to “pull back on some of their concerns.”

He announced that those in the restricted evacuation area in Leilani Estates need to heed warnings because they no longer send in first responders to the restricted evacuation zone.

Evacuation Status

Only residents can use the freshly paved one-lane Government Beach Road. Non-residents of lower Puna are asked to avoid this area as this serves now as the only route for a large community.


Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno gave residents an update on routes in and out of lower Puna.

  • Highway 130 is still open.
  • USGS is monitoring the cracks on Highway 130.
  • The area of Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland residents to evacuate due to the possibility of having access cut off.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported that lava from several fissures continues to move through Leilani Estates, Lanipuna Gardens and toward the Kapoho area.

Residents of Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland are advised to evacuate due to the possibility of lava cutting off access to Beach Road near Four Corners.

Residents are reminded that due to the volcanic activity the following policies are in effect:

  • Beach Road from Four Corners to Hawaiian Beaches is restricted to resident access only, between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., to allow continued evacuations.
  • Highway 132 is closed.
  • Leilani Estates residents with approved credentials can enter at 7 a.m. but must leave by 6 p.m. This curfew is strictly enforced for your safety. A mandatory evacuation is in effect past Pomaikai Street.

An orange glow fills the night sky from the lava flow in the Lower East Rift Zone of Kilauea Volcano on May 29, 2018, on Luana Street in Leilani Estates on Hawaii Island. PC: Crystal Richard.

USGS Lower East Rift Zone


Steve Bradley from USGS informed residents that Fissure 8 is feeding the flow crossing over Highway 132 and the Puna Geothermal Venture property.

An ‘a‘a flow crossed 132 early afternoon May 29, 2018.

Fissure 19, 20 and 18 continue to be active.

Fissure 18 is generating a new channelized lava flow moving towards the east.

Wendy Stovall of USGS-HVO said it was the rapid advance rate of the lava that caused Hawai‘i County Civil Defense to decide to evacuate all of Lower Puna to ensure people can get out because they are afraid Beach Road will be cut off by lava.


A Fissure 18 flow is heading downslope to the south, which is now tracking the steepest line of decent, which takes it through the warm ponds.

Stovall said Fissure 8 is putting out only Puʻu ʻŌʻō magma now. There is no longer a mixture of the old flows coming to the surface.

Stovall said the flow front could go through Vacationland, but at this time could not say if it would be the north or south end.

A D9, D10 and a compactor on Highway 130 head out to Chain of Craters Road for construction of an emergency evacuation route in case lava cuts off roadways into lower Puna on May 29, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard.

Evacuation Routes

The Hawai‘i Department of Transportation said a D10 and D9 and a compactor have started work on Chain of Craters Road. The department expects to complete the project in four days.

There will be an additional road made available on what DOT referred to as “Sanford’s property,” where the quarry is located, as well as an alternate route—Alaili Drive.

During the news media brief May 30, 2018, Jessica Ferracane, information officer for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said the national park and DOT signed an agreement for the use and constriction of an emergency evacuation route via Chain of Craters Road should Highway 130 be cut off by the eruption.

Ferracane said they are working on removing a .7 mile wide section of solidified lava from the 2016-17 61g lava flow.

Questions in the community arose over a reported “hotspot,” but USGS said that it is not a hotspot but the area where a lava tube runs. USGS said that their recommendations were to not cut too deep into the road, as they did back in 2014 when the emergency route was made when lava threatened Pāhoa.

The gravel route will be only for one direction of traffic, heading out.

She addressed concerns over keeping invasive species such as the little red fire ant and coqui frogs out of the national park.

Mitigations for nene living in the area are in place.

No public or media access will be permitted while the park remains closed.

Fissure 8 from Luana Street on May 30, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

Hawaii Electric Light Company

Jay Ignacio from HELCO said, “It’s been a long weekend for Hawaii Electric Light Company.”

Lava crossing Highway 132 caused damage to a power line going down to Kapoho. They do not have plans currently to repair it. Although generators are on site, they are not ready to deploy. They don’t want to put them in with the likelihood of lava inundating the area later.

May 29, HELCO de-energized the Kapoho substation because the lava got too close.

Ignacio assured residents there is enough generation to maintain adequate supplies of power after losing the supply from PGV.

PGV & Related Hazards

Special Task Force Leader Tom Travis informed residents that access to PGV is covered by lava.

“When I came here, lava was on the property of PGV,” said Travis.

PGV lost all the utilities facilities.

  • Travis outlined the goals of the task force and explained how each goal was met:Remove hazardous material: pentane.
  • Process clear: use of nitrogen to push out and then suck out the gases.
  • Capping a well: closing the upper master valves on May 3.
  • Quench all wells: used cold water to remove the pressure of the well.
  • Reduce profile on the wells: production wells vs injection wells—production wells were of most concerns.
  • Travis showed residents a list of the PGV wells and the steps completed. All injection wells were plugged.

Department of Water

Work on the Kapoho well continues; however, it will take two to three more days to install equipment and allow the well to fill.

Residents are asked to continue to conserve and use water wisely to keep this source as long as possible.

Leilani Avenue near Fissure 8 is covered with lava rocks and Pele’s Hair, May 29, 2018, at 6:50 p.m. PC: Crystal Richard

Pele’s Hair, SO2 and Ash

Despite requests for information and concerns expressed by the community, Fenix Grange said that no data was available for the public at this time.

DOH is working with Civil Defense to closely monitor the air quality.

Grange explained Mayor Kim came up with a color-coding system for the air monitoring.

  • Blue: stay alert
  • Orange: shelter and get plans together
  • Red: ready to go, listen to radio

In the last 48 hours, Pele’s Hair has been found in Pāhoa and in Leilani Estates.

Pele’s Hair is caused when hot magma is ejected into the air. The fine glass particles cool quickly and fall down wind of splatter cones.

Grange said its best to avoid exposure to Pele’s Hair. She warned it can cause irritation to skin, eyes and airways.

Though the N-95 mask won’t protect against SO2, they do protect from particulate in the air, such as Pele’s Hair.

Communication/Warning Systems

Hawaiian Telcom Representative Wally Wong assured attendees that Hawaiian Telcom, AT&T and Verizon were all doing their best to keep communications open for residents and first responders.

Wong said the focus is on Highway 130 and 132 fiber feeds that branch off to the subdivisions.

“We have a solution to connect radios across the lava, explained Wong. He said they are waiting for the flow front to calm down before they proceed.

The lava from Fissure 8 crossed Highway 132 in the early afternoon of May 29, 2018. The lava crossing the highway meant that many in lower Puna were without telephone services.

Personal Preparedness

  • Residents close to any volcanic activity should remain alert and be prepared to voluntarily evacuate if necessary.
  • Know your evacuation routes and have an emergency plan.
  • Keep your radio on at all times.
  • Sign up for Civil Defense Blackboard messaging.

Mayor Kim closed the meeting by assuring residents: “I mean it. We will get through this.”

The next meeting is Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at 5 p.m. at Pāhoa High School Cafeteria. The meeting will be shown live on Na Leo Channel 55 and live-streamed online.

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