Big Island residents reveal their life with vog

Athena Peanut
Athena Peanut
Quince Mento
Quince Mento

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

SEAVIEW (KHNL) - Hawaii Island if full of dangers from earthquakes, to eruptions. But it is another hazard that takes the breath away of many Big Island residents.

Athena Peanut lives a tethered life. Because of emphysema, she needs oxygen, just to help her breathe.

"Until you get like this you don't even think about it. You take this breath for granted," said the 72 year old Seaview resident.

But she's had trouble catching her breath over the past year after vog levels shot sky high. And a new vent opened up at Halema'uma'u crater, pumping sulphur dioxide into the air.

Difficulty breathing is just one of the many effects vog has on residents.

"This wears you, you get very, very tired. You lose your energy, people do a lot of sleeping and napping"

That is why Athena keeps looking out the window of her Seaview home, to see if the winds are carrying vog her way. And if they are, she prepares for the worst.

"I get in bed, pull the covers over me and go to sleep. Say my prayers and hope I wake up in the morning"

Athena has lived in this quiet corner of the Big Island for decades. When she can, she spends many of her days tending to her garden.

And even with all the vog problems, she loves living on a volcano.

Besides where else would she go?

"This is my home, I have no other place to go. Living here as retired people on social security is doable. I can't duplicate this anywhere else"

But she would like help from Hawaii County to breath easier on the days when the vog is thick.

"The best thing for us to have is a safe place in Pahoa that is airtight where we can go and hang out"

Instead, the island's Civil Defense says people should simply stay put when vog levels are high.

"We believe the safest place is in your home, create a space with AC or an air filter. Its less disruptive then hopping in car to drive somewhere else for an hour or two until the vog threat passes," said Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator.

Athena's old home is no longer airtight, even with the windows closed. It has been shaken up by numerous earthquakes. So Athena isn't holding her breath for a simple solution to this problem, even though she knows - the vog is killing her.

"You know, at some point it will probably be lethal," said Peanut.