Lava Report: Pele Pauses Again

After inching to within a half mile of Highway 130 on Monday, Pele appears to be backing and filling again.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported at 11 a.m. yesterday that the leading tongue of lava had stalled 580 yards above Pahoa Market Place, though there were a number of breakouts “immediately” above the flow’s leading edge and at various points further upslope, including near the old True Geothermal drilling pad in the Wao Kele O Puna forest.  A Hawaii County Civil Defense report at 7:30 this morning confirmed that the front “remains active however has not advanced since yesterday.”

In other lava news, the Postal Service disclosed its lava contingency plans at a public meeting in Pahoa yesterday afternoon. The Post Office has leased extra space in Kea’au in case it needs to evacuate its Pahoa facility.  However, it does not plan to close the Pahoa Post Office unless it’s directly threatened by the lava, and right now, that office does not appear to be in harm’s way.

Letter: State a “Lava Nazi”?

Dear Mayor Billy Kenoi and Governor Ige,

As myself and several friends were reminiscing about what has happened to Pahoa since Hurricane Iselle and the approach of Pele, a little jingle came to our minds.  After reading the Hawaii Tribune Herald front page on Christmas Day,  I have modified Number 1 and 2, and the song needs to be made public, because this is the reality we live now in lower Puna.  Sorry Billy, but as the head of all emergency operations in Pahoa, you get all the credit:

On the 12th Day of Christmas, Mayor Billy gave to Pahoa,
12 Stinky Dumpsters
11 Enhanced Penalties
10 Days Between Updates
9 Thousand Empty Houses
8 Circling GreenHarvest Copters
7 Weeks of Detours
6 Evacuation Notices
4 Schools a Movin’
3 Wrapped Poles
2 more Empty Marketplaces
and 1 Puna Geothermal Venture Well…

Yep, Hawaii now has the reputation of “Lava Nazi” when it comes to anyone seeing active moving lava.  We now live in a constant “State of Emergency” and the government has it’s hands tied because of “Liability.”  No new businesses can come in to replace the bailed ones – lack of insurance.  You can’t see the lava because of insurance liability, the town of Pahoa is effectively, how can I put it mildly – “shut down”  in anticipation of…… perhaps the lava is coming… no…yes… no, it stopped again… darn, now where do we shop???

Please, Mr. Kenoi and Mr. Ige, there must be a way in the new year to change the way our government is handling lava viewing and helping preserve the business-friendly structure of Pahoa, the “Aloha”  reputation of Hawaii and the sanity of Puna residents in general!  Look what has been done to Pahoa so far, and Pele has only taken one house.

How do other countries handle live volcanoes and the impact to surrounding communities?  How did our own Civil Defense handle the lava the last 30-40-50-100 years?  What are we doing here, because how the people are being treated, makes us believe you wish all us humans to leave the area so you can industrialize or something….  There is no doubt we can do much better in 2015!

Sara Steiner

Lava Report: Pele Creeps Forward

Pele is on the move again, but not very quickly.  After over a week of spreading and back-filling, the lava is once again moving downslope on 25=yard-wide front.  But according to a Civil Defense report at 7:30 this morning, the flow has only moved 15 yards downhill. The leading edge is still .6 miles from Highway 130 and about 700 yards from Pahoa Marketplace.  The flow has been angling gradually east-northeastward from the predicted path of steepest descent, in the direction of the new Pahoa police and fire stations, but both the stations and Pahoa Market Place remain within it’s possible path.


Police Make Arrest in Police Shooting Incident

Police charged a  a 33 year-old Mountain View woman with two counts of attempted murder as well as second degree theft and contempt of court in relation to an incident in Mountain View yesterday.

Ashley Brooks De Morales allegedly drove a stolen truck in “a threatening manner” toward police attempting to intercept her at a traffic light near the Mountain View School yesterday. An officer fired one shot in response.  Detectives acting on an anonymous tip arrested her without incident at her home today and recovered the stolen black Nissan truck.  She remains in custody while the investigation continues.

Police are still seeking witnesses and information from the public re the incident.

