How Those Affected By Hawaii's Volcano Eruption Are Coping

May 15, 2018
Originally published on May 16, 2018 1:24 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

On Hawaii's big island, the Kilauea volcano is wreaking havoc on streets and homes, and emissions from the volcano have triggered a Condition Red alert because of potentially lethal air quality. About 2,000 people have been evacuated. Twenty-six homes have been lost. One of them belonged to retired school teacher Monica Devlin, who is on the line now from Pahoa, Hawaii, where she's staying with a friend.

Hi there, Ms. Devlin.

MONICA DEVLIN: Aloha.

KELLY: Aloha. I am sorry to start here, but I wonder if I could ask you to take us back to the day that you had to leave your home.

DEVLIN: That was Thursday, May 3, and it's very vivid in my memory.

KELLY: I imagine it is. I'm told that by that afternoon, you could feel the heat even though you were inside.

DEVLIN: Yes. It was amazing. In the - around 3:30 or so in the afternoon, friends came driving up in their pickup and said, come; look; look. And they take me to my back of my house, and there was the first fissure a couple of streets away. And unbeknownst to me, they heat that I was feeling - I now recognize it must have been lava flowing directly under my house.

KELLY: And as the afternoon wore on and evening came, what was it that made you think, OK, you know, it's time to get out of here?

DEVLIN: Well, I went through the Kalapana flow back in 1990, and we had days and days of being on 72-hour evacuation alert. But this was so unusual. It was a sudden crisis. I turned on the 5:30 news, and there is an immediate evacuation notice that we must get out. My two dogs are my family, so my immediate response was get the dog crate; get the 30-pound dog food I had just bought, thinking, I'll be back in the morning for my 1-year-old iMac computer and my 1-year-old John Deere lawn tractor and...

KELLY: Yeah.

DEVLIN: ...You know, all those belongings that are so unnecessary when safety is the prime focus.

KELLY: You always wonder what you would take if you had to run in a hurry. And I'm sure you never thought it would be the 30-pound bag of dog food.

DEVLIN: Yeah, your priorities become very clear. The house is gone, and now a magnificent 12-foot-high wall of lava is where my house once stood.

KELLY: I'm so sorry. May I ask? Did you have insurance?

DEVLIN: Very gratefully I do have insurance. And 40 years of yoga and trying to learn to be centered I think has finally worked (laughter).

KELLY: Yeah. I bet you're drawing on that yoga now.

DEVLIN: Oh, indeed.

KELLY: Was this something that was always in the back of your mind as a possibility living where you do or as you have for years?

DEVLIN: Yes. You know, here the lava goddess is Madame Pele, and you're very clear from the moment you stepped foot on the island that this is a volcanic creation.

KELLY: Well, what's next? Have you even allowed yourself to try to think about whether you might rebuild or what you'll do?

DEVLIN: I will probably move back to be close to my daughter. She's in Sonoma County, which is where they had the terrible fires. Their home was saved, but she knows what this is like to some degree.

KELLY: Well, Monica Devlin, thank you so much for taking the time. We'll be rooting for you as you figure out what the next step is.

DEVLIN: Thank you for your interest and time.

KELLY: That's Monica Devlin speaking to us from Pahoa, Hawaii. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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