“Are you all right?”
Yeah, Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba and his Quilly have heard this song before.
It seems hardly possible that, a mere five years ago, the bottom fell out of Kilauea volcano, and YFNA and Quilly spent the next several months reassuring people that, no, they were not about to be inundated with lava floods from an eruption that was 70 miles away, on the other side of two colossal mountains that the lava would have to cross to reach them.
Then again, the year 2 BC* belonged to a different age of humankind. That’s what it feels like, anyway.
Fast forward to August 8th, year 4 C (Common Era year 2023). A major hurricane passes well to the south of the Hawaiian Islands. A strong high pressure area passes well to the north. The Hawaiian Islands are caught in the [ahem] crossfire. Gale-force winds whip through mountain passes and down leeward mountain slopes, carrying all before them. Dry leaves. Dry tree branches. Dry roof timbers. Dry power poles.
“Are you all right?!?”
Once again, YFNA and Quilly were well out of harm’s way. The same colossal mountains (Mauna Loa and Hualalai) that stood between YFNA and lava blocked the winds that roared downslopes to the north. While gusts reached hurricane force in Waikoblowa, 40 miles away, YFNA and Quilly sat at home, in the heat and humidity, wishing for a breeze.
The small fires on the Big Island were in sparsely populated areas, and burned mostly grass.
The people on Maui should have been so lucky. Especially the people of Lahaina, on Maui’s western shore, and directly downslope of the older, and smaller, of the island’s two extinct volcanoes.
In the small hours of Tuesday morning, August 8th, the winds start howling. As forecast by the National Weather Service and the Maui Emergency Management Agency. Power poles get taken down; power is cut off to residences, and roads are blocked. Cell phone towers are disabled, either due to the disruptions in electricity distribution or to damage to the towers themselves. By 7 AM, fires start. They burn. Then they’re contained. Then they burn. Then they’re contained.
And then they burn.
When a Hawaiian lava flow is descending on you, there is warning. There is time to prepare. When it reaches you, you finish collecting your things, you get up, and you walk away.
When a wildfire roars down on you, your time is measured in minutes, maybe seconds. When it reaches you, you run, carrying nothing, and maybe you run fast enough, and in the correct direction.
In the space of a few hours, a community of 13,000 people is wiped off the map. (Kailua Kona, where YFNA has, so far, dodged disaster, is credited with 22,000 residents.) Hundreds of people are caught between the devil’s flame and the deep blue sea, which is whipped into a frenzy by those same fire-bearing winds. Some of those people make it into the water, and are eventually picked up by the Coast Guard. Others do not. Entire families die in their cars, which can not escape over roads blocked by wind-blown debris, fire, and panic.
As this post is written, more than 110 people are known to have died in the Lahaina fire, with more than 1,000 people still missing, and half of the burned area yet to be searched. The fire burned 2,200 acres, and consumed 2,200 buildings. For comparison, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, during an era where “great urban fires” were commonplace, killed 300 people, burned 2,100 acres, and destroyed 17,500 buildings.
All of this, of course, is being reported ad nauseam by the major news media of these Untied States of America, which can be counted on to recognize a
profitable significant news story and push it before We the People with all the resources at their disposal, including those dupes with cell phones who are prepared to trade the livelihoods of those formerly engaged in the profession of “journalism” for fifteen seconds of fleeting, and unfunded, fame, pandering and pimping to johns around the nation and the world who clamor, “I want to see the flames!!”
At least, this time, the media didn’t report that the fires on Maui forced the evacuation of Honolulu.
What they are reporting, doubtless with the gleeful sound of ka-CHING in their ears, is the finger-pointing. Officials of Hawaiian Electric likely have corresponding officials (the ones named “Sparky”) of Pacific Gas and Electric on speed dial, while hapless consumers in the Hawaiian Islands contemplate the price of electricity being lifted yet further into the ionosphere. Heads have already rolled at the Maui Emergency Management Agency. “Climate change” politicking by the state’s Governor is in full cry, while at the same time he’s desperately trying to keep climate-destroying tourists coming to the islands so Hawai‘i can fend off bankruptcy, in the face of Maui residents who are understandably distraught about having to watch pretty people have a good time while they fight the chronic homeless for tent space. (Kailua Kona has already hosted at least one cruise ship that was originally intended to stop at Lahaina.)
Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba can only do what he can do.