Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Eruption at Risk of Entering Explosive Phase

Angelica Greene
May 12, 2018

According to Hawaii County Civil Defense, Pohoiki Road is closed from Highway 132 to Highway 137; Highway 130 is closed between Malama Street and Kamaili Road; and no access is being allowed at this time at Lanipuna Gardens due to volcanic gases in the area. Now they've cancelled their trip. "In general, PDCs move too quickly for people to escape, and death is nearly certain for those caught by a PDC", Brown and her colleagues explain.

Field crews are onsite in the Leilani Estates area this morning examining the fissure vents and searching for any signs of new or resumed activity.

The volcano has been undergoing big changes over the past few weeks, culminating in a dramatic eruption following a 5.0-magnitude earthquakeand a subsequent magnitude-6.9 quake last week.

Since the quake, there have been frequent aftershocks.

Scientists say activity from the most recent lava fissure that opened up has paused but risky fumes continue to be released. Adding to the distress, of the 36 structures destroyed, 26 were homes. No one lives in the area surrounding the summit crater, but preparations are still being made for an explosive event.

Scientists said Wednesday the risks of an explosive summit eruption will rise in coming weeks as magma drains down the flank of the volcano.

As long as people stay away, they will be safe, Johnson said, noting that residents are likely well aware of the potential dangers while tourists may be less so.

"What we've already been seeing is that chunks of the surrounding vents are just dropping off into the lava and that's why we're getting these small explosions", said Jessica Johnson, a volcanologist at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

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But Hughes, a 45-year resident of the village of some 2,500 people, suspects he'll soon hear from adventurers and photographers who want to see the eruption up close.

"Sometimes they are three or four thousand years apart, sometimes they're a bit more clustered together", he said. That explosion killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days. The lodge, which has 12 rooms and 4 cottages, has had a handful of cancellations.

NASA used satellite imagery to capture fissures caused by the impending eruption of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.

Like the town of Kamuela which is home to vast cattle ranches and Hawaii's own cowboys, called paniolo.

It has now fallen more than 700 feet below the caldera surface. Mathew Devlen, an American film maker visiting Hawaii as a tourist, said he was awed by it all.

"We know what people are going through in Leilani Estates".

David Shelly, research geophysicist for USGS, said there could be as little as "months" to prepare for an eruption. In the meantime, she said, FEMA teams on the Big Island and Oahu are working closely with state and county officials to assess the situation.

"Because of the unexpected darkness during daylight hours ... and the sometimes strong smell of sulfur during an ashfall, many people describe the experience as eerie and frightening, disorienting and confusing, or awful", the USGS says.

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