Big Isle residents warned to prepare, just in case
County officials urge emergency plans for families and their homes and animals
HILO » Hawaii County has begun advising residents to create their own "family emergency plan" to deal with volcanic gases rather than wait for county instructions.
"We're just telling people you need to start thinking about these things," said county Managing Director Dixie Kaetsu.
Since March 12, a vent at Halemaumau Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has been releasing large amounts of toxic sulfur dioxide gas and dust called volcanic ash.
Tradewinds have been consistently blowing the gas and ash away from populated areas in the park and away from the adjoining Volcano village with an estimated population of 3,500 people.
Those winds are forecast to continue through next week, the National Weather Service said.
In a Civil Defense radio message yesterday, the county said a family emergency plan should include a plan for people to leave the area of their home, a plan to secure their house or business while they are gone, an "evacuation kit" of items they expect to need while away, and plans to care for their pets.
The county has no detailed recommendations for those items yet, Kaetsu said.
But regarding farm animals, the state Department of Agriculture recommends extra feed in case pastures are blanketed by ash, and extra water for the animals, Kaetsu said.
In the opposite direction from Volcano village, in the Kau district where winds have been carrying the gas plume, ash has been newly reported as far away as Naalehu, 30 miles from Halemaumau, Kaetsu said. The previous most distant report was Pahala, 19 miles away.
"They wake up in the morning, and there's a thin layer of dust on everything," she said.
Both the county and the national park continue to work on formal emergency plans. In case of an extreme emergency, Highway 11 through Volcano and the park might be closed, Kaetsu said. But she added, "Nothing is predicted."
In the park, fire control officer Joe Molhoek said two Weather Service remote data collection instruments are in place, and a portable one will be added next week. The critical information the park wants is wind speed and direction, he said.