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PUNA, Hawaii (KHON) — Lava eruptions continued Thursday in the Leilani Estates area with several fissures re-activating.

Kahukai Street was once a quiet country road. Now, it’s overrun by lava, boiling and bubbling in all its glory.

The air smells like charcoal, a mixture of sulfide dioxide and vegetation that’s smoldering and burning.

Cracks continue to form, a sign it could turn into a new fissure, bringing potential for more personal loss.

“Whenever we see a crack, we mark it and we measure it, and we can see if it’s getting bigger or smaller, if it’s shifting left and right,” said Maj. Jeff Hickman, Hawaii National Guard, “so with that, the smart people, the scientists are going to let them know that hey, something might be coming. This is something we need to watch for.”

The Dalton family is still recovering from when lava first erupted on May 3. Fissure 9 opened in their front yard.

“The fissure kept going and it literally opened up underneath our house on Moku (Street). You see what’s left of the house on both sides of the fissure. The fissure was actually in our front yard, but the heat caught our house on fire,” said Heath Dalton.

They accept what happened, but it’s still a hard pill to swallow. The Daltons lost everything.

“What can you do? It is what it is,” said Heath Dalton.

“As a mom, I’m focusing on my son and my daughter, but inside I’m a complete mess. We lost the house and everything inside,” said Denise Dalton.

“It’s very stressful. It’s daunting. It’s like, how do you convey that to a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old, and how do you keep yourself together to keep things going?” she added. “(My son) knows we can’t go home because there’s lava. ‘What about my toys?’ Well honey, I’m sorry, your toys got taken by lava.”

They say they’re taking it day-by-day, and are now looking for a new home. 

“There’s not a very large rental pool here on the Big Island,” said Denise Dalton. “Until then, we’re very gracious to all of our friends who are opening their doors and letting us crash and be part of our chaos and stress of a life right now.”

HAWAII NATIONAL PARK, Hawaii (KHON) — One of its proudest claims is that it’s open for visitors 24/7, 365 days a year. But on Thursday night, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed to the public and will remain closed indefinitely.

Park officials say they fear a once-in-a-century steam explosion inside of Halemaumau Crater.

“Our concern is if the lava lake keeps dropping as it has over the last ever how many days, that the lava lake level could drop below the water table. If that happens, we’re into a whole different situation,” said U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Janet Babb. “Groundwater can mix with the magma and it will produce steam, and that can result in steam explosions.”

The last time that happened was in 1924. Pressure built up, followed by an explosion so powerful, rocks the size of cars were launched out of the crater.

Babb says the potential danger is always there.

“Based on our models that we have right now, the situation, it is definitely possible of course, and with Mother Nature, we can never say anything for 100 percent certain,” she said. “We know it’s a possibility, and we’re going to err on the side of caution to be prepared for this.”

Scientists say the greatest fear with an explosion of this type is that they come with little or no warning. Because of the potential danger, park officials say it isn’t safe to allow people to remain inside the park.

“That’s not because we’re thinking it’s going to be a life-threatening event,” said Jessica Ferracane, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park public affairs specialist. “It’s more of an inconvenience event, a nuisance, with ash and small pebbles that are going to be raining down here. Not the place that we want people to be.”

For people outside the park, scientists says there’s no need to worry about rocks flying out. However the ashfall could prove problematic. In 1924, ash went to Hilo, Pahala, Makuu, and Hakalau.

Scientists say the ash particles can irritate your eyes and throat. If It starts falling in your area, stay indoors if possible.

“It will be a nuisance. It will not be life-threatening. You can see deposits of several millimeters, a centimeter or so, but still it can be a nuisance,” Babb said. “It can disrupt water catchment systems, and if it falls on road and it’s wet, the roads can be slippery. It can disrupt electrical transmission lines. There are a lot of hazards that go with ashfall, but they can be dealt with.”

Click here for more information on the science behind a steam-induced explosion and its impacts.

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The volcanic eruption in Hawaii has a lot of people wondering if a similar eruption could happen in California.

The Golden State hasn’t seen a volcanic eruption in more than a century, but geologists say it could happen again.

On Thursday, WISH-TV’s sister station KRON spoke with an expert at the United States Geological Survey.

California sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, which means that it doesn’t only have earthquakes but also volcanic activity.

Believe it or not, a volcanic eruption like the one in Hawaii could happen here in California.

“California is not only earthquake country, it’s volcano country too,” Dr. Margaret Mangan said.

Dr. Mangan runs the California Volcano Observatory at the USGS. She says that while there is not currently an active volcano in California, another eruption is inevitable.

“I would say that, yes, it will happen here,” Dr. Mangan said. “Maybe not in our lifetimes.”

Across California, there are seven volcanoes with the potential to erupt.

They include Medicine Lake Volcano in Modoc County, Mt. Shasta to the west, Lassen Volcanic National Park, which erupted about 100 years ago, the Long Valley Volcanic Region near Mammoth Lakes, the Coso Volcanic Fields in Eastern California, and the Salton Buttes near the Mexican border.

