Hawaii volcano park to close amid explosion concerns

Kilauea volcano could soon send boulders and ash shooting out of its summit crater

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano could soon send boulders and ash shooting out of its summit crater in the kind of explosive eruption last displayed nearly a century ago.

Scientists said Wednesday the risks of an explosive summit eruption will rise in coming weeks as magma drains down the flank of the volcano toward the area where began erupting lava in a residential neighbourhood last week.

A summit explosion could also release ash, steam and sulfur dioxide emissions.

Kilauea has destroyed 36 structures — including 26 homes — since it began releasing lava from vents about 25 miles (40 kilometres) east of the summit crater. There are now 15 of the vents spread through Leilani Estates and neighbouring Lanipuna Gardens.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said a geothermal energy plant near the lava outbreak was accelerating its removal of stored flammable gas.

The Puna Geothermal Venture plant has about 50,000 gallons (189,270 litres) of pentane on site but he expected this would all be removed by the end of the day Thursday.

It would be “very, very hazardous” if a volcanic vent were to open under the facility where the fuel is stored, the governor said.

The plant, which is owned by Ormat Technologies of Reno, Nevada, is across the highway from where lava has been erupting.

READ MORE: Despite risks, volcano offers affordable piece of paradise

READ MORE: Hawaiian volcanic eruption leaves former Vancouver resident shaken

In the weeks ahead, the summit crater could eject blocks up to 2 yards (1.8 metres) in diameter a little less than a mile (1.6 kilometres) away, the United States Geological Survey said. It may also send pebbles shooting into the air several miles away, the USGS said. Distant towns such as Hilo, about 30 miles (48 kilometres) away, could get a dusting of ash.

The receding lava lake resembles conditions seen before a major summit eruption in 1924, said Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory.

That explosion killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.

This event could occur again when the summit lava lake drops so low that groundwater is able to flow into the conduit that feeds magma to the crater. The magma would heat the water, sending steam into the air that would push any accumulated rocks out in an explosion.

Don Swanson, a geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said the magma is likely to drop below the water table around the middle of the month. Scientists don’t know how long after that it an explosion could occur.

“We suspect it’s a rapid process. We really don’t know for certain,” he told reporters on a conference call.

No one lives in the immediate area of the summit crater. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which includes the crater and surrounding region, announced Wednesday that it will shut down Friday in anticipation of the possible explosive event.

“It seems pretty safe to me right now but they’d know best,” said Cindy Woodd, who was visiting from British Columbia, Canada. “We don’t know what’s going on underground. Life and safety is what’s most important.”

Authorities previously ordered nearly 2,000 residents to leave the neighbourhoods in and around the vents in the mostly rural district of Puna. But some ignored the order and stayed to watch over their property. Authorities went door-to-door in Lanipuna to get people out of their homes on Tuesday.

Police said Wednesday they arrested a man suspected of burglarizing homes in Leilani Estates. A resident saw the man leaving his house when he returned to retrieve personal belongings. The resident and a friend took the suspect to police officers who arrested him.

Some residents have refused to follow evacuation orders because of fears their homes will be looted.

McAvoy reported from Honolulu. Associated Press journalists Caleb Jones, Haven Daley and Jennifer Sinco Kelleher in Honolulu contributed to this report.

Sophia Yan And Audrey McAvoy, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

City budget 2019: Kelowna council settles on 4.43% tax hike

Proposed tax hike includes controversial 1.95 per cent levy to address infrastructure “deficit”

Scholarship smooths road ahead for Okanagan College transfer student

27 students from Okanagan College received awards from the Irving K. Barber Society

Crash stalls traffic on Benvoulin, vehicle flipped on its side

Early reports from the scene note traffic is backed up in both directions along Benvoulin near Byrns Road.

Your guide to winter light ups around the Okanagan

From Vernon to Summerland, with a stop in Kelowna, we’ve found some activities for you to enjoy

Omar Khadr wants changes to bail conditions

‘My life is held in suspension’, says the former Guantanamo Bay detainee

Sissons scores OT winner as Predators beat Canucks 4-3

VIDEO: Vancouver battles back to earn single point in Nashville

Lions announce seven members of coaching staff not coming back for 2019

The operational moves come two days after the Lions announced DeVone Claybrooks as the team’s new head coach

Okanagan lawyer honoured by appointment to Queen’s Counsel

Only seven per cent of practising B.C. lawyers are appointed

Missing man last seen in Shuswap

Red Deer RCMP would like public’s help locating elderly man with dementia last observed in Sicamous

$12K awarded to atheist family who oppose Christmas, Hanukkah in B.C. classroom

Gary Mangel,May Yasue said holidays, Remembrance Day and Valentine’s Day not appropriate in preschool

Aboriginal poet faces backlash for calling out NHL-themed totem poles

Rebecca Thomas says she received backlash for asking a drugstore chain to remove NHL merchandise

No plans yet for free WiFi on BC Transit buses

BC Transit says they are monitoring the roll-out of free WiFi on Translink vehicles

Some Kotex tampons recalled in Canada and U.S.

In some cases, tampon users sought medical attention “to remove tampon pieces left in the body.”

Most Read