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

North Cowichan celebrates public art for Local Government Awareness Week

North Cowichan is showcasing a piece of public art in Crofton in… Continue reading

VIDEO: SAR reinforcements from up Island arrive Sunday to help search for Ben Kilmer

Family, RCMP ‘extremely happy’ with the search effort so far, search manager tells volunteers

Good Samaritan helps extinguish car fire in Ladysmith

A woman was behind the wheel of a Chevy Impala on a… Continue reading

Is Steve Nash Vancouver Island’s best athlete of all-time?

As Captain Canada gets ready to enter basketball’s Hall of Fame it’s time to debate his legacy

Who is Vancouver Island’s greatest athlete ever?

We want to know, you get to choose in a 64-athlete tournament bracket

Winnipeg’s JP Hoe performs in Ladysmith

Six-time Western Canada Music Award nominee and Winnipeg native JP Hoe performed… Continue reading

Woman’s death near Tofino prompts warning about ‘unpredictable’ ocean

Ann Wittenberg was visiting Tofino for her daughter Victoria Emon’s wedding

B.C. man facing deportation says terror accusation left him traumatized

Othman Hamdan was acquitted of terrorism-related charges by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in September

Will Taylor Swift’s high concert ticket prices stop scalpers?

Move by artist comes as B.C. looks to how to regulate scalpers and bots reselling concert tickets

36 fires sparked May long weekend, most due to lightning: BC Wildfire

As warmer weather nears, chief fire officer Kevin Skrepnek says too soon to forecast summer

Ariana Grande sends message of hope on anniversary of Manchester bombing

Prince William joins survivors and emergency workers for remembrance service

B.C. flood risk switches from snowmelt to rainfall: River Forecast Centre

Kootenays and Fraser River remain serious concerns

Pipeline more important than premiers meeting: Notley

“Canada has to work for all Canadians, that’s why we’re fighting for the pipeline”

Canadian government spending tens of millions on Facebook ads

From January 2016 to March 2018, feds spent more than $24.4 million on Facebook and Instagram ads

Most Read