UPDATE: 9:45 a.m.
Puna Geothermal Venture completed its move of more than 60,000 gallons of the chemical pentane away from the Lower East Rift Zone of Kilauea volcano early this morning, easing fears that the pentane might be ignited by a lava flow.
The movement of the pentane was completed at 3:15 a.m. today, well ahead of a midnight deadline set by Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, according to county spokeswoman Janet Snyder.
The 15 vents that opened along the East Rift Zone over the past week are issuing fumes but no lava this morning, but U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Jim Kauahikaua said scientists have detected increased seismic activity about 1 1/2 miles northeast of Pohoiki Road.
That suggests the intrusion of magma that caused the eruption and stalled for a time under the Leilani Estates subdivision is once again on the move, scientists said.
“The seismicity is showing that the dike or intrusion is moving to the east,” Kauahikaua said. “So, clearly it’s moved, but we need to keep watching it.”
That sort of seismic activity may be an indicator of magma traveling through an underground system, and could be a precursor of a new vents opening further to the east.
The eruption in and around Leilani has now covered more than 116 acres with lava, and destroyed 36 buildings, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense officials. The county reported 217 people were staying at a shelter at the Pahoa Community Center, and county parks officials reported an influx of another 30 to 40 people at the shelter this morning.
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Another 25 were staying at a shelter in Keaau, and many hundreds more are staying with friends or family.
The removal of pentane from the eruption areas addresses some of the concerns of residents in the surrounding communities, but Gov. David Ige has also instructed state and county officials to lead a team to develop and implement mitigation steps as necessary to protect public health and safety including a review of the PGV Emergency Response Plan.
The PGV plant is shut down, but Synder said the team is considering the potential hazards from hydrogen sulfide and other gasses if one of the deep PGV wells is ruptured by an earthquake, lava flow or other volcanic activity.
The Ige administration announced Wednesday that “contingency plans will be made to secure and evacuate area residents should lava intrusions cause elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) or sulfur dioxide (SO2) to be released.”
“Basically the next mission at PGV is to address the wells,” Synder said. “They’re looking to get added expertise to deal with any uncontrolled releases.”
She was unable to be more specific, saying that “we’re not refusing any help, we’re reaching out. We’re bringing in everybody who knows what they’re doing.”
State Department of Health also reported a “small uptick” in visits to Kau Hospital, probably because of ash blown out of the summit of Kilauea, Synder said.
Puna Geothermal Venture has removed all of the flammable pentane gas from its power plant that is threatened by the Kilauea East Rift Zone eruption.
A spokeswoman for Hawaii County Civil Defense said the last of the pentane was removed at 3:15 a.m. today and moved to Shipman Industrial Park in Puna.
The lava outbreak from fissure number 15 in the Lanipuna Subdivision remains paused although hazardous fumes continue to be released.
As of 6 a.m., there were 15 fissures, 116.57 acres covered by lava and 36 structures destroyed, including 27 houses.Access to Lanipuna Gardens is still denied due to a dangerous level of noxious volcanic gases, however, Leilani Estates residents will be allowed to check on their property from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until further notice.
The Department of Water Supply has issued an emergency water restriction for the Pohoiki, Vacationland and Kapoho areas due to the impacts to the bypass waterline caused by the latest fissure event. Water spigots installed near the entrance of Lava Tree State Park and a water tanker in Vacationland are still available for the public to access.
The Red Cross shelters at the Pahoa Community Center and Keaau Community Center remain open for evacuees from the Kilauea lava threat.
As of midnight, there were over 200 residents at the Pahoa shelter and 24 residents at the Keaau shelter.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 9
Puna Geothermal Venture removed at least 12,000 gallons of flammable pentane today from its plant and moved it to a secure location in Shipman Industrial Park in Keaau, Hawaii County Civil Defense officials said tonight.
Another roughly 50,000 gallons were expected to be moved Thursday or Friday, according to a power plant spokesman.
With the gas having an explosive potential and lava flowing in the area, Gov. David Ige approved an emergency proclamation today giving him the power to do whatever it takes at the plant to protect the community, including moving the pentane if PGV failed to do it.
The PGV plant, which provides power to Hawaii Electric Light Co., closed after the eruption started last Thursday evening but still contained roughly 60,000 gallons of gallons of the flammable liquid. For days, residents from the area have expressed concerns about the pentane, which they fear could ignite and cause a major explosion.
Ige said earlier today that he expected the fuel would all be removed by the end of the day Thursday.
The plant is owned by Ormat Technologies of Reno, Nevada and is across a highway from where lava was erupting today.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will close Friday and until further notice because of the possibility of an explosive eruption that could blast steam, rock and ash from the Halemaumau lava lake crater at the summit of Kilauea Volcano.
Most of the park will be closed, except for the Kahuku Unit , which will be open during its normal hours, Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Park officials said the closure is due to the possibility of a steam-induced explosion at the summit of Kilauea followed by an ash-fall event. Earlier today HVO geologists warned of the potential for explosion eruptions of ash, steam, rocks and gases at the summit if the Halemaumau crater lava lake drops to the water table.
