Lava destroys more Leilani homes

  • A pahoehoe flow fed by overflows from the fissure 8 lava channel was active along Nohea Street in the Leilani Estates subdivision Wednesday morning. (Courtesy photo/U.S. Geological Survey)

HILO — Breakouts from fissure 8 in Kilauea volcano’s lower East Rift Zone destroyed three homes Wednesday in Leilani Estates, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Two of those homes were on Luana Street and the other was on Nohea Street.

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Meanwhile, an overflow of the lava channel sent molten rock along the edge of the flow field toward Kua O Ka La Public Charter School. As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, it had reached the school’s eastern boundary, according to Hawaiian Volcano Observatory spokeswoman Janet Babb.

The school, which is on summer break, moved classes from its campus on Highway 137 to Hilo since being threatened by lava from the current eruption, which started May 3.

Steven Brantley, HVO’s deputy-scientist-in-charge, said the overflow was caused by a piece of the hardened lava channel breaking away and then clogging the river of molten rock. That also caused an overflow on the north side of the channel that stalled before reaching Cinder Road.

The majority of the flow front had moved to the west side of Kapoho Crater sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday morning and was about a quarter-mile from the coast of Ahalanui Beach Park, also known as “Warm Pond.”

Fissure No. 22 continued to exhibit weak spattering. No other fissures were active, according to HVO.

Volcanic gas emissions remain very high along the rift zone. Continuing trade wind conditions are expected to push vog to the southern and western parts of the island.

Brantley told those attending a Tuesday night eruption meeting at Pahoa High School that the volume of lava from fissure 8 is estimated at 50 to 100 cubic meters per second, but could be higher.

He said that’s higher than the long-term average output from Pu‘u O‘o vent, which scientists estimated produced 300,000 to 350,000 cubic meters per day. Pu‘o O‘o’s flow rate during the 2014-2015 event that threatened Pahoa town ranged between 1 to 4 cubic meters per second.

Brantley said the increase in volume in the present eruption is likely because of the draining of the summit magma reservoir. He said HVO scientists aren’t seeing a change in flow volume or deflation rate at the summit.

The summit collapses are occurring on average every 30 hours, with a drop of as much as 2.5 meters at a time, Brantley said, although Wednesday morning’s collapse-explosion occurred about 44 hours after the previous summit event. The energy released by the event was equivalent to a magnitude-5.3 earthquake, according to HVO.

According to Brantley, during those collapses, the floor of Kilauea caldera hits the top of the magma reservoir, causing a pressure wave detectable at the East Rift Zone. He said between an hour-and-a-half and two hours after the sudden drop, scientists note an increase in the infusion rate of magma at fissure 8 for a short period of time.

On Wednesday, U.S. Geological Survey conducted helicopter overflights of Volcano village, Volcano Golf and Country Club and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to map ground deformation.

The Disaster Recovery Center remains open seven days a week at Keaau High School Gym, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends. There are buses between both the Keaau and Pahoa evacuation shelters and the DRC.

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As of Tuesday, 2,114 individuals have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance, with $2,814,800 in grants approved.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.