How do you stop the flow of lava? (Most times, you don't)

Here's the latest on the Kilauea eruptions in the Big Island's Leilani estates
Updated: May. 7, 2018 at 12:48 PM HST
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KILAUEA VOLCANO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Over the past few days, several fissures from the Kilauea volcano have been spewing lava onto streets, threatening homes and forcing the evacuations of some 1,700 residents in Puna.

But as lava creeps through the residential area of Leilani Gardens, it begs the question: Is there anything that can be done to stop it?

As history shows, the short answer is yes, but only temporarily.

Here's a look back at some ways lava was diverted.

Bomb it away

In 1935, the Big Island's other active volcano Mauna Loa began threatening Hilo as lava crept toward the city. Gen. George Patton ordered the bombing of the volcano in an effort to stop the flow.

The bombing did temporarily stop it, but the lava continued to flow shortly thereafter.

"The bombs either hit the lava flows and bounced off or they exploded within the lava flows and had no effect," said University of Hawaii geology and geophysics professor Michael Garcia, in a previous interview.

There was an additional bombing in 1942 that proved unsuccessful.

Build a barrier

In 1960, an eruption on the east rift zone of Kilauea threatened parts of Kapoho.

Several barriers were built in attempt to stop the lava flows from reaching a school, residences and Coast Guard facilities.

Despite efforts to keep building them higher and stronger, the barriers were eventually buried by lava.

One of the walls, a 1-mile-long barrier, held back lava for about a week. But the flow eventually breached it and destroyed several structures. However, a lighthouse was miraculously spared.

Cool it with water

In Iceland, one of the most successful ways to stop lava happened in 1973, when lava from the Eldfell volcano threatened a town in Haimey.

There was a large effort to slow the lava flow by pumping billions of gallons of seawater onto the creeping lava.

The eruption eventually ended, and most residents were able to return.

Let nature take its course

Of course, one of the main reasons why diverting a volcano in Hawaii might be like fighting a losing battle is because of Madam Pele.

Many Hawaii residents believe in Pele, the fire goddess, and that they should respect the land she owns.

With the recent eruptions affecting Leilani Estates, residents there feel that it's up to Pele to make that decision on what could happen next.

"If Pele comes, Pele comes," said Curt Redman, a Puna resident. "We have to do what we got to do, but ... now we're kind of crossing our fingers to see what Pele might do next."

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