Kilauea’s sulfur dioxide emissions climbing, scientists say

Kilauea’s sulfur dioxide emissions climbing, scientists say

The Leilani Estates subdivision continues to see ground cracking and the eruption of lava, with the potential for new lava outbreaks in the area, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

An enormous lava lake, threatening conditions at the Puna Geothermal Venture and high levels of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide billowing in the air prompted Hawaii County officials and the Hawaii National Guard to cancel all media tours into the areas affected by the lava from Kilauea Volcano that is advancing towards the geothermal power plant wells.

The most active fissures Tuesday were 22,19, 6, 5 and 23, HVO officials said in a status update. Meanwhile, activity at fissure 17, at the northeastern end of the fissure system, has eased up.

Magma continues to be supplied to the lower East Rift Zone, and fissure 6 is feeding a flow to the south, roughly parallel to the western flow from fissure 22.

Although there were only a few earthquakes Tuesday in the rift zone, overall earthquake activity remains elevated.

Volcanic gas emissions at the summit also remain high, and “additional explosive events that could produce minor amounts of ashfall downwind are possible at any time,” according to the HVO.

5 P.M.

Lava activity continues at multiple sites with fissure 6 through 22 erupting lava fountains, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

Kilauea’s sulfur dioxide emissions climbing, scientists say

The fountains from fissure 22 feed a single lava channel that reaches the coast just north of MacKenzie State Park. The actual point of entry has been shifting to the west today.

Spattering continues from fissures 5, 6, and 19 that fed a lava flow to the south that is now stalled and a smaller flow to the north along and south of Pohoiki Road. Weak spattering continues at fissure 17.

Meanwhile, a new area of fountaining started this afternoon along the fissure line between Kaupili and Mohala Streets near fissure 23.

In addition, volcanic gas emissions have tripled, so sulfur dioxide concentrations are likely elevated to higher levels throughout the area downwind of the vents.

Ash masks will be distributed from Wednesday to Sunday in Pahala, Volcano, Na’alehu, Hawaiian Ocean View Community Center, and Keaau.

N95 masks protect you from breathing volcanic ash, but do not protect against gases and vapors. They will be distributed as follows:

Emergency Food Supplies

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

>> Cooper Center, Volcano

>> Pahala Community Center, Pahala

>> Naalehu Community Center, Naalehu

>> Hawaiian Ocean View Community Center, HOVE

>> Shipman Gym, Keaau

Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at all locations.

Free masks will be made available to all families including those who picked masks last week.

4:30 P.M.

Airbnb announced today that they are expanding its Disaster Response program to the rest of the Big Island in response to the increasing number of displaced residents.

The program was first activated last week.

Airbnb is encouraging hosts across the island to consider opening their door to provide free temporary accommodations to those in need.

Previous coverage

Significant levels of toxic sulfur dioxide gas — as high as 15,000 tons a day — are being produced along the lower East Rift Zone as magma underground nears the surface, U.S. Geological Survey officials said today.

“Even from the summit eruption that occurred and Puu Oo, neither one of those ever produced such high numbers of sulfur dioxide,” said Wendy Spovall, spokeswoman for the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. “The higher emission rates correspond with the more voluminous lava flows.”

Kilauea’s sulfur dioxide emissions climbing, scientists say

Previous levels of sulfur dioxide in the Puu Oo Crater measured about 200 to 300 tons a day. There are no sulfur dioxide emissions currently coming from the crater, she said. Kilauea’s summit averages 3,000 to 6,000 tons a day.

Meanwhile, an explosion occurred at the summit this morning, which sent an ash plume as high as 8,000 feet. Scientists also saw parts of the volcano’s southwest wall collapse.

Officials are warning the public about methane explosions near areas of vegetation. Methane explosions occur when gas is produced as lava burns vegetated areas.

Gas mask

“It can travel in pockets under the ground. Explosions can occur several feet away from where lava is flowing,” Spovall said. “These can be extremely violent and can throw blocks several yards in distance and can create a big crater.”

Officials are working to open Chain of Craters road as an evacuation route only for Kalapana residents, said Jessica Ferracane, spokeswoman for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Hawaii County Civil Defense officials also said that on Monday night lava destroyed an old warehouse on the site of the former Hawaii Geothermal Project-A, which was an experimental state venture to explore the possibility of geothermal energy production. (The “A” in the project’s name refers to geothermal well A.) Earlier in the day, they had said the warehouse was on the Puna Geothermal Venture property, but later clarified that it was on the HGPA site, near Puna Geothermal.

A top executive in Hawaii for PGV said the concerns about lava inundation at the plant have been overblown.

Tom Travis, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said the wells are isolated and are each sealed off with two large valves on top “so the status is stable, predictable and understandable, and there’s no reason as a result of any of the status of wells to feel any undue concern.”

State and county officials working with PGV still hope to install mechanical plugs into the shafts of 10 wells to further secure them, but Travis said he is unsure when that can be done. He said crews will make a “day-to-day decision” about when and whether that work can be completed.

Lava from the Lower East Rift Zone destroyed a state-owned warehouse on a property adjoining the PGV land Monday evening, bringing the number of structures that burned since the eruption began May 3 to at least 47. The actual number of buildings destroyed is believed to be higher, however.

Michael Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for PGV, said noise and gas emissions from more than 20 fissures and the enormous lava flow that now extends to the ocean dwarfs any emissions or damage that could result from an uncontrolled breach of the geothermal wells on the PGV site.

“From our perspective, there’s nothing that could occur at the PGV facility at the wells that would be any worse than what’s already occurring with the eruption,” Kaleikini said. “This is all about the eruption, and PGV is just a small component that happens to be in the area.”

Michael Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for PGV, said the noise and emissions from more than 20 volcanic fissures and the enormous active lava flow on the Lower East Rift Zone dwarf any emissions or damage that could possibly result from an uncontrolled breach of the geothermal wells on the PGV site.

“From our perspective, there’s nothing that could occur at the PGV facility at the wells that would be any worse than what’s already occurring with the eruption,” Kaleikini said. The noise and geothermal emissions from any well breach would be far less than the roaring of escaping gas and lava from the ongoing eruption, he said.

“This is all about the eruption, and PGV is just a small component that happens to be in the area,” he said.

He noted the company has been working with state and county officials to “quench” three production wells at the site to reduce the risk of a release.

Eight other wells on the site did not need to be quenched with cold water because they were not pressurized, he said. In other words, those wells were not generating upward pressure that could cause gases or fluids to escape.

Kaleikini said the nearest lava pad is within 100 feet of an area known as the “Boneyard,” where the company stores old parts and equipment. The lava has reached to within about 300 yards of the nearest well, he said.

Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for Hawaii island Mayor Harry Kim, said the U.S. Geological Survey has crews at PGV to monitor the movement of the flow near the 815-acre property.

She said the old warehouse that was destroyed at about 9:30 p.m. Monday was owned by the state and was used in geothermal research projects early in the development of the prject.

That brings the total number of structures that have been destroyed to at least 47 since the eruption began on May 3, but civil defense officials say they believe the total is actually higher. They have been unable to say how many of the inundated structures were homes.

Fissure 22 has been directing most of its lava toward the ocean, but also released some lava in the opposite direction to the northwest toward the PGV plant. Snyder said fissures 6 and 19 also opened overnight and sent lava toward the PGV plant.

In all, Synder said the active fissures include 17, 20, 22, 19 and 6, “and possibly 5 and 8.” She said a flow from fissure 5 near the bottom of the Leilani Estates subdivision covered Kahukai Street at some point Monday night or this morning.

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