HAWAI‘I ISLAND: A Look Back at 2018
The year 2018 proved to be a challenging one for Big Island residents.
The year began with an early morning disaster alert message from Hawai‘i County Civil Defense on Jan. 13, warning residents and visitors of an incoming ballistic missile heading toward the islands. About 30 minutes later, officials informed us that there was no pending nuclear attack and that the message was sent in error.
The biggest story on the Big Island started in the middle of the year with the eruption of Kīlauea and the lava flows that covered the Lower East Rift Zone, destroying over 700 homes and displacing thousands of people.
Soon after the volcanic activity halted, an active hurricane season began, causing incredible damage to parts of the Big Island.
Thus far, the year is ending quietly, with efforts continuing to bring back a sense of normalcy to disaster-stricken neighborhoods.
Here is a look back through the past year at some of the Big Island’s most important stories.
- A mumps outbreak occurred, with 770 cases confirmed statewide on Jan. 5.
- The Japanese Sailing Vessel Nippon Maru returned to Hilo on Jan. 6.
- Hawai‘i residents across the state were put on alert by an incoming ballistic missile message that was sent to cell phones on Jan. 13. The alert turned out to be a false alarm. Residents and visitors responded critically to false alarm. Gov. Ige soon issued an Executive Order appointing Brigadier General Kenneth Hara to oversee the comprehensive review of the state’s emergency management enterprise.
- Former President Bill Clinton along with his wife Hillary visited the Big Island and was spotted on Jan. 14.
- On Jan. 26, A nurse from Chicago died while swimming in the Wailuku River. Her body was recovered in March.
- A guide died while conducting a tour in a lava field on Feb. 1. He was later identified as well-known Puna resident Sean King.
- Gov. David Ige proclaimed 2018 as the “Year of the Hawaiian” on Feb. 16.
- A 74-year-old coffee worker was killed in a weather-related incident on Feb. 19.
- A police officer was shot in Hawaiian Beaches on Feb. 21.
- A Pāhoa man was charged with attempted murder of a police officer on Feb. 23.
- New requirements made getting a driver’s licenses or renewal a bit tougher.
- A report released on Feb. 28 revealed that Hawai‘i residents pay the lowest property taxes in the nation.
- Mayor Kim wrote a letter to long-time marijuana activist Roger Christie on Feb. 28, stating he supported the use of medical marijuana.
Rooster farmers flocked to the county building to protest a proposed bill. The bill was quashed at the council meeting being held on March 13.
March 19 marked a decade of eruption activity from Kīlauea.
Hilo Farmers Market was ordered to remove their tarps and tents and on March 25, vendors began the process.
A storm wiped out a Panaewa neighborhood on March 26.
Mayor Harry Kim responded on March 29 to the Hilo Farmers Market regarding the county’s request to have the tents and tarps removed from the world-famous shopping venue.
A swimmer was found dead at Rainbow Falls on March 30.
A stand-up paddle boarder was attacked by a shark at Kua Bay on March 31.
- Gov. Ige signed the “Our Care, Our Choice Act” into law on April 5. The act is often referred to as the death with dignity bill.
- A murder-suicide involving a police officer stunned Puna residents on April 8.
- Mayor Harry Kim was medevaced to The Queens Medical Center in Honolulu on April 26 after experiencing chest pains.
- Southwest Airlines announced plans to service the Hawaiian Islands on April 26.
- A Hawai‘i County police officer was arrested for assault on April 27.
- Alaska Airlines Flight 145 made an emergency landing in Hilo on April 27.
- The Polynesian Voyaging Canoe Hōkūleʻa sailed to Kawaihae on the Big Island on April 30.
The Big Island was forever changed when Kīlauea Volcano started erupting in Leilani Estates in the Puna District on May 3. Gov. David Ige formed a dual-status command to streamline military response to the eruption. All residents of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens were ordered to evacuate due to the lava flows.
- A 6.9 magnitude earthquake shook the Big Island causing power outages for over 14,000 people on May 4.
- Video showed that tensions were high in Leilani Estates on May 29. John Hubbard was arrested and charged for aiming a gun and firing it over their heads of residents and numerous other charges in connection with the incident.
- Lava crossed Highway 132 on June 2.
- A ball python snake was found near the Hilo Landfill on June 5.
- Search and rescue teams set out to find animals that were stranded by lava.
