UPDATE: 5:30 p.m.
Hawaii County Civil Defense is warning 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. tonight.
Officials say 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.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park closed today until further notice because of the threat of an explosive summit eruption.
One of the top scientists for the U.S. Geological Survey with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says 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.
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.
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.
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park officials say that at their request the Federal Aviation Administration has issued a temporary flight restriction that extends 20,000 feet above ground level and for a 12 nautical mile radius around the summit of Kilauea.
They requested the restriction because of the possibility of a steam-driven explosive eruption in the Halemaumau Crater at Kilauea’s summit that could send of ash, rocks and volcanic over the surrounding areas. Most of the park closed today until further notice due to the threat.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists report that the east rift zone intrusion and seismic activity appears to be moving in a northeast direction.
Hawaii County Civil Defense said at about 1:40 p.m. that hazardous fumes continue to be released from existing cracks and fissures, but no lava activity is occurring.
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/.
Residents of Lower Puna, between Kapoho and Kalapana, should stay alert for possible volcanic eruption and gas emissions, Hawaii County Civil Defense said today in an alert to the public.
“There may be little no advance notice to evacuate, be prepared to evacuate immediately,” the midday alert from Hawaii County Civil Defense said.
The alert for Kaopoho to Kalapana is an expansion for the Civil Defense warnings for lower Puna, which had been mainly focused on the Leilani Estates-Lanipuna Gardens area, where 15 fissures have emerged ans 117 acres have been covered by lava.
Residents who choose to evacuate can go to the shelters are at the Pahoa or Keaau community centers.
In addition, officials said, all beach parks in Lower Puna have been closed, including the Pohoiki Boat Ramp.
Kilauea volcano took another pause with its latest outbreak in lower Puna, which entered its second week of eruption.
As of this morning, the number of fissures that have emerged in the East Rift Zone eruption stood at 15 while the number of acres covered by lava is at 117.38. The lava has destroyed 36 structures, of which 27 were homes, in the evacuated Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists warn that the current volcanic activity is not over, despite any cessation in lava output, and they point to the ongoing heavy seismic activity in the Kilauea area. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey reported more than 75 tremors greater than 2.5 magnitude in the 24-hour period through late this morning. Last Friday, a magnitude-6.9 quake — the largest in Hawaii since 1975 — was centered in Leilani Estates.
Earthquake activity overnight was concentrated on the east side of the existing fissures in Leilani Estates, which continue to discharge high levels of sulfur dioxide gas, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense.
Geologists are especially concerned that explosive eruptions of steam, ash, rocks and gases will occur at the summit of Kilauea, where the Halemaumau crater lava lake is falling. Once the lava falls to the water-table level, geologists warn that a summit eruption is possible.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was closed today until further notice to protect the public and staff from an eruption.
At the summit of Kilauea Volcano, deflationary tilt continues and earthquake frequency remains elevated. A steady plume of steam is rising from the overlook vent. Scientists expect occasional rockfalls into the vent will produce occasional, low-level ash emissions, though higher energy ash emissions are possible.
But with the pause in lava output in Puna, Leilani Estates residents are still allowed to check on their property from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until further notice. However, they should be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Access to Lanipuna Gardens is still restricted due to dangerous volcanic gases.
In other volcano-related developments:
>> Emergency water restrictions for the Pohoiki, Vacationland and Kapoho areas are still in effect while personnel work to restore service. 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 Kalapana Transfer Station is closed until further notice. The Pahoa Transfer Station on Apaa Street is open 7 days a week, from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporters Kevin Dayton and Rob Shikina on the Big Island contributed to this report.