Another large explosion issued from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano yesterday. Scientists with the US Geological Survey believe this new blast might be a sign of more dangerous eruptions to come. These larger, more violent explosions could spray 10-ton boulders for miles, and leave nearby towns blanketed by toxic smog and super-heated ash.
Kilauea is Hawaii’s most active volcano, and it erupted last Thursday. (As you’ve no doubt heard by now.) A powerful earthquake struck the area the day afterwards. Lava from the eruption has destroyed at least 36 homes and other buildings. More than 2,000 residents have already evacuated, and more evacuations are expected.
The USGS is now warning us that more violent eruptions could begin by mid-May. These expected eruptions would be strong enough to shoot multi-ton boulders about half a mile, while pebble-size projectiles could be flung a distance of several miles.
To make a rough situation worse, the eruptions could also leave serious ash deposits up to 20 miles away from the volcano itself. (Not to mention the clouds of toxic gas smothering the area.) Talk about a bad day in paradise.
There are two towns within spitting distance of the volcano, Hilo and Pahoa, both about 24-25 miles away. Both towns could be hit by the ash and the toxic clouds in the coming days, if the wind over the Big Island shifts to blow the volcanic discharge towards them.
As hellish as this situation sounds to the ordinary observer, apparently scientists aren’t too worried about it. USGS representative Donald Swanson said that geologists “don’t anticipate there being any wholesale devastation or evacuations necessary anywhere in the state of Hawaii.”
So the scientists are telling people not to panic. But these are the same scientists that are also telling us we should panic over a little global warming. Yet a damn lava-spewing volcano is no cause for alarm?
That makes sense.
In any case, the Hawaii County Civil Defense is reporting that all 1,900 people living in the Leilani Estates and Laipuna Garden areas (both around 25 miles east of the volcano) have been evacuated.
The lava flow in these neighborhoods has apparently slowed, but noxious sulfur dioxide gas is still issuing from the ground. (In case you didn’t know, sulfur dioxide is the chemical that causes acid rain, and at high concentrations it’s pretty damn toxic.)
Residents trying to return to their homes on Tuesday were stopped by 20-foot high walls of lava, which has not yet fully cooled. Repair efforts will be impossible until the fumes dissipate and the lava cools.
Kilauea has been in a near-constant state of activity for the last three decades, but it usually just leaks a little lava harmlessly into the sea. The recent earthquake and eruption events have been the second largest of the century.
On the one hand, you do sympathize with the folks who are losing their homes.
On the other hand, they did build those homes on the slopes of an active volcano. So, they probably should have seen something like this coming.