Hawaii County Civil Defense officials say the lava outbreak from fissure No. 15 in the Lanipuna Gardens subdivision has paused after producing a pahoehoe lava flow earlier today.
They also said the Hawaii Police Department evacuated 10 homes on Alaili Road, west of Highway 130 between Malama Street and Kamaili Road because of steaming cracks in the ground.
Pohiki Road continues to be closed from Highway 132 to Highway 137.
The latest fissure to open up in the lower East Rift Zone of Kilauea Volcano crossed Poihiki Road near the Lanipuna Gardens subdivision and not far from the Puna Geotheral Venture plant, which has been shutdown but still contains thousands of gallons of flammable fluids.
Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said this evening that fissure No. 15 produced a pahoehoe lava flow about 66-feet long. During a 3 p.m. overflight, geologists observed a new steaming area west of Highway 130 and, at 4:30 p.m., the area was still steaming, HVO said.
At Kilauea’s summit, meanwhile, the lava lake level continues to drop. Earlier today HVO geologists warned of the potential for explosion eruptions of ash, steam, rocks and gases at the summit if the Halemaumau crater lava lake drops to the water table. At about 8:32 a.m. today, a large rockfall from the crater walls into the lake triggered an explosion that sent an ash column towering above the crater. After the ash cleared, geologists verified that the lake had not yet fallen below the water table. However, with the lake continuing to drain, they warn that explosive and potentially dangerous eruptions threatened to blast large boulders, heavy steam, ash and volcanic gases over the surrounding areas.
HILO >> A 29-year-old Pahoa man was arrested today after he was caught burglarizing a Leilani Estates home that had been evacuated because of the Kilauea volcano eruption, police said.
The homeowner, 66, returned to his Moku Street home today with an acquaintance to retrieve some belongings and encountered the suspect leaving his house with some keys that had been taken from the property, police said.
The homeowner and his acquaintance took the intruder to a police checkpoint at the Highway 130 intersection with Leilani Street, where the 29-year-old was arrested without incident.
The man is being held in the police cellbock in Hilo pending further investigation, and police said they have also linked the 29-year-old to another burglary in the same subdivision.’
The case has been classified as a burglary of a dwelling during an emergency, which is a class A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
PAHOA, Hawaii >> Kilauea volcano’s assault on the Big Isle continued on several fronts today, the sixth day of the Leilani Estates eruption.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory confirmed that a new, 15th fissure near the entrance of the Lanipuna subdivision is actively erupting this afternoon. Officials are on site assessing the situation, they said, adding that hazardous fumes continue to be released.
As of 2 p.m., there are 15 fissures, 116.57 acres covered by lava and 36 structures destroyed, including 27 houses.
There are no threats to Nanawale Estates at this time, Hoawaii County Civil Defense officials said.
Although the destruction did not increase significantly from overnight, Kilauea remained active both in the lower Puna area and at Kilauea’s summit.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists issued a warning today that lowering of the Halemaumau lava lake at Kilauea volcano’s summit overlook crater indicates that explosive eruptions are possible in the coming weeks. HVO said that there is typically “very little warning” of steam-driven explosions at volcanoes. They said steam-driven explosions could send “ballistic blocks up to 2 yards across” in all directions to a distance of 0.6 miles or more. These blocks could weigh a few pounds to several tons, they said.
In addition a 15th fissure has been confirmed in Leilani Estates. Vents No. 13 and 14, which emerged Tuesday in the community, paused today but continued to release noxious gases.
Despite the activity, Leilani Estates residents were allowed back into their subdivision again today, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., to retrieve items and check on their properties. Lanipuna Gardens residents are still barred from entering the area due to the high level of dangerous volcanic gases.
State officials are also concerned about potential risk to public health and safety at the nearby Puna Geothermal Venture plant, which was shutdown when the current lava outbreak began Thursday evening. Gov. David Ige this afternoon issued an emergency proclamation to address concerns related to the geothermal energy plant, including creating a team to review and assess the existing PGV Emergency Response Plan and “develop a specific mission strategy deemed appropriate to mitigate potential impacts from lava.” Residents in the surrounding neighborhoods have been particularly concerned about 60,000 gallons of flammable pentane that is stored at the PGV power plant, which has already shut down. Some residents worry the lava could ignite the flammable gas and cause a major explosion.
In related eruption developments:
>> The Hawaii National Guard has added 20 troops to the Leilani Estates/Lanipuna Gardens contingent, bringing their complement to 95. The Guard says the increase is in response to community demand for more security following the evacuation order by Hawaii County Civil Defense. Hawaii County Police Chief Paul Ferreira reports there was a burglary in the evacuation area.
>> Highway 130 remains closed between Malama Street and Kamaili Road, and Pohoiki Road is closed from Highway 132 to Hinalo Street.
>> Civil Defense has established the Recovery Information and Assistance Center in Pahoa at the Sacred Hearts Church in Pahoa, which will be opened Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.