Kilauea volcano still pumping lava, doubling gas emissions
PAHOA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - As more steam explosions occur at the summit of Kilauea, "vigorous eruptions" continue from fissure no. 8, where lava fountains nearly 200 feet high are feeding into two lava flows.
Measurements taken over the weekend show that gas emissions from the fissure have nearly doubled, possibly indicating an increase in the outbreak's eruption rate. That's triggering new air quality concerns, and authorities have warned residents to be prepared for heavier vog in some ares of the Big Island.
Three closely-spaced lava fountains at the fissure have been feeding into a channel in the northeast, and another into the ocean, creating a land mass where Kapoho Bay once was.
USGS scientists say the new lava delta formed has grown to 200 acres, and continues to expand. Lava from fissure no. 8 gushed 130-180 feet in the air with occasionally higher bursts, according to officials.
According to Hawaii Volcano Observatory officials, the small overflow outbreak near Highway 132 and Pohoiki Road, is now fully confined within the channel.
On Saturday afternoon, Civil Defense officials said they were monitoring a perched lava flow near Highway 132 and Pohoiki Road.
Everyone is asked to stay out of Lava Tree Park, and those near the area should be prepared to evacuate in a moment's notice.
While the lava continues to spew, seismic events remain common.
The latest steam explosion to occur at the summit of Kilauea happened at around 4:45 a.m. Monday, which triggered an earthquake measured at a magnitude of 5.3. Officials said there was no tsunami threat. It is among the latest quakes to shake the area during the ongoing eruption.
And about four hours prior, another explosion occurred.
Cracking and slumping of the Halemaumau crater walls are clearly evident in aerial views, USGS said. Steam plumes have been rising from within the crater, as well as from cracks adjacent to the crater — which are more signs of ongoing seismic activity.
Janet Babb of USGS says these events are somewhat becoming predictable as scientists track indicators that could lead to the next eruption.
Babb said in a news conference, ash eruptions and earthquakes seem to be on a 24-48 hour cycle when the activity is repeated.
Although scientists are getting better at tracking precursors, there is still no way to pinpoint exactly what will happen next.
Hawaii County Civil Defense agency officials are allowing some Leilani Estates evacuees to return home.
No curfews, no limitations — but they're on notice: Access could stop if conditions change.
And officials stress that a mandatory evacuation order for the hardest hit area of the subdivision remains in effect.
The good news for those who live west of Pomaikai Street in the subdivision, ground zero for the eruptions that started May 3 on the Big Island, comes as Big Island authorities scramble to address a growing housing crisis for thousands of evacuees.
This week, the state pledged $12 million to help Hawaii County pay for the mounting costs of responding to Kilauea's ongoing eruptions, which have destroyed at least 600 homes over the last five weeks.
Already, the county has shelled out at least $3 million for disaster response, officials said.
Meanwhile, fissure no. 8 continues to erupt "vigorously" in Leilani Estates. On Friday, geologists said, the fissure was spewing an estimated 26,000 gallons of lava per second, creating fountains over 200 feet high.
But parts of Leilani Estates remain untouched by the lava. The bigger concern for residents is volcanic emissions.
That's why the county is letting some residents return. Residents like Smiley Burrows, who lives on Kula Street with her husband.
Burrows said she and her family fled eruptions in Leilani Estates and headed for their home in Kapoho.
That home was lost along with hundreds of others earlier this week, when a channelized flow covered all of Vacationland and much of Kapoho Beach Lots.
Being back in Leilani Estates has been an adjustment, she said.
"The plume comes from behind the house at night and it sounds like a jet engine," she said. "And then of course it's been raining rocks."
Burrows said, ironically, she moved much of her household items to Kapoho, thinking they'd be safer there. That's where they were claimed by the lava.
"It would have all still been here if I just hadn't moved anything," she said. "So it's about detachment and also realizing that stuff is stuff. As special as it is. Stuff is replaceable. Kids and animals and friends and loved ones — that's what it's all about."
But even with running water and power, the Burrows family is considering leaving Leilani Estates out of concern about sulfur dioxide levels and ashfall.
They've identified a rental they may be able to move into, but they're competing with hundreds of other families who have either been displaced because their homes were claimed by lava or who are unable to get into houses that are still standing because roadways are blocked.
Officials haven't yet released the total number of homes destroyed in Kapoho, but Big Island Mayor Kim put the figure in the hundreds.
"The past few days have got to be one of the saddest in my long life that I've experienced," Kim said. "But we're going to do this. We will work as a team at the federal, state, our governor, so we eliminate all the bureaucracy delays that are natural, so we can get it done as soon as possible."
This story will be updated.
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