Don’t believe the hype: Hawaii’s fine

The eyes of the world have been trained on Hawaii in recent weeks, mostly because of the eruption at Kilauea Volcano.

But we’ve also had record rainfalls and destructive flooding that destroyed more than 100 homes on Kauai and caused extensive damage to East Honolulu. These events have been sensationalized in the media. This has a profound, negative effect on Hawaii tourism.

But let’s take a minute to take in the big picture and think about what it all means. Firstly, the media coverage of the eruption and flooding has seen a significant, precipitous drop in visitor bookings across the state. Social media has seen an almost unbelievable amount of Hawaii residents throughout the islands post exasperated assurances along the lines of “We’re fine” and “The eruption is on an island hundreds of miles away.”

Business as usual.

The vast majority of Hawaii residents live on Oahu. The vast majority of Hawaii visitors come to Oahu. And while the situation is dangerous and dire for those in the immediate vicinity of the volcano on the Big Island, the rest of Hawaii Island faces no immediate danger beyond poor air quality due to volcanic emissions, or “vog,” and light dustings of volcanic ash downwind from the plume rising from Halemaumau Crater. Sulfur dioxide coming from the 18 fissures, many miles from the crater, poses a danger to area residents. Most have evacuated to safety in nearby Pahoa and Keaau.

Keep in mind: it’s called the “Big Island” for a reason. All of the other major Hawaiian Islands could fit comfortably in the vast expanse of it. The only visitors who face any danger from the volcano are those who venture into areas they simply have no business being.

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The recent activity at the volcano is certainly newsworthy and visually spectacular. But Kilauea Volcano has been erupting since 1983. It is a fact of life for Hawaii Island residents. There are generations that don’t remember a time when the volcano wasn’t erupting. Residents of the volcanic area moved there knowing full well that insurance companies simply refuse to cover homes in an active volcanic zone. They accept the risk for the reward of peace, quiet, and natural beauty.

There have been media reports about seismic activity and the possibility that it may generate a catastrophic tsunami. But the many scientists that work on and around the volcano, with some of the most sophisticated technology in existence, agree that this is quite unlikely.

As for the recent flooding on Kauai and Oahu: yes, it was bad. It was catastrophic for the families that lost their homes. But it was localized, and didn’t meet FEMA standards that would provide individual assistance to flood victims. The state is appealing the decision. 532 homes suffered damage in the rare April event.

So, while stunning images of the eruption and flooding in Hawaii fill your screen, remember: we’re fine. Other than the areas affected by the eruption and recent flooding, it’s business/pleasure as usual. Come on over!

For updates on the activity at Kilauea Volcano click here.

Posted by: Jamie Winpenny