Hawaii vol­cano sends ash plume 30,000 feet into sky

Imperial Valley Press - - OPINION -

HONOLULU ( AP) — Hawaii’s Ki­lauea vol­cano erupted anew be­fore dawn Thurs­day, spew­ing a steely gray plume of ash about 30,000 feet into the sky that be­gan raining down on a nearby town.

The ex­plo­sion at the sum­mit came shortly af­ter 4 a.m. fol­low­ing two weeks of vol­canic ac­tiv­ity that sent lava flows into neigh­bor­hoods and de­stroyed at least 26 homes. Sci­en­tists said the erup­tion was the most pow­er­ful in re­cent days, though it prob­a­bly lasted only a few min­utes.

Ge­ol­o­gists have warned that the vol­cano could be­come even more vi­o­lent, with in­creas­ing ash pro­duc­tion and the po­ten­tial that fu­ture blasts could hurl boul­ders from the sum­mit.

Toby Hazel, who lives in Pahoa, near the mountain, said she heard “a lot of boom­ing sounds” Thurs­day. Those came af­ter days of earth­quakes.

“It’s just time to go — it re­ally, re­ally is,” she said, pre­par­ing to leave town. “I feel so sorry for the peo­ple who don’t go, be­cause they don’t have the money, or don’t want to go to a shel­ter and leave their houses.”

Some peo­ple in the com­mu­nity clos­est to the vol­cano slept through the blast, said Kanani Aton, a spokes­woman for Hawaii County Civil De­fense, who spoke to rel­a­tives and friends in the town called Vol­cano.

At least one per­son who was awake heard noth­ing. Epic Lava tour op­er­a­tor John Tar­son is an early riser and said he only learned about the erup­tion be­cause he re­ceived an alert on his phone.

Tar­son said the ash plume looked dif­fer­ent than oth­ers he’s wit­nessed be­cause of its sheer height. A video he shared on Face­book showed a tow­er­ing col­umn of ash reach­ing into a hazy sky.

“What I no­ticed is the plume was just rising straight into the air, and it was not tip­ping in any direc­tion,” he said. “We’ve been ex­pect­ing this, and a lot of peo­ple are go­ing to see it and get ex­cited and scared.”

Res­i­dents as far away as Hilo, about 30 miles from Ki­lauea, were notic­ing the vol­cano’s ef­fects. Pua’ena Ahn, who lives in Hilo, com­plained about hav­ing la­bored breath­ing, itchy, wa­tery eyes and some skin ir­ri­ta­tion from air­borne ash.

A Na­tional Weather Ser­vice ash ad­vi­sory was in ef­fect until noon. Sev­eral schools closed be­cause of the risk of el­e­vated lev­els of sul­fur diox­ide, a vol­canic gas.

The crater sits within Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park, which has been closed since May 11 as a safety pre­cau­tion over risks of a vi­o­lent erup­tion.

Sci­en­tists warned May 9 that a drop in the lava lake at the sum­mit might cre­ate con­di­tions for an ex­plo­sion that could fling ash and re­frig­er­a­tor-sized boul­ders into the air. Ge­ol­o­gists pre­dicted such a blast would mostly re­lease trapped steam from flash-heated ground­wa­ter. If it hap­pens, com­mu­ni­ties a mile or two away could be show­ered by pea­size fragments or dusted with ash.

Ki­lauea, one of the world’s most ac­tive vol­ca­noes, has been erupt­ing con­tin­u­ously since 1983. It’s among the five vol­ca­noes that form Hawaii’s Big Is­land, and the only one that’s ac­tively erupt­ing. An erup­tion in 1924 killed one per­son and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.

This Thurs­day im­age pro­vided by the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey shows a view of the ash plume re­sult­ing from an early morn­ing ex­plo­sion at Ki­lauea Vol­cano, in Hawaii. U.S. GE­O­LOG­I­CAL SUR­VEY/HVO VIA AP

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