County: 20 ‘tiny homes’ for displaced residents almost ready

  • U.S. Geological Survey photo An aerial view from the south of Kilauea's Lower East Rift Zone and fountaining by fissure No. 8, taken on an overflight Wednesday morning by Hawaiian Volcano Observatory personnel.

The county said 20 “tiny homes” for residents displaced by Kilauea volcano lava are almost complete and ready to be moved into at Pahoa Sacred Heart Church.

“They don’t have electricity but they do have … communal showers (and) kitchen,” Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for Mayor Harry Kim, said this morning. She said the houses are the prefabricated units sold by HPM.

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Snyder said Gov. David Ige is scheduled to arrive in Hilo today and will announce funds for the Big Island, “presumably for the housing.” She said she didn’t know how much money is being appropriated.

According to Snyder, Mayor Harry Kim spoke to those working at the Emergency Operations Center at county Civil Defense headquarters this morning. EOC is closed to media and the public.

“We, as county government, are trying to do everything we can to expedite the people getting out of their tents and cots,” Kim told the emergency workers, according to Snyder. “We’ve got to show the people that there’s a better tomorrow. The only better tomorrow is what we do for them. I really believe we can give them a better tomorrow.”

Kim confirmed that all of Vactionland, which was about 160 homes, is gone, and about 320 of the approximately 350 homes in Kapoho Beach Lots have been consumed by lava.

According to Snyder, the mayor, who lost a second home in Vacationland to the lava, became emotional yet hopeful when talking about the devastation in lower Puna.

“This is, was and always will be a beautiful place. I do believe there’s a better future. We just can’t see what it is just now,” Kim reportedly said.

Snyder said Kim thanked everybody for working so well.

“We’ve lost about 500 homes, or close to it, in a period of just three days,” Snyder quoted Kim as saying. Kim said all of the infrastructure in the area has been taken by lava and it would take a minimum of $5 million per mile to repair roads, which would require lava removal.

She said Kim told Willie Nunn, the regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, “We commit to you a hundred percent of what is in terms of honesty and what we need.”

Snyder said some of the 24-hour duty shifts “are going to wrap up soon” at the EOC. Many county, state and even some federal personnel, including Hawaii National Guard members, have been taken away from their usual duties to man the command center since the current eruptive activity started on May 3.

“We’re still in response, but we’re also in recovery mode,” Snyder said. “… There are still communities at risk, so we’re definitely going to maintain watch, but there’s plans to scale back on the EOC here.”

Hawaii Volcano Observatory had just finished an overflight and confirmed that, as of this morning, fissure No. 8 remains the only active fissure.

“It is flowing unabated; the channel is full, and there are minor breaks in the rim,” Snyder said. “The ocean entry is strong.” She added that the northern, or upslope end of fissure 8 “is weakly active.”

“The northern end is the place to look at, because there are places that haven’t been hit by lava, so far,” Snyder said.

She said northeasterly tradewinds have weakened, but have continued a day longer than previously forecast, but winds are forecast to shift to easterlies Friday, which would bring more vog, and presumably sulfur dioxide, to the interior portions of the island, including Hilo.

“It’s going to be pronounced easterly winds,” she said. Snyder said emissions would be “pronounced” Friday and Saturday with “lots of inlands and wraparound to Kona.” Tradewinds are forecast to return Sunday or Monday at 15-20 mph.

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A community meeting to discuss volcanic ash and vog is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at Cooper Center in Volcano.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.