Hawaii Volcano Blog

Officials Share Updates on Kīlaueaʻs Activity & Impacts

May 9, 2018, 2:06 PM HST
* Updated May 15, 12:07 PM
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Wednesday, May 9, 2018, 8:29 a.m.: The explosion at Halema‘uma‘u was determined not to have been caused by the interaction of the lava lake with the water table. PC: USGS

Reporters from all over the world participated in a telephone news conference with representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, National Park Service, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 9.

The morning session included HVO’s scientific monitoring of the volcano and current activity, including a chronology of volcanic activity since late April, impacts at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and current Hawai‘i Civil Defense advice for residents and visitors.

The organizations plan on daily briefings.

The following are some important highlights of the conference call:

Tina Neal, USGS HVO

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An alert sent out this morning was due to concerns about the eventual intersection of the lava column in Halema‘uma‘u crater with the level of the groundwater table below Kīlauea summit as the lava lake decreases in elevation at a very steady rate. Water may flush into the system of hot rocks, creating a period of repeated, steam-driven explosions.

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Within an hour of putting out that notice this morning, an explosion did occur, but it was probably prompted by a small nearby earthquake that caused rocks from Halema‘uma‘u’s sides to fall into the crater’s existing lava lake surface.

The drawdown of the lava lake is similar to the 1924 episode in which explosive events continued for nearly three weeks.

Hazards associated with the explosions include far-downwind ash fall, and near-field ballistic blocks of lava that can be flung out during the explosions.

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This may be the first of more events like this to come.

There are no indications of cessation of activity in the East Rift Zone or at the summit.

Talmadge Magno, Hawai‘i County Civil Defense

The 14 fissures and high SO2 levels are the main concerns of Hawai‘i County Civil Defense. About 116 acres are covered by lava.

Seven private roads and two public road impassable at this time.

Power in the Leilani subdivision has been restored in part, and work is ongoing to re-establish electricity in an area that went out this morning.

Water has been restored.

To date, 36 structures have been impacted, 26 of which were residences.

The 1,600 residents of Leilani Subdivision and the 300 of Lanipuna Gardens subdivision have been totally evacuated.

Today, May 9, is the third day that residents have been allowed back to their homes (from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) to retrieve belongings—as conditions permit.

The Pāhoa Community Center is sheltering 272 evacuees, 27 of whom are in the senior center, and the Kea‘au shelter at has 15 residents.

Their belongings are also being stored at the shelters, but more permanent storage is being sought.

Civil Defense is making evacuation and shelter plans for adjacent communities in lower Puna as well as the summit area.

Jessica Ferricane, HVNP

Despite the explosion from the rockfall this morning, Hawai‘i Volcanos National Park remains open—but with many closures of certain areas.

If the situation at Halema‘uma‘u becomes serious, the park will take immediate action to ensure safety, evacuate visitors and close the park.

HVNP is working closely with HVO, which monitors activity 24-7.

Check back for more information revealed in the press conference.

For the latest updates and information, check these websites:

 

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