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Kilauea’s tally in Lower Puna rises to 40 structures destroyed by lava

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Aerial view of ground cracks, left, on Pohoiki Road during an overflight of the eruptive fissure area at about 7 a.m. Thursday. The cracks are caused by the underlying intrusion of magma into the lower East Rift Zone, USGS scientists say. AHawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist, right, studies the cracks on Nohea Street in Leilani Estates this morning. These cracks expanded significantly in the past day.

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This image was captured at 6 a.m. Thursday morning at Halemaumau Crater.

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This image was captured at the Kilauea Volcano summit by the Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory observation tower webcam at 5:44 a.m. Thursday, after an explosive eruption.

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Scientists at the USGS posted a computer simulation that shows how far the volcanic ash from Thursday’s explosive eruption might travel and how much might fall to the ground.

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This aerial view of the Kilauea East Rift Zone from Wednesday shows the eruption sites and the now-closed Puna Geothermal Venture plant.

UPDATE: 8:45 a.m.

Hawaii County Civil Defense is reporting that up to 40 structures have been destroyed in the Leilani Estates subdivision, and two more are being threatened.

It is unclear how many of the structures are actual houses since the data is based on aerial views. The latest estimate is an increase from earlier reports of 37 structures, including at least 26 homes, destroyed by lava.

Fissure 17 is more active and providing pahoehoe (or more fluid) flows, Civil Defense officials said this morning. New fissures 21 and 22 are also producing pahoehoe. Fissures 15, 16 and 20 are active with steam coming out, but not flowing.

The tip of the actual lava intrusion is now between 45 and 80 yards below the surface underneath the depressed area, so there is now generally more fast-moving lava, officials said. It is located just north of the fissure area and south of the Puna Geothermal Venture power plant. A‘a is absorbing much of the newer pahoehoe loads, so it has not been advancing downslope, officials said.

Highway 130 remains open this morning, although there is steaming and cracks near it.

Two GPS receivers in the Leilani Estates-Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions show an extension within the riff zone by 2.5 inches a day, so it is not moving very fast, Civil Defense said.

The summit at Halemaumau Crater has been quiet since Thursday, but seismicity (or the frequency of earthquakes) is building slowly, officials said. A radar image overnight of the summit caldera shows an enlargement of the summit eruptive vent on the floor of Halemaumau from about 12 acres on May 5 to about 34 acres on May 17.

No public school are closed today. Mayor Harry Kim and Department of Education officials met Thursday and agreed there would be no more closures based on sulphur dioxide measurements unless under extreme conditions because it was determined there’s nowhere for the students to go, officials said.

7:35 a.m.

Hawaii County Civil Defense says that a 22nd fissure has opened in Leilani Estates overnight and that several fissures in the Lower Puna subdivision are spattering lava.

The ongoing lava outbreak from Kilauea volcano’s eruption entered its third week today.

Officials also said that free masks for ash protection will be distributed between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. today in the Cooper Center in Volcano and the Ocean View Community Center.



Free masks (one mask per family member) for ash protection may be picked up at Cooper Center in Volcano, Pahala Community Center and Naalehu Community Center. Shipman Park Pavilion in Keeau does not have any more masks.

Distribution will continue on Friday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Cooper Center and Ocean View Community Center.

Please note that masks do not protect against gasses and vapors. These will only provide filtering for ash.

A third shelter has also been opened at Sure Foundation, located on Pohaku Circle in Keeau.

People from Pahoa who have breathing concerns are relocating from the Pahoa Community Center shelter to the Sure Foundation shelter. The shelter will cater specifically to people with breathing issues, but everyone is welcome. All shelters are pet friendly.

4:55 p.m.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists have identified a 21st fissure in Leilani Estates, down rift of Makamae Street.

In addition, several fissures have reactivated in the Lower Puna subdivision and HVO reports pahoehoe lava flows in the area.

“All Leilani residents be aware of new activity, downed power lines, higher level of fumes and take necessary precautions,” a Hawaii County Civil Defense alert said.

In addition, the Federal Aviation Administration alerted general aviation pilots that the agency has updated the Temporary Flight Restrictions within a 5-nautical-mile radius of Kilauea volcano to 30,000 feet, after this morning’s explosive ash-and-smoke eruption from Halemaumau Crater.

HILO >> Ash eruptions Wednesday night and early this morning at the summit of Kilauea volcano prompted authorities on Hawaii island to begin distributing protective face masks in Puna and Kau, while alarmingly high levels of volcanic gases in Lower Puna prompted the closure of the Pahoa school complex.

There were no injuries reported in the latest belching of ash at the summit, and residents living in the Volcano village area said they were unaware of the ash eruptions until they received alerts from the authorities or stepped outside their homes to see a dark gray ash film covering plants and other objects.

Scientists report explosive ash eruptions at the summit at about 6 p.m. Wednesday and at 4:17 a.m. today, and authorities urged residents in the path of the ash to shelter in place.

