An update about the Mauna Loa eruption

The long-anticipated Mauna Loa eruption has finally occurred and it is quite the sight to behold. It might be the only time I get to witness this extraordinary event in my lifetime. I am truly thankful to be living on this island and that the lava is flowing in the opposite direction of my home.

As of today, fissure 3 continues to pump out lava which is flowing down slope to the north. Thankfully, all activity is in the northeast rift and is expected to stay there. The flow front is approximately 2.5 miles from Daniel K. Inouye (Saddle Road) Highway and the road could be covered within the next 3-4 days.

I believe most of the island showed up throughout the week to witness the awe-inspiring lava flow. An endless line of cars has been seen from both the Hilo and Kona side of the island every night as the Big Island community and tourists alike come together to experience this beautiful wonder. From my experience, drivers have been patient and courteous with each other, but there have been a few cars that have driven off the road because they were distracted by the view. If you’re going out there make sure to drive safely.

A traffic migration route was created due to the high traffic volume Saddle Road was experiencing. So far, it appears to be helping. The viewing area is now closer to the lava which is great, but it also means poorer air quality so gas masks are recommended.

Most likely the eruption will continue on the north side. It has been nice to have a break from the uncertainty about which direction the lava would flow from, but I know that there is nothing to be entirely certain about when it comes to a volcanic eruption.

We still have our bags packed for now.

Photographer: Ryan Weatherford

A life update from yours truly, Cassie Holmes

Hello friends! It’s been quite a while. I guess I should give you all an update. I could sugarcoat things and say that I’ve spent time away to focus on real life and that it’s all been wonderful. But that would be a lie. The truth is I’ve been struggling.

2018 was the year things really began to take a turn for the worst. There was the volcanic eruption in Puna where many of my favorite childhood places disappeared under a thick layer of molten lava. Then I had a traumatizing personal experience, followed by the loss of my grandmother, brother, and friend all in a matter of three weeks from different incidences. This was also the beginning of my entire family deciding to move to the mainland leaving me as the last sole survivor on the island. And on top of all that, I was struggling with chronic pain from a head injury. It was a lot.

I found myself stuck in a constant state of dread for the next catastrophic event. The fear of losing a loved one was always in the back of my mind. I slowly began to isolate myself from the rest of the world and I wanted nothing more than to disappear. I was not okay.

I’m happy to report that I’m beginning to do better. There were many factors that helped lure me out from underneath the rock from which I hid. There were friends that never gave up on me. They would tirelessly send kind messages and silly pictures. My sister who moved to the mainland made sure we had weekly meetings to discuss our book club. I’ll never forget the time I got to spend with my parents who took me book shopping and drove me cross country to see places like the Smoky Mountains. And then there’s my husband. The sweet, amazing love of my life who is a constant beacon of light. I am so grateful to have an amazing support team.

Depression, anxiety, chronic pain and so many other ailments can be debilitating. It’s easy to want to give up. And it’s difficult to get back on your feet, brush off all the dust, and move forward with your life when you’ve been knocked down.

I am currently in the process of picking up all the broken pieces and trying to find a way to put them back together. I know they’ll never fit the way they used to, but I’m going to do my best to take all the mismatched parts and create a beautiful mosaic out of what was once a mess.

I know the past few years have been difficult for many people. I don’t have all the answers, but if you’re going through a difficult time, I now know it’s better to be vulnerable and ask for help instead of hiding all the feelings away. The ability to face your fears and let go of your pride is a sign of true strength.  Don’t be afraid to speak up.  

Mauna Loa erupts above my neighborhood

Last night, a little past midnight, I woke up to the sound of car horns and someone at my door. I was informed that Mauna Loa was erupting. In a groggy state, my family began our emergency action plan. I monitored the situation online while my husband and son prepared for a possible evacuation. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do while half asleep, but having a plan made things go a lot smoother.

Within minutes we had everything on our list ready to go. The dog harness was on the Jack Russell Terror and the two exceptionally cute cats were in their carriers. At that point, I had found enough information letting us know the lava was confined within the caldera for the time being. We were told to be prepared for a possible evacuation, but to also sit tight unless something changed.

There was a surreal moment, as Hawai’i residents from all around the island stepped out of their homes and looked up at the orange sky in a state of wonder. A volcanic eruption is one of the most beautiful and powerful experiences I have ever encountered on this planet. There is something truly magical about watching an island grow and the extraordinary experience can be lifechanging.

I’ve always known that a Mauna Loa eruption has never been a question of if, but when one would occur. I’ve known that it would be imperative to move quickly if lava was heading in our direction. We live on the steep slopes of Mauna Loa where lava moves like water, and can meet the ocean within three hours. I am aware there is currently lava above the subdivision where I live. I am aware that I could lose my home or the roads could become blocked. But these are all risks I’m willing to take.  This is my home.