The potential for “explosive eruptions” from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano in the coming weeks is rising, raising the prospect of pebble-sized projectiles being sprayed several miles from the fissures, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The warning was issued Wednesday as residents in the community of Leilani Estates have been under siege from lava. The USGS also said that nearby towns could be dusted with volcanic ash if such an eruption took place.
“Steam-driven explosions at volcanos typically provide very little warning,” USGS explained.
The agency tweeted a picture explaining that explosive eruptions can occur when a volcano’s magma column drops below the water table and groundwater interacts with hot rock. At that point, steam pressure builds then explodes.
“I hit my [asthma] pump three times this morning,” resident Dan Kelly told Evans. “Last night I had to leave I was choking … and just trying to get out to the … fresh air down the coast.”
Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano and has been in near-constant eruption since 1983.
Lava has flowed from fissures and has destroyed at least 36 homes and other buildings, plus anything else in its path, since it erupted about a week ago.
Authorities had previously ordered nearly 2,000 residents to leave Lanipuna Gardens and the neighboring Leilani Estates, both located in the mostly rural district of Puna on Hawaii’s Big Island. But some had ignored the order and stayed to watch over their property.
“There were a number of people at their residences,” Talmadge Magno, the administrator for Hawaii County Civil Defense, said at a news conference. There was no sign of holdouts in Lanipuna afterward, he said.
Kelena Kealoha fled the California wildfires for his dream home in Hawaii.
“I was going to raise my daughters here, but it doesn’t look like it was going to turn out to be the scenario we hoped,” Kealoha said. “I’ve never experienced lava consuming all of my possessions before … I guess it’s kind of mixed emotions.”
Amber Makuakane’s home is already gone. The single mom doesn’t know how to tell her 4-year-old son.
“I need to figure that out,” she said with tears in her eyes. “My son asks, ‘Mommy, can we go home?'”
Scientists have no real prediction as to when or where the lava will flow — or when it will end.
Wednesday evening, NASA tweeted an image from a satellite that passed over the volcanic activity in Hawaii. They wrote that “scientists use a unique set of nine different Earth views to calculate the height of the plume”: