Lava nudges Lanipuna: Fissure No. 15 threatens subdivision; summit activity ominous

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Members of the Hawaii National Guard monitor air quality near volcanic fissure No. 15, which cut across Pohoiki Road on Wednesday afternoon and entered Lanipuna Gardens.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Steam rises Wednesday from fissure No. 14 at the intersection of Leilani Avenue and Pohoiki Road in Leilani Estates.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald A hole from which lava previously erupted on Leilani Avenue.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald A 15th fissure opened Wednesday in Lanipuna Gardens.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald A tree burns after a 15th fissure opened Wednesday in Lanipuna Gardens.
  • Volunteers and evacuees hold in hands while praying before serving dinner at a makeshift donation center Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
  • An evacuee carries a case of water at a makeshift donation center Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
  • Evacuee Jon Warner, left, walks through rain with son Ethan, right, and daughter Iris after picking up some basic necessities at a makeshift donation center Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii. "We've never seen anything like that before," said Warner. "I don't know if I ever want to go back." (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
  • This photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a Hawaii Volcano Observatory geologist recording a temperature of 103 degrees C (218 degrees F) at a crack along Nohea Street in Leilani Estates near the town of Pahoa, Hawaii, Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Geologists warned Wednesday that Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could erupt explosively and send boulders, rocks and ash into the air around its summit in the coming weeks. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

A 15th fissure brought lava to the doorstep of Lanipuna Gardens on Wednesday while an ash cloud at Kilauea’s summit warned of more dangers to come.

No additional homes were reported to have been lost from the ongoing lower Puna eruption by Wednesday evening, leaving the number of destroyed structures at 36 as of deadline, all in Leilani Estates. By the afternoon, lava from the eruption, now a week old, had covered 116.57 acres, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense.


Police evacuated 10 homes on Alaili Road after geologists observed steaming ground cracks nearby that afternoon. The road is located near Highway 130 and less than 2 miles from Leilani, on the Kalapana side.

Jim Kauahikaua, a geophysicist with Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said fissure No. 15 crossed Pohoiki Road and created one or two fingers of lava that traveled about 65 feet into Lanipuna before the fissure went quiet. He described that crossing occurring mauka of Hinalo Street, the entrance to the small subdivision.

A Tribune-Herald photographer said there were cracks on Pohoiki Road but she didn’t see any lava on that street or Hinalo Street.

Lanipuna, home to about 300 people, has been under evacuation orders the past week, along with Leilani, where numerous eruptions have created a labyrinth of volcanic rock and debris. Between 1,600 and 1,800 people called Leilani home at the time of the eruption.

Geologists are continuing to keep their eye on Kilauea’s summit, which emitted an ash plume Wednesday morning as a result of rocks falling into the crater. The lava lake has been receding following the start of the lower Puna eruption along the volcano’s East Rift Zone.

A larger summit eruption could occur if the lake drops below the water table, allowing groundwater to intrude into the volcanic shaft and mix with magma. That could be similar to an explosive eruption that occurred in 1924.

Ballistic blocks of 10-12 tons could be emitted, though those projectiles are expected to be contained within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The park announced it will close Friday because of the increased danger.

Don Swanson, HVO geologist, said he can’t predict when water will intrude, but it could happen later this month.

HVO spokeswoman Janet Babb said an ash cloud from such an eruption can range from a nuisance causing general irritation to mechanical failures through accumulation.

According to HVO, the steaming area near Alaili Road was mauka of the highway, and could signal the site of a new fissure. There were no reports of lava at that location as of deadline.

“It means the eruption is not over,” Babb said. “We are going to see more and more of this.

“It’s likely these fissures will continue to break out uprift and downrift, where they have already broken out.”

That was seen during the 1955 eruption, when multiple vents opened along the lower East Rift Zone during a period of 88 days. Lava during that eruption covered 3,900 acres.

Geologists are finding more direct connections between that eruption and what is occurring today.

Kauahikaua said samples of the lava show that the molten rock is not from the intrusion that caused hundreds of mostly minor earthquakes a few days ahead of the eruption. He said it’s likely leftover magma from the 1955 event.

That means the “fresh stuff” could be following behind, he said.

Kauahikaua said newer magma would likely be more fluid, which means it could more easily flow on the surface.

Lisa Miura, acting property tax division administrator for the county, said her office is keeping track of properties inundated or cut off by lava in order to waive their property taxes for the next payment cycle.

She said they also will be given a prorated discount for the current period.

In Leilani and Lanipuna, there are a combined 899 parcels with structures, including nonpermitted buildings, Miura said.

The combined market value for properties in the two subdivisions is $203,578,700, with structures accounting for $160,143,000, she said.


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