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Most folks do not plan to leave, survey shows

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    The image above shows a close-up of the June 27th lava flow in the area of Kaohe Homesteads and P?hoa. Although the leading tip of the flow stalled earlier this week, active breakouts have persisted a short distance upslope of this stalled front.

PAHOA, HAWAII » Air quality, lost business and access to basic needs are among the top concerns of about 800 Hawaii island residents contending with a lava flow inching toward Pahoa’s main highway.

That’s according to a survey conducted by Hawaii County Civil Defense, Hawaii Island United Way and Mark Kimura, a University of Hawaii at Hilo researcher in economic geography.

The June 27th Lava Flow Community Needs Survey, released Monday, is based on 784 responses collected from Nov. 20 to Dec. 11 online and during weekly community update meetings in Pahoa. Paper survey forms also were distributed by various partners such as the American Red Cross.

The survey aims to establish a statistical baseline detailing how residents are affected by the lava. It also identifies households in need of assistance.

"It builds a database for households that needed help," Kimura said.

The questions revolved around everything from evacuation plans and concerns about livelihood to transportation strategies and pet care.

"The community worked well together to give it out to the people to try assess what we need to do," said Barney Sheffield of the American Red Cross. "It pretty much showed what we were thinking was going on."

Of the 784 responses, 451 were submitted online and 333 were submitted on paper. Kimura said he looked at the data and manually removed duplicates.

In the survey, 77 residents were identified as "medically fragile" and 14 are wheelchair-bound or confined to bed. Seventy-six said they need help with packing and moving; 46 said they need help from the American Red Cross; and 41 said they need assistance with health services.

Four out of 5 households in the area have at least one pet, the survey found. That number came from 612 responses and the total numbers of pets counted was 1,671. The average number of pets per household was 2.7 percent, according to the survey results.

"Assuming that there are 3,800 households in the area, there could be over 8,000 pets," Kimura said in a YouTube video about the survey.

In response to one question, 89 percent of pet owners indicated they would take their animals with them in an evacuation; 1.8 percent said they would not; and 10 percent were not sure.

Other questions pertained to livestock. Out of those surveyed, 13 percent have a small farm animal and 4 percent have at least one large farm animal. Fifty-five percent said they would take their livestock animals with them while 16 percent would not, and 29 percent were unsure.

Another question asked residents about their current living situation. Of those who responded, 63 percent own and live in their homes; 25 percent rent; and 5 percent live with their friends and family. The remaining 7 percent responded "other."

A transportation question asked what residents would do if travel on Highway 130 is cut off by lava.

Eighty-nine percent said they are planning to continue using their own vehicles; 3 percent plan to use public transportation; and 4 percent have no reliable transportation.

Kimura said those numbers could change in the future.

"The real outcome may change as the residents adjust their lifestyle and learn more about public transportation and public routes," he said. "This also depends on how many people plan on staying in the area or plan on leaving their homes, so we asked that question as well."

According to the survey, 11 percent of residents plan on leaving their homes; 72 percent said they plan on staying; and 14 percent were not sure.

The percentage of residents who said they were planning to leave their home is about on par with a survey given in October in which 9 percent said they were leaving.

Another part of the survey asked residents under what conditions they would evacuate. Almost 60 percent said they would evacuate when the lava approaches their property or when ordered to do so by authorities. The second trigger was air quality.

And if they were to evacuate, more than 40 percent said they would need long-term shelter or a new place to live. More than 20 percent said they plan to stay with friends or family elsewhere on Hawaii island.

More than 10 percent said they have another home to which they can relocate, while others said they would likely leave Hawaii island. Less than 10 percent said they would need short-term shelter.

To access an online video about the survey, visit

Meanwhile, lava continued to ooze downslope near Pahoa on Monday, advancing 20 yards since Sunday afternoon.

The front of the leading edge remains about 0.6 miles upslope of Highway 130 and Pahoa Village Road intersection and about 680 yards from the Pahoa Market Place complex, Hawaii County Civil Defense said.

The flow front, which stalled last week, has moved about 45 yards over the past few days at a sluggish pace. Surface breakouts and activity upslope from the front continued Monday but did not pose an immediate threat, county officials said.

Smoke and vog were light.

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