UPDATE: ‘So far, so good’ regarding earthquake damage

Bill Hanson, administrative officer of Hawaii County Civil Defense, points to the epicenter of a 5.7-magnitude earthquake that shook the Big Island of Hawaii on Friday. Photo by Tim Wright.

UPDATED 5:25 p.m.

Minimal damage was reported islandwide today after a magnitude 5.7 earthquake rocked the Big Island.


The quake struck shortly after 10 a.m. from an epicenter 23 miles below ground and 1.3 miles southwest of Pahala.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported that the shock was felt as far away as Oahu, and HVO within an hour of the temblor received hundreds of reports from people who felt it.

HVO was quick to report the quake did not seem to have impacted Kilauea or Mauna Loa. Rather, an HVO report hypothesized that the event was caused by “lithospheric flexure” — the bending of a portion of the Earth’s crust — caused by the weight of the Hawaiian Islands.

That area near Pahala is a particularly seismically active location, for reasons that are still being investigated by HVO and other science organizations. Late this afternoon, HVO had recorded dozens of minor tremors in the area, with only the large quake differentiating it from any other day.

Although HVO stated it would continue to monitor the impacts of the quake — and warned that aftershocks are still possible over the coming days to weeks — the incident’s primary impact was limited to incidental damage and localized power outages.

“We did some calls to the stores, KTA, Costco and to the utilities, and thus far, nothing really major has come back. All of our (county) departments went and did checks on our facilities. And at this time, so far, so good,” Mayor Mitch Roth told the Tribune-Herald.

Roth said he had heard about damage at both Kealakehe and Konawaena high schools following the quake. The state Department of Accounting and General Services investigated the latter school and found no major structural damage.

“I talked to Kealakehe, and they weren’t sure the damage was from the earthquake, but in an abundance of caution, they moved the students out of the classroom where that was,” Roth said.

Other impacts involved minor rockslides on a few public roads.

Bill Hanson, administrative officer for Hawaii County Civil Defense, said a small rockslide on Highway 11 near Whittington Beach Park in Ka‘u had been cleared by this afternoon.

“This wasn’t like a major rockslide, where it’s blocking off the roadway,” Hanson said. “It was more like rocks falling, debris scattered on the roadway causing (workers) to push it off on the side.”

Roth said that other landslides on the Hamakua Coast had also been cleaned up quickly.

County Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina said there were no reports of significant damage to park facilities beyond a few scattered power outages.

Messina, like many others, drew comparisons to a magnitude 6.9 quake that rattled the island in 2018, about a day after lava burst out from Kilauea’s lower East Rift Zone in Puna.

“The good news is, the earthquake isn’t volcanic,” Roth said. “It appears to be on a fault line. That’s good. It could have been Mauna Loa.”

Social media was quickly flooded with reports of items falling off shelves and shaking buildings in the minutes after the quake.

“Glad I wasn’t home, considering all the broken glass and oil and balsamic vinaigrette, sugar, flour, etc., that came crashing down,” lamented Paukaa resident Michael Misita in a Facebook post. “Lost about a fourth of the Evesham Bone China cookware I’ve been collecting since I was 15. What a mess!”

Banyan Drive resident Cassandra Clark said the quake was the most severe she has ever experienced on the island.

“We couldn’t figure out where to stand,” Clark wrote. “This building is made of cement blocks. It was a bit scary.”

Reporter John Burnett contributed to this report.

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

UPDATED 11:32 a.m.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported that this morning’s earthquake had no impact to either Mauna Loa or Kilauea.

According to the report, the earthquake — which has been downgraded to a magnitude 5.7 — likely was associated with “lithospheric flexure,” or the bending of a portion of the Earth’s crust caused by the weight of the Hawaiian Islands.

The report also updated the location of the quake’s epicenter — 23 miles below sea level, and just over one mile southeast of Pahala — and noted that more than 280 people submitted reports having felt the quake within an hour of the event.

The quake was “widely felt across the islands of Hawaii, Maui and parts of Oahu,” according to the report.

HVO will continue to monitor the situation and warns that aftershocks are possible in the coming days or weeks.

A statement from the Hawaii County Mayor’s Office reported that the known damages caused by the event primarily consisted of minor landslides, leaving debris on various roadways. The Department of Public Works and State Highways Division are working to clear the impacted roads.

Residents who have experienced damage as a result of the quake are encouraged to declare them via the Hawaii County Civil Defense website.


A major earthquake shook the Big Island this morning.

According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake originated at 10:06 a.m. from a point approximately six miles underground just off the Ka‘u coast, about 12 miles south of Pahala.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there is no tsunami warning, advisory or watch in effect.

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