• Wednesday, September 19, 2018
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Hawaii News

Lava output far outpaces previous eruptions

  • U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

    Fissure 8 regained some vigor overnight from Monday to Tuesday with lava fountains reaching up to 200 feet.

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PAHOA, Hawaii >> The Kilauea eruption continues to astound geologists and other observers as its output since May 3 has eclipsed similar events in recent history.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory deputy scientist-in-charge Steve Brantley, speaking at a community meeting Tuesday night at the Pahoa High & Intermediate School cafeteria, said the current lower East Rift Zone eruption has put forth an estimated 145 million cubic meters of lava over 47 days.

That compares with 81 million cubic meters from an 88-day event in 1955 and 122 million cubic meters from a 37-day eruption in 1960.

“This current eruption is erupting lava at a higher rate than previous eruptions, and at this point is doesn’t look like it’s slowing down whatsoever,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the Kilauea summit, Halemaumau Crater had doubled in size as of June 13. Regular collapses of the crater rim are expanding its volume at a rate of 14 million cubic meters per day, Brantley said.

The edges have slumped down almost 300 feet, dropping with each earthquake and explosive event, which have been occurring every 20 to 24 hours at the summit, he said.

“It’s quite dramatic. We’re all astounded by the changes,” he said.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists also are keeping a close watch on the channel of lava flowing to the ocean from fissure 8 in Leilani Estates. As lava dribbles over the edges and hardens, the channel has been rising and now stands about 50 to 60 feet above ground, he said.

An overflow occurred Tuesday adjacent to Pohoiki Road, according to Brantley, but it lasted only a few hours and didn’t travel far.

A longer-term concern is if the channel levees fail, allowing lava to pour out onto the surrounding area.

Brantley said after the meeting that he would be more worried to see lava seeping through the levees, indicating it is forcing its way out.

Just as persistent as the lava flow from fissure 8 is Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim’s determination to get back to work after suffering his sixth heart attack Saturday.

County Managing Director Wil Okabe, who also spoke at the Pahoa community meeting, said Kim, 78, is “resting” at Hilo Medical Center but “is very much as feisty as ever. He’s making jokes and getting the rest he needs.”

Okabe said the mayor called the office after finding out the County Council failed to approve a general excise tax hike during its meeting Tuesday in Kona.

Kim was admitted to the hospital Friday after a pneumonia relapse.

Doctors are supposed to determine today whether Kim can be released, and Okabe said the mayor is determined to return to work Thursday.

In other eruption-related developments:

>> Hawaii island police and state conservation officers cited six more people for loitering in Lower Puna. About 47 citations, which carry a possible penalty of $5,000 and a year in jail, have been issued since the eruption began.

>> Residents in West Hawaii can learn more about the impacts of vog and ash at Department of Health-sponsored community meetings at 5 p.m. today at Konawaena Elementary School in Kealakekua and 6 p.m. Thursday at the Waikoloa Elementary & Middle School cafeteria.

>> Puna and Hilo shook Tuesday when a 4.4-magnitude earthquake occurred at 2:24 p.m. It was centered to the south of Kilauea Volcano, according to the observatory. While fissure 8 continues to pump away, two other vents were active: Fissure 15 was mildly spattering and fissure 6 was oozing lava.

>> A total of 894 people registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance as of Tuesday, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense.

>> The latest count of dwellings destroyed by lava is at 577, according to Civil Defense. Those are the homes that have been verified by matching real property tax records with aerial surveys, which are ongoing, according to spokeswoman Janet Snyder.

>> The National Weather Service reported Tuesday that light winds are expected to push vog and other emissions to other parts of the island, including Hilo and the northern and western areas, through Thursday.

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