Published: Sun, May 13, 2018
World News | By Laverne Osborne

Hawaii volcano could blow its top soon, hurl rocks and ash

Hawaii volcano could blow its top soon, hurl rocks and ash

Dozens of tremors rattled residents on Hawaii's Big Island on Friday as molten rock from Kilauea volcano flowed under an area where homes have already been destroyed by fiery lava geysers.

Scientists said Wednesday the risks of an explosive summit eruption will rise in coming weeks as magma drains down the flank of the volcano.

Scientists believe lava that's been erupting is magma that's been stored in the ground since Kilauea volcano erupted 63 years ago. Then last week, it was Kilauea volcano sending 2,200 degree (1,200 degree Celsius) lava bursting through cracks into people's backyards in the Leilani Estates neighborhood.

New outbreaks of lava were expected in or around the hard-hit Leilani Estates area in the southeastern Puna district, about 20 miles (32 km) south of Hilo, the Hawaii Volcano Observatory and local authorities said.

If the volcano blows its stack, communities about 2 miles (3 kilometers) away could be showered with pea-size rocks or dusted with nontoxic ash, said Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

"If it goes up, it will come down", said Charles Mandeville, volcano hazards co- ordinator for the US Geological Survey.

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could soon send boulders and ash shooting out of its summit crater in the kind of explosive eruption last displayed almost a century ago. "If you're near the crater, within half a mile, you could be subject to ballistic blocks weighing as much as 10 or 12 tons", Donald Swanson of the Obervatory tells The Washington Post.

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The threat of violent explosions has prompted authorities to close the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park beginning Friday and "until further notice", according to the National Park Service.

NASA claims that the although the Kilauea is consistently releasing sulfur dioxide gas, in recent days there has been a significant increase in the amounts released, which likely stems from the creation of new fissures. In their latest update this morning, the agency noted that there has been no change in damage to property, however, with the number of destroyed structures remaining at 36 overnight.

She said that's why the lava has been cool and has been moving a little sluggishly. "Why did they let people build all around it?" she asked.

This event could occur again when the summit lava lake drops so low that groundwater can flow into the conduit that feeds magma to the crater. We know it is a distinct possibility.

A similar 1924 explosion threw pulverized rock, ash and steam as high as 5.4 miles into the sky, for a couple of weeks.

"One of the things I love about Kilauea is that it's so well-monitored and so well-studied - the more we know, the more we realize we don't know", she said. If another blast happens, the danger zone could extend about 3 miles from the summit to land that all falls within the national park, Mandeville said.

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