• Kilauea eruption: Lava creeps toward Hawaiian geothermal power plant

    By: Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:
    PUNA, BIG ISLAND, HAWAII -

    Lava continued to flow toward a geothermal power plant on Hawaii’s Big Island on Wednesday, nearly three weeks after the Kilauea volcano started spewing ash and molten rock into the air, destroying dozens of structures and leaving at least one person injured.

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    More than 40 structures have been destroyed in the eruption that started May 3. It has since inundated almost 325 acres around Kilauea with lava and led to concerns about laze, a toxic mixture of lava and haze that forms when hot lava hits ocean waters.

    Update 10:10 a.m. EDT May 23: Officials said all 11 wells at Puna Geothermal Venture’s plant on Hawaii’s Big Island had been successfully plugged by Tuesday as lava continued to inch toward the plant, Hawaii News Now reported.

    “The well field at PGV is essentially safe,” Hawaii Emergency Management Administrator Thomas Travis said, according to the news station. “The probability of anything happening if lava enters the well field is very, very low. They should feel pretty comfortable that there should be no untoward events from Puna Geothermal, assuming the lava doesn't change its pattern or flow."

    Reuters reported Monday that workers were scrambling to plug the plant’s wells to avoid an “uncontrollable release of toxic gasses.”

    Update 4:37 p.m. EDT May 22: Lava continued to flow Tuesday on Hawaii's Big Island, creating toxic laze as it hit ocean waters.

    Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said a majority of the lava was flowing Tuesday from a trio of fissures that have opened in recent days.

    Update 11:56 a.m. EDT May 22: The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory released video Tuesday of lava hitting the ocean one day earlier, creating a toxic laze plume.

    Laze is formed when lava enters the ocean, setting off a series of chemical reactions and cooling the lava until it transforms into glass, which shatters, according to USGS officials. It creates white clouds of steam that contain toxic gas and tiny shards of volcanic glass.

    Update 10:18 a.m. EDT May 22: Officials with the Hawaii Civil Defense Agency warned Tuesday of another “explosive eruption” at Kilauea’s summit

    The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported the explosion around 3:45 a.m.

    “The resulting ash plume may affect the surrounding areas,” officials warned. “The wind may carry the ash plume to the southwest toward Wood Valley, Pahala, Naalehu and Waiohinu.”

    Authorities said the biggest hazard from Tuesday’s early morning eruption is likely to be ash fallout. Residents were asked to stay indoors and keep windows closed.

    Hawaiian Volcano Observatory officials warned in an update Monday afternoon that "additional explosions (are) possible at any time" on Kilauea's summit.

    Update 11:15 p.m. EDT May 21: Lava is flowing toward a geothermal power plant on Hawaii’s Big Island as Mount Kilauea continues its violent eruptions.

    Reuters is reporting that workers are scrambling to shut down the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant to prevent the “uncontrollable release of toxic gases.”

    The plant provides about 25 percent of the Big Island’s power, but has been closed since the volcanic eruptions started on May 3.

    Update 12:35 p.m. EDT May 21: Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said early Monday that a small explosion happened just before 1 a.m. local time at the Halemaumau crater at Kilauea's summit.

    The explosion shot ash about 7,000 feet into the air.

    "Additional explosive events that could produce minor amounts of ashfall downwind are possible at any time," USGS officials said.

    The Hawaiian County Civil Defense Agency warned residents to be aware of ashfall after the "explosive eruption."

    Update 12:38 p.m. May 20: Lava from the Kilauea volcano has crossed Highway 137 and entered the Pacific Ocean, the Hawaii County Civil Defense said Sunday. A second lava flow is about 437 yards from the highway, the Star Advertiser of Honolulu reported.

    Big Island residents may now have to contend with laze -- a mixture of lava and haze -- that forms when hot lava hits the ocean, CNN reported.

    After making contact with the water, the laze sends hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles into the air.

    Laze can lead to lung, eye and skin irritation, CNN reported.

    "This hot, corrosive gas mixture caused two deaths immediately adjacent to the coastal entry point in 2000, when seawater washed across recent and active lava flows," the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory wrote on its website.

    Officials have told people to avoid areas where lava meets the ocean, CNN reported.

    Powerful eruptions accompanied by thunderous booms punctuated the air Friday around Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island.

    The volcano spewed lava bombs the size of cows as molten rock flowed from several of the 22 fissures that have opened around the volcano. 

     

    Update May 19, 2018, 2 a.m. EDT: Fast-moving lava isolated about 40 homes in a rural subdivision, forcing at least four people to be evacuated by county and National Guard helicopters, the Star-Advertiser of Honolulu reported.

    According to the Hawaii County Civil Defense, police, firefighters and National Guard troops were stopping people from entering the area.

    Update May 18, 2018 11:30 p.m. EDT: Hawaiian authorities have sent the National Guard, police and fire units into the East Rift Zone in Puna, according to the Hawaii Civil Defense Agency.

    “There are approximately 40 homes in the area that are isolated. Officials are gaining access by helicopter to the area to assess how many people are there and if they need assistance. All persons in that area are asked to stay where they are and wait for further instructions,” the agency said on its website.

    The Hawaii Volcano Observatory has confirmed another fissure opened on Friday, bringing the total number of fissures to 22. 

    Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes as Kilauea continues its violent eruptions.

    Update May 18, 2018 8:35 a.m EDT:  More lava is spewing from the Kilauea volcano as the 21st fissure opened Thursday, CNN reported.

    Meanwhile, state officials have been handing out masks to protect people who live near Kilauea, ABC News reported. About 18,000 masks have been distributed, CNN reported. The safety measure protects residents from breathing in pieces of rock, glass and crystals that fall as the volcano continues to erupt, ABC News reported.

    Update May 17, 2018 10:45 p.m EDT: Lava is erupting from points along the fissure system on Kilauea volcano, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, but the agency is calling it a “low-level eruption” at this point. 

    Although lava is still spattering from Fissure 17, the flow has not advanced significantly over the past day, the USGS said.

    There are currently 18 fissures that have opened due to seismic activity on Kilauea’ over the past two weeks. 

    Volcanic gas emissions are still elevated throughout the area and residents are urged to remain on alert. 

    “This eruption is still evolving and additional outbreaks of lava are possible. Ground deformation continues and seismicity remains elevated in the area,” the USGS reported late Thursday

    Rain on the Big Island Thursday helped the situation with the ashfall, but volcano experts are warning the situation on Kilauea is  still very dynamic.

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    Several schools were closed as ash continued to fall Thursday due to elevated sulfur dioxide levels. Officials warned people in the area to take shelter and protect themselves from the falling ash.

    "The resulting ash plume will cover the surrounding area," officials with the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said in a 5 a.m. alert. In a subsequent update, USGS officials said the ash plume was moving to the northeast.

    The plume could be seen in an image taken from a webcam at the USGS’ Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

    "Driving conditions may be dangerous so if you are driving pull off the road and wait until visibility improves," the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency warned.

    Michelle Coombs, of the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, told Hawaii News Now that the situation remained “very, very active and very dynamic,” on Thursday.

    “The potential for larger explosions is still there,” she said.

    Officials with the USGS warned Tuesday that an eruption of Kilauea's volcano appeared "imminent."

    The eruption on Kilauea began May 3. It has since forced thousands of people from their homes, destroyed nearly 40 structures -- including dozens of homes -- and created more than two dozen fissures in the ground surrounding the volcano.

    Check back for updates to this developing story.

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