The closest volcanic activity to the Bay Area is the Clear Lake Volcanic Field in Sonoma and Lake counties. 

Dr. Mangan says the USGS monitors these seven sites and that at least some of them have the potential to erupt, just like the Hawaiian volcano–or possibly even worse.

“Some have that style of volcanism in their eruptive history, but we also have the potential for explosive eruptions like the Mt. Saint Helens eruption that most people remember.”

And while no one knows when the next eruption will happen in California, the USGS says Californians should be aware of the dangers, just as they are aware of the danger of earthquakes.

“We are aware and prepared for that type of hazard, but we also have to be prepared for volcano hazards,” Dr. Mangan said.

Finally, in case you were wondering, Mt. Diablo in Contra Costa County was created by a volcano, but it is considered a dead volcano with no chance of erupting again.



HONOLULU (KHON) — The steady lowering of the lava lake within Halemaumau at the summit of Kilauea Volcano has increased the potential for explosive eruptions in the coming weeks.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, if the lava level drops to the level of groundwater beneath Kilauea Caldera, the influx of water could mix with the magma and cause steam-driven explosions.

Debris expelled during such explosions could impact the area surrounding Halemaumau and the Kilauea summit.

“Similar to what happened in 1924, when there were these large explosions, and those are more vigorous and there was more energy involved, so larger fragments can be blown out in greater distances,” said U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Janet Babb.

The threat of potential explosions prompted park officials to announced the indefinite closure of most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park starting Friday, May 11. Only the Kahuku Unit will be open during its normal hours, Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Steam-driven explosions at volcanoes typically provide very little warning. Once the lava level reaches the groundwater elevation, onset of continuous ashy plumes or a sequence of violent steam-driven explosions may be the first sign that activity of concern has commenced.

Scientists say there’s no telling how large the explosions could be, or how long such explosive activity could continue, or even if explosive activity will occur.

Residents who live around the Kilauea summit should beware of the risk of ashfall, stay informed of the status of the volcano and area closures and review family and business emergency plans.

The primary hazards of concern should this activity occur are ballistic projectiles and ashfall.

Ballistic projectiles: During steam-driven explosions, ballistic blocks up to 2 meters across could be thrown in all directions to a distance of 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) or more. These blocks could weigh a few pounds to several tons. Smaller, pebble-sized rocks could be sent several kilometers or miles from Halemaumau, mostly in a downwind direction.

Ashfall: Presently, rockfalls impact the lake and produce small ash clouds. These clouds are very dilute and result in dustings of ash, particles smaller than 2 millimeters, downwind. Should steam-driven explosions begin, ash clouds will rise to greater elevations above ground. Minor ashfall could occur over much wider areas, even up to several tens of miles from Halemaumau.

In 1924, ash may have reached as high as 20,000 feet above sea level. Small amounts of fine ash from these explosions fell over a wide area as far north as North Hilo (Hakalau), in lower Puna, and as far south as Waiohinu.

“(Ashfall) is not in itself a life-threatening phenomenon. It’s an irritant, a nuisance, especially if it goes on for many weeks,” said Tina Neal, HVO scientist-in-charge. “I’ve been in many of them in Alaska and what I recall being the most difficult part is keeping it out of your eyes, so wearing goggles if you have to go out, and be particularly careful if you wear contacts, because if ash gets behind the contacts, it can actually scratch your eye.”

Click here for more information on the hazards of ashfall.

Gas: Gas emitted during steam-drive explosions will be mainly steam, but will include some sulfur dioxide (SO2) as well. Currently, SO2 emissions remain elevated.

Kilauea’s lava lake began to drop on May 2. From its peak on May 2 to the most recent measurement at 9 p.m. on May 6, the lava lake surface dropped a total of more than 200 meters (656 feet).

Subsequent measurements have not been possible due to thick fumes and the increasing depth to the lava surface. However, thermal images indicate continued lowering of the lake surface since that time, consistent with deflationary tilt recorded at Kilauea’s summit.

A 3-D model of Overlook crater was created from thermal images collected during an early afternoon helicopter overflight on May 8. Based on the 3-D model, the lake level was about 295 meters (970 feet) below the floor of Halemaumau Crater.

Earthquake activity in the summit remains elevated. Many of these earthquakes are related to the ongoing shift of the summit area and earthquakes beneath the south flank of the volcano.

According to experts, because the summit is so far inland, any explosive activity is unlikely to trigger a tsunami.

“With that said, we are still in a period of significant potential aftershocks, so there is the possibility of certainly a large felt earthquake,” Neal noted.

The explosion at around 8:30 a.m. on May 9, 2018 was triggered by a rockfall from the steep walls of Overlook crater, and not caused by the interaction of the lava lake with the water table. The lava lake surface is still above the water table.