“Hazardous Odor” Assaults Waiakea Intermediate

Hawaii County police and fire department personnel responded to reports of “hazardous odor” at Hilo’s Waiakea Intermediate School on West Puainako Street shortly after 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 17.  At least one student reportedly became dizzy from the fumes, which the Fire Department’s HAZMAT team concluded had probably “originated off-site and was delivered by the wind. The smell quickly dissipated, and an “all clear” was issued for students and faculty within an hour.



Lava News: Puna Community Medical Center Packs Up

From Dan Domizio, Puna Community Medical Center:
Yesterday, December 16th, Civil Defense walked door to door in our Pahoa Marketplace and gave us the order we all knew was coming, “Prepare to Evacuate!”. The evacuation order proper would be coming in the next few days. The gas station was pumping out the last of it’s fuel (premium only at $3.80/gal, all the rest was already gone), the supermarket is closing and packing out today, the ACE Hardware and Lex Brodie’s Tire center will be gone by tomorrow. As I pulled into gas up, I realised that I was encountering the first immediate consequences of the lava. Today, there will be no gas and the tanks will be filled with a foam and water mix to prevent explosions, and essentially make them unusable for the forseeable future.

Today, a 40 foot shipping container donated by Matson Lines will be parked next to our “Annex”clinic. The new clinic space we have been hastily creating out of a 3 bedroom appartment about a mile away on the south end of Pahoa Village, is a day or two away from being “operational.”  We will be packing up our current clinic, and either putting the supplies and equipment to use in the annex, or storing it in the container where it will wait to see how things sort out over the next days/weeks/months. The entire transition is fearsomely complicated, involving our ability to provide services, the lives of our staff and our clients, the hemorrhaging of our financial reserves, and the threat to the very survival of this town. To be doing this at all seems surreal, to be doing under time pressure is simply nuts.

As I write, it seems clear that no matter how circumstances twist and turn in the immediate future, life will never be what it was before. The community will likely be dealt a serious if not fatal blow. The Clinic and the lives that have revolved around it for the past 5+ years, will survive and continue to offer services, but the fabric will be a new and unproven one. We can only be certain that our optimism and dedication will remain intact and that PCMC will continue to be an inspiration and a fine example of how a community can, in fact, organize to meet its own needs.

Happy Holidays!

If there is someone you know looking for an update, please share this message.

Stolen Car Leads to Police Shooting Incident

A  police officer discharged his firearm in Mountain View this afternoon while attempting to intercept an alleged stolen pickup truck.

At approximately 2 p.m.,  officers, who were “on Route 11 attending to an unrelated incident,” encountered the  pickup  and attempted to stop it  just south of the Kulani Road intersection in Mt. View.  According to the police press release, “The vehicle sped toward the officers in a threatening manner. In response, an officer fired one shot toward the vehicle which continued southbound on Route 11 toward the Hawai?i Volcanoes National Park.”

The stolen vehicle is described as a black 1989 Nissan hard body single-cab pickup, License Plate No. ZBC-027.with over-sized tires, a mesh type tailgate and a red, yellow, and green sticker on the driver’s side rear window.

Anyone with any information on the location of the stolen pickup or the identity of the suspects are asked to call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 935-3311, or  call CrimeStoppers at 961-8300. CrimeStoppers callers can remain anonymous, but  may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

“As is standard practice in any officer-involved shooting, the Police Department’s Area I Criminal Investigation Section will conduct a criminal investigation into the shooting and the Office of Professional Standards will conduct an administrative investigation,” according to HPD.

–Alan McNarie

Lava Report: Flow Closes to within a Mile


Hawaii County Civil Defense reported this morning that the lava flow has closed its distance from the from the intersection of Pahoa Village Road and Highway 130 to one mile.

“As the flow activity continues to show signs of advancement, businesses in the Pahoa Market Place may be taking necessary steps to prepare for a possible evacuation. Motorists are advised to drive with caution and to be prepared for increased traffic and large vehicles in the area,” Civil Defense’s 8 a.m. message stated.  Multiple news sources have reported that Malama Market close on Thursday, and evacuate its store’s contents and equipment. The gas station is scheduled to close on Friday.


