Hawaii Volcano Shoots Up Smoke and Ash as a New Crack Opens

Hawaii Volcano Shoots Up Smoke and Ash as a New Crack Opens
Activity in the lower East Rift Zone ramped up overnight and this morning. During an overflight, HVO scientists observed a very active fissure 20.

More falling ash could impact some Big Island residents early Saturday morning after another steam explosion at the summit of Kilauea.

Civil Defense officials reported the explosion happened around midnight. They say the wind may carry the ash plume Southwest toward Volcano Village, Wood Valley, Pahala, Naalehu, and Ocean View.

Weather forecasters say light bashful is possible for the southern end of Hawaii Island until 2:00 p.m. Saturday.

The severity of the explosion is not yet clear. Residents in those areas are urged to stay indoors and stay tuned to officials for further instructions.

Earlier Friday, a fast-moving lava flow threatened an isolated area with at least 40 homes in lower Puna, and officials say they conducted rescues via helicopter.

At 7:30 p.m., Civil Defense officials said four people were safely evacuated by county and National Guard helicopters after Pohoiki Road was closed.

Civil Defense also says the lava is spewing from fissure 20. The flow has crossed Pohoiki Road near Malama Ki Place.

Officials urge everyone to avoid the area. Those living from Isaac Hale Beach Park to Kalapana are also advised to prepare for voluntary evacuation should Highway 137 become threatened.

So far, Highway 130 and 137 remain open into the weekend. Officials may closed the highway if needed.

Earlier in the day, officials noticed the threat for the fast-moving flow and first responders were sent into the area to stop entry on both sides of Pohoiki Road.

Hotter lava from Kilauea's summit started to violently spew from new fissures and older ones in the lower east rift zone, sending lava fountains as high as 200 feet into the air and spitting out lava bombs the size of refrigerators.

On Friday, at least two additional homes were claimed by lava and officials say the scope of destruction is only likely to grow.

"With fresher, hotter magma, there's the potential that the lava flows can move with greater ease and therefore cover more area," said Janet Babb, USGS geologist.

At least five separate fissures were active Friday, creating several separate flows and prompting new safety warnings to residents still in affected communities or those trying to access their homes.

At least 325 acres of land and 41 structures have now been covered with lava in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions, where mandatory evacuation orders have been in place for more than two weeks.

Hawaii Volcano Observatory scientists said the newest fissure in the area — no. 22 — opened on Friday morning between fissures 19 and 20. Meanwhile, four older fissures remain active and at least three are producing lava flows.

The incredible eruptive activity, which has been ramping up in recent days, comes as geologists say it remains unclear how long the eruptions will last.

Scientists have confirmed, though, that lava now spewing into lower Puna is new — from the quickly-emptying lava lake at Kilauea's summit crater some 20 miles away. The first eruptions into lower Puna were sending older lava from a 1955 flow into the community.

Residents, meanwhile, say the volcanic activity is taking a huge toll — day by day.

"It's been like hell," said resident Ikaika Marzo, who has been helping get much-needed information to those in lower Puna.

He described the sounds of lava in the area as 10 or 20 jets taking off at once and right in your backyard. "It's like huge grenades going off," he said. "It shakes the whole community."

The ongoing volcanic activity prompted civil defense authorities to urge extreme caution for anyone still in lava-ravaged areas.

"Leilani Estates evacuees must be alert to possible decreased availability of access," civil defense authorities said. "No access is allowed at his time for residents of Lanipuna Gardens due to high levels of dangerous volcanic gases."

Meanwhile, authorities continue to closely monitor activity at Kilauea's summit crater, where an explosive eruption Thursday spewed ash five miles into the air.

They're urging residents across the Ka'u District and Puna to be prepared for rapid changes in air quality because of the potential for ashfall or higher concentrations of sulfur dioxide.

On Thursday, heavy vog across lower Puna forced school closures. But the return of winds Friday meant volcanic emissions weren't leading to high concentrations of sulfur dioxide.

Jim Kauahikaua, USGS geophysicist, said the amount of gas spewing from outbreaks in Leilani Estates and nearby Lanipuna Gardens is about the same as the amount that comes out of Halemaumau Crater. The difference? The crater isn't in the middle of residential communities.

"The thing to remember is this is putting out as much sulfur dioxide as Halemaumau does normally," he said.

Geologists are also monitoring widening cracks in a number of roadways in Leilani Estates, ground zero for the ongoing eruptions.

Steve Brantley, of the USGS, said the large cracks, which have torn roads apart in some places or created gaps of 1 yard or wider, are an indication that magma is continuing to enter the rift zone.

"The rift zone is being forced apart," he said. "I think clearly it points to the potential for additional eruptive activity" in lower Puna.

Marzo said he saw a crack on Nohea Street widen from about 3 feet on Thursday morning to about 10 feet wide later in the day. He also said that about 40 yards of the road sank.

"These cracks are definitely taking a toll on people getting to their homes," he said.

The developments underscore the scope of the disaster in the area, which has upended lives, destroyed homes and shows no signs of stopping.

In lower Puna, residents say the eruptions have turned their community into a "war zone."

"Everything is so uncertain. It's really nerve-wracking," said Debbie Kalaluhi, who can see the ongoing eruption of fissure no. 17 from her backyard. "You're very on edge. You have to really see it to believe it."

Mandatory evacuations remain in place for the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions, home to about 2,000 people. About 250 people are staying at three American Red Cross emergency shelters, while hundreds more residents are staying with friends and family.

Talmadge Magno, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator, said Thursday that about 20 homes remain occupied in Leilani Estates — a fact that he expects will change as volcanic activity continues to cut off roads, gobble up utility lines and send toxic fumes into the air.

"Lava has a way of moving people," he said.

Meanwhile, authorities continue to urge thousands living elsewhere in Kilauea's east rift zone to be prepared to evacuate quickly.

A presidential disaster declaration has been issued for the ongoing Kilauea eruptions, which have changed the landscape of a Big Island community, destroying dozens of homes, covering roads and gobbling up utility lines.

Tina Neal, USGS scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, has said there's no's telling how long the eruptions will continue.
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