This story updates throughout the day.
Explosive eruption prompts ashfall advisory
Hawaii Volcano Observatory officials on Thursday confirmed that an explosive eruption occurred at the summit of Kilauea. As a result, the National Weather Service issued an ashfall advisory for the Ka’u District of the Big Island. Officials say the ash plume reached 25,000 feet.
HVO is still assessing the situation to see whether this was a steam-driven explosion.
Hawaii Electric Light establishes no-entry zones in parts of Puna
Hawaii Electric Light announced on Wednesday that a portion of Leilani Estates and all of Lanipuna Gardens are now designated no-entry zones for its crews.
HELCO officials say that, over the past few days, fissure activity in the area has put crews in situations that could have resulted in severe injury. HELCO has decided that it is no longer safe to send workers to facilitate repairs in those areas.
The following areas are in the no-entry zone:
- Leilani Avenue from Pomaikai street to Pohoiki Road
- Malama Street east of Pomakai Street
- Kahukai Street from Nohea Street to Leilani Avenue
- Pomaikai, Moku and Kupono Streets south of Leilani Avenue
- All streets east beginning with Nohea Street
- All of Lanipuna Gardens including Hinalo, Lauone, and Honuaula Streets, and all connector roads into Lanipuna Gardens
USPS suspends mail service in parts of Puna
Mail delivery has been suspended in several areas of the Puna region due to concerns over volcanic activity and air quality. The United States Postal Service is asking residents in the affected areas to pick up their mail at the Pahoa Post Office.
Mail service has been suspended in the following areas:
Cracks form on highway in Volcano after quake
Several large cracks formed on Highway 11 in Volcano on Wednesday after a 3.5-magnitude quake rattled the Big Island.
The state Transportation Department said the roadway remains open and safe to travel.
However, the public is being urged to used caution in the area.
Hawaii County said the cracks formed between mile markers 28 and 29, near the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Geologists say a steam-driven explosion is possible
HVO officials said "dense ballistic blocks" measuring about 2 feet across were found in the parking lot near Halemaumau Crater. They said those blocks show the "most energetic" explosions and could signal the onset of a steam-driven explosion.
These enormous, steam-induced eruptions could happen if lava hits the water table. Geologists have been closely monitoring for signs of this type of eruption over the past few days.
Further observations are needed to confirm.
In the meantime, officials say more explosions are expected and could be more powerful.
A 4.4-magnitude earthquake rattles parts of the Big Island
A 4.4-magnitude earthquake struck near the Volcano region around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, but there was no tsunami threat, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. However, some areas may have experienced shaking.
The quake was initially measured at a magnitude of 4.2
Dozens of small earthquakes continue to rattle the region, but none have posed any kind of tsunami threat to the state.
Ashfall advisory is canceled
At 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, the National Weather Service canceled the ashfall advisory for the Ka’u District of the Big Island.
Web cameras showed the volcanic emissions from the Halemaumau Crater have decreased since Tuesday night.
But authorities warned the situation could change quickly.
NWS reminds residents of ashfall advisory
The National Weather Service reminds residents of the Big Island’s Ka’u District that an ashfall advisory remains in effect until 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Officials say a large plume of ash from Halemaumau Crater has been shooting ash into the air, and winds are carrying that ash southwest of the crater to neighboring towns.
Residents are warned of air quality issues, which could be harmful for those with respiratory issues.
The advisory will be reevaluated after sunrise and may need to be extended.
Civil Defense: There is no threat of a ‘mega-tsunami’
Hawaii County officials responded Tuesday to rumors that have been circulating social media about an impending "mega-tsunami" that would affect several islands as a result of volcanic activity on the Big Island.
"The Hawaii Civil Defense Agency has received several inquiries from media and the public asking about the potential for a tsunami to affect other counties. This is a false message being spread," the agency said, in a news release.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists say there’s no evidence to suggest a major earthquake is imminent. And, civil defense said, "any such event is extremely unlikely."
HELCO: We’re ready to respond if ashfall cuts power
Electric crews are standing by in case ash falling across the Ka’u District triggers power outages.
