Hawaii Island

Reports from Sherry Bracken

U.S. Geological Survey

The eruption at Kīlauea continues to send ash plumes into the sky and push lava into the ocean. While that has destroyed hundreds of homes and forced scores of people into shelters, it is also providing an unprecedented opportunity for scientific research.

U.S. Geological Survey

Relocation has begun for some Puna residents forced from their homes by the Kilauea Eruption. Lava has been flowing on the Big Island for more than six weeks now, covering nearly 6,000 acres and destroying more than 500 homes. HPR Reporter Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi has this story.

U.S. Geological Survey

The ongoing eruption at Kīlauea summit continues to produce ash and gas explosions around once a day. Each is preceded by dozens of relatively small seismic events, but they are not what you might think of as traditional earthquakes.

U.S. Geological Survey

It's now been more than a month since the most recent intense volcanic activity started on Hawaiʻi Island. The strain is showing up on many fronts: from emotional distress to trouble for local businesses. Hawaiʻi County is collecting data on the financial strain — but with a very tight deadline. 

Mandatory Evacuations Strain Residents and Responders

Jun 1, 2018
U.S Department of Defense

Yesterday, Mayor Kim ordered the mandatory evacuations of neighborhoods in lower Puna as fast advancing lava flows puts more families at risk. Residents had until noon today to get out of harm's way or take the chance that they may not be able to be rescued - or face incurring the costs of a rescue. 


The lava eruption in the Leilani Estates area of the Big Island’s Puna District is affecting the lives of many.  But the financial impact of this event will also affect County finances and all who pay county taxes. HPR Contributing Reporter Sherry Bracken has more on the story.

U.S. Geological Survey

Hawaiʻi County’s Fire Department is one of the key first responder organizations working overtime in lower Puna. No firefighters have been injured, but dangers linger as crews work to deal with the impact of continuing lava flows in the lower East Rift Zone. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken talked with the Fire Chief about the risks.

U.S. Geological Survey

Since May 3, Hawaiʻi’s Kīlauea volcano destroyed more than 35 structures, 26 of which were homes, and displaced an estimated 2,000 residents.  HPR Reporter Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi has been on the ground in Puna talking to local residents about their experience.

Dave Corrigan / Big Island Video News

Hawai'i County personnel are being stretched thin by the demands of the current lava eruption. Hawai'i County Police Department has 450 sworn officers. Those serving in the Puna district are working overtime to handle the demands of both the lava flow and regular duties. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken talked with the police chief to find out how they are coping.

TeroVesalainen / Pixabay

Hawaiʻi County is the only county in the state without some form of restriction on temporary vacation rentals. Last week, County Councilmembers introduced Bill 108 – a measure that would regulate how and where properties can be rented short term.

The Conversation: Friday, April 27th, 2018

Apr 27, 2018

Legislative Session Wrap Up; Hawaii Island Moves to Regulate Short Term Rentals; Containing Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death

Sherry Bracken

Drug issues continue to contribute to crime on all islands, and that includes the Big Island. Contributing reporter Sherry Bracken talked with Hawai'i County’s Police Chief to find out what he sees as the biggest drug issues on Hawai'i Island.

Robert S. Donovan / Flickr

The State Legislature is considering a bill to ban two sunscreen ingredients over concerns they harm the state’s reefs.  But not everybody agrees that’s the right thing to do. Contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has more from Hawai‘i Island.

PPD / Pixnio

It was six months ago today that Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico. Today, there are still communities on the islands that either have no power or only intermittent electricity. One question for the state of Hawai‘i: how would our islands fare if we faced a similar situation? HPR Contributing Reporter Sherry Bracken took that question to power company officials on the Big Island to learn more.

Wikimedia Commons

Hawai‘i Public Radio has learned that the Hawai‘i County Police Department is missing some illegal drugs from its evidence room. Police Chief Paul Ferreira says the case involves cocaine and hashish. The investigation has now been referred to the county prosecutor and the case is continuing to develop. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has the exclusive story from Hawai‘i Island.

Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos / Puerto Rico National Guard

The island of Puerto Rico is home to more than 80 pharmaceutical manufacturing plants. Hurricane Maria, which hit late last September, devastated the island and closed those plants. The impact is still affecting the supply of pharmaceuticals and other medical products to the state. From Hawai'i Island, Sherry Bracken has more.

Images of Money / Flickr

The Hawaiʻi County Council is considering a ballot initiative to make government salary adjustments more transparent.

Wikimedia Commons

Community meetings on Hawaiʻi County's General Excise Tax bill are set for this week.

Free for Commercial Use / Flickr

Hawai'i County’s Mayor has about three weeks to send a budget to the County Council. Since 2000, the budget has increased more than 250 percent. That’s a concern for county property owners, who are the primary source of funds. From Hawai'i Island, Sherry Bracken has more.

Sherry Bracken

Ambulance services on every island have a number of clients who are frequent callers—some more than 50 times a year.  On Hawai'i Island, the 300 most frequent 9-1-1 callers make up eleven percent of their total calls, at a cost to the health care system of around $7 million dollars. Hawai'i County’s Fire Department is now using a new system to improve the situation. From Hawai'i Island, Sherry Bracken has more.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on earth and makes up more than half of Hawai'i Island's land mass. Its last eruption was nearly 34 years ago, but over a longer time frame time. It’s erupted every 5 to 6 years with the potential to reach far flung parts of the island. As part of “Volcano Awareness Month,” scientists at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are hosting workshops to inform the community. From Hawai'i Island, contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has more.

Marlena Dixon / State Department of Health
Marlena Dixon / State Department of Health

The State Department of Health has created a Rat Lungworm Task Force to look at this daunting disease. Also known as angiostrongyliasis, it is a concern for people throughout the state.  It causes severe pain, brain swelling, and often, ongoing neurological problems. Hawai'i Island contributing reporter Sherry Bracken talked to members of the Task Force to find out what they know about some of the most frequently asked questions about the disease.

Kanoa Withington/Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons 3.0 License

Rat lungworm disease can be devastating. The overwhelming majority of cases have been on Hawai'i Island. State legislators on that island have made several requests to fund ongoing research and outreach efforts at the UH Hilo College of Pharmacy and Hilo Medical Center. In the last legislative session, funds WERE allocated—but not to institutions on the Big Island. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken follows the money.

The Conversation: Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Nov 29, 2017

Republican Tax Plan Advances; Johnson Amendment Repeal; Prosecuting Agricultural Theft on Hawaii Island; Habitat Zone for False Killer Whales

Rat Lungworm Update

Nov 23, 2017
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The number of rat lungworm cases confirmed by the State Department of Health has been growing since the department began tracking them a decade ago.  For the first 8 years, there were 65 cases in the state.  But numbers are increasing – 12 last year, and 17 so far in 2017.  Most of the cases have been on the Big Island—65 out of 78. But this year there have also been 6 cases on Maui and one on O'ahu. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken spoke with a pair of medical professionals working on the spread of rat lungworm on the Big Island, and has an update.

The Conversation: Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Nov 7, 2017
Nathan Fitch/Island Soldier

Aquarium Fish Permits; North Kona Water; Micronesian Veterans of U.S. Military


Hawai'i County Water Supply has had numerous well failures in North Kona for the past year. In early October, the situation seemed to be getting better. But as HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken explains, wells continue to fail.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Waste disposal is a challenge for residents of any island. On Hawai‘i Island, county officials have been talking about the potential closure of the Hilo Landfill for more than three decades. Now, county officials say the closure will happen—and this time there’s a definite timeline. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has an update.

Sherry Bracken
Sherry Bracken

Hawai'i Island has the most ohia trees in the state – more than 800,000 out of 1 million trees estimated to exist in the state.  But it also is the home to a fungus that is killing the trees off.  A local artist is documenting the trees in the best way he can. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken provides this update.

Governor David Y. Ige / Flickr
Governor David Y. Ige / Flickr

This week, we’ve been looking at the tourism industry throughout the state, in our series “Traveling Money: Managing Hawai‘i’s Tourism Future.”  Today we get an update about Hawai'i Island, where tourism is the best it’s been in a decade. HPR contributing reporter Sherry Bracken has more from Kona.