Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano’s Increased Lava Flow Causes Evacuations

Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii; Photograph by Eric Liefer
Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii; Photograph by Eric Leifer

As Kilauea lava flows reach the outskirts of Pahoa and residents prepare to evacuate, Young Explorer Eric Leifer offers a tribute his dynamic and often scary island home.

Nearly 31 years ago the Big Island of Hawaii changed entirely. The Pu’u O’o Vent, now a significant part of the complex plumbing system that defines the Kilauea Volcano, was born under fire on the evening of January 3, 1983. The flows that followed violently forced their way to the surface in a long and dramatic series of eruptions that have been nearly continuous to this very day. As the lava began to travel toward its ultimate end and a spectacular confluence the great Pacific Ocean, it surely would not go quietly into that distant night. Within the next eight years both the town of Kalapana, a classic island community and historic fishing village, along with the world-renowned black sand beach of Kaimu, would be among its greatest casualties. Indeed, Kilauea does not negotiate. She takes no prisoners.

Today, the city of Pahoa is facing a similar fate as lava flows from the same vent—and ironically the same eruption—have all but sealed the fate of tens of thousands of residents not only in the city of Pahoa, but the District of Puna as a whole. Locals are now beginning their final preparations for evacuation as the flow front entered the outskirts of Pahoa early this morning and evacuations have begun. Over the next few weeks keep those in mind who are bidding adieu to their homes, their property, and their entire way of life. Pray, my friends, for Puna.

Tonight, let us all raise our glasses to the Big Island of Hawaii and to the late and great city of Pahoa. To locals and strangers alike who have walked the streets of this funky little island town, and to those of us who call this dynamic and often scary island home. And even to those who have never been. It does not take a local to know that Hawaii is one of the most amazing places in the world. Paradise, however, comes with consequences.

Tonight, let us all drink to mysterious and mystical land known as Puna. To the hippies and Hawaiians, to the haoles and the tourists, and all the other crazy and beautiful individuals that have fallen in love with this equally maddening landscape. From Poihiki to Kapoho and Ahalanui to Lava Tree, down to the banks of Kaimu and up the flanks of Kilauea herself. Let us remember the late nights at Uncle Robert’s or timeless days spent upon the sun-drenched shores of Kahena. Let us drink tonight not only to the loss of one of the greatest of highways, but more importantly to the memories made and the good times time had along it.

The Hawaiians never say goodbye. Instead, they say A Hui Hou, so long for now. Until we meet again.


  1. L
    Volcano Village
    October 25, 2014, 2:45 pm

    A tad sensational. Please don’t write off Pahoa. It will still be accessible as will Uncle Roberts. The huge influx of tourists to see the town “cut off” by lava will do more to change Pahoa than the lava.

  2. Eric Leifer
    October 27, 2014, 3:35 am

    Thanks for the comment!

    Ah, certainly not writing off Pahoa. Love that town. Though still accessible, the eventual 2-3 hour detour via chain of craters road will make it quite difficult. I also fear of the long term forecast for the town, as the flow gets wider and wider over time.

    And I have a feeling the county will not allow public access, like they have been the last few days. For I too am scared to think how many people would be out there. Thousands upon thousands. I am a huge supporter of public access to the natural world, but this is a valid exception.

  3. taylor
    November 19, 2014, 2:30 pm

    What is the causes