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Hawaii News

Vog and toxic air may head toward Hilo

Lighter winds toward the end of the week could send vog and sulfur dioxide from Kilauea’s eruption “over more populated areas,” including Hilo, the National Weather Service said Tuesday.

“Eventually, Hilo’s going to get into this,” said Robert Ballard, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

Explosions of steam and ash at Kilauea’s summit, and steam, toxic gases and lava fountains pouring from cracks that emerged in Puna’s Leilani Estates subdivision May 3 in an eastern part of Hawaii island have created hazardous conditions. Lava is erupting vigorously from one vent, fissure 8, and flowing in a channel to the ocean about 8 miles away in Kapoho.

An “unusual late June stretch of relatively weak trades” is expected to arrive Friday or Saturday and “may last well into next week,” Ballard said. “That’s a concern.”

Meanwhile the summit is expected to continue erupting. Including an explosion at 1:52 a.m. Tuesday, Kilauea had experienced 23 “larger explosions” just since May 17, said geologist Janet Babb.

But the most recent ones have been “ash poor,” and none of the material appears to have reached higher than 10,000 feet above sea level, Babb said.

Brian Shiro, supervisory geophysicist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said the “large, explosive” eruptions could be relieving pressure on Kilauea by “serving as a bit of a release valve.”

At Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said “everything” is coated “almost in a layer of white flour.”

Along Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone, some 9.1 acres of Lower Puna now are covered in lava. About 600 homes have been destroyed, and about 400 of the displaced residents are living in shelters.

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