It’s been exactly a month since the first lava started emerging from fissures in Leilani Estates on May 3. And what a month it’s been.
The Lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) eruption has built in intensity by stages. Earthquakes, cracks, fissures, toxic gasses, spattering lava, larger and longer lava flows, and increasingly voluminous fountains have slowly engulfed two subdivisions and the forests and fields of lower Puna. They’ve heaped up acres of spatter ramparts, thick lava flows, overflowing ponds and rivers creeping down to the ocean. They’ve emitted a’a and pahoehoe, spatter and lava bombs, Pele’s Hair and Pele’s Tears, tephra/pyroclasts and cinders, vog, laze, and glowing blue flames.
Kīlauea Message Thu, 31 May 2018 14:10:42 HST: As of last night, area covered by lava from Kīlauea LERZ eruption equal to 5.5 square miles (3534 acres). Highest temperature from F8 measured today, 2039 F (1115 C).
— USGS Volcanoes🌋 (@USGSVolcanoes) June 1, 2018
Meanwhile, Pu’u O’o on Kilauea’s shoulder drained and died after a historic 35-year-long eruption. The summit lava lake in Halema’uma’u Crater followed suit, draining away more gradually but no less dramatically, with rockfalls and earthquakes and clouds of ash rising as high as 15,000 feet. Downwind communities are suffering from its ash and vog. The threat of steam explosions sending rocks flying half a mile has forced the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. That, coupled with jittery tourist cancellations, has struck almost as big a blow to the rest of the Big Island as lava has done to a few square miles of Puna.
The USGS and Hawaii Civil Defense have done a herculean job of monitoring, informing, warning, and moving people out of harm’s way in this fast-moving and complex natural disaster. And locals are rallying as best they can to support one another.
Today’s Eruption Summary
Kilauea’s still pulling some (alas, not all) of its punches. Early Wednesday morning, Fissure 8’s lava flow was surging towards Four Corners in sprints up to 600 yards an hour, causing emergency officials to go door to door ordering emergency evacuations. Luckily, it’s slowed, although it’s still inching towards the last remaining road in and out of Puna. People have had two precious days to go back and rescue pets and possessions before the lava cuts them off.
Meanwhile, the summit today was steaming with minor ash explosions. The USGS just released another drone survey of Halema’uma’u filmed May 26: