Living on the slopes of an active volcano, we know it's a possibility. Nature does what it does, and we clear the way. It's not as surprising as it is heartbreaking and breathtaking...
On August 18th, lava flowing from Pu'u 'O'o vent made an unexpected appearance, then unstoppable dash towards Pahoa, traveling underground, in cracks, and through the forest at 100 - 400 meters/day. We'd like to show you what's happening here in Puna from a local's perspective.
As of 10/26 Pele announced her entrance in Pahoa by crossing Apa'a street, and the Civil Defense responded by handing out evacuation orders. As of this writing, the flow is a mere 300 yards from the main road in Pahoa, and 100 yards from the nearest resident.
Barring a miraculous event, these will be the final days before our historic, colorful village of Pahoa - heart of Lower Puna - is buried by an impenetrable flow of molten rock. At 3000 F, there is no stopping Pele from where she intends to go. It's a slow motion disaster, and the town is helpless.
After dozing Pahoa, USGS scientists expect a wide flow to cross Highway 130, directly towards two subdivisions where approximately 9000+ people will be gathering their belongings and helplessly bidding farewell to their homes and neighborhoods.
The flow is estimated to be between 300-460 ft wide and 10 feet tall, moving approximately 2 - 15 meters per hour. At this rate, it will reach the main highway by mid-November, and the subdivisions of Hawaiian Beaches & Hawaiian Shores soon thereafter. She's reclaiming towns, highways, and subdivisions, while paving a fiery road to the sea, and separating Lower Puna from the rest of Hawaii. (Perhaps this isPele's answer for reinstating the Kingdom of Hawaii in Kalapana?)
Small as it is, our little "city center" has been the lifeblood of a community whose resources are sparse already, and many of whom have placed their efforts in becoming self-sufficient. For the families and farmers of Kapoho, Kalapana, and Pohiki, Pahoa is a the nearest hub for food, gas, propane, commerce, and county water. Without it, and after Pele divides the main highway and severs access to Hilo, residents will be testing their self-sufficiency (even after alternate routes to Hilo are built). But "Punatics"are notorious for their resiliency, remarkable self-sufficiency, and near tribal cooperation. If the people of any district in Hawai'i could sustain the hardship of geographical isolation, it would be the "Punatics" of Puna Makai (Lower Puna).
Populations of affected areas are shown below.
Where will all these people go? Housing in Hilo is already tight, and with classes at UH Hilo have begun, rental openings are a legitimate concern. And what about the local businesses? Puna is the second most impoverished (and perhaps most under-served) district on all the Hawaiian Islands. We need all the small business and local services we can get!
An evacuation road for the 9000+ residents is being built. The route will likely be a narrow, gravel road which will hours of distance for residents of Lower Puna heading towards Hilo (a drive which would've been 15 minutes). Not to mention, Chain of Craters road has been closed for years due to high emissions of SO2. (Mahalo to Dr. Mark Kimura for creating these infographics.)
You can see the plumes of smoke from our location, burning through the forest. Within weeks, devastating the unfortunate farms, homes, and businesses below. Our hearts go out to them as they provide Pele with final offerings of gin and tobacco, before packing their bags.
Our farm, roastery and home are safe. As the crow flies we live 10 miles west from the lava flow in the Puna Makai (upper Puna) town of Mountain View. Oh, so thankful!
The following personal photos were taken by a Mary H., who ventured towards the lava advancing behind Kaohe Homesteads. (Mary can be contacted through Bohemiantravelers.com. )
Many of you have asked "How can we help?" Frankly, I don't have any good answers for that at this time ( besides making offerings of gin and tobacco to Pele, from wherever you are). UPDATE: If you'd like to make a financial donation or purchase from a business in Pahoa, please contact us. We'd be happy to coordinate logistics. Heck, we can even ship non-perishable goods from a business in Pahoa, right to your home.
Here at the farm, we're clearing space. It's possible the farm and roastery may convert into a temporary refugee center for affected "Punatics". Aside from that, we will continue with business as usual, by roasting and harvesting your coffees.