HAWAI‘I ISLAND: A Look Back at 2018

Listen to this Article
5 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

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.



An emergency alert was sent out at 8:08 a.m. and retracted about 30 minutes later.

  • 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.


Gov. David Ige proclaimed 2018 as the “Year of the Hawaiian.”


Hilo Farmers market vendors were ordered to remove their tarps and tents.

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.
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.


The Hōkūleʻa sailed to Kawaihae on April 30.



The Leilani Estates Restricted Evacuation Zone was established in early June from Pomaikai and Leilani Avenue.

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.


Bronson Kaimana Kaliloa was killed in the line of duty on July 18.


Hurricane Lane left parts of Hilo underwater.



A study revealed that Hawai‘i is more vulnerable to future sea level rise than previously estimated.


The Supreme Court ruled in support of building the Thirty Meter Telescope.


Lloyds of London reversed its original decision and will pay off victims of the Kīlauea lava flows. May 6, 2018, 6 a.m.: Two homes are consumed by the massive flow, and a third is threatened, as the lava advances downslope.


An inverted flag was placed atop Fissure 8 in December 2018.

What will 2019 hold for the Big Island? Keep updated by visiting and by subscribing to our weekly newsletter—a quick summary of news highlights.

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments