With only one active fissure, county eases into ‘recovery phase’

  • U.S. Geological Survey via AP

    Lava fountains from fissure 8 on Friday in Kilauea Volcano’s lower East Rift Zone above Kapoho. Lava reached heights of 180-220 feet.

  • U.S. Geological Survey via AP

    Friday’s sunrise highlights twin pillars of rising gases that merge into a towering cap above Halema‘uma‘u Crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

  • U.S. Geological Survey via AP

    Lava from Kilaeua Volcano continues to flow into the ocean Friday in the vicinity of Kapoho Bay and Vacationland.

  • U.S. Geological Survey via AP

    A Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist measures fountain height and takes high-resolution video Friday to determine whether the volume of material exiting fissure 8, located in Leilani Estates, has changed.

Little about the volcanic eruption changed Friday as the county began shifting its focus to rebuilding.

Fissure 8 in Leilani Estates continues to be the only vent actively producing lava, although Hawaii County Civil Defense reported early Friday that fissures 9, 10 and 24, all located southwest of fissure 8, were producing gas and steam and that fissure 24 was incandescent.

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Steve Brantley, deputy scientist-in-charge at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said no changes in the “vigor” of fissure 8 were detected, with the vent continuing to produce fountains of lava more than 200 feet high.

The flow of lava from fissure 8 to the ocean is now estimated to cover roughly 9 square miles, said HVO geophysicist Jim Kauahikaua. An accurate shape of the lava shelf extending from the former shoreline of Kapoho Bay has not been determined, although it was confirmed that lava is flowing along the ocean floor, Kauahikaua said.

A north-pointing branch of the fissure 8 flow remained largely stagnant Friday.

Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, said the county’s relief efforts have partially shifted to a “recovery phase,” in addition to its ongoing “response phase.” As part of the shift, Snyder said Mayor Harry Kim intends to focus on how to help farmers whose livelihoods were destroyed by the lava.

Snyder said Kim hopes to use the Kaikoo Project — a recovery project developed in the wake of the 1960 tsunami — as a model for how quickly recovery can happen in Puna. The Kaikoo Project was completed within six months.

“He said we are going to make Puna better, just like we made Hilo better,” Snyder said.

Specifics of Kim’s plan were hazy Friday. However, work continues today on a cluster of 20 temporary housing units at Sacred Heart Church in Pahoa that will house evacuees displaced by lava.

Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said the official count of homes destroyed has not been updated from 130, although more than 600 are thought to have been destroyed after lava wiped out Vacationland and most of Kapoho earlier this week.

Although a shift in winds Friday drove high amounts of vog toward Saddle Road, trade winds are expected to return to normal through the weekend, said National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Foster.

At Kilauea summit, pressure explosions continue to occur at Halema‘uma‘u Crater, triggering tremors that register as minor earthquakes on USGS seismometers. Brantley said one such explosion, which occurred shortly before 3 a.m. Friday, caused the ground at one summit monitor to drop by approximately 10 feet.

HVO geophysicist Ingrid Johanson said that shift in terrain was caused mainly by ground slumping inward — “more like landsliding than a deflation” — which Brantley said is a common occurrence on the summit of late.

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Magno advised residents of Leilani Estates west of Pomaikai Road to remain cautious. Although the curfew for that part of the subdivision was lifted Thursday, allowing verified residents to remain in the area indefinitely, “it’s not so stable we can let down our guard,” Magno said.

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