Lava Report: New Map Counts Down to Pahoa Marketplace

Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory has released a new map of the lava flow, with a rather grim new feature: it marks off the distance from the flow front to the edge of the Pahoa Marketplace shopping center in increments four tenths of a mile.

The new map, the first since December 9, shows that the lava has descended about six tenths of a mile in three days since Pele definitely turned down the “steepest descent path” toward the shopping center  after pooling for a few days in a relatively flat area where it could have either gone toward Pahoa Marketplace or down another steepest-descent path toward the lower portion of Hawaiian Paradise Park. As of 2:30 p.m. the lava had advanced to to a point just above the 1.6 mile tick on the dotted blue  path.

The map came, however, with a caution: the marked steepest-descent paths are far from infallible.

“Steepest-descent path analysis is based on the assumption that the DEM perfectly represents the earth’s surface. DEMs, however, are not perfect, so the blue lines on this map can be used to infer only approximate flow paths,” note the  HVO Web site.

Pahoa Marketplace, opened in 2004, was the first shopping center built at the crossroads where the Pahoa Bypass diverges from the former highway that runs through downtown Pahoa,.  The center houses Malama Market, the area’s largest supermarket; Lex Brody Tires, and a number of boutique shops. Across the street, a newer shopping center houses Long’s Drugs and other businesses. Since the two centers were built, a smaller downtown grocery and all of pharmacies in downtown Pahoa have closed.  The flow’s new path could also threaten Pahoa’s new police and fire stations and cut off the Hawaiian Beaches and Hawaiian Shores subdivisions.



United Way Seeking Volunteers to Help with Lava Viewing

From Hawaii Island United Way, via Patty Hickey Rechtman:


HIUW is assisting the County/Civil Defense with traffic control and parking for the Public Lava Viewing scheduled to begin on December 17th. We are looking to provide 7 volunteers per shift, two shifts per day. (Shift 1: 7:45am – 1:30pm Shift 2: 1:15pm – 6:45pm)

Right now we are taking signups up until January 18.

You can tell us your availability by clicking on the buttons at our disaster response portal:

We will be scheduling soon, and hope to be able to fill the slots to help with this project. We will contact you for scheduling once we know your availability.  Mahalo in advance!

DLNR is Looking for a Few Good Castaways

Albatrosses and volunteer tents at Kure

By Alan McNarie

Want to experience life on a genuine desert island?

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources is looking for a few volunteers who are aren’t daunted by the prospect of living for six months  on a patch of sand with only  five or six  other people, about 100 to 125  monk seals, and several thousand sea birds for company.    The volunteers would be doing  field work at Kure Atoll, the northernmost atoll  in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, from mid-March until until the end of September next year.   Kure, part of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, is located 1,400 miles from Honolulu.  A bird sanctuary since the days of Theodore Roosevelt, it  serves as the nesting ground for 18 species of seabirds including  shearwaters, petrels, tropicbirds, boobies, frigatebirds, albatrosses, terns and noddies, and plays seasonal host to  migratory birds from North America to Asia. Though it has only one tiny permanent island, Green Island, its 80,000 acres of reefs host 28 species of stony coral and a huge variety of fish, from sharks and groupers to knifejaws and masked angelfish, including rare and endangered species seldom seen in the main Hawaiian islands. The reefs are dotted with several historic shipwrecks.

“The ability to live and work in close quarters with a small group of people for an extended period of time is of the utmost importance. Fieldworkers are given their own 8’ x 10’ room within a 16’ X 32’ wooden bunkhouse, or if necessary within the main building. The main building has shared kitchen and office space, as well as living space,” notes a DLNR press release about the job. “The seasonal field teams consist of 6 to 7 people…. Contact on Kure is limited to text only e-mail (no pictures or attachments) or satellite phone. Calls are limited to 20 minutes/month. There is no Internet or cell phone service available.”

The main task of the volunteers would be battling invasive plants, which threaten both native plants and the habitat of the birds that nest there. Other duties could include “big-headed ant monitoring and treatments; Laysan duck monitoring; native plant propagation and out-planting; bird surveys, nest counts, and banding; Hawaiian monk seal monitoring; vegetation surveys; marine debris removal; data collection and entry; weekly meetings; management includes weekly and seasonal summary reporting.”  Those on the team would also be expected to help with camp maintenance and chores outside of work hours. 

