Kilauea Volcano eruption forces hundreds of residents to evacuate

News

An emergency proclamation is now in effect at both the county and state levels as Hawaii County Civil Defense responds to a volcanic eruption in the lower Puna area.

Gov. David Ige says the Hawaii National Guard has been deployed to help with the county’s emergency response.

“We definitely have sufficient numbers in the National Guard. We have some members who actually live on the Big Island and we did activate them. They’re in the emergency operation center as we speak,” Ige said.

Officials confirm the Leilani Estates Subdivision eruption continues at 5 a.m. Friday morning with active fountaining occurring. 

Active volcanic vents are erupting on Makamae and Mohala Streets.

All residents in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens Subdivisions were required to evacuate. County officials say 1,700 residents live in the area.

Due to volcanic activity, the Department of Education announced multiple Puna schools will be closed Friday which include:

  • Pahoa Elementary & Intermediate
  • Pahoa High School
  • Keonepoko Elementary 
  • Kua O Ka La New Century Public Charter School and Ka Umeke Kaeo

Lava reached the surface of Leilani Estates at around 4 p.m. with heavy smoke and spewing ash filling the neighborhood. Maija Stenback shared video of lava exploding out of Mohala Street.

Nanawale Estates resident Jeremiah Osuna flew his drone near what he described as a “curtain of fire.”

“It sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could. You could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was kind of shaken a little bit and realizing how real everything is, and how dangerous living on the East Rift can be.”

Hawaii Fire Department reports extremely high levels of sulfur dioxide gas in the evacuation area. Elderly, young, and people with respiratory issues need to comply with the mandatory evacuation order, officials say.

“We had to evacuate. My mother was out of portable oxygen, so that’s a first concern. She’s 88 years old,” said resident Stephen Clapper. “I told my mother this morning to pack a bag just in case, a go bag, and I ran in, grabbed the dogs, put them in a crate, put them in the car, went in my room, just grabbed an armload of clothes, and here we are.”

Some residents have decided to stay put, despite the eruption.

Read More: Resident resolves to stay, protect community for as long as possible during eruption

The American Red Cross opened a shelter for affected residents at Pahoa Community Center, 15-3022 Kauhale Street, and Keaau Community Center, 16-186 Pili Mua Street.

Residents should bring a supply kit that includes medicine, food, and items for comfort if possible.

Pohoiki Road is closed from the intersection at Highway 132 up to Lanipuna Subdivision to allow evacuation efforts to proceed.

“We’ve been planning for the last three days in case this situation happened, so we were very well prepared,” said acting Hawaii County Mayor Wil Okabe. “There is lava coming out from a road, therefore we have been making assessments throughout the day and will continue through the night. Civil Defense is active in a 24-hour watch, and all of the police officers and all of the agencies, to public works to parks, are there to ensure the public is safe.”

Okabe says he doesn’t know of any damage to homes and for those who evacuated, there’s no timeline for when they can return. Officials plan to regroup and assess conditions at 6 a.m. Friday.

Call Civil Defense at (808) 935-0031 for emergency needs you may have.

The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) says Thursday’s eruption ended by about 6:30 p.m. Lava spatter and gas bursts erupted from the fissure for about two hours, and lava spread a short distance from the fissure, less than about 10 meters, or 33 feet.

HVO geologists are working near the fissure have worked overnight to track additional activity that may occur, and other scientists are closely tracking the volcano’s overall activity. 

Officials say all areas bordering the East Rift Zone, from Puu Oo crater down to Kapoho, are at high risk for eruption activities. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has identified magma movement in the lower East Rift Zone.

Volcanic activities can take place with little or no warning. Hazards include lava inundation, fire, smoke, methane gas explosion, earthquakes, and poor air quality.

Residents of high-risk areas are urged to prepare an emergency plan, and report any unusual events to Civil Defense at (808) 935-0031. If you need special assistance, call (808) 935-0031.

Hawaii County Civil Defense is working in close coordination with Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The entire county emergency response team has been activated.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. actions and advice

Hawaii Electric Light deployed employees to the Leilani Estates area to disconnect power in the areas impacted by the active lava flow. 

The company continues to work with Hawaii County Civil Defense and other agencies to monitor and evaluate the flow.

