09 AUG 2018: Elections are challenging times for candidates even in the best of circumstances. But politicians on Hawaii’s Big Island frequently have extra adversity, given they live on top of one of the world's most active volcanoes and in the general vicinity of hurricanes that can barrel through the central Pacific Ocean. Right now, as Hawaii readies for its primary elections, candidates and voters are grappling with an erupting Kilauea volcano and Hurricane Hector.

The island has a history of nature-related election disruptions: In 2014, Tropical Storm Iselle forced the same two precincts hit hardest by Kilauea volcano to close the day of the primary. The state Office of Elections organized a makeup election day for the two precincts six days later.

This year, the disruption is possibly broader, as lava from Kilauea has destroyed more than 700 homes since May and upended the local economy.

Many voters have left the island after losing their homes and jobs. Or they're struggling to keep their businesses afloat because tourism has dropped dramatically.

“People are still scrambling. They're still in a bit of shock,” said Eileen O'Hara, a county councilwoman who is running for re-election. “Their attention is not focused on the election.”

O'Hara's council district includes Leilani Estates, the neighbourhood where lava burst through cracks in people's backyards on May 3, and Kapoho, a beach town smothered by lava.

Kilauea has been erupting from Leilani Estates for three months now, but lava volume dropped dramatically over the weekend. Scientists don't know whether the change signifies the flows will peter out, as it's common for eruptions to wax and wane.

Meanwhile, a tropical storm watch was in effect Monday for the Big Island as Hurricane Hector neared. The category 4 storm was expected to weaken and pass 150 miles (241 kilometres) south of the island Wednesday.

Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said officials would be prepared for whatever nature brings.

“The volcano, Madam Pele, has totally wiped out all the homes that would have been in danger,” he said, referring to the Hawaiian volcano goddess. Those neighbourhoods suffered a lot of damage from Tropical Storm Iselle in 2014, he said.

“You accept it. This is nature's way,” he said.

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