I knew when I landed that I was home.
I lived and worked on the east side of the Big Island. I affectionately called it the wet, sloppy side. It was jungle-esque with lots of rain and wind. The west side was the dry side with lava fields and sun scorched beaches. It was perfect. All of it.
Earthquakes were a common part of island life. Most were barely noticeable. A few were big enough to cause rock slides (an inconvenience) or power outages (a bigger inconvenience). A couple caused serious damage and shut down schools or bridges while experts could assess structural damage.
I spent a lot of time outside, exploring the island. I made several trips to the volcano, which had been active for some thirty-five years, belching volcanic ash into the air (called vog). After a hard rain, the wind would blow the vog out to sea and I could see Maui from my classroom. I was told that before Kilauea became active, you could see Maui every day.
One of the first things I learned when I got to the island was that it was divided up into sections, numbered 1 through 9. The lower the number, the more likely to be in the path of destruction, should the volcano erupt. The higher the number, the less likely. I lived and worked in an area that was numbered 8 on the scale. I regularly went to Hilo (a 3) and Kona (a 4).
What is happening now is lava melted the earth in certain places (causing vents to release the heat). In some places, lava has exploded out of the vents, in others, lava has slowly pushed up through the vents. In both cases, lava is actively moving from land to sea (because gravity is causing the flow from higher elevations to lower elevations … even if it never actually gets to the sea, it is flowing downhill in the path of least resistance).
I am very sorry for the loss of property for those in the path of the lava flow. For those who would ask: why do people live in such a dangerous area? The answer is because it’s the only place they could afford. Living in paradise is expensive.
I hope the first-responders are safe. I hope my Ohana are all safe as well. Both are very on my mind as I have watched the events unfold over the past few days.
Beautiful and deadly. That's my island.
And whoever pissed off Pele? Please make amends before she does even more damage.