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New cracks form on Highway 130

  • Residents evacuate as lava overruns Hookupu Street on Monday, May 7, 2018, in Leilani Estates. Kilauea volcano has destroyed homes and spewed lava hundreds of feet into the air, leaving evacuated residents unsure how long they might be displaced. (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

  • In this photo taken from video an unidentified man gets close to a lava flow advancing down a road in the Leilani Estates on Monday, May 7, 2018. Kilauea volcano has destroyed more than two dozen homes since it began spewing lava hundreds of feet into the air last week, and residents who evacuated don't know how long they might be displaced. (Scott Wiggers/Apau Hawaii Tours via AP)

As new volcanic fissures crossed the edges of Leilani Estates on Monday, new cracks on surrounding roads threaten to shut down large stretches of highways around Pahoa.

By Monday afternoon, the 11th and 12th fissures in Leilani Estates had opened. These new fissures opened south of Malama Street, the southernmost road of the subdivision, and generated no new lava flow, but they emitted high levels of sulfur dioxide gas, said Steve Brantley, deputy scientist-in-charge at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

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As of Monday evening, all 12 fissures were inactive.

Meanwhile, however, new cracks opened on Highway 130 at mile markers 14.4 and 14.6. Although the cracks were relatively narrow — 4 inches wide — and were not generating heat or emitting steam as of Monday afternoon, a stretch of Highway 130 from Malama Street to Kamaili Road was closed.

The closure raised the question of what Puna motorists will do should fissures or cracks shut down roads north of Leilani Estates.

The state Department of Transportation is working on a contingency plan for such a scenario. The department will work with Hawaii County to prepare the unpaved length of Highway 137 north of Highway 132.

Currently, drivers already need to take a sizable detour around the affected area south of Leilani Estates; the proposed detour from Hawaiian Paradise Park along Highway 137 would take several hours.

Meanwhile, the number of destroyed structures in Leilani Estates rose to 35 Monday, an increase of nine since the day before.

Residents were once again allowed to return to Leilani and neighboring Lanipuna Gardens during daylight hours under the condition that they follow orders to leave the area if additional volcanic activity occurred.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said the county will implement a placard system to facilitate Leilani residents’ return to their properties and deter nonresidents from entering the area needlessly.

Residents who can confirm their identification, license plate number and the location of their property will be issued a placard that can be displayed at police roadblocks for more efficient travel. Residents began signing up for the placards Monday evening during a community meeting at the Pahoa Community Center.

Magno said the system only will apply to Leilani Estates residents, not Lanipuna Gardens residents.

The nearby Puna Geothermal Venture remained unthreatened by the lava, but the presence at the facility of nearly 60,000 gallons of the highly flammable liquid pentane disturbed many on social media. Mike Kaleikini, plant manager at PGV, said the facility is closed, but is manned 24/7.

Kaleikini said PGV will transport 12,000 gallons of pentane away from the facility by the end of the week. The remainder of the pentane will be removed in coming weeks as resources necessary for transport become available.

A county spokesperson said the pentane could not be moved immediately after the initial eruption because PGV required proper containers — which had to be shipped from off island — to securely transport the volatile substance.

The state on Monday advised affected residents and residents of nearby areas to contact their insurance companies to determine what their policies cover.

Civil Defense advised nonresidents to stay out of the area and refrain from sightseeing. Under emergency provisions, any looting or vandalism will be treated as a felony.

Two Pahoa residents were arrested Monday for attempting to circumvent police roadblocks. Cynthia Verschuur, 49, was arrested after ignoring commands to stop at the intersection of Leilani Street and Pohoiki Road and again at the intersection of Highway 130 and Malama Street. She was charged with two counts of obstructing governmental operations, two counts of disobeying an officer, and one count of loitering.

David Ream, 29, stopped at the roadblock at Highway 130 and Kamaili Road before then driving past it. He, too, was charged with obstructing a governmental operation and loitering, as well as several traffic citations.

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Civil Defense established a community information center at Sacred Heart Church in Pahoa. The center will be open to the public from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays.

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

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