UC Berkeley student grew up in Kilauea's shadow; contacts family, friends as volcano erupts

The power of Mother Nature is on display Friday as the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii continues to erupt, threatening homes  and uprooting families in its path. 

A KTVU crew spoke with a UC Berkley student who grew up in the shadow of Kilauea.

Jerry Javier has been in close contact with friends and family.

He says they are being told to move a safe distance from the three fissures that have opened up.

Jerry said his family members in the Puna area of the Leilani neighborhood on the big island were in the midst of evacuating Friday evening.    

He said  his family home is one mile from where lava is flowing out of three new fissures. 

"Things have been pretty stressful. I just don't know what to do at this point. I 'm keeping up with people on Facebook. I'm staying in communication with my family," said Jerry. 

He said he was back home just three months ago and wishes he was there now to help his relatives. 

"One of my younger sister was taking her horses and taking them up the mountain in the opposite direction. One of my other sister was cleaning up the house waiting for my mom to get home," said Jerry. 

The 20-year-old said his family is driving to Hilo to stay with friends. 

"The fumes are a big deal and a lot of noxious gases are being released. Even if the lava may not be an immediate threat, as soon as the wind changes, you can find yourself kind of trapped in smoke," said Jerry.  

UC Berkeley seismologist Peggy Hellweg says the Kilauea volcano has been active since 1983 and that in the past, the lava typically flowed into uninhabited areas.  She said the difference this time is that it's in residential areas. Hellweg said it's hard to predict what will happen next.

"It could continue on like this for several weeks or months , we can't tell," said Hellweg. 

She says from a scientific point of view, the eruptions are exciting because they will help scientists develop ways to predict future activity.  

She says the two large earthquakes that took place Friday, a 5.4 followed by a 6.9, are associated with the volcanic activity. 

"There's a direct relationship between the volcanic activity and the earthquakes, but we don't know exactly how.  It's too early," said Hellweg.  

"It's showing the mess the 6.9 earthquake made...cans.....kitchen stuff... all over the floor," said Jerry  as he showed KTVU photos posted by a friend on social media.   

 Jerry says he's grateful his family members haven't been hurt, but doesn't know if he'll have a home to return to.

"One of the things that is a little scary is we don't know what's going to pop up," said Jerry. 

He says he has finals next week, but hopes to go back home soon, maybe in about 10 days, to see what he can do.