- Fifteen Hawai‘i residents were charged with drug or violent crimes in the U.S. District Court in Honolulu; 13 firearms, 543 rounds of ammunition, approximately 13 pounds of methamphetamine and over $35,000 were seized as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods.
- The County Council voted to increase the General Excise Tax by .25% on June 29.
- Twenty-three passengers on a Lava Ocean Tours vessel were hurt shortly after 6 a.m. on July 16, when a lava bombs showering down on the metal roof of the vessel.
- Officer Bronson Kaliloa was shot and killed in the line of duty on July 18. Four individuals were arrested for allegedly assisting the killer while he was on the run.
- Long-term tour company Jack’s Tours went out of business on July 31 due to the Kīlauea eruption and subsequent closing of Volcanoes National Park.
- Lloyd’s of London Insurance company started to deny insurance claims on July 26 made by victims of the Kīlauea lava flows. Lloyd’s later decided to retract their decision.
- August saw several brush fires; one person was killed in a brush fire-related incident on Aug. 21.
- Hurricane Lane dumped historic amounts of rain on the East Side of the Big Island. Hilo International Airport recorded 36.76 inches of rain between Aug. 22 and midnight on Aug. 25, 2018 leaving parts of Hilo underwater.
- Councilmember Jennifer Ruggles stunned many constituents and residents on Aug. 26, when she announced that she felt that she was in violation of her oath of office. Ruggles did not run for re-election despite her name still being listed. She also placed the State of Hawai‘i on notice sent a letter to Queen’s Health Systems stating that it may be violating the rights of protected persons in Hawai’i.
- The Kīlauea eruption and lava flows in the Lower East Rift Zone greatly diminished as of Aug. 30 and scientists believed that it could be a “lull or end of activity.”
- Hawaiian Airlines will begin flying to Boston.
- Three people were charged on Sept. 19 with attempted murder of a hotel security guard who was simply just doing his job. A fourth person was also charged.
- A study was released on Sept. 27 that determined land area in Hawai‘i is vulnerable to future sea level rise and may be double previous estimates.
- The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation recalled products on Sept. 24.
- Former University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Athletic Director Bill Trumbo passed away at the age of 79.
- The Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 30 in support of building the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).
- Lau Ola (now renamed Big Island Grown) marijuana production facility received “Notice to Proceed” on Oct. 26.
- The Hawai‘i Police Department announced its “Top Cop” of 2018 on Oct. 26.
- The president and CEO of Hawai‘i Tourism Authority announced he was resigning on Oct. 26.
- The county announced on Oct. 19, that it would reopen a road through the recent lava flows to Isaac Hale Beach Park, otherwise known as Pohoiki.
- Thirteen people were rescued after a flash flood at Anna’s Ranch in Waimea swept them over a waterfall on the property on Nov. 3.
- The Kona Community Hospital confirmed a scabies outbreak on Nov. 19.
- Lloyds of London reversed its original decision and announced on Nov. 23 that it will pay off victims of the Kīlauea lava flows.
- The Hawaiʻi Island Police Department investigated an officer-involved shooting in Puna on Nov. 27.
- The Hilo Sears store clarified on Nov. 27, that it would be up for auction.
- The Hawai‘i Department of Health Clean Water Branch announced on Nov. 30 that it was pursuing an environmental enforcement action against the Hū Honua Bioenergy facility in Pepe‘ekeo on Hawai‘i Island.
- An inverted Hawaiian flag was placed atop Fissure 8 at the beginning of December.
- Isaac Hale Beach (Pohoiki) was reopened to the public on Dec. 6.
- Hawai‘i Electric Light proposed a 3.4% rate increase on Dec. 14.
- Hū Honua Bioenergy was cited for an illegal wastewater discharge on Dec. 19.
- Skeletal remains were found in Kona on Dec. 18.
- Hawai‘i was ranked as the healthiest state in 2018 in a report released on Dec. 22.
- The Department of Health issued a warning after animal waste was discharged on Dec. 24, at a Big Island dairy farm.
- Ikaika Marzo and the “Aloha Crew” fed hungry Pāhoa residents on Christmas Day.
- A man and woman were arrested on Christmas Day in Leilani Estates following complaints of possible trespassing.
What will 2019 hold for the Big Island? Keep updated by visiting BigIslandNow.com and by subscribing to our weekly newsletter—a quick summary of news highlights.