Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Hawaii's volcanic eruption

Hawaii volcano’s advancing river of lava prompts evacuation concerns

Hawaii Lava
27 October, 2014


October 2014 – HAWAII – Dozens of residents in a rural area of Hawaii were placed on alert as flowing lava from an erupting volcano continued to advance. Authorities on Sunday said lava flow on the Big Island of Hawaii had advanced about 250 yards since Saturday morning and was moving at the rate of about 10 to 15 yards an hour, consistent with its advancement in recent days. The flow front passed through a predominantly Buddhist cemetery, covering grave sites in the mostly rural region of Puna, and was roughly a half-mile from Pahoa Village Road, the main street of Pahoa. Darryl Oliveira, director of civil defense for Hawaii County, told reporters during a late Sunday morning teleconference that the nearest home was at least 300 yards from the flow front. He planned to get better coordinates during a flight later in the day. Residents in the nearest home said they could see the flow front from their balcony and were prepared to evacuate when the time came, Oliveira said. Residents in the flow path have been told to complete all necessary preparations by Tuesday for a possible evacuation. The timeline could change, based on the flow rate. Oliveira estimated there were at least 50 to 60 structures, including homes and businesses, in the area most likely to be impacted.

Authorities went door-to-door, notifying residents Saturday of the need to be ready to evacuate. The vast majority of residents contacted had identified places where they could go, with “less than a handful” saying they may need to go to a shelter, he said. As the lava moved through the cemetery, Oliveira said a monument was visible, protruding through the molten mass. Kilauea volcano has been erupting continuously since 1983. Most lava from this eruption has flowed south. But the lava has flowed to the northeast over the past two years. The current flow that has been threatening Pahoa began in June. It’s been moving toward town in fits and starts for weeks, speeding up and then slowing down. Janet Babb, a geologist and spokeswoman for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said methane explosions also have been going off. She said decomposing vegetation produces methane gas that can travel subsurface beyond the lava front in different directions, accumulating in pockets that can ignite. She said it was a bit unnerving to hear all the blasts on Saturday. One passed near where she and others were standing. “At the time that it happened, it was such a rumble I thought it was thunder and that we were about to be struck by lightning,” she said. –SF Gate

Lava from Hawaii volcano picks up speed as it nears town

25 October, 2014

October 2014 – HONOLULU - A growing lava stream threatening homes and inching closer to a rural road on Hawaii’s Big Island oozed forward in fits and starts this week, frustrating some residents but giving officials a window of time to prepare. The narrow, leading edge of the lava flow is now just 250 yards from the one-lane country road, which has been closed. Crews are working on an alternate route for remote communities in the Puna district in case the lava crosses a major thoroughfare. The lava sped up over the past few days, advancing nearly 460 yards from Thursday morning to Friday, but it slowed again Friday morning, officials said. The flow’s fitful nature is taking a toll on some Big Island residents, who got a brief reprieve from the advancing molten stream only to have to raise their guard again. “This stop-and-go – it’s going to be very frustrating for our residents,” said Darryl Oliveira, director of Hawaii County Civil Defense. “It raises the anxiety level. It raises the concern.” On the other hand, the sporadic suspensions in activity gave emergency crews time to build another road and deal with a recent tropical storm that swept by the island, Oliveira said. Crews near the leading edge have been wrapping power poles with concrete rings as a layer of protection from the lava’s heat.


The recent acceleration came when the lava reached a gully, allowing it to move more efficiently like rain in a gutter, Oliveira said. “It’s already starting to widen out at the bottom, which might mean that it will slow down again,” he said. No evacuations have been ordered, and the residents of a home that is nearest to the flow already have left voluntarily. Hawaii County Civil Defense crews are planning to go door-to-door Saturday to about a dozen homes to find out how many people might need shelter if the eruption continues, and to find any obstacles like abandoned cars or hazards t hat could be in the lava’s path. Oliveira said he would give residents three to five days’ notice before an evacuation order, and he stressed that the community is not yet at that point. Some long-term locals are used to the uncertainties of living near one of the world’s most active volcanoes. “Because of what they’ve experienced over the course of their lifetimes, they were very accepting … that this is nature’s thing,” Oliveira said. “But on the other hand, we have people who are new to the island who don’t really understand how it’s playing out and what to expect and having a harder time preparing.” –HP

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