Requirements include  the ability to “walk 10 miles per day with a 40 lb. pack over uneven terrain, lift 50 lbs, work for long hours in hot/sunny, rainy/cold conditions, and bend or stoop for long periods of time; volunteers would also need to  know how to swim, have 20/20 or corrected vision,  and possess  “knowledge of Hawaiian plant species and plant identification skills.” “Desired” skills  or experience include “invasive species control; native plant propagation and out-planting; avian reproductive monitoring; shorebird and seabird monitoring and identification; binocular/spotting scope use” an “data management” as well as “familiarity with Excel and ArcGIS; GPS usage,”  carpentry, solar equipment maintenance, and small boat experience. The hours aren’t 9 to 5, but workers would be expected to put in a total of about 40 hours per week.

Volunteers would  need to supply their own transportation to O`ahu a week before deployment; DLNR would provide transportation by ship and plane to the site.  The state agency would also apply field clothes and gear.  Because of the danger of contamination from more invasive species, any clothing  or other “soft items” (shoes, straps, etc.) that volunteers bring along would need to be purchased new and frozen for 48 hours prior to departure. “Hard” items such as cameras or musical instruments may be allowed if they pass inspection, but may also be frozen, fumigated or quarantined if the need arises.

Invasive plants are a significant management concern because they displace native plant habitat and seabird nesting areas, entrap seabirds in dense vegetative mass, and out-compete native plants. This position is a unique opportunity to protect and recover seabird habitat,” notes the press release.

Those interested should send a resume, cover letter and three references to Matthew Saunter at

For more information about Kure Atoll, see the Kure Atoll Conservancy website:, Kure Atoll Facebook Page, and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument   website:


Letter: Christmas Camouflage

Dear Billy & Gregor,

I just had an excellent idea that would make good publicity for the businesses of Pahoa as well as fun for the people of Pahoa.

I was thinking if you got HELCO to paint the 3 poles green up to the top of the chain link part, then people of the community and visitors could donate ornaments to be hung on the chain link sections, and I am offering to paint the outhouse like a Christmas present, or just a plain ol’ thatched hut because people coming to Pahoa should not see a military truck, camo people, and a toilet as their first impression of Pahoa.

In Love,



Hawaii News — Pahoa Developer and Contractor Pitches ‘Lava Bridge’

Bryson's flexible portable safe lava tube bridgeBy Pooch Harrington

Bryson Kuwahara has pitched to the newly elected governor a plan for a “flexible, portable safe lava tube bridge” he says will ensure access to lower Puna once the lava crosses key arterial roads in the area.

Kuwahara is planning a $20 million shopping center on his nearly 10 acre lot near the intersection of Kahakai Boulevard and Pahoa Village Road.  Construction commenced earlier this year after council members approved a commercial rezoning for Kuwahara’s property at 15-2714 Pahoa Village Road.

Since construction started, Pahoa has been threatened by lava flowing from the Pu’u O’o vent of the Kilauea volcano.

Kuwahara wrote the governor on Dec. 5 and submitted an open letter to Big Island Chronicle urging residents who support his idea to contact the governor and both state and county officials to encourage them to implement it.

“What we are trying to do is to ask the State of Hawaii to support and fund the idea to set up a bridge over the lava so the people of Pahoa would have access to Highway 130,” Kuwahara writes. “This bridge would be built mostly on private land with the approval signed by the property owners involved.”

His pitch offers scenarios for both a one-lane road and a two-lane road.

“After the flow has formed a thick enough crust,” which Kuwahara estimates to be about a week with no break outs, “bring in a large excavator that is able to level the road alignment and extend over the hardened surface.”

“Then, haul in coarse rough 6″ plus red cinder to crate a two feet thick leveled roadway surface, slowly reaching out with the excavator boom and building a road.” Kuwahara refers to Ken Hon, professor of geology and volcanology at UH Hilo, who maintains that rough red cinder has many air pockets and void that dissipates heat.

Kuwahara states that one of the most readily available pre-engineered platform flat rack frame is the 8′ x 40′ x 2′ thick Matson deck used for ocean transports.

