Many on the Big Island of Hawaii left their homes yesterday, as Kilauea Volcano spewed molten lava into nearby neighborhoods, roads, and forestland.
A magnitude 5.0 earthquake shook the Big Island Thursday morning, roughly 4.3 miles southeast of the volcano—the latest in a string of dozen quakes signaling the collapse of the Pu'u O'o vent crater floor on Monday, and the creep of magma underground. More than 500 people reported feeling the earthquake, according the US Geological Survey (USGS).
Shortly after, an astounding plume of pink ash rose into the sky.
At around 4 p.m., officials say fountains of lava began to erupt from Mohala Street near the Leilani Estates subdivision. A video captured by Maija Stenbeck yesterday shows lava bursting and bubbling from a crack in the road.
“It sounds like a jet engine,” resident Ikaika Marzo told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, claiming that he saw fountains of lava spewing 150 feet into the air. “It’s going hard.”
Another resident, Jeremiah Osuna, shot aerial drone video of lava cutting through a road and trees.
"It sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could,” Osuna told television station KHON. “You could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff.”
A 492-foot-long fissure was responsible for roughly two hours of eruptions, scientists at the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory said. But that doesn’t mean the event is over. As of 5:10 a.m. today, Kilauea was still erupting.
The Hawaii County Fire Department says that “extremely high levels” of toxic sulfur dioxide gas have permeated into the evacuation area today. A temporary flight restriction, including a restriction on drones, has been placed over parts of lower Puna District.
“There are a lot of elderly people who need help to get their stuff out,” Marzo told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
While many who live in Kilauea’s shadow are aware of the associated dangers, the weight of yesterday’s eruption is no easier to bear.
“My family is safe, the rest of the stuff can be replaced,” one resident told television station KGMB. “When I bought here 14 years, I knew that this day would eventually come. But the reality is sinking in now.”
On Twitter, many Hawaii residents urged each other to be safe. Others remarked that Hawaiian fire goddess Pele, who legend says lives in Kilauea’s Halemaʻumaʻu crater, is on the move.
Roads surrounding Leilani Estates were shut by the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency. Meanwhile, local police and the National Guard continue to evacuate people to nearby shelters at community centers.
Now, geophysicists with the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are trying to determine whether the summit magma reservoir is draining, which can indicate how long the event will last.
“There is quite a bit of magma in the system,” geophysicist Asta Miklius told the Associated Press. “It won't be just an hours-long eruption probably…we are watching that very, very closely.”
In 1924, one person was killed by falling debris from a Kilauea eruption that endured for two and a half weeks. Throughout the 1990s, approximately 200 homes were destroyed by Kilauea lava flows. Lava destroyed homes in a Pahoa village in 2014 when a Kilauea flow unexpectedly diverted toward the town.