• Friday, September 21, 2018
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Hawaii News

Lava crawls along ocean floor as vog changes direction

  • U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

    Lava continued to flow into the ocean Friday in the vicinity of Kapoho Bay and Vacationland. Lava fountains erupting from fissure 8 reached heights of 180–220 feet early Friday morning.

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It wasn’t all quiet Friday on Kilauea’s Lower East Rift Zone, but volcanic activity was relatively calm compared with wildly destructive and threatening events almost daily over the last five weeks.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said the main issue Friday was vog being blown in a northwesterly direction east of Hilo.

There also were a dozen rockfalls in Puu Oo Crater in the rift zone between 10:30 and 11 a.m. that followed a 3.2-magnitude earthquake at Kilauea’s summit, and one of the rockfalls produced a plume of dust, according to geophysicist Jim Kauahikaua of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Pele’s hair fell in areas near Pahoa and Nanawale Estates, the county reported. Pele’s hair is fine strands of volcanic glass fibers that can irritate the skin if broken and injure eyes and lungs. The wispy strands, which look like fine hair, are capable of scratching the windshield of a car if wipers are used to clear them away.

The vog is from one fissure in the Leilani Estates subdivision, fissure 8, that has been the only source of lava for the last several days since the first in a series of fissures opened May 3.

The vigorous lava production from fissure 8 continued flowing Friday into a well-defined channel leading to the ocean near the eastern tip of the island at Kapoho, where close to 500 homes have been destroyed in the last few days on top of about 130 earlier at Leilani Estates and neighboring Lanipuna Gardens.

Typically, vog from the rift zone gets blown by prevailing tradewinds toward the south, out over the ocean.

Friday’s vog, or volcanic smog, led Civil Defense to warn residents that they should limit outside activities and stay indoors if they have breathing problems. The vog also was expected to reduce visibility to as little as a quarter-mile in the saddle portion of the island between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.

Magno said the level of irritating and potentially harmful sulfur dioxide gas, also referred to as SO2, which is part of vog, was at a “not too bad” level of 0.4 parts per million.

“The vog and SO2 is just part of the active volcano, which continues,” he said. “We suggest people with respiratory issues shelter in place or just avoid that area.”

Trades were expected to return Friday evening.

Earlier in the day, Kauahikaua had reported that three other fissures — 9, 10 and 24 — were fuming heavily and incandescent but that they were not producing lava.

The lava from the channel has produced a flow field covering about 9 square miles and is moving not just into the ocean, but also is crawling along the ocean floor.

The ocean floor flow is indicated by plumes of gas and rock debris popping up through the surface of the water in several areas, Kauahikaua said.

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