Ki­lauea vol­cano

Quakes dam­age roads, build­ings

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By SOPHIA YAN and AU­DREY McAVOY The As­so­ci­ated Press

HONOLULU — Earth­quakes were dam­ag­ing roads and build­ings on Hawaii’s Big Is­land on Wed­nes­day as ash emis­sions streamed from Ki­lauea vol­cano.

The strong­est shak­ing was recorded around 8:30 a.m., measured as a 4.4-mag­ni­tude earth­quake. The floor of the sum­mit crater has also dropped about three feet, as the threat of a strong, ex­plo­sive erup­tion at the top of the vol­cano loomed. The ground was de­flat­ing as the crater’s lava lev­els fell, caus­ing stress faults around the crater to move, re­sult­ing in the earth­quakes. More were ex­pected.

Ash spewed from the sum­mit at Hawaii’s Ki­lauea vol­cano, though emis­sions de­creased from Tues­day.

There were oc­ca­sional bursts of ash com­ing from the crater caus­ing ash to fall down­wind to sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties, though there were only trace amounts, said the Hawai­ian Vol­cano Ob­ser­va­tory. Ash plumes on Tues­day had spouted as high as 12,000 feet into the air, sci­en­tists said.

Th­ese plumes are sep­a­rate from the lava erup­tions hap­pen­ing roughly 25 miles away from sum­mit, where about 20 lava fis­sures have de­stroyed more than two dozen homes and forced the evac­u­a­tion of about 2,000 res­i­dents.

Dense, large rocks roughly two feet in di­am­e­ter were found in a park­ing lot a few hun­dred yards away from Ki­lauea’s sum­mit crater, which re­flect the “most en­er­getic ex­plo­sions yet ob­served and could re­flect the on­set of steam-driven ex­plo­sive ac­tiv­ity,” the Hawai­ian Vol­cano Ob­ser­va­tory said in a state­ment, and con­tin­ues to mon­i­tor ac­tiv­ity.

Sci­en­tists say earth­quakes may shake loose rocks un­der­ground and open up new tun­nels for lava to flow.

Cracks formed on a high­way near the en­trance to Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park, said the Hawaii Po­lice Depart­ment. Much of the park re­mains closed.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the state is form­ing a joint task force that could han­dle mass evac­u­a­tions of the Big Is­land’s Puna district if lava from Ki­lauea vol­cano cov­ers ma­jor roads and iso­lates the area.

Hawaii Army Na­tional Guard Brig. Gen. Ken­neth Hara, the task force com­man­der, said he’s an­tic­i­pat­ing po­ten­tially hav­ing to evac­u­ate about 1,000 peo­ple, based on what he’s been told by Hawaii County. But he said some peo­ple may choose to stay be­hind be­cause they are self-suf­fi­cient.

Hara said there are cur­rently about 1,200 soldiers and nine UH-60 he­li­copters cur­rently train­ing on the Big Is­land. He may also re­quest forces from the U.S. Pa­cific Com­mand if needed.

On Tues­day, the vol­cano dis­charged ash be­cause of rocks fall­ing into the sum­mit, U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey geo­physi­cist Mike Poland said.

“There is very lit­tle wind at the sum­mit,” he said. “The plume, it’s not near as ashy as it was yes­ter­day, and it’s ris­ing more or less ver­ti­cally over the sum­mit re­gion.”

Be­cause of the ash, USGS sci­en­tists op­er­ated from a backup com­mand cen­ter at the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Hilo.

Poland did not have an im­me­di­ate height on the plume Wed­nes­day since sci­en­tists were not staffing the ob­ser­va­tory at the sum­mit. They will have to rely on re­mote ob­ser­va­tions, he said.

“Things seem to be pro­gress­ing largely as they have been, ex­cept for a shift in wind and less ash,” Poland said.

Sci­en­tists re­mained on alert for more vi­o­lent ac­tiv­ity. Ge­ol­o­gists have warned that the sum­mit could have a sep­a­rate ex­plo­sive steam erup­tion that would hurl huge rocks and ash miles into the sky. But it’s not cer­tain when or if that might hap­pen.

For those on the ground near the lava vents, health warn­ings were is­sued be­cause of dan­ger­ous vol­canic gases.

An air-qual­ity alert was in ef­fect for an area near the La­nipuna Gar­dens sub­di­vi­sion. That area was evac­u­ated shortly af­ter the erup­tion be­gan May 3. Most fis­sures are in that sub­di­vi­sion or the ad­join­ing Leilani Es­tates neigh­bor­hood.

Sev­eral fis­sures re­mained ac­tive Wed­nes­day, pro­duc­ing lava spat­ter. Lava from one fis­sure that had been clear­ing a path to­ward the ocean, about 2 miles away, had not ad­vanced in the last 24 hours.

Cindy Ellen Rus­sell / Honolulu Star-Ad­vertiser via AP

A plume of vol­canic steam rises from the align­ment of fis­sures in Hawaii’s Ki­lauea East Rift zone on Wed­nes­day. Earth­quakes were dam­ag­ing roads and build­ings on Hawaii’s Big Is­land on Wed­nes­day as ash emis­sions streamed from Ki­lauea vol­cano.

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