Living With Lava Zones on the Big Island of Hawaii
The Big Island of Hawaii is a vacation destination whose unique attractions and equatorial characteristics have enchanted the entire globe for over a hundred years. Admired for its sandy beaches, desolate plains, cascading waterfalls and active volcano, the Island enjoys over 7 million visitors a year.
Many of these visitors come to see Kīlauea, a shield volcano that has been actively erupting for over 100
years- the most recent flow starting in 1983. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park caters to over 1.3 million visitors each year, and the attraction is only growing. Even in its most explosive eruptions in which lava spouted out 500 feet into the air, Kīlauea is both elegant and beautiful- a constant reminder of how wonderful and magical the earth and these islands truly are.
There is, of course, an inherent danger to property in and around the vicinity of any active volcano. In 1974 geologist of the U.S. Geological Survey team published a report on the lava flow along with a lava flow hazard map. This map broke each area of the island down and designated a hazard rating to it- this is based on a scale of 1-9. The purpose of this study and map were to help educate local residents about the volcano they call home- and to help determine the safest areas to build and plan cities in relation to lava flows.
Zone 1 would be the most hazardous including volcanic vents in the summits and rift zones of Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, two of Hawaii’s most active volcanoes. Zone 9 would be the least hazardous and includes areas that reside on dormant volcanoes and other areas not likely to encounter lava flow.
The map has been periodically updated to insure it remains relevant and accurate- however dealing with a natural force like a volcano is unpredictable. The boundaries on the map are not represented by sharp, pin-point lines- and the risk associated with each zone gradually changes and/or overlaps the other within the distance of a mile- so there are no ‘hard lines’.
So, when you’re poking around on the internet looking at listings, be mindful of the lava zone the property is in, and if you’re not comfortable living in zones 2 or 3, be sure to tell your Realtor.