Officials disagree on whether Kilauea is ready to blow
Lower Puna residents are warned to prepare for a possible eruption in their area
At least a couple of cracks formed in the roadways near Leilani Estates in Puna Wednesday, offering up the latest sign that Kilauea Volcano may be drawing closer to a new eruption.
Hawaii Volcano Observatory scientists said the area along the east rift zone from Highway 130 eastward toward Kapoho continued to experience lots of small earthquakes as magma migrates into lower Puna. The activity, they said, makes a lava outbreak there a real possibility.
Hawaii Civil Defense officials warned residents of Nanawale Estates, Leilani Estates and Kapoho in Lower Puna that an eruption in their area could be imminent.
But while cracks less than a few inches wide in the road are another sign of volcano-related stresses underground, scientists do not believe lava is necessarily about to burst forth, said Janet Babb, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist.
Scientists are not seeing the kind of heat or steam rising from the cracks that would indicate molten lava is near the surface, she said.
“The fact that the (magma) intrusion is continuing makes this an event that should be taken seriously,” Babb said. “We are taking this seriously, and the residents should take it seriously too. They need to be vigilant and heed safety messages, and be prepared.”
After feeling the ground shake all day Wednesday, Leilani Estates resident Kris Burmeister said he was taking the situation seriously and is preparing to evacuate if necessary.
“I don’t think I’m going to die or anything, but it’s your house. And I’ve got my dogs to think about. I’ve got my kids to think about,” Burmeister said.
“I already have a place to stay,” he added. “It’s kind of what you sign up for when you live around here. It’s something you have to expect.”
County officials on Wednesday said they were identifying shelters and evacuation routes and warning Lower Puna residents to stay informed and be prepared to evacuate.
In addition, Hawaii Volcano Observatory field crews were scouting for locations in Lower Puna to install global positioning system receivers and additional seismometers in an effort to better learn what’s going on underground, Babb said.
The section of Pahoa-Pohoiki Road between Highway 132 (Kapoho Road) and Leilani Ave. was closed in both
directions due to road damage, according to the Department of Public Works. Detours were established through Highway 132 and Leilani Ave.
Meanwhile, the increase in quakes led to the closure of Kua O Ka La New Century Public Charter School on the coast between Kapoho and Pohoiki. The school will remain closed today.
“It’s a precautionary measure,” said Susie Osborne, head of the 227-student school. “We’d like to have things settle down to understand where we’re at.”
Ken Rubin, University of Hawaii at Manoa volcanology professor, said it’s been fascinating to watch the earthquake activity migrate to the Lower Puna area over the last couple of days.
“It would be pretty remarkable if the vent opened up there,” he said.
Rubin said that while the area has seen its own eruptions in the historical record, it hasn’t experienced a vent opening that would appear to be linked to the Puu Oo vent on the mountain. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, he said, because the volcano has shown itself to be quite unpredictable.
“Anything is possible,” Rubin said. “The volcano has done all kinds of different things.”
Bruce Kuamoo, general manager of Nanewalu Community Association, said the possibility of an eruption is the talk of the town.
“Some have that doomsday mentality. Others are preparing. They’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” he said.
Kuamoo said Hawaii Volcano Observatory crews were on the community association property Wednesday setting up equipment to better record the volcanic activity.
I don’t think I’m going to die or anything, but it’s your house. And I’ve got my dogs to think about. I’ve got my kids to think about.”
Kris Burmeister Resident of Leilani Estates, Hawaii island