Of­fi­cials dis­agree on whether Ki­lauea is ready to blow

Lower Puna res­i­dents are warned to pre­pare for a pos­si­ble erup­tion in their area

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Ti­mothy Hur­ley thur­ley@starad­ver­tiser.com

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

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