Drivers living near Kilauea keep on trucking during latest eruption

May 22, 2018

Greg Grisolano

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While dramatic videos of lava flows and eruptions at Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s big island garner international media attention, truckers who live and work in the shadow of the mountain say things are, for the most part, business as usual.

Richard Rego, an OOIDA senior member, lives in the town of Volcano, about six miles away from Kilauea. He says his community is on a higher elevation than the volcano, so they are not at risk from lava flow.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, an explosive eruption occurred from the volcano’s summit at around 1 a.m. Monday. A “robust plume of gas and steam” from the volcano is drifting generally southwest. A moderate eruption of lava from multiple fissures in the Lower East Rift Zone is affecting the community of Puna. Some lava is reaching the ocean, generating a volcanic “laze” – a haze of steam, toxic gas and tiny volcanic glass shards that can irritate the skin and eyes and cause breathing problems.

But a change in the winds could mean more exposure to volcanic ash and noxious gases.

“When the winds turn, that’s where we get into trouble,” Rego said.

Rego’s trucking business is mostly focused on construction and excavation. He says because the lava flows have opened up in a residential area, it has affected his business somewhat.

Fellow trucker Alan Winters says that the “vog” – a hazy mixture of air pollution made up of water vapor, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide gases – is visible in his community of Kamuela, about 90 miles northwest of Kilauea.

“Right now, it’s really voggy – there’s basically smog from the volcano that’s covering the whole island,” he said in a phone interview with Land Line on Monday afternoon. “It looks kinda like Los Angeles used to look, from pictures I’ve seen.”

Winters, also an OOIDA senior member, hauls everything from cattle and construction equipment to Kona coffee. He lives about a hundred miles northwest of the volcano. He says he typically drives through the rift zone area on his southern hauls.

Both men say residents of the island have been dealing with volcanic activity in some form for decades. They say the latest eruption hasn’t had much direct impact on their businesses yet. Winters said he plans to change the air filters in his truck after completing his next southern haul, just as a precaution.

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.