Lava Has Put Hawaii In A State of Emergency, And It's Kind of Terrifying

One thing you don't usually bargain for when you're gearing up for the weekend? Lava. As in, actual volcanic lava, in your town. But Hawaii County is in a state of emergency because lava is making its way, surely and insidiously, toward residents of the lower Puna. Within a week, people living in the Kaohe Homesteads subdivision might be facing a river of burning, molten rock on their doorsteps. Yah, Pixar's Lava is probably not so funny for Puna residents right now.

The volcano causing all the concern is the Kilauea volcano, which sits in the southern part of the island. And it's actually been active for years — it began erupting back in 1983, and is still going strong. According to the AP, lava began flowing around July 10, advancing by roughly 800 feet every day. Now, the apocalyptic substance is less than a mile away from the Kaohe Homesteads subdivision in Puna.

Although the lava's movement was only a "concern" a few days ago, it's now risen to full-on crisis. Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenol has declared a state of emergency, coinciding with the U.S. Geological Survey also upping the volcano alert level from a "watch" to a "warning" on Thursday (meaning that flow is “imminent, underway or suspected” according to Hawaii News Now).

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“We are taking this step to ensure our residents have time to prepare their families, their pets, and their livestock for a safe and orderly evacuation from Kaohe in the event the flow continues to advance,” Kenoi said to KHON-TV.

What the state of emergency effectively means is relatively small: Basically, county officials can now limit people's access to various areas. “Only residents will be allowed on the subdivision roads starting today, and we ask that non-residents stay away from the area,” Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said in a news release. “The lava cannot be seen from the subdivision, and there is no reason for non-residents to be in the Ka‘ohe subdivision at this time."

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"This is a difficult and stressful time for Ka‘ohe residents, and we ask that everyone show respect and understanding for our Ka‘ohe neighbors,” he added. What really sucks, for the locals, is that they're in a state of limbo — no official orders to evacuate, yet, but the possibility is in the air. "It’s very frustrating because even if we look at a five-day period and we tell people to evacuate, it could be weeks before anything happens,” Oliveira said, according to the AP.

Puna residents have had it rough over the last few weeks. Less than a month ago, on Aug. 7, Hurricane Iselle smashed the southeast coast of the Big Island — unfortunately causing the volcano observatory to go partially offline. Talk about bad timing.

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