Hawaii Electric Light said a light dusting of ash and moisture on utility insulators could result in electrical short circuits.
“If this occurs, we are prepared to respond once it is safe for employees to work in the impacted area," said Rhea Lee-Moku, spokeswoman for Hawaii Electric Light. "While we have equipment that can wash off ash from utility equipment, this is the first experience we will have with widespread volcanic ash.”
Crews reopen Highway 130 in lower Puna
State crews have reopened Highway 130 in lower Puna after covering new cracks with additional plates.
Earlier, the state Department of Transportation the thoroughfare would not open to local traffic as planned because new cracks had developed overnight.
However, the state was able to cover the new cracks and allow local traffic through about 1 p.m.
The DOT said, however, it would continue monitoring the roadway and could shut it down if "hazardous conditions develop."
NWS reissues warning about ashfall
The National Weather Service has reissued its warning about a "very light ashfall and hazardous air quality" that’s likely throughout the day Tuesday.
The web camera at the summit of Kilauea volcano showed a plume of smoke and ash emissions from Halemaumau Crater around 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Northeast winds will carry ash downstream across Big Island’s Kau district.
Officials to kill active geothermal wells at PGV
After the latest fissures opened in the area near Lanipuna Gardens over the weekend and on Monday, officials are raising concerns about their proximity to the Puna Geothermal Venture site.
Officials are planning to kill three active wells at the site starting Tuesday. The process will involve pumping cold water into the wells.
They’re hoping to kill all the wells by the end of next week.
‘Red’ air quality alert issued for areas of Big Island
Fissures in the southeast area of Lanipuna Gardens are producing high levels of sulfur dioxide gas, according to Hawaii fire officials.
The air quality in the area is "condition red," which means hazardous gas levels can pose an immediate danger to health.
Hawaii Fire Department officials are urging anyone in the area to leave immediately.
Risks of exposure to high levels of sulfur dioxide include choking and other serious respiratory problems.
Big Island: Wrong info is hurting tourism
Big Island Managing Director Wil Okabe was on the war path Monday, saying that social media and mainland news organizations are spreading incorrect information about ongoing eruptions in Kilauea’s east rift zone and prompting scores of visitors to cancel their Hawaii vacations.
"There is an economical impact because wrong information is given from some news media around the country," Okabe said. "There are cancellations of vacations and that affects the economy."
In fact, Hawaii Island tourism officials say cancellations from May through July have hit at least $5 million.
He noted that the active eruptions are affecting just a small portion of the Big Island; he estimated just 5 percent.
And he compared the cancellations to people forgoing trips to Colorado because something was happening at Disneyland.
Okabe also railed against people who he said are putting their health at risk to get video and photos of active lava. And he complained about people who are venturing into subdivisions under mandatory evacuations.
"We are not here to create panic," he said. "The rest of the state is safe."
NWS: Ashfall expected through the day
The National Weather Service is warning residents in the Big Island’s Kau District about a "very light ashfall" that’s likely throughout the day.
The ashfall is happening after a rockfall at Kilauea’s summit crater sent plumes of smoke and ash into the sky.
The USGS confirmed Monday morning that the plumes were not caused by a steam-induced explosion, the type of eruption officials have warned could send boulders "the size of cows" as far as a half mile away and could product thick ashfall as far away as Hilo.
HFO issues VERY LIGHT ASHFALL IS EXPECTED THROUGH AT LEAST 6 PM HST for South Big Island [HI] till 4:00 AM GMT https://t.co/AwVnSEgciQ
— NWSHonolulu (@NWSHonolulu) May 14, 2018
Forecasters say the ashfall from Monday morning’s plumes are traveling toward the Kau District, and that residents should expect conditions to continue through at least 6 p.m.
Residents are urged to avoid "excessive exposure to ash," which can irritate eyes and breathing.
Officials renew warnings about hazardous volcanic fumes
Hawaii Civil Defense officials are again warning residents near active eruptions to be aware of toxic fumes.
Sulfur dioxide emissions can be especially hazardous to the elderly, children and those with respiratory problems.
The best way to protect yourself from the fumes is to leave the area.
Only specialized masks can protect against dangerous gases and particulates.
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