'It's just a matter of time': Leilani Estates resident prepares for worst as eruptions continue

'It's just a matter of time': Leilani Estates resident prepares for worst as eruptions continue
Steve Gebbie predicted early on that the fissures near his home would fuse into a larger mass. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Steve Gebbie predicted early on that the fissures near his home would fuse into a larger mass. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Eruptions, earthquakes and explosions in the past three weeks have rendered parts of lower Puna unrecognizable to residents, most of whom have evacuated the area.

Officials say 82 buildings have been destroyed by lava flows in Kilauea's lower east rift zone, leaving many without homes to return to. Steve Gebbie, a Leilani Estates resident, believes that its only a matter of time before his home is added to the list of those lost in Madame Pele's path.

"There's three fissures right next to my house," Gebbie said just days after the eruptions began. "What I'm thinking is that they're going to grab ahold of each other."

Gebbie's prediction ended up being correct, as several fissures have fused and split off into separate lava flows.

"At this point we're kind of numb. It's been three weeks," Gebbie said. "The heart breaks slowly."

Gebbie said the he still takes the time to check on his Leilani Estates home daily. Highway 130 is the only route to his home now, and that too has jagged cracks in it.

The road was made passable by the installation of metal plates, but authorities have already started to prepare for the possibility that lava may completely cut off the critical roadway. USGS officials said on Saturday that fissures are producing flaming lava splatter and toxic gases overnight, with no end in sight.

"It almost feels like it is going to fill in the basin," Gebbie said. "When that happens, that's when all hell is going to break loose at the top."

About 2,200 acres of land in the Lower Puna area have been covered in lava since eruptions began on May 3.

"It's just a matter of time," Gebbie said. "I don't know what's going to be left of Leilani."

"I really think it might be wiped out," Gebbie said.

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