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Fissure 8 gushing most; gas emissions still high

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    Vehicle tire tracks leading to and from a home on Kupono Street in Leilani Estates are visible in fallen cinder Thursday during a media tour led by the Hawaii National Guard.

  • U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

    Crews make visual observations of lava activity at fissure 8 on Thursday in Leilani Estates. Fountain heights Thursday morning continued to reach 230-260 feet above ground level.

Fissure No. 8 in Leilani Estates continued to dominate the lower Puna eruption Thursday as it shot lava up to 260 feet into the air, creating a fountain of molten rock seen for miles.

The fissure, active for several days, was feeding a flow 4.5 miles in length that has cut Highway 132 and was threatening the “Four Corners” area in Kapoho, where that highway meets Highway 137 and Government Beach Road.

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Jim Kauahikaua, a Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geophysicist, said the flow was 1.9 miles from that intersection as of Thursday afternoon. He said it was moving 90 yards an hour, but those rates can change quickly. Another lobe was moving in the direction of Waa Waa.

The fissure created a perched pond around the vent with lava moving between levies. Kupono Street, about two blocks away, was buried in about an inch of ash and crushed cinder Thursday.

Kauahikaua said fissure No. 18’s lava flow was active near the vent but it hadn’t progressed closer to Highway 137. Its leading edge remained about a half-mile from the road.

Gas emissions remain high in Puna and to a lesser extent at the summit, he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Health placed 13 air-quality monitors around the Puna eruption, with more available for placement.

EPA officials said Thursday a web page is being created that would show data from those monitors.

Data from sulfur dioxide monitors in place before the latest eruption can be viewed online, but this is intended to be more comprehensive.

“The communities can make decisions about what’s best to protect themselves and their families,” said Steve Calanog, EPA on-site manager.

Michael Stoker, an EPA regional administrator, said the agency is helping the state analyze the data as it comes in.

“We have some of the best people in the world to do that,” said Stoker, who was recently appointed.

He was visiting Hawaii Island on Thursday and was sworn in to the position last Monday.

On Wednesday evening, Pahala residents were told during a community meeting that their air quality has fluctuated between yellow, or moderate levels of air pollution, and orange, which indicates air is unhealthy for sensitive groups, the past several days.

The community is located southwest of Kilauea’s summit and continues to be impacted by frequent ash emissions, as well as volcanic gas.

A code orange means residents should shelter in place, said Talmadge Magno, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator.

The county distributed thousands of N95 particulate masks to residents.

Ash is primarily considered a nuisance but can cause breathing problems.

Alvin Bronstein, DOH chief of emergency medical services, said he doesn’t recommend children use the masks and that adults should only use them for short periods. He said it’s best for children to remain indoors or to leave the affected area.

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

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

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