UPDATE 9 A.M.
The Hawaii Volcano Observatory is reporting that the two lava flows entering the ocean near the 13-mile marker have caused sulfur dioxide levels to triple. Hawaii County Civil Defense officials are urging people in the area to take necessary action to avoid exposure. Northeast winds are pushing laze and SO2 southwest for the time being.
The county Department of Water Supply said the lava flow that cut across Pohoiki Road also cut off the water system in the area. Two water tankers have been set up to assist those in Vacationland and Kapoho Beach Lots in need of drinking water.
The Coast Guard is setting up a buffer zone in the waters surrounding the area where the lava is entering the ocean.
Quick-moving lava from Kilauea Volcano crossed Highway 137 and reached the ocean near the 13th mile marker in Lower Puna just before 11 p.m. Saturday, Hawaii County Civil Defense officials said.
In a 6 a.m. release, Civil Defense said that Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is now reporting it is a third flow front that has split into two flows which are both entering the ocean. That development is causing sulfur dioxide emissions to increase greatly and posing a health hazard, according to HVO scientists.
Highway 137, also known as the Kapoho-Kalapana, or Red, Road, was closed between Kamaili Road and Pohoiki Road, cutting off one of the access points for those living east and south of Leilani Estates. Those communities include Kehena, Kaimu and Kalapana. The residents can still leave the area through Highway 130, the Pahoa-Kalapana Road, at least for now, so a mandatory evacuation is not in place.
>> 4 rescued by helicopter as lava cuts off access to about 40 houses
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>> PHOTOS: 22 fissures signify more magma activity, May 18
>> PHOTOS: Satellite before-and-after images show Kilauea’s devastation
>> GoFundMe campaigns for victims
>> Live webcam atop Halemaumau
Nonetheless, the state Department of Transportation and National Park Service officials are working on a plan to reopen Chain of Craters Road as an emergency route out of the area. Doing so, however, would require the removal of seven-tenths of a mile of lava, which could take weeks, said Jessica Ferracane, spokeswoman for Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.
The Kamaili neighborhood was ordered to evacuate Saturday night due to the threat of brush fires caused by moving lava. Civil Defense officials said most people from there had previously evacuated.
Civil Defense warns that lava entering the ocean poses the issue of laze, which is formed when hot lava makes contact with ocean water, sending hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air Laze can cause lung, eye and skin irritation. Laze plumes travel with the wind and can change direction without warning, Civil Defense said.
The latest eruption began May 3 and has destroyed at least 44 structures, mostly in Lower Puna subdivisions including Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens. Thousands have been evacuated, many to shelters set up by the American Red Cross in Pahoa and Keaau.
In the first two weeks of the eruption, lava traveled mostly below the surface, rising up out of a series of 23 fissures in the affected Lower Puna regions.
But since Friday, the lava has burst out onto the surface in vastly larger quantities and in a more fluid form, making it travel quicker. It is that type of lava, known as pahoehoe, that crossed Pohoiki road and shut off access to about 40 properties on Malama Ki Place, east of Leilani Estates, Thursday afternoon, which require four people to be evacuated by helicopter.
It is that flow that continued south through the state’s Malama Ki Forest Reserve and reached the ocean Friday night.
A separate flow moving in a more southerly direction created the brush fires threatening Kamaili.
Scientists believe the earlier fissures spit out slower, thicker and stickier a‘a lava that had been trapped underground by eruptions that occurred years ago. The faster and more fluid pahoehoe that’s been spewing since Thursday afternoon is coming from the summit.
Saturday also saw the first report of an eruption-related injury since the latest event began. Hawaii County Fire Department officials said a homeowner on Noni Farms Road was on his third-floor balcony when he got hit on the shin with lava spatter, shattering the lower portion of his leg.
“Lava bombs” can weigh as much as a refrigerator and even small pieces of spatter can be lethal, officials said.
SATURDAY 11 P.M.
Lava has crossed Highway 137 at the 13-mile marker and has entered the ocean, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense. A second lava flow is about 437 yards from the highway.
Highway 137 is closed between Kamaili Road and Pohoiki Road. Kamaili Road is closed between Highways 130 and 137.
Residents in the area have been evacuated and the public is asked to stay out of the area, Civil Defense officials said.