“These frames can carry the weight of heavy truck traffic,” he notes, adding that they have been used for building bridges.

“Think how strong these frames must be to withstand the punishment of being stacked very high and all of the motions of a ship at rough seas,” Kuwahara writes.

He suggests attaching three lengths of the frames in a row with a heavy chain connection or a hinge system, creating a “120′ flexible two join deck for vehicle traffic.”

“Because lava can inflate and deflate with volume flowing underneath the surface, the joints can flex,” he writes.

He notes that according to Hon, the tube system will develop somewhere in the lava field within a month of the flow.  “This is the most dangerous area to cross over,” Kuwahara writes.  “Depending on the volume of lava coming down, the top area of the tube is very weak and unstable.  This tube can be full or empty on the top part, creating a void that can collapse with weight.” He suggests that the tube’s location be identified through thermal imaging equipment, and then the three section deck he envisions can be placed and centers over the tube.  “Install some kind of combination of thermal blankets, stainless pipe and water cooling system in this hot area,” he writes.

Kuwahara offers schematics to illustrate his vision.

He states that the cost for one flat rack frame is $10,000. Six frames would be needed for a single-land road, so the cost would be approximately $60,000.  Twelve frames would be needed for a double-land road, so the cost would be about $120,000.

“Should the lava tube have a breakout above the bridge area, it is possible to lift and move the entire frame, using three bulldozers,” Kuwahara writes.  “Attach two bulldozers with chains on the ripper, lift up, pull and using the third bulldozer to push from the rear, to after, away from oncoming lava.  Let the lava pass and cool. Level roadbed and lay cinder base again.  Then pull back and reuse the framework over the tube system again.”

Kuwahara maintains that his bridge idea will work because the deck will be very strong.

“Even if the ground does settle in the tube area, the bridge will not collapse.  More sections can be added, if needed,” he states. “The deck frames are readily available from Matson or the mainland.  Rough red cinder is also available eight miles away from the present lava flow.”

The length, width and roughness of the top surface terrain of the lava field will determine the cinder cost, but a 30-yard truckload costs $400, Kuwahara notes.

He also points out that the system is reusable when another layer of lava flows.

Kuwahara has been in contact with Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi and Kevin Dayton, the executive assistant to Mayor Billy Kenoi.  He says he and others are in the planning stages to build an experimental bridge over the lava inundated Cemetery Road in Pahoa.

With the advice and expertise of Hon, engineers with the County of Hawaii Public Works, and the Hawaii Island staff of the Department of Transportation, “we can learn, improve and come up with the best solution for the Puna Lava Bridge.”

Kuwahara hopes that if the experimental bridge proves successful, the state and the county will construct portable bridges on Pahoa Village Road, Highway 130 and Kahakai Boulevard in the event lava inundates those roads.

An excavation contractor for the past 39 years and a four-generation resident of Pahoa, Kuwahara is hopeful he can be part of a team “in saving access to Puna and its lifestyle.”

He notes that he and his crew assisted in the construction of the Railroad Avenue bypass, which is expected to be used once lava crosses Highway 130 and blocks access to lower Puna.

“With my fellow Puna contractors, we have enough excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks, to assist in whatever direction the county and state decide to take,” Kuwahara writes. “Saving access to Puna is vital to its recovery and well being for everyone who lives in the area.”

To weigh in on the matter, call Ige at (808)586-0034, or submit testimony via fax at (808)586-0006 or via mail to the Executive Chambers, State Capitol, 415 S. Beretania St., Honolulu, HI  96813.

Pooch Harrington is a writer in Puna.

Lava Report: Pele Makes Her Move

Pele appears to have decided on her new course.  And the result doesn’t look good for the businesses of the new Pahoa.

According to Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s  9  a.m. report, “The active lobe is following a steepest-descent path that takes the flow towards the intersection of P?hoa Village Road and Highway 130, in the vicinity of the P?hoa Marketplace.” The flow is now about 2.1 miles above the intersection.

One bit of good news: “The flow front has also entered a burn scar which has significantly reduced the amount of smoke seen from the flow front in our webcams,” said the HVO report.  That may reduce the smoke hazard for those with lung ailments.

