UPDATE: 7:15 p.m.
HILO >> The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports that a 17th fissure has opened up, with steam and lava spatter activity already starting.
This new fissure is reported to be about 100 meters below the 16th fissure from this morning, about a half mile northeast from the end of Hinalo Street.
Minor spattering activity from the 16th fissure is diminishing and no significant lava flow was issued from this area.
HVO says it’s possible there may be an explosive eruption at Halema’uma’u Crater due to the ongoing withdrawal of lava from Kilauea summit lake. This could generate dangerous debris near the crater as well as ashfalls up to tens of miles downwind.
Due to the volcanic activity, the following are issued:
>> Under Emergency Provisions, any looting or vandalism during an emergency is treated as a felony.
>> Hawaii Police Department is enforcing the Federal Aviation Administration’s Temporary Flight Restriction for lower Puna area. No helicopter or drone activity is allowed without approval.
>> Residents of lower Puna between Kapoho and Kalapana, are advised to be on the alert in the event of possible gas emissions and volcanic eruption. There may be little to no advance notice to evacuate, so take this time to prepare.
>> If you evacuate voluntarily, the Pahoa Community Center and Kea’au Community Center are open. Food will be provided and the shelters are pet-friendly.
Two American Red Cross shelters remain open for residents evacuated from their homes due to the Kilauea lava threat at the following locations:
>> Pahoa Community Center (15-3022 Kauhale Street, Pahoa, HI 96778)
>> Keaau Community Center (16-186 Pili Mua St, Keaau, HI 96749)
Today there were about 340 residents at the Pahoa shelter and about 40 residents at the Keaau shelter. Nearly 80 Red Cross workers have been assisting evacuees with their immediate emergency needs.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation reports that Highway 132 is cracking but remains open.
Highway 130 remains closed between the Highway 132 intersection and south of Leilani Estates.
With lava coming closer to Highway 132, a main road out of Lower Puna, Hawaii County Civil Defense today ordered all vacation rental owners in Lower Puna to cease operations, forcing visitors to find alternate accommodations.
The new fissure began erupting at about 6:30 a.m. today and was sputtering lava 100 feet into the air. It appeared in a cow pasture east of Leilani Estates, between Highway 132 and Pohoiki Road.
The fissure appeared to stretch a hundred yards or more, according to footage from a drone operated by a team led by a University of Hawaii at Hilo geography and environmental science associate professor.
The county’s order affecting vacation rentals encompasses the area from Leilani Estates to Kapoho, accessible by Highway 132; down to Kalapana via Highway 137; and the area from Pahoa to Pohoiki, including the Black Sands Beach subdivision, accessible by Highway 130.
It is not clear how many vacation rentals are in the area, but a large percentage of the population in the area is visitors, a spokeswoman for Mayor Harry Kim said.
The order was issued so emergency operations can focus on residents who live in the area, Civil Defense said.
Talmadge Magno, county Civil Defense administrator, said Friday there are about 2,000 people in Lower Puna who could become isolated by a fissure or lava outbreak blocking roads.
“We welcome visitors to tour our island and appreciate your understanding of this emergency situation,” the county said in a statement. “We hope you will be able to safely enjoy the many other accommodations and attractions on our island.”
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said fissure 16 is venting lava spatter about a mile below the Puna Geothermal Plant’s property and a mile west of Highway 132. No lava flow has been generated.
Highway 132, also known as Pahoa-Kapoho Road, remains open, and no residences are affected by the latest fissure.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the 16th fissure with lava spatter opened east of the Puna Geothermal Plant and northheast of the Lanipuna subdivision.
This is the first lava activity in the East Rift Zone since Thursday.
Highway 132, also known as Pahoa-Kapoho Road, remains open this morning.
A new eruption has broken out in the East Rift Zone in Lower Puna.
There is spattering of lava in an area east of Puna Geothermal Venture, although the exact location is unknown, Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, said this morning.
This is the first lava activity in the East Rift Zone since Thursday.
Fifteen fissures have opened up through the evacuated subdivision Leilani Estates. The new activity would make for 16 fissures.
Volcanic activity continues in the lower East Rift Zone of Kilauea, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported.
None of the 15 fissures have produced lava since Thursday. But earthquakes, ground deformation and sulphur dioxide emissions mean additional outbreaks of lava are possible.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory noted an explosion eruption at Halema‘uma‘u Crater remains a possibility.
Hawaii County Civil Defense on Friday warned the public about the dangers of a possible explosive eruption of ash and rocks at Halemaumau Crater on the summit of Kilauea volcano.
Geologists have warned that the rapidly dropping lava lake in the crater could lead to a steam-driven eruption once the lava falls below the water table.
“Such an eruption could generate ash plumes as high as 20,000 feet. The area affected by ash plumes could be as wide as 12 miles,” said a Civil Defense alert issued after 5 p.m. Friday.
Officials said that the danger of such an event is ash fallout. They issued the following advise to the public in the area of the summit:
>> If this event occurs while you are at home, stay indoors with the windows closed. Turn on your radio and listen for updates from authorities.
>> If you are in your car, keep the windows closed. Ash fallout may cause poor driving conditions, due to limited visibility and slippery driving conditions. Drive with extreme caution, or pull over and park.
>> After the hazard is passed, do check your home, and especially your catchment system, for any impact that may affect your water quality.
One of the top scientists for the U.S. Geological Survey with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said there is a good chance for volcanic eruptions at any moment in the lower Puna area of Hawaii island.
“We’ve got all the warning signs we need,” said Steve Brantley, the deputy scientist-in-charge for the USGS for HVO. “There may not be any additional warning before the magma actually starts moving up to the surface.
Brantley stressed that the danger of further lava eruptions is clear.
“I don’t think that people should expect any additional warning,” he said this afternoon. “We’ve had all the warning from Pele that anybody needs to make plans to take care of themselves.”
Some of those warning signs are the ground deforming and multiple earthquakes in the East Rift Zone.
He said the area threatened by an eruption stretches from Kapoho to the east of the evacuated subdivision Leilani Estates and south to Kalapana.
Another part of the danger is that some areas could be isolated by new lava flows and residents could get caught downwind of toxic sulfur dioxide fumes coming from the eruption.
“We’ve got roads cracking … if you want to ensure that you don’t get caught behind something that develops very quickly… you can’t ensure it unless you’re not there,” he said.
Shelters are open at the Pahoa or Keaau community centers.
Also Friday, Hawaii National Guard officials said they are ready to evacuate up to 2,000 people at a moment’s notice. The Guard said they would use land convoys and Blackhawk and, possibly, Chinook helicopters if needed.
Gov. David Ige’s office, meanwhile, announced that his request for a presidential disaster declaration for Hawaii island was granted.
Ige, who made the request Thursday, said in a news release, “I’m grateful for the quick approval of my request for a presidential disaster declaration. This opens the door to federal assistance and demonstrates a solid partnership with the federal government as we work to keep Hawaii residents safe and support recovery efforts on Hawaii island.”
The declaration paves the way for federal assistance for public facilities, including roads, parks, schools and water pipes damaged or destroyed by the Kilauea eruption and earthquakes, Ige’s officer said. It also covers costs for emergency personnel for security and roadblocks, geologists and the military.
For more information:
An eruption map is at http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/2018-lava-map.
Details on the volcanic activity: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/hvo/.