A little over a week after Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted, The Big Island is now bracing for a series of explosive eruptions which could occur within days or weeks, hurling boulders the size of small cars, creating a giant ash cloud, and oozing even more of the hot magma which has already claimed at least 36 structures and forced thousands to evacuate.
Geologists believe the hardest hit by the new activity will be the Leilani Estates in the southwestern Puna district, around 20 miles south of Hilo where all 1,900 residents have already been evacuated.
“We are telling people to plan for the worst. They should have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C,” said county official Roann Okomura, who helps operate one of the evacuation shelters.
As a lava lake at Kilauea’s summit drains inside the volcano, magma is running underground. It could burst to the surface as large, fast-moving and intensely hot lava flows and produce higher levels of toxic gases, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge Tina Neal said.
In addition, Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, threatens to begin a series of explosive eruptions within days or weeks that could form huge clouds of volcanic smog, or vog, and hurl boulders as big as small cars. –Reuters.
“What will take a turn for the worse in terms of hazard is if hotter, fresher magma makes it to the surface, and that could be what is coming,” Neal told a conference call on Friday. “Once a new batch of hotter, gassier magma makes it to the surface we might see larger, higher eruption rates.”
Sixteen fissures have opened up on the eastern flank of Kilauea since its initial eruption eight days ago – oozing relatively cool, slow moving magma left over from a similar incident in 1955. Scientists now worry that fresh magma from deeper within the earth is about to come surging behind it.
In other words, what’s happened over the last eight days was just “cleaning out the pipes” so to speak.
Yesterday we reported on a series of powerful earthquakes which have hit The Big Island since it Kilauea began erupting.
In Pahoa, the nearest village to Kilauea, some schools remained closed after the area was hit by a 6.9 magnitude earthquake on Friday, the biggest since 1975.
Meanwhile, a new fissure opened up near the Puna geothermal power plant on Saturday, spattering lava less than a mile from the facility. There are still nearly 50,000 gallons of pentane stored at the site, according to Hawaii News Now.
Compounding worries is a text message sent to residents of the southeast corner of the island by County authorities warning them of a wind change that would bring rising levels of sulfur dioxide gas, which can be fatal if inhaled in large quantities.
Hawaii’s governor has warned that mass evacuations may be required as more fissures open in the ground and spew lava and gas into semi-rural residential areas on the east flank of Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
President Trump issued a disaster declaration for Hawaii on Friday, announcing that federal funding had been approved for local recovery efforts in the affected areas.
“Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments,” the White House added in a statement.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) chief Brock Long named deputy Federal Coordinating Officer Willie Nunn as the agency’s top official overseeing the relief efforts.
“As more fissures open and toxic gas exposure increases, the potential of a larger scale evacuation increases. A mass evacuation of the lower Puna District would be beyond current county and state capabilities, and would quickly overwhelm our collective resources,” Ige said.
“Federal assistance would be necessary to enable us to successfully conduct such large-scale operations.”