A look at lava, past and present

The current lava threat brings back memories of what happened in Kalapana back in 1990.

Lava first came knocking on Kalapana’s door in 1986, destroying 17 homes that year.

But it wasn’t until four years later when mass devastation happened.

In April 1990, lava reached the heart of Kalapana, at first stalking its prey, then eventually devouring everything in sight.

Almost all of the Kalapana Gardens subdivision — homes, roads, parks, historical site — essentially everything was gone in a matter of months.

By February 1991, the lava tube to Kalapana was no longer active, but by then most the town was buried.

Now in 2014, Pahoa faces a similar predicament with once again slow-moving pahoehoe lava creeping towards the heart of the town.

Thankfully no homes have been destroyed thus far.

Science and technology have come a long way over the past 25 years.

“We can map the flow much more accurately now with high accuracy GPS units.  In addition to our routine field visits, we monitor the flow with satellite data.  But even with that advanced technology there’s still no replacement for geologists to get out in the field and make assessments, so we still do that routinely.  We’re out in the field 24-7 now,” said Matthew Patrick of the USGS.

But as we’ve seen with Kalapana, Madame Pele will go where she pleases, and there’s no way of stopping her.

The last time lava destroyed a home was in March 2012.

That’s when Jack Thompson’s home in the Royal Gardens subdivision went up in flames.

He was airlifted out before the lava reached his doorstep.

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