Hawaiian volcano destroys homes, spares lives in latest eruption
May 10, 2018
Although toxic gas and molten lava sound like things straight out of a sci-fi novel, they are just a few of the real-life dangers many Hawaii residents have been trying to escape for the past couple of days.
Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has decimated 26 homes since it began spewing lava hundreds of feet into the air last week.
The volcano is located on the southernmost island of the state, Hawaii island, also known as the Big Island.
The affected homes were in the Leilani Estates subdivision, on the eastern tip of the Big Island, where molten rock, toxic gas and steam have been bursting through openings in the ground created by the volcano.
In addition to the erratic lava flows, Big Island residents have been shaken by more than 1,000 earthquakes over the past week, ranging from small rattles to a 6.9 magnitude quake that cut power for 14,000 people.
As of now, lava has spread around 387,500 square feet surrounding the most active fissure, though the rate of movement is slow. There was no indication when the lava might stop or how far it might spread. As of now, there have been no fatalities or serious injuries due to the eruption.
“The eruption of a volcano, for the most part, can be unpredictable yet unstoppable,” said Cory Yamagata, a Santa Clara junior from the Big Island. “You cannot simply spray some water on the steady flow to slow it down. It will have no impact on the lava burning at 1,600 degrees.”
Yamagata was born and raised in KailuaKona on the western side of the island, opposite the volcano. Living on the other side of the island, Yamagata’s family has not been directly affected by the volcano at this point.
An active volcano in their backyard is something residents of the Big Island have become accustomed to. Kilauea volcano itself has been active for between 300,000 to 600,000 years, emerging above the ocean’s surface about 100,000 years ago.
Kilauea is an active volcano because the Big Island is currently located above the hot spot that created each of the Hawaiian islands, starting more than four million years ago.
The hot spot, which stems from the planet’s core, stays in place while the Earth’s plates move across it at a rate of around 1 inch per year, creating a new island each time lava surfaces.
Although Kilauea (pronounced kill-ahWAY’-ah), is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and has been erupting continuously since 1983, it goes in and out of large eruption phases.
Despite the fact that the volcano itself is only causing damage to a specific part of one island, the misconceptions of the eruption have been affecting people statewide.
In a state that runs on its tourism industry, Hawaii businesses have been greatly impacted by people’s fear of Kilauea, even though it is unwarranted at times.
“There has been tons of cancellations,” Robert Hughes, owner of the Aloha Junction Bed and Breakfast in the town of Volcano, told Hawaii News Now. “We’ve lost about 10 or 14 reservations within the past couple days.”
According to Hawaii News Now, Hughes has tried to explain to customers that his Bed and Breakfast is simply located in the town of Volcano and the actual volcano is more than an hour away.None of the other Hawaiian islands have active volcanoes and, therefore, will never experience lava flows or eruptions. As for other effects like air pollution and earthquakes, the other islands are not being impacted at this time.
Santa Clara first-year, Caitlin Suh, is from Oahu and has not been directly impacted by the volcano as of now, but is unsure what kind of repercussions the volcanic smoke and earthquakes will have on her family back at home.
“I know I’m not as affected as those who live on the Big Island by the volcano,” Suh said. “But in the back of my mind, there is a part of me that wonders what could happen if things got really bad and how that would affect my family and me.”
In terms of upcoming lava flows, scientists find it difficult to predict just how long they will continue.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory issued a notice in mid-April that there were signs of pressure building in underground magma, and a new vent could form on the cone or along what’s known as the East Rift Zone. Leilani Estates sits along the zone.
The crater floor began to collapse on April 30, triggering earthquakes and pushing lava into new underground chambers that carried it toward Leilani Estates and nearby communities.
On Friday, the magnitude-6.9 earthquake hit the area. It was Hawaii’s largest earthquake in more than 40 years.
The number of lava-venting fissures in the neighborhood has grown to as many as 10, USGS Volcanologist Wendy Stovall told the Associated Press. Though some have quieted at various points, scientists expect the fissures to keep spewing.
“There’s more magma in the system to be erupted,” Stovall said. “As long as that supply is there, the eruption will continue.” AP contributed reporting.
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