Paradise Lost: For Hawaiians With Homes in Kilauea's Path the Loss Is Compounded

Kilauea's summit crater glows red in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Geologists warned Wednesday that Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could erupt explosively and send boulders, rocks and ash into the air around its summit in the coming weeks. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)


As natural disasters go, volcanoes seem to grab the headlines less frequently than others. Those of us in the Midwest are used to tornado season; the coastal states have regular run-ins with hurricane season; Californians put up with earthquakes and wildfires. There’s a climatological downside to most locales.


It’s a trade-off most people take into consideration when deciding where to settle. It’s not at all difficult to understand why people would be drawn to Hawaii — it’s absolutely beautiful. I’ve had the opportunity to vacation there twice and count it among my “dream destinations” were I to ever win the lottery and be looking for a place to retire.

Unfortunately for residents of the Aloha State, particularly those in and around Leilani Estates on the eastern side of the Big Island at present, the trade-off of living in a tropical paradise is that it sits astride a volcanic archipelago — one with active volcanoes.  For the past week, lava vents in the lower Puna area in Kilauea’s east rift zone have been erupting, wreaking havoc on structures in the area via lava and accompanying earthquakes.

As if the molten lava and quaking earth weren’t enough, the process is emitting dangerous gas, as well. And to make matters worse:

Now scientists are warning of a whole bunch of other possible hazards: acid rain, a bunch of falling ash, and eruptions that could propel huge boulders into the sky.


As CNN reports:

This lava doesn’t usually get very far from the vents, but it has swallowed up streets, cars and homes.
The more than 1,700 people who live in that area were ordered to evacuate a week ago, when the lava emerged.
Residents are now allowed to check out their homes during an 11-hour period during the day, but officials say they must be prepared to flee at a moment’s notice.
As it turns out, the family member of a friend is one of those whose home was destroyed.  Something I didn’t know previously is that there is no homeowners’ insurance to cover these losses. Apparently, you cannot purchase volcano insurance. So now they are among dozens of homeowners who — in addition to being forced to flee the area — have lost their homes and most of their belongings, which loss is compounded by the fact that they have no insurance to cover it.
When I first learned of their plight, my heart went out to them. I can’t imagine having to face the loss of your home — and your dream — so abruptly.

A woman with Belleville roots watched as lava ate her dream home last week. Her family says there will be no insurance payout on the $350,000 loss because lava, not fire, destroyed the home and they are hoping to raise money for her through social media.


“Lava just inundated her house,” said Dan Schnurbusch, who married into Hope Northway’s family. “They only had a couple hours to pack up all their stuff they wanted to take.”

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