Lava on da move

OF­FI­CIALS WARN LAVA COULD SUR­FACE ANY­WHERE FROM PU‘U ‘O‘O TO KAPOHO

West Hawaii Today - - Front Page - BY TOM CALLIS HAWAII TRIBUNE-HER­ALD

HILO — Hawaii County of­fi­cials are ad­vis­ing lower Puna res­i­dents to be pre­pared to evac­u­ate should a new erup­tion oc­cur on Ki­lauea’s East Rift Zone.

Seis­mic­ity re­mained high in the area Wed­nes­day, in­clud­ing around Leilani Es­tates, where res­i­dents re­ported fre­quent shak­ing. Hawai­ian Vol­cano Ob­ser­va­tory ge­ol­o­gists also re­sponded to a re­port of cracks form­ing on Kahukai Street.

Pe­tra Wiesen­bauer said she saw the cracks near her home, and they ap­peared to be get­ting wider.

“I checked my house, and ev­ery­thing seemed OK,” she said. “Still, it’s very un­set­tling.”

Ge­ol­o­gists say magma is in­trud­ing down­rift and an erup­tion, should one oc­cur, could hap­pen any­where from Pu‘u ‘O‘o to Kapoho.

“I think that this is a sit­u­a­tion where res­i­dents in lower Puna should stay vig­i­lant and heed the ad­vice of Hawaii County Civil De­fense,” HVO spokes­woman Janet Babb said.

She said the ground cracks in Leilani Es­tates ap­peared to be a re­sult of ground de­for­ma­tion caused by the on­go­ing magma in­tru­sion. Still, Babb said, they were not a sign of magma try­ing to sur­face since there was no steam.

The in­tru­sion started fol­low­ing the col­lapse of Pu‘u ‘O‘o’s crater floor Mon­day af­ter­noon.

In re­sponse, Hawaii Vol­ca­noes Na­tional Park closed 15,688 acres to the pub­lic from near Pu‘u ‘ O‘o, which sits just out­side the park, down to the coast. A fis­sure opened west of that vol­canic vent but only pro­duced a small amount of lava.

The county’s Kala­pana lava view­ing and park­ing area is closed.

County Civil De­fense Ad­min­is­tra­tor Tal­madge Magno said shel­ters would be opened at the Pa­hoa Com­mu­nity Cen­ter and also pos­si­bly at the Keaau Com­mu­nity Cen­ter and

Afook-Chi­nen Civic Au­di­to­rium in Hilo if new erup­tions threaten homes.

Res­i­dents should get their fam­ily and busi­ness plans in or­der if they need to leave sud­denly since they will likely have lit­tle warn­ing, he said.

Magno said the county will be pre­pared to mo­bi­lize its own re­sources and is ask­ing for as­sis­tance from state agen­cies and the Na­tional Guard.

“We’re just try­ing to keep that in­for­ma­tion flow­ing” be­tween agen­cies, he said. Since early Tues­day morn­ing, Civil De­fense has been a 24-hour op­er­a­tion, Magno said.

Evac­u­a­tions could prove chal­leng­ing in an area with one main road in and out.

Magno said the county would be ready to open up the Rail­road Av­enue emer­gency evac­u­a­tion route, built when the “June 27th” lava flow threat­ened Pa­hoa and High­way 130 in 2014.

The U.S. Cen­sus Bu­reau’s 2016 Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Sur­vey es­ti­mated that 10,674 peo­ple live in the Pa­hoa and Kala­pana-Kapoho cen­sus tracts.

Wiesen­bauer, who op­er­ates a bed and break­fast, said she stayed dur­ing the 2014 event and wasn’t plan­ning to leave yet.

“I have a B&B and I just can’t pack up and leave,” she said.

Babb said Wed­nes­day morn­ing there were 100 or more mi­nor quakes in the area the pre­vi­ous night. The quakes con­tin­ued through­out the day.

Wiesen­bauer said she could feel the shak­ing, which she de­scribed as “low-grade,” ev­ery few min­utes. She said it’s stress­ful, but she’s try­ing not to think too much about what’s out of her con­trol.

“I tell my­self we sur­vived the past (event), and this too shall pass some­how,” Wiesen­bauer said.

Kua O Ka La New Cen­tury Pub­lic Char­ter School said it would re­main closed to­day due to con­cerns about a new erup­tion.

Chad Farias, Pa­hoa com­plex area su­per­in­ten­dent, said he was look­ing to see if those stu­dents can be ac­com­mo­dated at other schools. No other schools have an­nounced clo­sure plans.

“We learned from 2014 how to con­sol­i­date and move our stu­dents around … so we are start­ing to re­view those pro­cesses so we know the op­tions out there for us,” he said.

Ge­ol­o­gists are com­par­ing the cur­rent ac­tiv­ity to what led up to the 1955 Ki­lauea erup­tion, which, ac­cord­ing to the county, saw at least 24 sep­a­rate vol­canic vents open. Lava cov­ered 3,900 acres.

Jim Kauahikaua, HVO geo­physi­cist, said Puna res­i­dents felt quakes for two to three months be­fore that erup­tion started.

But the only thing cer­tain is un­cer­tainty. It re­mains un­known if an erup­tion will oc­cur or where, he said.

Re­porter Kirsten John­son con­trib­uted to this re­port.

A Hawaii Fire De­part­ment crew in­ves­ti­gates ground cracks at Kahukai Street in Leilani Es­tates. Cour­tesy of Pe­tra Wiesen­bauer

COUR­TESY OF PE­TRA WIESEN­BAUER

Cracks were found on Kahukai Street in Leilani Es­tates, pos­si­bly a re­sult of re­cent magma in­tru­sion.

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