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In early September, officials warned residents of the rural communities of the Ka'ohe Homestead and Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island, that they might have to evacuate their homes because they were in the course of the hot lava that has been spewing from the Kilauea volcano since June.
Since then, the lava has veered slightly north, alleviating the risk for the Ka'ohe Homestead, but putting the 950 residents of Pahoa directly in its path. Though it has taken a lot longer than experts had thought, evacuations now appear imminent as the 2,100°F river of molten rock continues to advance slowly but surely towards the small town.
So far, it has swallowed up fences, covered up a cemetery and even set a wooden garden shed on fire. And as of Tuesday, October 28th, it was just 200 yards from the closest home. The good news is that the slow languid pace at which the lava is moving, has provided residents with enough time to relocate to a different area of the Island.
However, there are a few that are waiting till the last minute on the off chance that the goddess Pele, who they believe resides at Kilauea, will reroute the lava away from their homes. In order to try persuade them to leave and also prevent people from getting too close to the smoldering rock, the Hawaiian National Guard deployed 83 troops to Pahoa on Thursday, October 30th.
Those that are not directly in its path are concerned about becoming isolated from the rest of the Island. That's because the lava is heading directly toward a portion of Highway 130, the only major road in and out of Pahoa. If it crosses over, many residents will be unable to even get to the only supermarket that lies a mile away from the town center.
In order to assist them, the Hawaiian County Civil Defense has rebuilt two gravel roads that can be used as optional escape routes if necessary. To ensure that the residents do not lose power, the local utility company has raised the cables off the surface of the road with the help of 70-foot-tall heat resistant poles.
Given that little can be done about this uncontrollable natural phenomenon, most residents are calm about the situation. Though hoping for a miracle, they are also aware that the chances of losing their homes are very real. Should that happen, most are planning to return and rebuild their lives in Pahoa.
While that may seem strange to the rest of the world, it makes perfect sense to the locals. That's because many Hawaiians think the lava flow has been instigated by the goddess Pele, who resides inside Kilauea. Some believe it is because she wants to visit her sister Namakaokahai, the sea goddess, while others maintain that the lava has been sent to cleanse their abodes. Hopefully, the deity will show some mercy and divert the path of the molten rock, before it scorches their homes and businesses.
Resources: cnn.com, weather.com