Steven Yundt: 'This is the new normal because disaster mode is g - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Steven Yundt: 'This is the new normal because disaster mode is getting old'

Steven Yundt, owner of a restaurant in Pahoa, says the eruptions changed everything in lower Puna. (Image: Hawaii News Now) Steven Yundt, owner of a restaurant in Pahoa, says the eruptions changed everything in lower Puna. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Steven Yundt was forced to evacuate from Leilani Estates after eruptions started in the subdivions on May 3. (Image: Hawaii News Now) Steven Yundt was forced to evacuate from Leilani Estates after eruptions started in the subdivions on May 3. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Restaurant owner Steven Yundt says Puna is no stranger to disasters.

“We have hurricanes, we have different flows come, the last flow was in Pahoa itself and we almost lost the restaurant," he said. "It came within eyeball distance of the restaurant so we’re used to disasters happening in Puna."

But the scope of the eruptions that started May 3 are tough for even an unflappable Yundt can handle.

Yundt owns Pele’s Kitchen in Pahoa and, up until last month, lived in Leilani Estates.

Now his subdivision is ground zero for lava spewing from fissures that have cut across the lower east rift zone. And his eatery is nearly empty — all the tourists are gone. 

Yundt said what's most startling is how quickly the eruptions started.

“Suddenly people were reporting cracks in the streets of Leilani and then magma coming out of them, and we were all in shock,” he said. “They told us in the middle of the night we had to just take a few things and leave, and they didn't tell us we wouldn't be able to go back for like four or five days."

He added the lack of information meant people left behind essentials: Medicines, pets, heirlooms, important documents.

Now, as the eruptions continue, all residents can do is watch and wait and worry.

“Everybody's been on pins and needles going, 'Gosh, is the lava going to take my house today?'” he said.

Yundt added that he not only lives in Leilani Estates, he sources all of the fruits, vegetable and edible flowers for his eatery from his farm in the subdivision.

“We’re far enough away from the fissures, we’re in upper Leilani, and I think the farm may survive, but knock on wood pending anything else happening.”

Yundt also said there's reason for optimism: Visitors are coming back, if slowly, and life is going on.

“This is the new normal, so people are starting to come out again because disaster mode is getting old," he said. "And they’re wanting to relate with their friends and it's nice to talk over breakfast with your buddies and find out what's going on.”

This profile is part of our digital series, "Pele's Path: People of Puna." 

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