Hawaii vol­cano

Ex­plo­sive blast sends ash fly­ing

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By CALEB JONES and SOPHIA YAN The As­so­ci­ated Press

VOL­CANO, Hawaii — A vol­cano on the Big Is­land erupted anew Thurs­day with lit­tle sound and only mod­est fury, 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 of Ki­lauea 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 the size of cows from the sum­mit.

Toby Hazel, who lives in Pa­hoa, near the moun­tain, said she heard “a lot of boom­ing sounds.” 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 only learned about the erup­tion af­ter re­ceiv­ing an alert on his phone. The plume, a tow­er­ing col­umn of ash reach­ing into a hazy sky, looked dif­fer­ent than oth­ers he’s wit­nessed, be­cause of its sheer height.

“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.”

Tour guide Scott Wig­gers didn’t hear the erup­tion ei­ther and wasn’t aware any­thing hap­pened. Later in the morn­ing, he picked up four trav­el­ers for a tour and headed to­ward the vol­cano with the hopes of see­ing “some ac­tion.” But it was rain­ing too hard for them to see much.

The only sign of the erup­tion he en­coun­tered was ash cov­er­ing the back bumper of his truck.

Joe Laceby, who also lives in Vol­cano, didn’t hear the noise. “There was a lit­tle bit of shak­ing there right af­ter, but I never heard like an ex­plo­sion or any­thing,” he said.

Ju­lia Neal, op­er­a­tor of Pa­hala Plantation Cot­tages, said a light dust­ing of white ash fell in the town of Pa­hala about 28 miles west of Ki­lauea’s sum­mit. It wasn’t as much as she ex­pected, she said. Pa­hala is the clos­est town west of the sum­mit crater.

Res­i­dents as far away as Hilo, about 30 miles from Ki­lauea, were start­ing to no­tice 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.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice is­sued an ash ad­vi­sory and then ex­tended it through early evening, and county of­fi­cials dis­trib­uted ash masks to area res­i­dents. Sev­eral schools closed be­cause of the risk of el­e­vated lev­els of sul­fur diox­ide, a vol­canic gas.

The im­me­di­ate health risk comes from ash par­ti­cles in the air, said Dr. Josh Green, a state se­na­tor who rep­re­sents part of the Big Is­land.

Any­one with res­pi­ra­tory dif­fi­cul­ties, such as asthma or em­phy­sema, should limit ex­po­sure to the ash, Green said.

“Peo­ple need to stay in­side un­til the winds shift and the ash has set­tled,” he said.

Ex­tended ex­po­sure to sul­fur diox­ide can in­crease risk of bron­chi­tis and up­per res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions in the long run, ac­cord­ing to find­ings of a study Green worked on with other ex­perts pub­lished in 2010 in the Jour­nal of Tox­i­col­ogy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Health.

The Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion ex­tended a re­stric­tion on air­craft from en­ter­ing the airspace up to 30,000 feet above Ki­lauea’s sum­mit. The ear­lier limit was up to 10,000 feet. The pro­hi­bi­tion ap­plies to a 5-mile ra­dius around the crater.

Thurs­day’s erup­tion did not af­fect the Big Is­land’s two largest air­ports in Hilo and Kailua-Kona.

The crater spew­ing ash 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 a large ex­plo­sion. Ge­ol­o­gists pre­dicted such a blast would mostly re­lease trapped steam from flash-heated ground­wa­ter.

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

Sci­en­tists can­not say why the erup­tion is happening now, given that Ki­lauea has been ac­tive for 35 years.

“There’s so many vari­ables. It’s com­pli­cated, like a bad Face­book re­la­tion­ship sta­tus,” said vol­ca­nol­o­gist Ja­nine Kripp­ner of Con­cord Univer­sity in West Vir­ginia. “Some­thing will even­tu­ally change, like it has over and over and over again.”

Robert Hughes owns the Aloha Junc­tion Bed and Break­fast, about a mile and a half from the crater. He said he didn’t hear any­thing and has yet to spot ash.

His busi­ness has been hit hard by fears of the vol­cano, a ma­jor at­trac­tion for visi­tors. He’s lost hundreds of reser­va­tions and had just three guests Thurs­day in­stead of the 12 to 14 he typ­i­cally serves.

“In the old days, peo­ple used to love to come see the vol­cano. They’d even take their lit­tle post­cards, burn one cor­ner in the lava flow, mail them off, stuff like that,” he said. “Now they’re act­ing like it’s all su­per-danger­ous and every­thing, but it just kind of oozes out.”

Alisha Keawekane-Romero of Kahu­lui hugs un­cle Ian Miya­gawa on Thurs­day af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the Maui/Molokai Drug Court Pro­gram in 2nd Cir­cuit Court. The 63rd class fea­tured eight grad­u­ates and in­cluded com­ments from Molokai-Lanai-East Maui state Rep....

Sec­ond Cir­cuit Court Judge Joseph Car­doza (from left), Molokai-Lanai-East Maui state Rep. Lynn DeCoite and Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu lis­ten to grad­u­ates speak dur­ing the 63rd Maui/Molokai Drug Court Pro­gram.

U.S. Geological Sur­vey / HVO photo via AP

Ki­lauea Vol­cano erupted from its sum­mit Thurs­day, shoot­ing a dusty plume of ash about 30,000 feet into the sky. Mike Poland, a geo­physi­cist with the U.S. Geological Sur­vey, con­firmed the ex­plo­sion Thurs­day morn­ing. It comes af­ter more than a dozen...

The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO pho­tos

Drug Court grad­u­ates sit in a jury box dur­ing grad­u­a­tion cer­e­monies Thurs­day.

AP photo

Joe Laceby, 47, of Vol­cano, Hawaii, watches as ash rises from the sum­mit crater of Ki­lauea Vol­cano on Thurs­day. Laceby said he has sealed up his home and has gas masks to pro­tect him­self from the vol­canic gases ash that is fall­ing in the area.

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