Julie Hugo, broker-in-charge at Clark Realty Corporation’s Keauhou office, told Inman she had been on the phone texting agents and clients since around 5 a.m.

Beautiful Hawaii comes with earthquakes and volcanoes, that’s just the way it is, said senior brokers at Big Island real estate brokerage Clark Realty Corporation this morning.

Communities from the subdivisions of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens in the Puna District on Hawaii’s Big Island were evacuated yesterday and today as the island’s most active volcano, Kilauea, unleashed lava in an area near Hilo. Officials ordered as many as 1,500 area residents to evacuate.

The lava came through cracks created after a magnitude 5 earthquake (on a scale from 1 to 8) that occurred Thursday morning. As many as

Ash plume from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater in Hawaii

Ash plume from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater in Hawaii | Credit: USGS photo by Kevan Kamibayashi

The Hawaii Fire Department reported extremely high levels of dangerous sulfur dioxide in the evacuation area, and the local civil defense agency warned of “active volcanic fountaining” at Leilani Estates subdivision at 5:24 a.m. local time.

The Leilani Estates subdivision, around 25 miles from Kilauea, has around 770 structures and 1,700 residents, while the Lanipuna Gardens subdivision is smaller and on the oceanside.

Hawaii fissure

Still from a USGS video showing fissure in Leilani Estates subdivision | Credit: USGS

Residents from the area who had been evacuated awoke without knowing if their houses were still standing, according to reporting from the local newspaper The Honolulu Star AdvertiserThe residents, some of who have volcano insurance, reported a 492-foot-long fissure burst from the ground with lava for about two hours in Leilani Estates, according to the newspaper.

Julie Hugo

Julie Hugo, broker in charge Clark Realty Corporation | Credit: Julie Hugo

Julie Hugo, broker-in-charge at Clark Realty Corporation’s Hilo office, told Inman she had been on the phone texting agents and clients since around 5 a.m. Two of the 40 agents at her brokerage live in the Leilani Estates division and were still in their homes this morning, Hugo said, but added they weren’t close to the lava flow.

“I’ve told them to continue to monitor the situation and keep safe with their families and alerted them to the toxic gas, which you can’t see, but if the wind changes [it can be harmful] … ”  Hugo said. “I also reminded them that the community shelters that are open are pet-friendly.”

The properties at the Leilani Estates subdivision typically sit on an acre, and many residents have animals, so they can be more reluctant to leave their homes, in the face of a deadly natural disaster.

“People are concerned about the welfare of their belongings and their inability to take the five dogs,” said Hugo, adding: “I know my agents have started reaching out to clients checking on them, some have second homes there which are being rented prior to coming here to retire. It’s that kind of community — slower paced.”

The disaster hits a real estate market that’s consistently busy all year round, said Hugo. The real estate brokerage has 14 active residential listings in the MLS for Leilani Estates currently plus nine in escrow, one of which is cancelling today due to the disaster.

Insurance companies had already let their insurance brokerages know that they had placed a moratorium on any insurance policies, which will be relevant for properties in escrow, said Hugo.

“This is the part of the world we live in, it’s our global climate, ” she said.

Her fellow broker in charge, Gae Calloway, who lives on the other side of Big Island, said that when something like this happens, residents became strongly aware that this is part of living in a Lava Zone 1 area. Thankfully there was no news of lives lost thanks to a few days’ notice after a series of earthquakes this week, she said.

“People that knew about it were prepared and had their run-and-go bag ready. Everybody in Hawaii knows it might happen to them at some point and is ready to help,” she said.

Hugo said anyone who wanted to help from other parts of the U.S. could send donations to the Red Cross, which was only just recovering from the recent flash flooding and mudslides in Kauai in April.

Email Gill South

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