As the ground opened, a teary Hawaii resident bid his home a final farewell

Like tributaries, the cracks ripped through streets near Steve Gebbie's home. Later, steam rose from the widening fis...

Posted: May 7, 2018 9:34 AM
Updated: May 7, 2018 9:34 AM

Like tributaries, the cracks ripped through streets near Steve Gebbie's home. Later, steam rose from the widening fissures before orange columns of molten rock erupted geyser-like into the tropical air.

"It was bionic, really orange, splattering about," Gebbie, a 12-year resident of Leilani Estates, in Pahoa on the Big Island, said Saturday.

"The splatter was getting taller and taller. The highest splatter I saw personally was about 60 feet tall. ... It was as tall as the trees."

Some neighbors evacuated but Gebbie initially stayed home. At first, he pulled his truck behind his house and hid. He said he later told police officers he needed to find his cat. But now he knew it was time to go.

"The lava keeps building," he told CNN. "I'm on this hill ... so if it builds up, it's going to come over."

Gebbie, 56, is among the hundreds of people forced from their homes on the Big Island after the Kilauea volcano erupted Thursday. They fled a triple threat of repeating earthquakes, fountains of molten lava and plumes of dangerous sulfur dioxide gas.

Before evacuating to a friend's home late Friday, Gebbie -- a union carpenter -- took one last walk around the home he built over the past three years on an acre brimming with towering trees and fragrant tropical plants.

"My beautiful house -- gorgeous, custom home," he said. "Paid for. No mortgage, which is awesome. ... I took a walk around my house, videotaped my house and pretty much said goodbye."

Tears -- "lots of tears" -- streamed down his face.

"I'm a blue-collar man and I worked for my house and now my house might be gone," he said.

The fear in Leilani Estates -- a community of about 1,700 people near the Big Island's eastern edge -- was compounded by a magnitude-6.9 quake that struck the area Friday. The earthquake, one of dozens in 24 hours, was the most powerful on the island since 1975, the US Geological Survey said.

"With the earthquakes, it was already a problem," Gebbie said. "The locals here know how to read what's going on with Pele (the legendary Hawaiian volcano goddess believed to control Kilauea's lava flows). And when it starts rumbling, she's definitely going to do something. We're in that zone."

At least nine homes have been destroyed and nine fissures have opened in residential communities since volcanic activity began last week, according to the County of Hawaii.

Gebbie said most residents of his neighborhood don't have lava flow insurance. Their fire insurance doesn't cover damage from lava flows.

"People in Hawaii -- the Big Island -- have to deal with the lava," he said. "You know that when you come in. I knew that when I moved here. This was a gamble that everybody takes. Maybe I've lost."

For now, Gebbie said he will share a friend's home with three families that have been evacuated.

"Life is completely turned upside-down, and I think it's just starting to set in," he said.

"Now, it's trying to figure out what the future brings. ... My work. My job. Am I going to have to move to somewhere else on the island?"

Life on this part of the Big Island "might be forever changed," Gebbie said. And his life, too.

"I'd have to start over at age 56," he said. "That's concerning. I was five years away from retirement, with a house paid for. And retirement is nowhere near in the future now."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 34622

Reported Deaths: 1215
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds269748
DeSoto181818
Madison138236
Jones117349
Harrison104014
Rankin103515
Neshoba102274
Lauderdale94281
Forrest93943
Scott79215
Jackson72717
Washington64310
Copiah63115
Leake61320
Lee58621
Holmes57341
Oktibbeha56828
Wayne55416
Warren55320
Yazoo5436
Grenada5357
Lowndes52613
Leflore52256
Lincoln50935
Lamar5027
Pike47020
Sunflower4528
Lafayette4374
Monroe43635
Covington4195
Panola3996
Bolivar38018
Attala37524
Simpson3733
Newton35710
Adams34019
Pontotoc3266
Tate32313
Marion31312
Claiborne29310
Chickasaw29219
Winston28711
Pearl River27632
Noxubee2758
Marshall2693
Jasper2676
Clay25511
Union23811
Smith23412
Walthall2267
Coahoma2156
Clarke21425
Lawrence1992
Yalobusha1938
Kemper18014
Carroll17311
Tallahatchie1664
Humphreys15910
Montgomery1493
Calhoun1475
Tippah14411
Itawamba1418
Hancock13813
Webster12811
Tunica1193
Jefferson1173
Jefferson Davis1164
Prentiss1123
Greene10810
Amite1063
George1023
Wilkinson959
Tishomingo921
Quitman891
Alcorn852
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone732
Franklin492
Benton420
Sharkey420
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 49892

Reported Deaths: 1077
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6030162
Mobile4418137
Montgomery4339109
Tuscaloosa254448
Madison19078
Marshall186611
Shelby150924
Lee149437
Morgan12205
Baldwin111410
Walker105127
Elmore98919
Dallas9639
Franklin92216
Etowah88214
DeKalb8416
Chambers65727
Russell6570
Autauga65313
Butler64328
Tallapoosa61669
Unassigned58626
Limestone5741
Houston5526
Cullman5395
Lauderdale5376
Lowndes48022
St. Clair4692
Colbert4656
Pike4595
Escambia4528
Calhoun4365
Coffee4074
Covington39911
Jackson3742
Bullock37010
Barbour3672
Dale3621
Talladega3497
Hale33722
Marengo33011
Wilcox2968
Clarke2946
Winston2893
Chilton2872
Sumter28512
Blount2731
Pickens2556
Monroe2492
Marion24514
Randolph2449
Conecuh2277
Perry2091
Bibb2081
Macon2069
Choctaw20212
Greene1928
Henry1433
Crenshaw1273
Washington1277
Lawrence1170
Cherokee1127
Geneva920
Lamar811
Fayette781
Clay742
Coosa621
Cleburne411
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 73°
Columbus
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 74°
Oxford
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 70°
Starkville
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 72°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather