(ABOVE VIDEO) First Civil Defense admin Darryl Oliveira, then Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi, speak to the large crowd assembled at Pahoa High School to hear the latest on the lava flow threatening their town.
Video by David Corrigan
PAHOA, Hawaii – Mayor Billy Kenoi took to the microphone to offer words of comfort during Thursday night’s public meeting at Pahoa High School. Faced with the potential destruction of their town as a lava flow approaches, residents were hungry to hear about concrete plans for dealing with what could be a huge disaster for the entire Puna district.
“In about 72 hours,” Mayor Kenoi told the crowd, “we get one 24 hour stand down in Pahoa. We going take over the community center… we going be running one 24/7 emergency operation right out of Pahoa.”
The mayor calmed the crowd, but did not placate them with false hope. He told them about the overflight he took earlier that day to see for himself the path of the June 27 lava flow (so named for the day it began to issue forth from Pu’u O’o crater on Kilauea’s East Rift Zone.) He mentioned the volume of the lava, and how Pu’u O’o continues to pump the lava out down the hill towards Pahoa. He advised residents to begin taking their valuables out of their homes, especially the precious possessions like family heirlooms.
The Mayor promoted Saturday’s Lava Flow Informational Fair that will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Pāhoa High School Cafeteria. Representatives from public agencies, private companies, and community groups will be on hand to answer questions about transportation, moving, storage, insurance, finances, legal matters, health care, and more. The mayor mentioned Big Island Moving and Storage is offering 50% off services for evacuating residents.
Mayor Kenoi said HELCO is committed to maintaining service, even if it means the utility must strategically relocate poles and lines as the flow moves over Puna.
With emotion in his voice, the mayor said the county put a stop to construction on the $22.3 million Pahoa District Park. The company contracted to do the work, Nan Inc., has agreed to use their machines to start cutting escape roads instead.
Mayor Kenoi said the county is working on both Railroad Avenue and Government Beach Road to prepare the pathways for heavy traffic if Highway 130 gets cut by lava. The road will be finished by September 24, the mayor said. The cost is between $800,000 and $1.2 million. The road could be paved at a cost of %30 percent more, but if lava continues to move towards the ocean, neither Railroad or Beach Road will be around long enough to make the extra expense worth it, the mayor suggested.
“Building Railroad,” said the mayor, “might buy us another month, month and a half.”
The mayor says the county is in talks with the state and the federal government about making a road through Chain of Craters Road, an option of last resort. The cost would run $1 million per mile for seven miles.
Mayor Kenoi also declared an end to the Question and Answer sessions during the public meetings. Since the meetings began, following the opening presentations by scientists and emergency officials, the public has been allowed to ask questions which were answered by officials.