Lava oozes down a road on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 6.

U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images


Lava on the Loose

One of the world’s most active volcanoes is erupting in Hawaii. Scientists say there’s no telling when the destruction will end. 

What would you take if you had just one hour to pack up and leave your home? Amber Makuakane (mah-koo-ah-KAH-neh) was recently forced to make that decision. The teacher and her two young kids lived near Kilauea (kee-lah-WAY-ah), a volcano in Hawaii.

On May 3, lava from the volcano burst through a crack in the ground. It headed toward Amber’s house. Suddenly, sirens began blaring. 

“A police officer came to my doorstep and said I needed to leave immediately,” says Amber. 

Amber packed three bags of clothes, her kids’ bikes, and some other items. Then she drove to a friend’s house a few miles away. By the next day, the lava had burned down Amber’s house. 

It was one of the first of hundreds of homes that the lava has destroyed. Scientists say this is the worst volcanic event in Hawaii in more than 200 years. And there’s no end in sight.

What if you had one hour to pack up and leave your home? What would you take? Amber Makuakane (mah-koo-ah-KAH-neh) had to make that decision. The teacher and her two young kids lived near Kilauea (kee-lah-WAY-ah). That is a volcano in Hawaii.

On May 3, lava from the volcano burst through a crack in the ground. It headed toward Amber’s house. Suddenly, sirens blared.

“A police officer came to my doorstep and said I needed to leave immediately,” says Amber.

Amber packed three bags of clothes. She packed her kids’ bikes and other items. She drove to a friend’s house a few miles away. By the next day, the lava had burned down Amber’s house.

The lava has destroyed hundreds of homes. Scientists say this is the worst volcanic event in Hawaii in more than 200 years. And there’s no end in sight.

A New Path

Kilauea is one of five volcanoes that make up what is known as the Big Island of Hawaii. People on the Big Island are used to Kilauea erupting. Since 1983, lava has been oozing out of a vent, or opening, on the side of the volcano. That vent is in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Each year, nearly 2 million people visit the park. They watch the lava slowly stream toward the Pacific Ocean. For the most part, the fiery lava has flowed through areas where people don’t live.

But that’s not the case with the current eruption. Earlier this year, scientists noticed unusual activity in an underground area miles from the park. 

“The volcano was swelling with magma,” says Wendy Stovall, a scientist who studies Kilauea. “The pressure of all the magma swelling broke open a new pathway for the magma to flow.”

On April 30, magma gushed through the new underground tunnel. That triggered hundreds of small earthquakes. Scientists tracked the locations of those earthquakes to follow the magma’s path. Kilauea was about to erupt in a neighborhood called Leilani Estates. That’s where Amber and her kids lived.

On May 3, a fissure, or crack, broke open in a street two blocks from Amber’s house. Lava shot into the air. People were forced to evacuate their homes. Over the next three weeks, 23 new fissures opened up in the area.

“It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Amber remembers.

Since May, about 700 homes have been swallowed by lava. The lava flows have also permanently covered roads. Beaches and parks have been wiped out too. As Scholastic News went to press, no one had been killed. But on July 16, more than a dozen people on a sightseeing boat were injured. The group was on a tour to watch the lava pour into the Pacific Ocean. Suddenly, a chunk of molten rock exploded as it entered the cold water. A basketball-sized piece of the rock hit the boat.

Kilauea is one of five volcanoes that make up what is known as the Big Island of Hawaii. People on the Big Island are used to Kilauea erupting. Lava has been oozing out of a vent, or opening, on the side of the volcano since 1983. That vent is in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Nearly 2 million people visit the park each year. They watch the lava slowly stream toward the Pacific Ocean. The fiery lava has mostly flowed through areas where people don’t live.

But the current eruption is different. Earlier this year, scientists noticed unusual activity in an underground area. The area was miles from the park.

“The volcano was swelling with magma,” says Wendy Stovall, a scientist who studies Kilauea. “The pressure of all the magma swelling broke open a new pathway for the magma to flow.”

On April 30, magma gushed through the new underground tunnel. That triggered hundreds of small earthquakes. Scientists tracked the locations of those earthquakes. That let them follow the magma’s path. Kilauea was about to erupt in a neighborhood called Leilani Estates. Amber and her kids lived there.

On May 3, a fissure, or crack, broke open in a street. The street was two blocks from Amber’s house. Lava shot into the air. People had to evacuate their homes. Over the next three weeks, 23 new fissures opened up.

“It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Amber remembers.

About 700 homes have been swallowed by lava since May. The lava flows have also covered roads. They have wiped out beaches and parks. As Scholastic News went to press, no one had been killed. But on July 16, more than a dozen people were injured. They were on a sightseeing boat. They were watching the lava pour into the Pacific Ocean. Suddenly, a chunk of molten rock exploded as it entered the cold water. A basketball-sized piece of the rock hit the boat.

Watching and Waiting

In early August, lava was still pouring out of some of the fissures. So far, about 2,000 people have had to flee their homes. Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has been closed to the public.

Scientists don’t know how long the lava flows will last. They say it could be months or even years. For now, they are continuing to watch for new signs of danger from the volcano and working to keep people in Hawaii safe.

“We don’t see it stopping anytime soon,” says Stovall.

In early August, lava was still pouring from some of the fissures. About 2,000 people have had to flee their homes so far. Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is closed to the public.

Scientists don’t know how long the lava flows will last. They say it could be months or years. For now, they are watching for new signs of danger from the volcano. They are working to keep people in Hawaii safe.

“We don’t see it stopping anytime soon,” says Stovall.

1. Which details from the article support the claim that Kilauea’s current eruption is the worst volcanic event in Hawaii in more than 200 years?

2. What text structure does Tricia Culligan mostly use in the section “A New Path”? How do you know?

3. What words and phrases does the author use to describe the eruption? How do these descriptions help you understand the events in Hawaii?

4. What is the main idea of the sidebar “A Growing State”? What example does the author give to support this idea?

1. Which details from the article support the claim that Kilauea’s current eruption is the worst volcanic event in Hawaii in more than 200 years?

2. What text structure does Tricia Culligan mostly use in the section “A New Path”? How do you know?

3. What words and phrases does the author use to describe the eruption? How do these descriptions help you understand the events in Hawaii?

4. What is the main idea of the sidebar “A Growing State”? What example does the author give to support this idea?

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