In Pahala, ash covers everything — and some worry that's the new norm

PAHALA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - A thin layer of ash blanketed Pahala on Tuesday morning, covering everything from cars to grass to outdoor furniture and the school.

While this community is used to heavy vog, the principal of Kau High and Pahala Elementary fears ashfall from eruptions at Kilauea's summit crater will be the new norm.

"So as students go through ... you'll see that there's ash along their footsteps," said Sharon Beck, principal at the school.

The particulates in the air are making it tough to breath for some and can irritate eyes and skins. At the school, custodians are working overtime to spray down and clean public areas — but the ash keep keeps coming.

Some students wear masks and the school has designated rooms with air conditioning and air filters.

But amid the eruptions, some students are skipping class altogether.

"Difficulty breathing, The watery eyes sneezing. So everyone handles it differently," Beck said.

With 500 students, the school says it's had a 22 to 48 percent absentee rate over the past few days. As many as 200 students were absent Tuesday.

In Naalehu, about 17 miles away, the air is clearer but school officials are being vigilant.

"We have different layers of plans of things that we do things," said Principal Darlene Javar. "We can do something simple as what we call a breath of fresh air versus safe rooms. So we are constantly monitoring."

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