On Hawaii's big island, evacuate or be arrested
Kim Larson from Seward, Alaska, has a home on Hawaii’s Big Island. Her home is still standing, but she’s not sure if she’ll ever be able to live in it again.
“Everything is ruined,” Larson said. “My water is acid rain-- it's just been soaked in toxic gas for a month now. I mean the roof, which is metal, has to be completely corroded. Everything I own is pretty much in the house and now soaked in toxic gas.”
Tuesday morning’s lava flow took out more than 70 homes. The total number of homes lost is now unofficially nearing 200. On Friday, the count was at 87.
Kim Larson’s neighbor, Stacy Welch, is one of the people who would make frequent visits to the neighborhood and bring back information. Like Kim, her home is still standing, even in the shadows of fissure number eight, the most active fissure on the island.
“My yard is covered in ash and cinder,” Welch said. “My porch is covered, my pool and water ruined. Trees are gone. It’s total devastation here. We are currently locked out of the neighborhood because we are in a no-entry zone. If we do go back in, we face arrest.”
While Stacy and her two daughters stay in a nearby shelter, Kim Larson is 100 miles away.
“I’m living in a friend’s Quonset hut,” Larson said. “There is only one hotel on the island that allows dogs. In the hut, I have a roof, a toilet and a little gas stove/heater. That’s about it.”
Kim says she’s thought about leaving the island and heading back home to Seward, but she can’t leave her dogs behind.
“I have an old dog who’s 13-years-old,” Larson said. “His name is Cody, and he’s lost the use of his back legs. If he were able to walk, he’d be able to fly. He’s made many trips with me. I can’t leave him behind.”
Larson says she can stay in her friend’s hut until August but then has to find another place.
“I’m not sure what I am going to do,” Larson said. “I’m waiting for insurance on the house. I have insurance covering it if it is uninhabitable. It is, and with a $20,000 policy, I’ve only received about $300. The insurance guy thought he was Indiana Jones and was going to somehow get in the neighborhood to take a look. He couldn’t so he said he’d come back in two weeks. I’m not in dire need for money like other people but it’s starting to turn that way.”
Stacy Welch is one of the many people needing extra help.
“The Red Cross and Salvation Army give us plenty to eat,” Welch said. “There are no problems there. What a lot of us really need is money, cash. We need our GoFundMe accounts stocked up. I, and many other, people have lost our jobs because of this. We need cash to pay for gas to get around, to pay our insurance bills and phone bills.”
The Salvation Army, Red Cross and church groups are a few of the many organizations doing everything they can to help.
“We’ve served over 18,000 meals since we started in early May,” Salvation Army Alaska Disaster Director Jenni Raglund said. “Once people get back in their homes, they'll need everything from appliances to clothing to household items. So, we're giving away some of those items now that we do have blankets and pillows and we've had a limited amount of camping gear come in that we've been able to share.”
There's no timetable as to when life on the big island will settle back to normal. In the meantime, everyone is doing the best they can while having to make some pretty difficult choices.
For the second time, lava from the Kilauea volcano is pouring into the ocean. This is causing toxic steam with tiny particles of glass to be released into the air.
The lava is covering a total of eight square miles and even took out the mayor’s home Tuesday morning.
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