The lava has entered the ocean and the public should be aware of the laze hazard and stay away from any ocean plume, they said.
Laze is formed when hot lava hits the ocean sending hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air. Health hazards of laze include lung, eye and skin irritation. The laze plume travels with the wind and can change direction without warning, according to Civil Defense.
The lava flow originating from fissure 20 has split into two lobes, both of which are heading toward the 13-mile marker on Highway 137.
The first flow front is about 690 yards from Highway 137 and moving about a 109 yards an hour. The second flow front is about 820 yards from Highway 137 and moving about the same speed. At the current rate, the lava may cross the highway within the next five to seven hours, according to Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists.
Highway 137 is closed between Kamaili Road and Pohoiki Road, while Kamaili Road is closed between Highways 130 and 137 due to a brush fire.
Residents in the area have been evacuated.
Active lava flows have caused brush fires to spread from the flow front toward Kamaili Road. Residents on Kamaili Road need to evacuate the area immediately.
County and state fire units are in the area, going door-to-door to make sure people are informed and check if they need assistance. Everyone needs to stay clear of this area.
DLNR officials have closed the Malama Ki Forest Reserve due to lava flowing into it.
The lava flow is currently heading in the general direction of MacKenzie State Park. No structures are threatened at this time.
Residents should be aware that the flow is about half a mile from Highway 137 and, at the current rate, may cross the highway within the next five to six hours.
If the lava enters the ocean, be aware of the laze hazard and stay away from ocean plume.
>> Laze is formed when hot lava hits the ocean sending hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air.
>> Health hazards of laze include lung, eye and skin irritation.
>> Be aware that the laze plume travels with the wind and can change direction without warning.
Due to the volcanic activity, the following are in effect:
>> Residents between Kamaili and Pohoiki are advised to decide if they want to voluntarily leave the area at this time.
>> For those who choose to voluntarily evacuate, the Pahoa Community Center, Keaau Community Center, and Sure Foundation Church are open. The shelters are pet friendly.
>> All persons are asked to avoid the area.
>> Highway 130 is open for residents only.
>> Closure may occur at any time with no notice.
>> Should the lava cross, Highway 137 will be closed to thru traffic.
>> Road blocks will be established on both sides of the roadway should the flow cross the highway.
Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said a man suffered a “serious” leg injury this afternoon when he was “lava-bombed” by spatter while sitting on the porch of a house in an area off Highway 132 below the Lanipuna Garden subdivision.
“I heard the injury was quite bad, serious to his leg,” Magno said.
The man’s name was not released.
The lava flow in state forest reserve lands is heading toward MacKenzie State Recreation Area and is less than a mile from Highway 137, Hawaii Civil Defense said this afternoon.
At the current rate, the lava may cross the highway within the next four to seven hours, Civil Defense said in its 2 p.m. update.
Residents between Kamaili and Pohoiki should now decide if they want to voluntarily leave the area.
Pet-friendly shelters are available at Pahoa Community Center, Keaau Community Center, and Sure Foundation Church.
Highway 130 remains open for residents only.
Civil Defense warned that residents should be aware of the hazard from “laze” if lava enters the ocean. Laze occurs when hot lava reaches the ocean, sending hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air.
Lava activity was continuing in the lower East Rift Zone, while state transportation officials were working on a plan to reopen Chain of Craters Road as an emergency exit route in case Lower Puna residents are isolated by lava flows, volcano officials said during a teleconference call today.
Wendy Stovall, a U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist, said lava was shooting 90 yards into the air from a fountain at fissure 17, while lava flows from fissures 16 and 20 have merged together and are creating a voluminous line of spattering and fountaining.
She said the combined flow from fissures 16 and 20 were flowing at about 300 yards an hour at about 8 a.m., but the speed could change at any moment.
The tip of the flow was about 1.5 miles from the coastline. On Friday, the consolidated flow crossed upper Pohoiki Road and was continuing southward, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.
Scientists have tested lava samples from the fissures and can say “with confidence” that magma from Puu Oo and the summit have reached the fissures in the lower East Rift Zone, Stovall said. Magma from the summit and Puu Oo is considered fresher than magma that was coming up earlier in fissures. That had been stored in the ground for decades, possibly from the 1955 lava flow. The fresher magma produces hotter lava flows that move faster and create more voluminous flows with higher lava fountains.
