HVO: Magma pushes farther downrift

  • This map shows the extent of the Leilani Estates eruption as of Wednesday. Courtesy of USGS.

Magma remains on the move even as the fissures on the surface remain fairly quiet.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologists say earthquakes have been progressing downrift from Leilani Estates, which has been ground zero for a Kilauea eruption since May 3. As of Thursday morning, no fissures were spewing lava, though gas emissions remain high.

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The quakes indicate magma continues to move farther down the volcano’s East Rift Zone.

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, those quakes had progressed as far as Highway 132 beyond Puna Geothermal Venture.

Wes Thelen, HVO seismic network manager, said that suggests an increased likelihood of a fissure erupting downrift from Leilani, though geologists can’t predict when that could occur.

“GPS evidence from stations in the area give us pretty good confidence that magma has in fact moved downrift from where it was pooled under Leilani Estates,” he said during a media conference call. “At least part of what’s under Leilani Estates has moved as far as Noni Farms Road.”

Geologists also are closely monitoring the Kilauea summit. As the lava lake continues to drop toward the water table, there is a risk of a large steam eruption that could eject large boulders within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and expel ash elsewhere.

Jessica Ferracane, parks spokeswoman, said the park will close at 10 p.m. tonight as a precaution. Only the Kahuku unit will remain open.

Additionally, geologists are monitoring a steaming area near Alaili Road, mauka of Highway 130.

According to Hawaii County Civil Defense, Pohoiki Road is closed from Highway 132 to Highway 137; Highway 130 is closed between Malama Street and Kamaili Road; and no access is being allowed at this time at Lanipuna Gardens due to volcanic gases in the area.

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A community meeting on the eruption will be held at 5:30 p.m. today at the Pahoa High School cafeteria.

A total of 15 fissures have erupted, destroying 36 structures and covering 116.57 acres so far, almost entirely in Leilani Estates.

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