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Geologists monitoring weak activity at fissures 6, 16 and 17

  • U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY photo

    Fissure 8 lava flows Monday in an open channel all the way to the ocean. Kapoho Crater is the vegetated hill on the right side of the photograph. The ocean entry plume can be seen in the distance.

While fissure 8 continues to steadily produce lava from Kilauea volcano, three other fissures are displaying weak signs of activity.

Fissures 16 and 17, two of the northeastern-most vents in the chain of 24 fissures that opened in lower Puna since May 3, have been oozing lava for the past several days, producing lava flows that so far have not left the boundaries of the existing lava field, which currently covers 9.4 square miles.

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Geologists also continue monitoring fissure 6, located near the intersection of Pohoiki Road and Leilani Avenue, which was incandescent Sunday night, said U.S. Geological Survey geologist Liz Westby. The fissure displayed mild lava spattering Monday morning, she said.

Regardless, fissure 8 remains the most active fissure by far, producing lava fountains up to 180 feet high.

Westby said the majority of the lava flow from fissure 8 to the ocean entry at Kapoho is incandescent at night, indicating that the lava channel has become quite efficient at transporting lava from the fissure to the ocean before it cools.

Meanwhile, change continues at Kilauea summit in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, with slumping of terrain around Halema‘uma‘u crater occurring after earthquakes caused by pressure explosions at the crater. These temblors had magnitudes of approximately 5.3, but because they are not conventional earthquakes caused by shifting tectonic plates, they are not strongly felt far away from the summit.

One such explosion occurred shortly after 6 a.m. Monday.

“There was very little ash,” said county spokeswoman Janet Snyder, adding that “seismicity has been intense overnight in the Volcano area.” She said that gas emissions containing toxic sulfur dioxide remain strong in the lower East Rift Zone and at Kilauea’s summit.

In other developments Monday:

• Winds are expected to shift Wednesday and Thursday to a southeasterly direction, bringing emissions from the lower East Rift Zone eruption to the Saddle area and South Hilo. Northeasterly trade winds are expected to return Friday.

• Civil Defense updated the official count of homes destroyed by lava to 533 from a previous count of 455. However, the lava is thought to have destroyed more than 600 homes.

• A Disaster Recovery Center established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at Keaau High School has seen considerable business since opening Friday. As of Monday afternoon, 817 survivors and evacuees have met with FEMA representatives at the center, with even more visiting with other agencies there, Snyder said.

• Tropic Care 2018 is offering free medical, dental and eye care to the general public today and Wednesday at Keaau High School.

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• A community meeting about the eruption will take place today at 5 p.m. at the Pahoa High School cafeteria.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.