Utility personnel are on scene. Although the areas near Mohala Street are without power due to the lava flow, crews are doing work to reroute power to maintain electric service for the rest of Leilani Estates that is not impacted by the lava.

The company expects to have sufficient generation, despite the emergency shutdown of independent power producer Puna Geothermal Venture. No blackouts are expected.

“We will continue to work closely with Civil Defense to monitor and assess the situation,” said Rhea Lee-Moku, Hawaii Electric Light spokeswoman. “We strongly encourage the community to be safe and heed the advice of Civil Defense and first responders.”

For customers who are evacuating, the company recommends:

  • Shut off electricity at the main breaker or switch;
  • Unplug or turn off electric equipment and appliances;
  • Call (808) 969-6999 to request a service disconnect or transfer;
  • If you see downed power lines, stay away and call the trouble line at (808) 969-6999.

Click here for more information or call (808) 327-0543.

Hawaii Gas Company Customers with questions should call its 24/7 hotline at (808) 935-0021.

View of the smoke plume from Kalapana Gardens (Credit: Janice Wei)

Magnitude-5.0 quake rattles Hawaii island, sends ash plume skyward

A preliminary magnitude-5.0 earthquake jolted parts of Hawaii island Thursday morning.

It was recorded at 10:30 a.m. HST, roughly 4.3 miles southeast of Volcano, and initially reported as a magnitude-4.4 quake.

A map showing the location of the earthquake is posted on HVO’s website.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s “Did you feel it?” website received more than 500 felt reports from around the island within an hour after the quake.

HVO says ground shaking from the quake caused rockfalls and possibly additional collapse into the Puu Oo crater on Kilauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone. 

A short-lived plume of ash lofted skyward and slowly dissipated as it drifted southwest. Anyone downwind may have experienced a dusting of ash.

At this time, scientists say the earthquake caused no other changes at the volcano, and HVO will continue to closely watch monitoring data for any changes.

No tsunami was generated by the earthquake.

Click here for HVO’s latest updates on Kilauea.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park officials temporarily closed Naulu Trail, parts of Napau Trail and adjacent wilderness in Kilauea Volcano’s East Rift Zone for public safety Thursday. 

The lava lake within Halemaumau Crater at the volcano’s summit dropped about 100 feet or more below the vent rim. Lava is no longer visible within Halemaumau, officials said.

“Today’s activity further supports the continued instability in the East Rift Zone,” said park superintendent Cindy Orlando. “Safety of visitors and staff is our highest priority.”

Residents were clearly on edge.

“Each event that’s happening right now these days is something new,” said Leilani Estates resident Petra Wiesenbauer. “It’s kind of hard to do any kind of other work except look at Facebook for the latest updates on what’s going on.”

Cracks have appeared on roads in and around the neighborhood over the past several days.

HVO confirmed the cracks were caused by an underlying “intrusion of magma.” One on Pohiki Road was so big, crews had to close down a section of it to place a metal plate to make it safe for vehicles.

“The biggest one we saw was on Pohiki Road. That’s the roadway that was shut down overnight. I think that was measured at about two-and-a-half inches and a half-inch wide, and then as they measured downward, it was about eight feet deep,” said Talmadge Magno, Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator.

Hours before the eruption began, scientists said the cracks were nothing to worry about.

“There was no heat signature and there was no steam, so it doesn’t seem that magma is rising towards the surface at this point,” said Janet Babb, HVO geologist.

“The county was on it last night making sure they were not a hazard to the community, and then HVO is also monitoring them. When those cracks were discovered, they were in the area. They were able to go and inspect them, measured them for gas and temperature, which none was detected, which pretty much reveals the magma is still deep within the crust area,” Magno added.

“If this opens up, I’ll leave. If they force me to leave, I’ll leave. Other than that, I ain’t planning to leave,” said Richard Jones. “Whatever happens, happens. That’s it. Deal with it as it comes.”

Residents of lower Puna to remain alert and watch for further information about the status of the volcano at www.hawaiicounty.gov/active-alerts.

Residents can also receive automatic notices (emails or texts) about volcanic activity through the USGS Volcano Notification Service. Sign up here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories