Lava threatens Kalapana home - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Lava threatens Kalapana home

Photo by Leigh Hilbert Photo by Leigh Hilbert
Photo by Leigh Hilbert Photo by Leigh Hilbert

By Teri Okita – bio | email

BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the third time in six months, lava from Kilauea volcano threatens to engulf a home standing in its path. Witnesses say the encroaching lava is less than 300 feet from a woman's home on the outskirts of Kalapana Gardens. Too close for comfort.

One onlooker describes the lava flow as ‘busting out like little rivers towards the home'. The speed of the flow can be deceptive.  It looks slow-moving, but it can quickly becoming destructive.

Hundreds of lookie loos turn out at the lava viewing area each night to see this unique force of nature. The flow threatens the lone home, built in 2002, which stands just off highway 130. "Between there is an inflated area of lava that's dangerously close to the home, and it's not slowing down," says longtime lava tracker, Leigh Hilbert.

Hilbert watched as flows from Kilauea enveloped two other nearby homes in July and November.  Unlike those, this flow is moving over the top of itself, creating mounds of newly-hardened lava. "It's more hilly," Hilbert says. "It's creating its own series of mountains that it's busting out of, and that's a little bit different."

By land or by sea, the volcano's power is nothing short of spectacular.  Over the last few days, lava has rolled into the ocean … creating large plumes of steam and sulfur dioxide. Geologists say the steam contains fine lava fragments, toxic gases, and an assortment of acid droplets that can be harmful to people's health.

Further inland, Hilbert says other residents of Kalapana Gardens are concerned and check the lava's progress each morning.  More than 30 homes pepper the area. "We get a couple more large, inflated heads to this flow over the months ahead, we could see some homes lost and that would be really unfortunate," Hilbert explains.

January is Volcano Awareness Month, and activities like public lectures and guided hikes are going on throughout the month on the Big Island. If you're going out to view the site, the government has released a lava viewing safety card that you can check out on-line at

This week marks the 28th anniversary of the start of the Kilauea eruption. It began in 1983 and continues to both marvel - and worry - spectators today.

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