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

West Shore RCMP investigating after parking lot carjacking in Langford

Man was thrown from his vehicle near Millstream Road McDonald’s Monday night

Catch last call and a cheap ride home: Late night buses coming to Victoria in 2019

New plan will extend service on weekends with last trip leaving downtown at 3 a.m.

WATCH: Booze, weed both have fatal consequences

Video shows how easily impairment affects driving

Mackenzie Interchange pump failure sends contaminated water into Colquitz River

Sediment release in salmon-bearing river a serious threat to aquatic life, says local activist

Uvic to launch app to link drug users with Naloxone kits

Researchers have spent the last year developing the Nal-Pal app

Santa visits some of Victoria General Hospital’s littlest patients

Santa flew in to the hospital via air ambulance helicopter

READER POLL: Do you have turkey or ham for Christmas dinner?

What are you having for Christmas dinner? Canadians gobbled up 3.3 million… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 18, 2018

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Lightning top Canucks 5-2 in feisty battle

NHL’s No. 1 team too much for Vancouver

Bear cubs try to take Vancouver Island woman’s Christmas cookies

Incident happened in the early-morning hours today, Dec. 18, in Nanaimo

FortisBC says you can return to normal gas use following pipeline fire

Utility says increased pipeline capacity, warmer weather have allowed supply to reach normal levels

CSIS collected info on peaceful groups, but only in pursuit of threats: watchdog

Security Intelligence Review Committee says fears unjustified after reviewing evidence, testimony

Canada ranks 16th on annual gender gap list

This is the second year Canada has placed 16th in the World Economic Forum’s list

VIDEO: Tornado rips through city west of Seattle

Reports indicate five to seven homes damaged in Port Orchard, Wash.

Most Read