At Kilauea’s summit, earthquakes have subsided, but deformation continues, Stovall said.
Meanwhile, Jessica Ferracane, spokeswoman for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said the state Department of Transportation was working with federal and local authorities on plans to remove lava from the 2016-17 flows that is covering Chain of Craters Road to reopen the road in case highways 130 and 137 are cut off by volcanic activity.
She said about one mile of lava needs to be removed before the road will be accessible.
Lava flow in Lower Puna moved 1,000 feet in the last hour this morning, prompting Hawaii County Civil Defense officials to urge residents to prepare to evacuate.
The flow from fissure 20 continues to advance west of Pohoiki Road near Malama Ki Place.
Hawaii County Civil Defense confirmed this morning that lava from Kilauea Volcano destroyed four additional structures in the Lower Puna region that includes Leilani Estates, Lanipuna Gardens, Malama Ki Place and Pohoiki during the 24-hour period ending at 8 a.m. today.
As reported earlier, four people were evacuated via Hawaii County Fire and National Guard helicopters from Malama Ki Place, just southeast of Leilani Estates, after quick-moving magma crossed Pohoiki Road and reached that area late Friday afternoon. The helicopters landed at the ball field next to the Pahoa Community Center where an evacuation shelter set up by the American Red Cross has been in place.
About 40 homes are on Malama Ki. A Civil Defense official went door to door and the agency said everyone was accounted for.
Several people with off-road vehicles vacated Lanipuna on their own and another group of three people were escorted by foot through the Puna Geothermal Venture power plant, Civil Defense said.
The widening lava flow front had previously moved about 1,000 feet in the last 12 hours, although Civil Defense is not saying how far it is from Highway 137, the Kapoho-Kalapana Road also known as the Beach Road. At this point, surface flow is being fed by a number of the 22 previously identified fissures in the area because many of them appear to be converging, Civil Defense said.
The large surface eruption relieves the pressure along the fissures so there should less instances of cracking in Lower Puna roads.
The helicopters conducting Friday night’s rescue operation reported measuring sulfur dioxide levels at 20 parts per million in the evacuation code, which is consider high and a health concern, especially for the elderly, the young and people with respiratory issues.
One focus today for Civil Defense will be helping residents in beach communities from Isaac Hale Park to Kalapana move their hand-carried items out, officials said.
Another goal is to ensure that communities are not isolated. About a four-mile stretch of Highway 137 was repaved over two days Thursday and Friday.
Roadblocks remain in key intersections and authorities are cracking down to ensure only residents are being allowed into the region, Civil Defense said.
An explosion at the Kilauea summit caused an ash plume of between 7,000-10,000 feet and tradewinds blowing southwest dropped trace amounts of ash in Ka‘u communities Pahala, Naalehu and Ocean View Estates.
More ash-blocking masks are being obtained but no new distribution times and locations have been announced.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported “a small explosive event” occurred at the summit of Kilauea Volcano around midnight, creating a light ash fallout concern for residents of Ka‘u, Pahala and Naalehu, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense.
An initial emergency alert by Civil Defense broadcast over local television stations at about 12:45 a.m. said the resulting ash plume from the eruption may have reached the surrounding areas of Puna and Ka‘u. But Michelle Coombs, a geologist with the United States Geological Survey said strong northeasterly winds, or tradewinds, appeared to blow the plume of ash southwest toward Ka‘u.
HVO officials cautioned that additional explosions are possible and could occur with little warning.
Typically during an ash fallout, Civil Defense advises those in vehicles to keep their windows closed, drive with extreme caution, or to pull over and park because ash fallout may cause poor driving conditions due to limited visibility and slippery driving condition.
Residents in affected areas are urged to protect themselves by staying indoors with their windows closed if they are at home, and to turn on their radios for updates from authorities. Inhaling ash particles is especially harmful to seniors, young children and those with respiratory issues.
After a hazard has passed, residents are urged to check their homes, especially their water catchment systems for any impacts that could affect water quality.
Thursday’s blast shot up a plume as high as 30,000 feet, and reports of falling ash came from as far as Hawaiian Ocean View Estates.