By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
As residents of Hawaii’s Big Island await a predicted major eruption of the Kilauea volcano, the18th volcanic fissure opened on Sunday. The new fissure sent gases and lava exploding into the air, the Associated Press reported.
The fissure prompted local officials to issue calls for more evacuations. "Continued earthquake activity and additional outbreaks in the area are likely," the Civil Defense Agency warned in its 6 p.m. Sunday (midnight Eastern time) update.
Warnings of ‘Explosive Eruption’ from Kilauea with Lava Outbreaks
Civil Defense officials are warning of the possibility of an "explosive eruption" because the lava level continues to drop in the summit lake at Mount Kilauea. What was recently an overflowing lake of lava has dropped by nearly 300 meters (1,000 feet).
If that lava lake continues to drain, scientists at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory believe it could set off a cascade of events. That would cause the “explosive” eruption, along with widespread ash fall, Maddie Stone of the Earther blog explained.
Sunday’s activity “was dominated by lava fountaining, explosion of spatter bombs hundreds of feet into the air, and several advancing lava flow lobes moving generally northeast from fissure 17 at the downrift (northeast) end of the new fissure system,” the U.S. Geological Survey stated.
“Additional outbreaks of lava are possible,” the USGS warned. “Communities downslope of these fissures could be at risk from lava inundation. Activity can change rapidly.”
Highway 132 Could Be Cut Off by Lava Flows, Making Evacuation More Difficult
Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for Hilo Mayor Harry Kim, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that if the fissures continue opening in the same linear path that previous fissures have been following, Highway 132 could be cut off by lava flows. That would make it more difficult for residents to evacuate the area.
The lava breakouts could eventually extend all the way to the coastline, Snyder said, which could isolate Lower Puna residents.
Evacuation Orders Remain in Effect for Lanipuna and Leilani Estates
Residents in the Lanipuna area near the volcano are being told to be alert for gas emissions and active eruptions. The Lanipuna area and nearby Leilani Estates remain under an evacuation order.
Leilani Estates was evacuated after the first lava flows on May 3. Since then, nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated from the neighborhood.