A smaller breakout, which began Dec. 5, is still “weakly active about 1.6 miles below Pu`u O`o.



Lava Report: And Now, We Wait…

Pele continues her advance along the new path that she began pioneering in the last week of November, but the rate of advance has slowed greatly whle the lava pools in a flat area. As of around 8:30 this morning, Hawaii County Civil Defense said that the flow front had advanced approximately 220 yards in the past 24 hours, but Hawaiian Volcano Laboratory’s morning report said that the lava had “advanced little since yesterday.” HVO attributed the slow progress to the flatness of the terrain. Both the  HVO and Civil Defense reports agreed, however, that the flow front was 2.2 miles above the intersection of Highway 130 and Old Government Road (Pahoa Village Road).

The big question remained: where does the lava go once it leaves the flats? “Until the flow passes this area of flat topography, the future flow path is uncertain,” noted the HVO report, which also repeated that  “The front of the flow is in area where several lines of steepest descent nearly converge,” as it had said in reports last week.  But HVO’s map of the flow, which has not been updated since December 1, continues to show only two such paths of steepest descent, marked by blue lines: one leading toward the lower part of Hawaii Paradise Park, and another headed more or less straight for the intersection of Route 130 and Old Government Road (Pahoa Village Road), with its complex of shopping centers.  An HVO spokesperson, appearing on Hawaii Public Radio recently, also cited only two routes.

On the map included with Civil Defense’s morning report, below, the leading edge of the flow is marked by a small yellow dot beside a rectangle containing the words. “New Flow Front.”  The area in red still  marks the new flow finger’s extent as of December 1.

Uncle Robert’s Awa Club’s Outer SPACE Ho’olaule’a Not Accepting EBT/SNAP

By Pooch Harrington

A public notice has been posted at Uncle Robert’s Awa Club and is circulating social media outlets, offering an apology to patrons of the Outer SPACE Ho’olaule’a for the fact that EBT/SNAP can no longer be used at the Saturday farmers market.  The notice points to two individuals specifically for the electronic system allowing people to use government benefits for vendors’ fruits and vegetables.

“Important notice,” the posting reads.  “EBT/SNAP will not be available for several weeks due to the result of malicious, false, and vindictive complaints to various government agencies by local terrorists, RJ Hampton and Sativa Sultan.  We are dealing with the situations as quickly and as best as we can. We deeply and sincerely apologize for the interruption of this vital community service, especially during the holiday season.”

The notice goes on to urge those affected to “address any concerns or complaint letters to Mayor Billy Kenoi or to the editor of the Tribune-Herald.”

“We do not tolerate any acts of hatred or social terrorism at this market as we highly value peace, love and community connection,” the notice states, before signing, “Thank you for your understanding.  Outer Space Ho’olaule’a Staff.”

Six months ago SPACE Farmers Market, which was founded on Belly Acres at the Seaview Performing Arts Center for Education, relocated to Uncle Robert’s Awa Club and was renamed the Outer SPACE Ho’olaule’a.

The farmers market move came after a select group of Seaview residents launched a highly publicized campaign against the Belly Acres artists’ eco village.  Spearheaded by Hampton and Sultan, who own a home together in the Seaview subdivision, the complainants made all sorts of accusations to various government agencies, which in turn depleted market organizers’ resources and wore down their community spirit.  There were complaints about the noise of community functions hosted at SPACE and the traffic generated from these functions, and there were also allegations made that members of the Bellyacres commune chopped down Ohia trees and encroached upon the adjacent state conservation land.  The Department of Land and Natural Resources has told the Tribune-Herald in recent months that the tree cutting and encroachment allegations are under investigation.  In those newspaper articles, Hampton and Sultan are quoted, applauding DLNR for following up on the allegations.

Hampton and Sultan in recent yeas have run a sugar cane juice and sorbet business at the Maku’u Farmers Market.  Hampton worked as a legislative aide for then Councilwoman Emily Naeole in the 2008-2010 council term.  She ran for Hawaii County Council this year, and lost in the Aug. 9 Primary Election.

Pooch Harrington is a writer in Puna.