Mount Kilauea, the most active of the five volcanoes on the big island of Hawai’i, is currently threatening the village of Pahoa. With a population of 950, Pahoa residents are forced to watch anxiously as lava from the 600,000-year-old volcano creeps towards the village and is now about 70 yards from the closest home.
Unlike other natural disasters, lava destroys everything it touches, swallowing fences, power lines, cars and homes in a 2,000-degree wave of orange and grey. Luckily though, it is far from the fastest of disasters, the fastest moving lava flow in Hawaiian history was recorded in 1950 at a blistering 6 MPH and the current flow is moving at a rate of about 8 to 10 yards per hour. Lavas speed may be lacking, but the danger of volcanoes is nothing to scoff at. Since 1900, the Americas have seen 82 volcanic events suffering 67,858 fatalities, affected 1,536,656 people and cost $2,168,697 in damages.
Officials in Hawaii have not issued a mandatory evacuation, but many have preemptively left leaving only a few village dwellers in their homes. Some have reported looters in the area, matt Purvis, owner of the Tin Shack Bakery said, “Crime is starting to pick up because a lot of people abandoned their houses. Two of my brother-in-laws’ houses got ripped off,” but no official reports have been received by authorities.
According to Zillow (NASDAQ: Z), the median price for a home in Hawaii is $528,100, a 9.9% increase from last year and a 5.3% expected increase in 2015. If you are in the real estate market in Hawaii, note that the United States Geological Survey has divided the island into lava zones 1-9. 1 being the most likely to be affected and nine the least. Hawaii’s average home insurance rate is lower than the national average costing $776/year (national average $804), but homes located in high risk lava zones 1 and 2 will most likely only be covered by Hawaii Property Insurance Association and susceptible to higher additional rates. In most cases, homes in such areas will only be covered up to $350,000 and anything above that amount must be covered by Lloyd’s of London (NYSE: LYG) who are notorious for insuring anything.
Despite the risk to Pahoa, the Big Island mayor Billy Kenoi urges residents to work together. He said on KHNL, “As it gets closer, the key is communication with the community, keeping people informed and everybody continue to work around the clock really hard just to minimize as much as possible the impact on the people of Pahoa,”