New Eruption in Leilani Estates, Big Island Hawaii
I have decided to create a short version time line, to outline the most recent activity on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kilauea has undergone some significant changes in the last few days which has sparked my interest in trying to chart what has occurred so far and then what happens next.
In late April and leading up to Thursday May 3rd a swarm of hundreds of earthquakes caused officials to begin alerting the public to a possible imminent eruption in the east rift zone, down slope from the Pu’u O’o vent. The range of magnitude for most of these earthquakes was in the low 2’s to the 6.9 that was responsible for a very small, localized “Tsunami”
May 3rd, Cracks Start Forming in Leilani Estates
It was just a matter of a few days between the greatly increased seismic activity, officials warning the public of the possibility of an imminent eruption in the lower east rift zone, and cracks forming in Leilani Estates. Many of the cracks began widening in the very early morning hours of 5/3. At 10:30am a 5.0 earthquake was felt and was part of the collapse of the Pu’u O’o vent, at 12:30 a 6.9 magnitude earthquake was felt.
The collapse of the vent is remarkable in that it had been erupting and spewing lava continuously since 1983. The earthquakes leading up to this event were part of the underground lava moving farther down the rift. This action drained the pool of lava from the vent, and also from the summit of Kilauea
By 4:00pm some of the cracks in Leilani began to send up steam. This video was a few days later but shows just how it looks before the lava starts.
Typically, not long after steam, comes lava spatter and lava flows. Evacuations were ordered! This was captured 5/4 at about 6:00am
On 5/5/18 More Lava, and reports of at least 1 home destroyed, with various people sharing their videos. This one is pretty dramatic. Just imagine this forming in the street in front of your home!
Subsequently for the last 5 days 5/5 through today, this activity has waned and waxed and sadly 30+ people have lost their homes! Destroyed by the cracks/fissures, and lava. A total of 15 fissures have been charted so far.
Whats Next For Leilani, and the Puna District Of Hawaii?
There are no signs of anything returning to “normal”. The Pu’u O’o vent appears to be fully collapsed and is no longer acting as a relief valve. At the summit of Kilauea the lava Lake has drained down about 900 feet. The USGS outlined today that likely, and in as little as a few days, we can expect steam eruptions. This is caused by the lava dropping lower than the water table, which allows ground water to seep into the lava chamber, this coupled with collapsing walls leads to steam eruptions.
With “ejecta” spreading around the summit and ash coating nearby towns as far away as Hilo.
USGS information briefing video.
My Long Term thoughts and Feelings?
Many have speculated that the possibility exists for a few different scenarios going forward. The east side of the island splitting off and falling into the ocean?…While anything is possible I don’t remotely believe this will happen. Collapse of the summit? I find it highly doubtful, a lot would have to happen before this becomes a realistic possibility. The USGS is however following closely. A new vent (relief valve so to speak) forming in or around Leilani? Closer but no.
What I do think is that a new “semi-permanent” vent will form but much closer to the summit than Leilani Estates. I do expect the current pattern of fissures opening and closing and maybe even some significant lava flows forming in the next few months to continue all along the east rift zone, before finding a place up slope to vent more regularly.
I would love to hear from you either comment here, or on our FB page
You can see more videos on the Puna Now Facebook page with contributions from Travis, Lava News, Db Photo at Primary Focus, and USGS