HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ingrid Webb and her family have moved five times in the last year.
She wants to move once more — back home.
Webb, her husband and their four young children fled their farm in Kapoho as the Kilauea eruption sent rivers of lava flowing toward the sea. She says they had a week to pack up everything they could and leave.
When they pulled away, they weren’t sure they’d ever be able to return.
Once the eruption stopped, they were buoyed by good news. The lava had created a kipuka around their property and about 50 others, cutting off the only access to the community but largely sparing it. Hundreds of other Big Island families weren’t so lucky.
The Webbs’ celebrations, though, were short-lived.
They soon realized that having a property that can only be accessed by foot or by air presents its own unique challenges — challenges that put their home just out of reach.
Until access was improved, they could visit — but they could never stay.
The Webbs worked for years to build their Kapoho farm. It was their dream. It’s their livelihood, too.
And the eruption put them at risk of losing everything.
“It’s been months. We’re not farming. It’s been difficult to pay all the bills,” Ingrid Webb said, after making the long trek to her Kapoho farm. “We’re pretty on edge now. This is our last option ― to move back.”
Up until recently, getting to the kipuka meant a long drive from their rental home, a scorching hot 10-minute hike over fresh lava fields and then a 35-minute drive to their farm using a vehicle that was left behind.
The pitted, unpaved access road that was recently carved into the cooled lava was hardly impressive. But to the Webbs, it meant the world — finally, they could drive supplies to their 14-acre farm and actually tend to their crops.
And eventually, they hope, the road will lead them home for good.
On a recent day, before the road opened, Webb was making the long journey to her citrus farm to check on things. Her hiking boots crunched in the blackened lava fields. Fresh lava, Webb quickly learned, is full of air pockets — making for a slow-going trek on the best of days.
“Life now is extremely tiring because we have to be two places at the same time,” she says, then adds, “but there is so much to be grateful for. A lot of our neighbors got wiped out, but we’re still here.”
Battered by all that the eruption claimed, but not defeated.
After fleeing their home in Kapoho, the Webbs went to an evacuation shelter.
Living in shared quarters would be tough for any family. But at the time, the Webbs’ youngest was just a newborn. Their oldest was 8.
Webb remembers those days with a shudder.
There were dozens of earthquakes hourly. Everyone was on edge.
And at the evacuation shelter, the residents could hear the eruption’s deafening booms as lava exploded hundreds of feet into the air. The soundtrack to Kilauea’s destruction was unbearable for evacuees. Was that last boom, they wondered anxiously, the lava taking my home?
One day at the shelter, Webb was left in a panic when her oldest went missing for hours.
He was finally found on the evacuation shelter grounds — hiding underneath the playground. That same day, the Webbs packed up and left, finding a temporary place that at least offered more privacy.
They’d move again and again and again as the eruption dragged on.
Along the way, Webb remained hopeful. As long as their home was standing, as long as their farm was still fertile, they could move back.
And Webb also realized the power of community. She found some tremendous support in her neighbors — several that she’d hardly really known before. Suddenly, everyone in the kipuka was working toward the same goal: To get through the tough times and rebuild what they could.
“Right now, there’s so much suffering. Everyone has different stories,” Webb said.
“We want everyone to be able to go home and do what they want to do with their land. It’s been difficult, but it’s getting better.”
Day by day, it is getting better.
And while the access road hasn’t solved all of the Webbs’ problems — getting to their farm still requires a bumpy, difficult journey and the road isn’t open all the time — it’s meant that they can get in and out more easily.
It’s meant that they can start to plant for the next harvest.
That they can start to plan for the future.
And dream of the day ― soon, they’re certain of it ― when they’re back home in Kapoho. After all, Webb said, “This is our future. My kids want to be farmers.”