GATES COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) – The Kilauea volcano continues to rage on — threatening everything in its path on the big island of Hawaii.
Crews from all over the country are there to help in the response, including some folks from North Carolina.
10 On Your Side caught up with the Gates County Emergency Management director, Billy Winn, who is in Hawaii now.
Here’s how and why he and his team were selected to go: Hawaii put out a request for an Incident Management Team via EMAC (Emergency Management Assistance Compact). The state of North Carolina was able to provide exactly what they needed and assembled a team.
Officials say the team of 10 was chosen based on experience managing evacuations, sheltering, and fire protection. With 30 years of experience, Winn fit the bill.
Other members of the team came from Bladen, Lee, McDowell, Moore, and Onslow Counties along with officials from fire departments in Cary, Charlotte and Greensboro.
“It really doesn’t matter what the disaster is,” explained Winn. “The consequences to the population are the same with housing and food and water and transportation. When we deal with disasters locally you know you have a roof blown off or the structure is flooded. In this case if the lava has gotten on your property there’s nothing left.”
Hawaii will cover the bill for the North Carolina team’s assistance. Billy Winn and his team are based in Hilo, about 25 miles from the volcanic activity. Officials say the main focus of this team is managing evacuations, shelters and road closures. With lava still bubbling up from the ground, Winn says Hawaii is still in the beginning stages of the disaster.
The North Carolina team has also assisted rescue people who were trapped by the lava. Winn says he’s never seen anything like it.
“Surreal is the only word that makes any sense to us,” said Winn. “It’s a phenomenal sight to see. It’s just a vibrant orange color. There are many, many images online and they do zero justice for the awesomeness of nature. It’s a volcanic event, but it’s not lava spewing from the top of a volcano like you see in the movies. the fissures are just opening up in the ground due to an earthquake and the lava just comes from the ground.”
Winn says the people of Hawaii are extremely grateful and are handling this disaster as best as they possibly can.
“Those people have been phenomenal to deal with. They are resilient people. They are hardy, warm and welcoming people.”
This type of lava event isn’t unusual for Hawaii, but what is unusual is when they happen in populated areas like this.