Gi­ant rocks spew­ing from Hawaii vol­cano sum­mit

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - NEWS - By Sophia Yan and Au­drey Mcavoy

HONOLULU » Ash emis­sions from the sum­mit at Hawaii’s Ki­lauea vol­cano de­creased, prompt­ing the can­cel­la­tion Wed­nes­day of an ash fall ad­vi­sory.

There are oc­ca­sional bursts of ash com­ing from the crater caus­ing ash to fall down­wind to sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties, though there are only trace amounts, said the Hawai­ian Vol­cano Ob­ser­va­tory. Ash plumes on Tues­day had spouted as high as 12,000 feet (3,657 me­ters) into the air, sci­en­tists said.

These plumes are sep­a­rate from the lava erup­tions hap­pen­ing about 25 miles (40 kilo­me­ters) 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 (60 cen­time­ters) 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.

Earth­quakes con­tinue to shake the Big Is­land, with the most se­vere at around 8:30 a.m. pro­duc­ing a 4.4 mag­ni­tude quake. The Pa­cific Tsunami Warn­ing Cen­ter says there is no tsunami alert at this time.

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

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. The troops may be needed for emer­gency evacuations, search and res­cue, clear­ing de­bris and other du­ties.

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 (3 kilo­me­ters) away, had not ad­vanced in the last 24 hours.

As­so­ci­ated Press Writer Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this re­port.

CALEB JONES — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Lava shoots into the night sky from ac­tive fis­sures on the lower east rift of the Ki­lauea vol­cano, Tues­day near Pa­hoa, Hawaii.

CALEB JONES — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Lava shoots into the night sky from ac­tive fis­sures on the lower east rift of the Ki­lauea vol­cano, Tues­day near Pa­hoa, Hawaii.

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