Plumes of ash and So2 pouring from summit crater prompt growing air quality concerns

Plumes of ash and So2 pouring from summit crater prompt growing air quality concerns

PAHALA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) – Authorities are again warning residents in the Big Island’s Ka’u district to be prepared for ashfall and potentially “hazardous air quality” through the day.

The message comes as thick, black plumes pour from Kilauea’s summit crater, dusting Highway 11 and Pahala with ash.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said Tuesday morning that ash emission from Halemaumau Crater has increased and that communities downwind, including those across the Ka’u district, should take necessary precautions.

Residents are urged residents to avoid “excessive exposure to ash,” which can irritate eyes and can make breathing more difficult.

Officials said the cloud from the crater is rising about 3,000 to 4,000 feet above the ground, and that ash is being carried west and southwest.

Scientists are closely watching the crater for the threat of explosive eruptions, which are possible as levels in the summit’s lava lake continue to drop.

Fears of an eruption prompted the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to shut down indefinitely Friday. And authorities warn that ash plumes from an explosive eruption could affect areas as many as 12 miles away.

The plumes emitting from the crater aren’t from an eruption, however. Geologists say they’re being created by rockfalls in the crater and gas explosions.


On Monday, residents in Ka’u said the increased activity at the summit is affecting their health. Several residents have reported having headaches, sore throats, and watery eyes as a result of ashfall.

“I do have neighbors and friends and family and it has created more problems for them,” said Jessie Marques, a Pahala resident. “Now they tend to stay indoors … it has created a breathing problem for them.”

Marques, who has asthma, says that the heightened sulfur dioxide levels and ash particles has complicated her health.

“I have asthma and (the volcanic activity) has exacerbated it, but I’m taking more of my medication and I’m taking care,” Marques said.

Residents also reported ash coating their cars, decks and buildings as a result of recent volcanic activity.

Several county officials went door-to-door Monday to hand out information about the ashfall and ways for residents to protect themselves from hazardous fumes and ash.

“There was really a thick layer of dust on our cars, and on our decks, and such so you can see and feel it,” Marques added. “It’s like black, grimy soot.”

Mary Greeley News