TROPICAL VISIONS VIDEO INC. / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
Lava flowed across a road yesterday in the Royal Gardens subdivision in lower Puna on the Big Island.
Pele turns up the heat
Flowing lava isolates Big Island homes
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HILO » Two thin lava flows have cut deeply down the center of the nearly abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision, burning three decaying structures and cutting off road access for the only two people who still live there.
Even after residents Jack Thompson and Dean Schneider, living a half-mile from each other, were unable to ride their motorcycles into the big, empty subdivision 25 miles south of Hilo, they simply walked several miles to their homes, said Hawaii County Civil Defense official Neil Gyotoku.
But even that could become impossible if the flows continue all the way to the sea, cutting off their hiking path.
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COURTESY U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
The steep, paved roads in Royal Gardens make easy pathways for lava. Here, lava flowed down Prince Avenue yesterday across Pikake Street in the foreground.
HILO » A long thin finger of lava missed Dean Schneider's open-air shelter in Royal Gardens subdivision in the last few days by about 700 feet and continued down the steep slope, burning three abandoned structures in the process, geologist Tim Orr said.
Schneider told Orr, from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, that he was not worried. If lava eventually takes his modest home, he has little money invested in it anyway, he said.
Two flows of fluid pahoehoe lava were cutting through the 3-mile-long hillside subdivision 25 miles south of Hilo yesterday.
They created more inconvenience than danger for Schneider and his only neighbor, Jack Thompson, who lives farther away from the Prince Avenue flow that came close to Schneider.
A second flow came right down Royal Avenue, the main street of the nearly empty community that has been hit by repeated flows since 1983.
With Royal Avenue turned into a river of rock, the two bachelors can no longer ride their motorcycles across older lava and up Royal to their homes.
That did not seem to bother them. They decided to walk the several miles from the nearest road to get to their isolated homes.
"I guess they're seasoned people," said Civil Defense official Duane Hosaka.
The nonchalance of two residents and county officials stands in contrast to the flows of 25 years ago, which resulted in repeated evacuation orders in a community that was thinly populated even then.
The difference today is that there is almost nothing left to destroy.
Civil Defense does not refer to buildings in the subdivision as houses, but instead calls them "structures," said agency official Neil Gyotoku.
Some, like Schneider's place, do not have four walls. On some the roof has collapsed, Gyotoku said. Roughly another dozen uninhabited structures remain, he said.
Practically all of them are overgrown with vegetation, said geologist Orr. He was part of a team of three geologists who were brought by helicopter into Royal Gardens yesterday and spent 13 hours monitoring the flows.
Two flows, probably a single one that divided, entered the subdivision on Sunday, the observatory said. Two structures were destroyed by Tuesday, and the third was destroyed by yesterday, the observatory said.
Royal Gardens is divided into two areas, a green zone of vegetation on an inland slope, and a flat coastal area that was hot and uninviting even before lava covered much of it in 2004-2007.
The two flows have now reached the coastal flatlands, the observatory said. As long as nothing interrupts the upland supply of lava, it could continue across the coastal flats and into the sea, the observatory said.
That would leave Schneider and Thompson with the decision of whether to hike across crusted rock with lava flowing underneath. And it would leave Civil Defense with the decision of whether to let them try.
VOG alert issued
Big Island residents should prepare for continuing high levels of vog that have been monitored earlier this week, a state Department of Health news release said yesterday.
Communities near Kilauea volcano could be most affected by elevated levels of sulfur dioxide, which can lead to vog, because of recent volcano activity, it said.
High concentrations of sulfur dioxide in the air can cause problems in people with respiratory issues.
On Oahu, vog might linger for the rest of the week, barring any changes in wind direction, the National Weather Service said.
Typically, tradewinds blow vog away, but southeasterly (Kona) winds have pushed the haze into areas of the Big Island and Oahu.
While a light tradewind returned to the islands yesterday, it was not strong enough to disperse the vog, said Weather Service meteorologist Bob Burke. Today a southeasterly wind is expected to return, possibly worsening voggy conditions.