Alaskans describe aftermath of Hawaii eruption
From devastated homes to toxic gas, Alaskans who have seen the effects of the Kilauea volcano's eruption in Hawaii are telling their stories.
Kelsi Ivanoff, from Dillingham, has been in Hawaii visiting relatives. She was on the Big Island last week when it was rattled by two large earthquakes -- a 5.4 and a 6.9.
"Growing up in Alaska you experience earthquakes all the time," Ivanoff said. "But I was nervous going through these ones because its not the ones we go through. There are not associated with an active volcano in the island that you are on."
Ivanoff was 60 miles away from the erupting volcano but says she has friends in the area. She left the Big Island two days ago and now is about 150 miles north.
"I know since I left there has been a big gas eruption," Ivanoff said. "You can still see from where I am at, we're up on the hill so you can see Lanai, Maui and Kaho'olawe in the background. Today you can finally see them. The fog's been pretty thick in this whole area."
Kim Larson, who is from Seward but splits her time between Alaska and Hawaii, is currently on the Big Island. She lives in the Leilani Estates area, where most of the damage from vents and lava has occurred.
Larson fears her island home may be lost, as state authorities warned people on the Big Island's southeast corner that a wind change would bring rising levels of sulfur dioxide gas -- which is fatal if inhaled in large quantities.
"We tried to go in to check on the house but couldn't see how bad it was," Larson said. "We passed over cracks on the road and more cracks. My house sits in a dip and all this gas would be settling there. Some state guys were just there and wouldn't stay with gas masks."
Larson, who is staying about 25 miles away in Hilo, said that "I just don't know what to do." She can only imagine what her neighborhood now looks like.
"Chances of my house (surviving) is about nil tonight," Larson said. "It's getting pretty intense and the sulfur dioxide is off the charts."
Troops from out of state have been called in to help deal with the ongoing emergency, with roughly 40 homes destroyed to date by lava flows and fires.
"There are National Guard teams from both Hawaii and Arizona that are assisting civil authorities with the reading of sulfur dioxide levels," said Lt. Col. Charles Anthony, with the State of Hawaii's Department of Defense. "There haven't been any fatalities and the lava flow itself is slow and steady, so everyone should be able to evacuate out in a timely enough manner."
Kilauea may be entering a phase of explosive eruptions not seen in nearly a century. If that happens it could hurl rocks weighing up to 12 tons for half a mile, shoot pebble-sized projectiles for miles and dust downwind towns with volcanic ash and smog -- or what locals have already dubbed "vog."
"Some people choose to stay in their homes until the very last minute," Anthony said. "That is not something we advise. We advise them to evacuate now if they haven't done so already. Some people in the Puna district have sought medical attention for breathing issues related to the vog. As far as I know, no serious health problems yet."
For the Alaskans, the generosity on display as islander help each other has a familiar feel.
"A lot of people are there to help, It reminds me a lot of Alaska," Ivanoff said. "People are willing to lend a hand with trucks, trailers, whatever people need."
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