Kilauea erupts again as Hawaii residents struggle with toxic gas, lost income

Stefani Hinkle doesn't need officials to tell her that her neighborhood is dangerous. She can feel it in her burning ...

Posted: May 23, 2018 10:01 AM
Updated: May 23, 2018 10:01 AM

Stefani Hinkle doesn't need officials to tell her that her neighborhood is dangerous. She can feel it in her burning throat.

"I would take one breath, and it would hurt," the Pahoa resident said. "My throat was on fire. My eyes were burning."

Hinkle and countless other residents on Hawaii's Big Island are now familiar with the toxic effects of sulfur dioxide. The gas is still spewing from cracks in the earth's surface after the Kilauea volcano's massive eruption 19 days ago.

Since then, the summit of Kilauea has erupted periodically with no warning. The latest eruption happened early Tuesday morning, Hawaii County's civil defense agency said.

Hinkle said she's grateful her home has been spared from the lava, but the toxic gas is unbearable.

"It tastes metallic. As soon as you get it in your mouth, you want to spit," Hinkle said. "Once I realized what was going on, I put on the particulate mask that they gave us."

Officials have been handing out particulate masks to help residents on southeast Big Island breathe. But now they're warning about other hazards and even more eruptions.

Lava finally reaches the Pacific -- only to create a deadly danger called laze

Residents "should be prepared to leave the area with little notice due to gas or lava inundation," Hawaii County's civil defense agency said.

Then there's the risk of explosions at a geothermal power plant.

Lava reaches geothermal plant area

Relentless lava flow has now reached the Puna Geothermal Venture property, the civil defense agency said. The plant produces electricity by bringing steam up from underground wells and funneling it to a turbine generator.

Officials are trying to prevent possible explosions or the release of toxic fumes by "quenching" most of the wells, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesman Thomas Travis said.

Quenching starts with filling underground wells with cold water. So far, 10 of the 11 wells at the geothermal plant have been quenched, Hawaii County officials said.

Travis said workers might also try to plug the wells, perhaps by filling them with mud and capping them with iron plugs.

The devastating financial toll

Since Kilauea's massive eruption, rivers of fire have swallowed at least 40 structures, hurled lava through cracks in the earth's surface and devastated livelihoods.

"Everything has taken a major hit," said Hinkle, who works in landscaping and horticulture. "Everyone is running away and leaving the island."

Madison Welch moved to Hawaii just three months ago to be with her mother. She's already lost two tourism-related jobs due to Kilauea's eruption.

Hinkle, 46, said she's financially stressed but can't leave now. Her partner is settled on Big Island, where he owns 90 acres of property.

But as the days pass with no income, Hinkle said she's feeling nervous.

"With as many normal bills as people have, you still don't know what's going to happen," she said. "It's not like this show is going to end tomorrow."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307332

Reported Deaths: 7095
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20757248
Hinds19869408
Harrison17475302
Rankin13307275
Jackson13095243
Madison9886210
Lee9854169
Jones8289160
Forrest7522146
Lauderdale7185237
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Lamar610284
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Washington5279132
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Panola4440103
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Marshall4267100
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Monroe4056132
Union403575
Neshoba3984176
Lincoln3869107
Hancock371985
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322681
Pike3177104
Scott310472
Yazoo304268
Alcorn297664
Itawamba296776
Copiah292965
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284668
Prentiss275659
Marion265679
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Leake260973
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George237647
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Attala213273
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Holmes186471
Clay182354
Stone179131
Clarke176676
Tallahatchie175240
Calhoun163130
Yalobusha158636
Smith158534
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126223
Noxubee125833
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite119941
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105332
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95126
Humphreys94332
Franklin81723
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518588

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753351487
Mobile37698798
Madison33829494
Tuscaloosa25245443
Montgomery23942565
Shelby23094238
Baldwin20617300
Lee15510165
Calhoun14277311
Morgan14137268
Etowah13660345
Marshall11952219
Houston10379278
Elmore9988200
Limestone9806147
Cullman9467188
St. Clair9422234
Lauderdale9208227
DeKalb8745181
Talladega8042171
Walker7087275
Jackson6753110
Autauga6715103
Blount6480135
Colbert6200130
Coffee5397112
Dale4766110
Russell428238
Franklin419882
Chilton4080109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3892146
Escambia387574
Dallas3526149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305475
Lawrence295295
Winston272272
Bibb256258
Marengo248561
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218675
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176741
Monroe171240
Washington163838
Macon154348
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
Choctaw58624
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