Living With Hawaii Volcanoes


In May 2018 large eruption began to surface after some size-able earthquakes on the south east end of the Big Island.  Unfortunately as things progressed many news outlets sensationalized this eruption on the island as if it was erupting on the entire island, and scared people away.  This island is very large and this eruption is only happening at 1 of 5 mountains located on this island.

The largest inconvenience to the rest of the island was the VOG which caused us to have months of very grey and ashy looking skies.  People with respiratory issues or allergy sensitivities were affected in various levels.  We have been so fortunate within this last month, since the easing of the eruption, our skies and air have cleared and it is BEAUTIFUL!

It was a trying time for the many families that lost their land and homes in Leilani Estates, but those that live in that area know the possibilities of a volcanic eruption happening.  Still at this time there are displaced families, but seeing the communities come together to help these families has been great.

When looking for a home in Hawaii, Big Island be sure to be connected with a realtor that knows this island very well.  That knows the laws, zones, lenders and intricacies of living in Hawaii.  While much of the news that comes out is false, I found a great resource in following a local newscaster named Mileka Lincoln on Instagram.  One of her posts from back in May is attached and you’ll see many more at her profile.

– Blog Updated 9/3/18

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#LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano UPDATE (May 27 at 10:15 AM): Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense agency officials cannot tell me what would trigger a mandatory mass evacuation of the area surrounding Puna Geothermal Venture — despite the fact lava has reached the 40 acres of their operational plant site and is approaching the well field. Civil Defense officials say no wells have been impacted and a team is working to prevent threats from developing. At this time, no hydrogen sulfide has been detected. I asked Civil Defense: “What would trigger a mass mandatory evacuation of the area?” We were sent this response: “If it becomes necessary for public safety. At that point, we will alert the public.” We followed up with these questions: “Can you explain what government officials have determined this threshold to be? It’s obviously not lava inundating PGV property, so can you clarify?” We were told there was no additional information beyond their statement. We have since reached out to the Governor’s office for assistance and have confirmed Gov. David Ige will be returning to Puna this afternoon. At last check at 7:30 AM, PGV spokesperson Mike Kaleikini said the nearest well was about 130 feet away from the lava flow front. “All of the production wells nearest to the lava flow are plugged and shut in. According to HVO scientists, movement is currently stalled. As long as conditions are safe, we will have personnel on site. Primary concern is sulfur dioxide from the eruption and lava coming on site. We monitor for hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide on a continuous basis. There are no hydrogen sulfide emissions from PGV wells,” said Kaleikini. PGV officials maintain they believe they have mitigated the threat of an uncontrolled release of hydrogen sulfide if lava inundates their property and makes contact with their wells. However, PGV officials have conceded they don’t know if hydrogen sulfide is the only possible hazard the community could face if lava interacts with their wells. Stay tuned to @HawaiiNewsNow (Video: Civil Defense)

A post shared by Mileka Lincoln (@milekalincoln) on

Kilauea, the Big Island’s currently active volcano, draws hundreds of thousand of visitors every year for its unique beauty and excitement. If you have images of exploding Mt. St Hellens-style eruptions, have no fear — Kilauea is not that type of volcano. Rather than exploding, it oozes lava and releases volcanic gas. Kilauea may be relatively gentle, but this is still an active volcanic island, and the current eruption can affect the local real estate. Read on to discover how living on a volcano affects your home on Hawaii Island.


Made up of sulfur dioxide (SO2), particles and gases, “vog” (short for “volcano smog”) is a smoky looking haze that can blanket parts of the Big Island. It’s the result of the current Kiluea eruption, which releases around 3,000 tons of it every day. While vog is usually just a nuisance that can fog up the island’s beautiful ocean view, it can also cause allergy-like symptoms and trigger asthma attacks in sensitive individuals. Vog is also very acidic, and when concentrated enough can cause damage to plants, gardens and structures, including houses. Vog tends to affect the western Kona and southern Ka’u districts the most, so if you have respiratory problems, try focusing your house search in the northern Kohala and Hamakua districts, where the air is almost always clear.

Lava Flows

The USGS has a map of Lava Zones on the Big Island that show the risk of a particular area getting inundated by lava. If you live in zones 1 or 2, your home will be considered a high risk. Real estate in these areas tends to be far cheaper than elsewhere in the state, but homeowners may have a hard time getting mortgage loans. Purchasing volcano insurance is highly recommended in these areas.


Whether there is a currently erupting volcano or not, earthquakes are a constant on the Big Island. In fact, small barely-detectable earthquakes happen on a regular basis, especially in the Ka’u and Puna districts. In recorded history, only a couple of local earthquakes were strong enough to cause significant structure damage. The most recent was in 2006 when a 6.7 magnitude struck just off the Kona coast, causing about $200 million in damage and causing widespread power outages. Fortunately, serious earthquakes like this are generally rare, and recently constructed homes are designed to withstand most major temblors.

No matter where you live, there is risk of some kind of natural disaster, whether it’s ice storms, fires, tornadoes or, in the case of Hawaii, an active volcano. Homes on the Big Island may be in risk of some damage, but the vast majority of residents and homeowners find that risk to be very small, and more than worth the reward of living in paradise.

Mahalo for stopping by!

Lailan Bento, RS

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