Lava obliterates my neighbor’s home, but I’m mesmerized and can’t look away. Fear of loss collides with awe before this ravishing destruction. Ohia trees on our hill sprout new growth, while next door a lava fountain creates the newest cinder hill. I don’t want to leave home, but I don’t want to stay either. The County issues multiple Disaster Updates. Even my dogs are haunted by our evacuation.
Disaster Update from Hawaii County Civil Defense. “Talk to your families now about the possibility of active eruptions being a long-term event and how you might plan for these impacts.” “Condition RED • vigorous lava eruptions • toxic gas • isolated • brush fires • steam explosions • ground cracking • mandatory evacuation • disaster survivor”
Our world ends during the night of non-stop earthquakes, but we’re not forced to evacuate until lava erupts two days later. We frantically shove our lives into canvas shopping bags and drive away from our home of 22 years. The next day we return home to grab clothes just in time for the magnitude 6.9 earthquake. I leap onto my little dog and hold her in a fetal position while the house swims around us. Five more lava fissures erupt forcing us North to a subdivision with no jungle trails, no lava and no earthquakes.
May 6, 2018. Day 80 Year of the Dog.
Disaster Update from Hawaii County Civil Defense. “This is a Civil Defense update for Thursday May 3, 2018 at 5 PM. Department of Public Works reports steam and lava emissions from a crack in Leilani Subdivision in the area of Mohala Street. • Magnitude 6.9 • Threat to Life”
We drive too much during our evacuation, often heading home to rescue more of our lives, with dogs buckled in the back seat, because I refuse to leave them alone. Back home the weather is volatile, police check every ID, and the car crawls over painted cracks on the highway. Depleted and exhausted, we find solace crossing the wilderness of Saddle Road, and return to our temporary home in near darkness.
May 12, 2018. Day 86 Year of the Dog.
Disaster Update from Hawaii County Civil Defense. “Do not attempt to return to your home at this time. Evacuate immediately. First responders may not be able to come to the aid of residents who refuse to evacuate. The area continues to be unstable with multiple volcanic eruptions happening. No one is allowed into the area.”
Before the lava, the `Io (Hawaiian Hawk) brings a message that I don’t understand until after lava spreads way too close to our home. The `Io lands next to my barking dogs and watches us, unconcerned by our activity. Later, Fissure 17 erupts in the same spot, ejecting a fountain of lava that builds a new hill next to ours. Every day I photograph my dogs on blank walls, redirecting their minds from Lava Trauma, and steadying my mind as our world disappears.
May 13, 2018. Day 87 Year of the Dog
Disaster Update from Hawaii County Civil Defense. “Active fumes and lava spatter are occurring at this time. Continued earthquake activity and additional outbreaks in the area are likely. Thank you for listening. Have a safe day.”
All Hell breaks loose with nine fissures gushing lava in every direction. Lava fountains surge up 300 feet while booming steam explosions jerk our bodies. Strangers slip past police check points to crowd our neighbor’s lanai, interlocking tri-pod legs for the best shot. The spectacle below is alien - an orange planet with glowing cityscape. A Red Cross worker recognizes the same “evacuee stare” in my dogs that he sees in displaced people at the shelter.
May 18, 2018. Day 92 Year of the Dog.
Disaster Update from Hawaii County Civil Defense. “The residents of Puna are going through a very difficult time. This newest fissure is on private property, do not trespass. This is not the time for sightseeing.”
We can’t go home anymore. Our land is surrounded by lava. The high speed lava river from Fissure 8 demolishes Hwy 132 on the same day we rent a truck to haul out our furniture. My husband sneaks through the jungle in a friend’s pickup to load what he can, Beverly Hillbillies style. Then his phone dies and he’s gone for hours in the dark. My little dog senses our distress and has a panic attack where she can’t breathe. The emergency vet says to make her life as normal as possible. What is normal during evacuation?
May 31, 2018. Day 105 Year of the Dog.
Disaster Update from Hawaii County Civil Defense. “Residents on Halekamahina Road need to evacuate immediately due to a fast moving lava flow. You are at risk of being isolated due to possible lava inundation. Please contact friends and relatives to make sure they’re safe.”
Day of island-wide mourning. The lava river jogs backwards, evaporating Green Lake, then plunges into the ocean, obliterating Kapoho Bay and Champagne Pond, the jewels of Puna. Over 700 homes vanish. We face the ocean in silence. It’s six weeks into our evacuation so far, living out of a suitcase, anxious for stability, worried about Home. Pretend this is a vacation.
June 6, 2018. Day 111 Year of the Dog.
Disaster Update from Hawaii County Civil Defense. “Lava entered the ocean in Kapoho Bay last night. Lava flow near Highway 132 has gained speed and is now advancing rapidly. Part of the flow hit Green Lake. The ocean entry has completely filled Kapoho Bay. Vacationland is completely covered by lava.”