A woman with Belleville roots watched as lava ate her dream home last week. Her family says there will be no insurance payout on the $350,000 loss because lava, not fire, destroyed the home and they are hoping to raise money for her through social media.
A volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii erupted on Thursday, as two major earthquakes also rumbled the island. The volcano spewed lava 100 feet into the air, and officials evacuated the area for both lava flow and dangerously high levels of sulfur dioxide.
"Lava just inundated her house," said Dan Schnurbusch, who married into Hope Northway's family. "They only had a couple hours to pack up all their stuff they wanted to take."
Northway, 67, and her partner, Laura McDonnell, 59, are staying with a friend on the island, according to Northway's sister Carolyn Miller, of St. Charles, Missouri.
For the most part, only all-risk policies cover lava and earthquakes, says an official from the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.
"It's not something that would be offered by many insurers," Jerry Bump told CNN.
However, if homes were insured for fire and the heat from the lava caught the house on fire before the lava touched the home, then it could be covered, Hawaii's Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito told the Star-Advertiser.
More than two dozen homes have been destroyed by fire in Leilani Estates, an area of the big island nestled between the Nanawale and Malami-Ki forest reserves.
Schnurbusch says the goal of $350,000 on the GoFundMe account the family created is "probably unreasonable" but he didn't know what else to ask for. The home also contained the women's work lives as well as their personal lives. Northway has a water-purification business and McDonnell has a frame shop in Hilo, but kept equipment at the home, Miller said.
Northway and McDonnell evacuated on Thursday, hurriedly packing their two vehicles and leaving expensive work-related equipment in the home, including a $7,000 framing machine that McDonnell uses.
The couple built the home four years ago, and planted palms and bamboo.
"It was so beautiful," Northway wrote in an email to her sister.
Northway moved soon after graduating from Belleville East High School, Miller said, first to California and then to Hawaii.
"She pretty much moved to Hawaii with a backpack, and right now she feels like she's right back where she started."