West Hawaii Residents Showing Volcano Fatigue, Resilience and Compassion


In the past week, each and every person who lives on Hawaii Island has watched no less than 10 spouting/spraying lava videos on Facebook or on major news networks. Most of us have watched the pink plume over Kilauea Volcano that started this eruption cycle a week ago today. A week ago tomorrow, the island was also hit with two strong earthquakes that were felt island wide and the east side of the island, including Volcano Village and Hawaiian Ocean View Estates, experienced over one thousand after shocks.  The coconut wireless around the island was on overdrive as friends and neighbors were frantically sharing videos, updates from the County’s Civil Defense office and watching the local news channel for information.

Then within the next few days, as the videos were hitting the national news channels and it became very clear that Leilani Estates had fissures opening up all over the neighborhood and would be experiencing long term evacuation and displacement. We all asked, “How can we help?”

As people started setting up fundraisers and asking for donations and seeking answers to the best way to help the newly homeless and people in the community shelters, more videos were flooding Facebook, Instagram and our TV sets and computer screens. The earthquakes died down and then the volcanic fog (VOG) started to show up in the skies over West Hawaii.  News reports were now sensationalizing the events, and even reporting the volcano on the the wrong island and meanwhile more news came out about Halemaumau Crater with its disappearing lava and water table intrusion issues.

Here is an example of what I have been hearing and reading from my friends,  “I feel exhausted and my chest feels heavy. Am I the only one that feels this way?”

In the past few days, I have seen more and more of my friends say that are exhausted from the stress and sadness of watching the videos, hearing the civil defense updates on the radio. All while wondering when the lava will stop so the people in East Hawaii can look at the new reality of a lava flow in the middle of their neighborhood and which houses have been spared and who gets to go back to their lives before the pink plume and which ones will we be fundraising for to find replacement housing.

I am sure residents of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands may have been feeling this way, too, after devasting hurricanes hit and mainland residents could only experience it through videos.  However, a hurricane hits an area and leaves within a day or two. You see the aftermath, you get in to do clean up and you help the displaced. The current lava flow, which now covers 116 acres and has 15 fissures going off like a “pop-a-mole” game,  has the residents allowed back in their homes for a portion of each day and told they can not spend the night. The air quality in the area is suspect due to sulphur dioxide and the vents are still spewing steam.  It just keeps going. The National Guard is here to stay for awhile.

Those of us who are not in the way of the lava and are in no danger of losing our homes or way of life, are still left with a sadness for all the trauma and stress our neighbors are feeling 100 miles away. I have friends who at this moment are working on bringing a Mother’s Day Brunch to the Pahoa shelter to help the displaced moms know that we care and that even though they can not see those of us on the West side, we are pulling for them and raising money and getting things they need to donation centers. This is what living on Hawaii Island is like during times of distress from natural disasters which have also included hurricanes and tsunami’s.

This is not the first time any of us who have lived here more than four years have seen the east side with a lava threat. Madame Pele stirs her cauldron quite frequently in Kilauea, where active lava has been in the caldera since 1983 continuously. The residents on the east side know the danger and  accepted it and are dealing with it with amazing grace and dignity, however those of us on the west side are left with continuing scrolling lava videos, headlines like, “HEARTBREAKING!” and  a constant stream of, “This is your Hawaii county civil defense update” a few times a day on the radio.

A friend of mine who wrote previously of her sadness posted this on Facebook today: “All of the volcano and earthquake activity has given me an even stronger sense of appreciation for what I have and the realization that we never really know what will happen next !! ❤” I wanted to give her a huge hug. This is how we all find compassion for people who suffer through any natural disaster or tragedy. The shock and despair turn into action and compassion and we all learn about the concept of Ohana and Aloha in the process.

If you are in West Hawaii, Gertrude’s Jazz Bar is accepting non perishable food and water donations until this lava threat is over and you will even receive a free drink for your donation! Thanks Marlina Lee for spearheading! 

If you can help this weekend for Mother’s Day with time, donations, music or hula,  please check the Pahoa Mother’s Day event for info and what they still need. Thanks Joy Wu for spearheading!


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Meet the Author

Julie Ziemelis

Julie Ziemelis is an entrepreneur, business owner, author, blogger and vlogger in Kailua Kona. She created and moderates the “365 Things to Do in Kona” page and the Kona Newbies group on Facebook. She blogs at 365Kona.com and MoveToHawaii365.com and vlogs with her husband, Eric, at “365Hawaii” on YouTube. Julie also authored the books, “How to Move to Kona” and the “Insiders Guide to Buying Real Estate on the Big Island of Hawaii”. You will most likely find Julie in Kona hiking, running, biking, taking photos and sharing Aloha.

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