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Table 2 Table summarising lava flow events at Kīlauea Volcano that have threatened inhabited areas since 1950

From: Lava flow crises in inhabited areas part I: lessons learned and research gaps related to effusive, basaltic eruptions

Eruption (References) Overview, including impacts (Eruption duration) Response Recovery & Applying lessons learned
1955 (7) After a rapid increase in local seismicity, lava began effusing out of new fissures on Kīlauea’s Lower East Rift Zone (LERZ). Within the first week, fissures had opened in Kapoho township, feeding lava flows and destroying several houses and cutting off all access. During the second month of the eruption, fissures continued opening en echelon up the LERZ, creating more lava flows and destroying roads and agricultural land. A cinder cone and ocean entry were formed. Slightly a month after the last fissure activity, a perched lava pond overspilled, creating a lava flow that temporarily isolated the village of Kalapana. A small camp nearby (8 houses) was destroyed. (3 months) The formation of fissures close to Kapoho township led to the township (i.e., people and their belongings) being evacuated. During the second month of the eruption, all residents south of the fissures were evacuated. Contingencies were planned in case the shelters were threatened. Two retention walls were built to protect agricultural land but overtopped. The walls were supplemented with dikes, which delayed the destruction of the land. Within a week of the end of the active lava, roads had been bulldozed across the lava flows to allow evacuees to return with the plan that the church bell would be rung if another evacuation was necessary. Lots of knowledge about responding to lava flows in a US context was gained during this eruption (and subsequently used in other eruptions) as this was the first eruption in a populated area in Hawaii since its statehood.
1960 (1, 2, 3) This eruption began with fire-fountaining approximately half a kilometre outside of Kapoho. Within a day, ‘a’ā flows began advancing northeast, towards agricultural land. Within two days, the flows reached the ocean, forming new land. (1 month) The formation of ground cracks prior to the eruption onset prompted many residents to self-evacuate. Again, retaining walls were built and overtopped by lava although protected some structures. Kapoho evacuated, and some buildings were moved. Ten square kilometres were inundated, and 2 km2 of new land were formed. Kapoho was not rebuilt in the same location. Rather, families moved into other local subdivisions.
1983–2018 (4, 5, 6, 8, 9) 1983–1990: Pu’u‘Ō’ō, a new cinder cone, grew on Kīlauea’s East Rift zone, commencing an eruption that would last 35 years. During the beginning of the eruption, lava flows inundated the neighbourhood east of the cone. Later, breakouts in a lava tube allowed flows to advance south and progressively inundate the town of Kalapana, which consisted of approximately 100 houses, a church, and a store.
2007: Lava flows began advancing towards downslope towns although never reached them.
2014–2015: Lava flows advanced towards Pāhoa township, causing a series of response measures. A single building was fully destroyed; a second was partially inundated. A road was traversed. The electricity transmission line running along the road maintained service.
(35 years)
1983–1990: Families evacuated, and the local church was moved.
2007: Lines of steepest descent were updated. Hawaiian cultural practitioners were asked to intervene.
2014–2015: Residents self-evacuated. Evacuation routes were built. The electricity company designed and built structures to protect power poles. Only one power pole was surrounded by the lava flow; it caught on fire. Service was preserved by disconnecting the wire from the pole before it was destroyed. Community meetings were held weekly, and some community member perspectives were documented in social science resilience studies.
(1983–2017) By 2017, some families had moved back into the Kalapana area, building structures on top of the flows.
(2007) No physical damage reported.
(2014–2015) Lava was removed from the road so that the road could be used. The power poles were replaced. The partially inundated building was remediated. The destroyed structure was turned into a tourist attraction. Local and state level emergency management plans were formulated to address lava flow crises. Local groups began holding more frequent preparedness workshops.
2018 (10, 11) Twenty-four fissures opened and fire-fountained in the LERZ. Two fissures created flow fields and ocean entries. Several subdivisions were partially to fully destroyed. (3 months) Most response efforts focused on modelling areas that could be inundated, evacuating the area, and maintaining the resulting exclusion zone. As of September 2019, the exclusion zone has been lifted. Some roads have been re-established, and residents are slowly returning.
  1. 1: Macdonald (1962), 2: Barberi et al. (1993), 3: Chirico et al. (2009), 4: Hawai'i Electric Light (2014a) 5: Hawai'i Electric Light (2014b), 6: Poland et al. (2015), 7: HVO (2018), 8: Brantley et al. (2019), 9: Ching et al., 2020, 10: Neal et al. (2019), 11: Dietterich et al. (2018)