UH for Puna

This page was last updated on Friday, June 22, 2018, 9:53am HST.

Joint UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi CC Information on the 2018 Puna Lava Flow

All classes and operations are continuing as normal.

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June 5: Message to New and Returning UH Hilo Students

Aloha New and Returning UH Hilo Students,

I hope you are enjoying your summer so far. As you may be aware, the volcanic eruption on Hawaiʻi Island that started on May 3, 2018 has received widespread media coverage. I want to reassure everyone that operations are normal at University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. The closest area affected by the eruption is 20 miles from Hilo, and the volcanic activity has had no direct impact on the town of Hilo and most of Hawaiʻi Island. That includes our airports, harbors and the majority of roads. It is absolutely safe to travel to and around Hawai’i Island (PDF) .

Many members of our island community, including some of your peers have been impacted, and they remain in our minds, hearts, and prayers. We remain committed to the success of all our students and continue to work with those in need during this difficult time, whether that is through issuance of incomplete grades to allow extra time for course completion or emergency housing due to evacuation. We encourage all students who are impacted, directly or indirectly, to keep reaching out to us.

Our UH Hilo mission states that the purpose of our university ʻohana (family) is to challenge students to reach their highest level of academic achievement by inspiring learning, discovery and creativity inside and outside the classroom. Our kuleana (responsibility) is to improve the quality of life of the people of Hawaiʻi, the Pacific region and the world. To this end I am very proud of our faculty, staff and students who have been sharing their expertise and resources to help others in this situation.

At UH Hilo, we believe that one learns from many sources. For us, the eruption puts us in the unique position of being able to observe and study geology first-hand and in real time. Before our eyes, we are seeing and experiencing science and culture unfold in ways that are not available anywhere else in the world.

If you have any concerns or questions, please contact Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Farrah-Marie Gomes at (808) 932-7445 or email at fmgomes@hawaii.edu. Announcements and regular updates on the volcano eruption are posted on our UH for Puna web page.

As you enjoy your summer, please know that your university is busy preparing for the fall semester, and we are excited to welcome you to campus in August for the start of classes. I promise that you will be coming to a place dedicated to creating an environment where you can focus on your higher education and thrive.

Mahalo nui loa,

Marcia Sakai
Interim Chancellor

May 29: Frequently Asked Questions

How far is the recent volcanic activity from the UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College campus?
The new eruption site is about 20 miles southeast of the Hilo campuses.
Could the lava reach the UH Hilo or the Hawaiʻi Community College campus?
There is no chance that the current lava flows will reach the Hilo campuses.
In what direction is the lava flowing?
The lava is flowing south, away from Hilo, and is currently entering the ocean.
Does the eruption pose health hazards for students and employees while on the UH Hilo campus?
There is no increased health hazard on the Hilo campuses because of the eruption. However, due to increased gas emissions, there is a possibility for sporadically heavier vog concentrations in the future, but the prevailing winds in Hawaiʻi, known as the trades, push the vog away from Hilo.
Should students be concerned about earthquakes?
Hawaiʻi Island is home to an active volcano, so there are earthquakes, including one of the largest on record, a 6.9 magnitude quake that caused no injuries and minimal damage.
Are business like stores and restaurants, or the airport or harbor, in Hilo closed due to the eruption?
Other than the area directly impacted by the eruption, which is 20 miles from Hilo, no businesses have closed during this event, and all are currently operating normally in Hilo and Hawaiʻi Island.

May 21: Housing for Students

On-campus housing for UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College students displaced by the current eruption is available for Summer 2018 at Hale ʻIkena Apartment Complex. Students without dependents or non-service animals may apply for on-campus summer accommodations at Application (PDF) or by going to the Housing Office webpage at University Housing.


Please see the Archive of prior announcements for older information.

Aerial photo of Hilo looking toward Hilo Bay, with the UH Hilo main campus in the center. Photo credit: Andrew Hara

Are UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi CC Safe?

The University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo and Hawaiʻi Community College campuses and facilities are not directly threatened by the lava flow.

General Information

While the future flow, direction and impact of the lava is uncertain, we encourage everyone who may be affected to review their personal emergency plans and preparations, which may include taking steps to secure alternative housing.

You may find the following resources helpful.

Housing Resources

  • The UH Hilo Housing office maintains an Off-Campus Housing website with listings of available opportunities.
  • The UH Hilo Housing office has a bulletin board posted in front of their office at PB-11 with additional off-campus housing opportunities.
  • Students without dependents or non-service animals may apply for on-campus summer accommodations at Application PDF or by going to the Housing Office webpage at University Housing.
  • The Hawaiʻi County Housing Office provides a housing agency resource guide.

Wellness Resources

Information for Students

What happens if I cannot make it in to attend my classes?
Please contact each of your instructors as soon as possible to identify options to complete the semester successfully.
What are my withdrawal options?
Please consider making alternative arrangements with your instructors if attending classes will be difficult. As a last resort, students may completely withdraw from classes, but doing so may have significant financial implications.
UH Hilo students may contact Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Farrah-Marie Gomes for more information on withdrawals.
Hawaiʻi CC students may contact Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dorinna Cortez at dorrina@hawaii.edu for more information on withdrawals.
What housing facilities are available for me, my family, and my pets?
Students without dependents or non-service animals may apply for on-campus accommodations with University Housing. Please contact the Housing Office for more information. Students will be housed at the Hale ʻIkena apartment complex.
Students with dependents or animals should seek alternative arrangements, such as Off-Campus Housing or Hawaiʻi County Housing .
What counseling services are available for students?
Aʻoaʻo Pili Ola Counseling Services provides personal counseling, consultation, and coaching in a supportive environment to both UH Hilo and Hawaiʻi CC students.

Information for Faculty and Staff

What happens if I cannot make it in to teach my classes or work in my office?
Please contact your supervisor, department chair or division chair as soon as possible.
What housing facilities are available for me, my family, and my pets?
Faculty and staff should seek alternative arrangements, such as Off-Campus Housing or Hawaiʻi County Housing .