Kīlauea Eruption: Update on Roadwork & Evacuation Routes

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Major Jeff Hickman on Moku Street in Leilani Estates on June 20, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

The following is a Kilauea Volcano eruption roadwork update for July 11, 2018, from a question-and-answer session with the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation and the Hawai‘i County Department of Public Works.

Answers are provided by HDOT Hawai‘i District Engineer Donald Smith and DPW Director Allan Simeon.

Hawai‘i Department of Transportation installing steel plates on Highway 11. PC: HDOT

Q: If Highway 11 is compromised, is there an alternate route? Many are saying the sinkhole in Highway11 is an ongoing issue present prior to this eruption, which has been made worse by the current seismic activity.

A: HDOT: “The section of Highway 11 from approximately milepost 29 to 30 is along a fault zone that has been worsening due to seismic activity. This area, especially around mile post 30, has been an issue for many years. We are currently discussing options with our Civil Defense partners. We are focused on maintaining Highway 11 at this time. This area, much like Highway 130, is an active volcano and everyone should exercise caution in the area. Please make sure that you are listening to all information, especially updates from Civil Defense.”

The Hawai‘i County Department of Public Works laid cinder on Railroad Avenue, June 30, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

Q: What are the conditions like for HDOT workers in areas such as Leilani Estates, Kapoho, Kalapana and Highway 130?


A: HDOT: “Working conditions in the “Hot Zone” can be tedious at times due to shifting winds and obvious safety hazards that are present when working in close proximity to an active volcano. The shifting winds can expose our employees to gas, laze and/or Pele’s Hair. The Department of Health has active monitoring devices that give Civil Defense 24-hour-a-day readings and all of our employees who enter the Hot Zone have portable detection units with them. If the SO2 level exceeds a level of 1 ppm (2 ppm is the safe limit for SO2), they have been instructed to leave the area immediately. All of our employees are outfitted with gas masks in the event that evacuation due to elevated gas levels becomes necessary.

“We are very conservative in our approach, but we do not want to take any unnecessary risks where employee safety is concerned. It is imperative, even with the precautions, that if you are in the area, everyone must be aware that conditions can change very quickly and the need to be very alert to these situations. Civil Defense, USGS and other supporting agencies remain very vigilant in observations of the active lava flows and continue to monitor the entire area for potential outbreaks or other changes in conditions.

“Our crews have participated in door-to-door canvassing of neighbors, assisted with emergency extractions and other operations, which have included working in cooperation with DPW to maintain Highways 130, 132 and 137 throughout the entire area. In cooperation with Civil Defense, the Hawai‘i Police Department, county agencies (including the DPW), the safety of our employees continues to be the highest priority. The work that has been done and continues to take place by our employees in conjunction with the many other agencies and support groups has been nothing short of amazing.  This includes volunteer organizations, as well. I know this does not totally answer your questions, but I am often overwhelmed by the bravery, courage and the outpouring of compassion that I have seen in this community.

“Please note that the situation has stabilized. We, along with the other agencies, have been able to reduce our workload in this area. This has allowed so many that were in need of some rest the ability to do just that—rest. But as our work is never done, that means we are working hard to catch up on all of the other things that we were not able to attend to. I am so proud of the District of Hawai‘i staff and their dedicated work that they do.”

Cracks on Moku Street filled in by residents of Leilani Estates with aggregate material provided by Hawaii County Department of Public Works on July 1, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

Q: According to residents off of Papaya Farms and Noni Farms Road, the county had come through and cut trees and laid cinder. Can you talk about this project and the route?


A: DPW: “The work was to clear and restore portions of the existing railroad alignment to provide evacuation route to local residents and farmers.”

Road blocked by Fissure 8, May 23, 2018. PC: USGS

Q: What is the work on Moku Street that is being done?

A: DPW: “Currently, no work is being done on Moku Street. DPW previously provided a load of aggregate on June 30, 2018, and area residents backfilled the cracks so it could be used as an evacuation route.”

Fires and lava as seen from near Pohoiki Road. PC: Crystal Richard

Q: Is HDOT filling in cracks on other roads?

A: HDOT: “We are actively working on Highway 11 near the entrance to the park. The constant earthquakes have been to take a toll on the roadway. We did some emergency work last week and will return this week to correct additional areas of deformation in the roadway that has occurred. We do have a camera at the entrance to the national park and it can be viewed at We are also running daily trips with our water tankers to clear the roadway of ash.

Moku Street on July 1, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard


Q: Can you share the latest update on the evacuation route through Black Sand Beach Subdivision?

A: HDOT: “We are currently investigating this as an alternate route. We are currently assessing the route for needed improvements. Once we get an idea of what needs to occur on each section of highway, we will begin to work with individual property owners to obtain permission to work within their property. We sincerely hope that this is simply an investigation and preparation that we do not have to use.”

Moku Street in Leilani Estates on July 7, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

Q: During Big Island Now’s interview on Chain of Craters Road, HDOT said heat-resistant cement slabs were being made for Highway 130. Have those slabs been installed?

A: HDOT: Heat resistant panels are currently being made on O‘ahu by Hawaiian Dredging. We hope to have delivery in two to three weeks.”

DPW clearing Railroad Avenue on June 30, 2018. PC: Crystal Richard

Q: In addition to the online cameras, are there any new changes for monitoring Highwat 130? Any changes in the condition of Highway 130? Has the heat intensified recently?

A: HDOT: “Highway 130 is currently stable and does not seem to be undergoing any changes presently. I say this as the entire area is unstable and we need to remain very vigilant in our alert level. Conditions could change at any moment.”

Work on Chain of Craters, May 30, 2018. PC: National Park Service

Q: What are the roadway safety concerns for residents accessing Uncle Robert’s in Kalapana?

A: HDOT: “The safety concerns for anyone who accesses this area is much the same as the concerns that we face with our own employees. This remains an active, unstable—although it seems somewhat stable—environment that is subject to shifting winds that can elevate gas levels and introduce laze or Pele’s Hair. Everyone needs to be alert, understand the dangers, listen to all sources of information and be ready to react immediately to the situation.”

Fissure 8 crosses Pohoiki Road, May 28, 2018, at 718 p.m. PC: Crystal Richard

Q: Who bulldozed the area near the road at the Y-intersection at Pohoiki Road and why?

A: DPW: “To see if it is a potential location for a lava-viewing area.”


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