.


Pahala catching summit’s drift with ash ‘coating everything’

  • A panoramic webcam image taken at 3:29 p.m. Wednesday from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory observation tower shows a large ash plume billowing from Halema‘uma‘u crater.

With regular explosive bursts at Kilauea’s summit, ash continues to drift over Pahala, covering everything in a fine layer of charcoal-colored dust.

Louis Daniele, manager of the Ka‘u Coffee Mill, said the amount of ash falling picked up Wednesday but was the worst last Friday or Saturday.

ADVERTISING


“You can see it coating everything,” he said. “Everything has a whitish, grayish hue to it.”

Daniele said ash also is falling as far as Ocean View, where he lives.

He estimated the ash layer at less than a centimeter, but without any substantial rainfall, it could slowly pile up.

“I’m definitely concerned with the buildup of ash,” Daniele said, noting that coffee trees are being hosed down.

Workers are wearing masks, he said, which the county also continues to hand out.

Mask distribution will occur from 3:30-7:30 p.m. today and Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the Ocean View Community Center, Naalehu Community Center, Pahala Community Center, Cooper Center in Volcano and the Shipman Gym in Keaau.

Each person can receive up to three masks, which protect against ash but not volcanic gases.

The explosions occur in response to deflation at the summit, prompted by the ongoing lower Puna eruption on Kilauea’s East Rift Zone. That allows rockfalls within the crater to block the vent and the buildup of pressure from gas or steam.

The last time this pattern was seen was in 1924. Those eruptions lasted about 2 1/2 weeks.

Wendy Stovall, a U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist, said there are explosive eruptions at the summit about twice a day, with smaller ash plumes being released in between.

“It’s not a continuous outpouring of ash,” she said. “There are pulses of more vigorous ash and less vigorous ash coming out of the summit.”

Daniele, while showing an optimistic view of the situation, said ash ultimately will be good for the coffee trees when it mixes with the soil, but noted the mill’s visitor center has seen a 75 percent drop in customers.

ADVERTISING


He attributed that to the ash plumes and the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The park is closed because of the increased seismic activity at the summit and explosive eruptions. The park’s Kahuku unit near Ocean View remains open, and rangers are present at the Mokupapapa Discovery Center in Hilo.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.