The event Wednesday night did not trigger any alerts or warnings, but Hawaii County Civil Defense issued an announcement at 5:26 a.m. about today’s “explosive eruption,” and warned that “the resulting ash plume will cover the surrounding area.”

In Pahoa, elevated sulfur dioxide levels prompted the closures of Pahoa High & Intermediate School, Pahoa Elementary, Keonepoko Elementary.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health said elevated sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels were detected at 2.7 parts per million at the Pahoa fire station at 6:45 a.m. The department considers a “red” hazard level to be 1 part per million, and the higher reading prompted the school closures.

Hawaii Academy of Arts and Science, Volcano School of Arts and Science, and Na Wai Ola charter school in Mountain View also closed today, while kindergarten to 4th-grade classes at Ke Kula ʻO Nawahiokalaniʻopuʻu iki were canceled due to elevated sulfur dioxide levels.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey reported the blast at the summit this morning generated a plume of ash and steam that reached 30,000 feet into the atmosphere. Winds carried the ash to the north and northeast.

Linda Ugalde, a 20-year resident of Volcano, said she heard and felt nothing, but stepped outside of her home at the Volcano Golf Course subdivision about 10 minutes after the county alert to find a film of dark gray ash coating the railing on her lanai and the plants in her garden and yard. She compared it to the ash from a fireplace “except smaller.”

“Yesterday was not like this,” she said of the ash. “I had let my dogs out, and I immediately went out to let them back in.”

An ash plume from the caldera was visible from her home about two miles away from the Halemaumau crater, but Ugalde said it appeared to be a smaller cloud than Tuesday’s plume that shot ash some 12,000 feet into the air.

“It’s totally weird,” she said. “I mean, I expected there would at least be one of the bigger earthquakes just before, or a boom or something.”

As Ugalde watched from outside her house, she said the plume above the trees began to spread and moved over her home. “It could be mistaken for a rain cloud … but it’s getting more puffy, bulbous, whatever at the bottom,” she said.

“I’m not going to evacuate, we’ll shelter in place,” she said. She and her husband Edward have an enclosed cement catchment water tank, and have already sealed it off.

Free dust masks are being distributed by Hawaii County Civil Defense to help residents in affected areas protect themselves from breathing volcanic ash. The masks will be distributed from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. today at Cooper Center in Volcano, the Pahala Community Center, the Naalehu Community Center, and Shipman Park Pavilion in Keaau.

John Bravender, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the rain falling on the ash film today could make for treacherous and slippery driving conditions. He said most of the ash will fall near the summit, but high level winds above 10,000 feet could cause light accumulations of ash across Puna and areas east of the summit.

He said it is unlikely the ash will fall on the west side of Hawaii island, and only a low probability of ash in Hilo. The winds from the southeast were expected to shift more to the east today, which would push the ash more to the west on Friday.

Cracks continue to form and widen in the Lower East Rift Zone of Puna where lava has been erupting since May 3, which suggests magma is still moving into the area, said Steve Brantley, deputy scientist in charge of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

One sensor used to monitor changes in the surface of the earth moved by about six inches in the last 24 hours as portions of the rift zone shifted, he said. That is a likely precursor to further lava eruptions, but scientists cannot say where the lava will emerge.

At the moment, Brantley said the surface lava flow from fissure 17 has slowed dramatically, advancing less than 150 feet in the past two days. That flow is the longest so far in the eruption in the area near Leilani Estates, and extended for more than a mile toward the ocean.

In other developments today:

>> The National Weather Service canceled an ashfall advisory for the Big Island and surrounding waters, but forecasters warned that addition outbursts of ash from Kilauea are still possible today. The advisory, which had been posted until 6 p.m. today, was canceled before 11:30 a.m. and replaced by a “special weather statement.” VVO scientists warn that additional Kilauea summit explosive eruptions of ash and smoke are possible at any time with little warning.

>> U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials deployed emergency responders and air monitoring equipment as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to the Kilauea eruption. “EPA remains on the ground assisting Hawaii and our federal partners in monitoring air quality and ensuring the public is informed of all potential health risks from the Kilauea volcano eruption,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

>> American Red Cross officials said that overnight there were 81 residents inside the Pahoa Community Center shelter (15-3022 Kauhale St.) shelter with an additional 235 evacuees staying outside the shelter in tents and cars; 21 residents inside the the Keeau Community Center shelter (16-186 Pili Mua St.) with an additional 27 outside; and no evacuees in the just-opened shelter at the Sure Foundation Church (16-1592 Pohaku Circle in Keaau). The Red Cross said Wednesday that volunteers from the Big Island are needed to monitor shelters and assist residents who have been displaced, and that training will be provided. Click here to learn how you can become a volunteer. For questions, call (808) 739-8122.

For more information on the hazards of volcanic ash and vog, go to volcanoes.usgs.gov and vog.ivhhn.org.

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