Smoke Emerging from the Pu’u O’o vent. (Credit: Lynn Kawano/Twitter)

Hawaii has been going through a rough week so far, and unfortunately it will persist into next week as lava continues to seep into neighborhoods on the Big Island while earthquakes strike, some of which have been strong.

Midday Friday (local time), a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck 16 kilometers southwest of Leilani Estates, HI, which is in almost exactly the same location as the deadly 1975 magnitude-7.1 earthquake. It is estimated that nearly 500 earthquakes have struck Hawaii within the past seven days, and these earthquakes will likely continue, according to geologists. Now if it surpasses the strength of the magnitude-6.9 quake, that is yet to be determined, but weaker quakes will be the most likely situation in the short-term.

Smoke and Lava Seeping from Side of Crater (Credit: USGS Volcanoes/Twitter)

The town of Leilani Estates also happens to be one of the areas that is dealing with the flowing lava. The Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater on Mount Kilauea had been showing signs of an eruption the past several weeks as lava levels rose. Eventually, the lave rose to the brim and overflowed within the past few days. On the east side of this crater, the pressure of the lava was increasing, thus leading to the creation of a new vent, or crack in the earth, which is allowing for lava and smoke to seep from the crater. Then at the start of May, the crater floor collapsed, warning geologists ahead of time where the lava may flow. This prompted the declaration of an Emergency Lava Proclamation by Acting Mayor Wil Okabe of Hawai‘i and for the issuance of mandatory evacuations for parts of the island. Friday morning, a recent magnitude-5.0 earthquake struck the East Rift Zone, which shortly thereafter forced the lava to break the ground from the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater.

According to Dr Janine Krippner, volcanic eruptions are hard to predict: “It’s hard to tell what it will do. It is very hard (mostly impossible) to tell how long eruptions will last as this is a constantly evolving system that can change from moment to moment. Lava flows are one of the safer hazards as people can usually evacuate without harm.”

Active volcanic vents have been located on Makamae, Kaupili, Mohala Streets as well as near the intersection of Leilani Avenue and Kahukai Road. All residents of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens Subdivision were ordered to evacuate immediately. The National Guard is also onsite to assist.

The Civil Defense update from the Island of Hawaii reads as follows:

  • Hawaii Fire Department reports extremely dangerous conditions due to high levels of Sulfur Dioxide gas in the evacuation area. Elderly, young, and people with compromised respiratory systems are especially vulnerable.
  • The high levels detected are an immediate threat to life for all who become exposed. First responders may not be able to come to the aid of residents who refuse to evacuate.
  • The area continues to be unstable with multiple volcanic eruptions happening. No one is allowed into the area.  Do not attempt to return to your home at this time.
  • All residents in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens Subdivisions have been ordered to evacuate.  The Pahoa Community Center and the Kea’au Community Center are open for shelter.
  • Residents evacuating should bring an emergency evacuation supply kit including necessary medicine, food, and necessary items for your comfort if possible.

Later in the day Friday, that 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck, causing widespread shaking on the island and some damage, as shown in the below video.

Featured image credit: USGS


Jackson is Head of Content at WeatherOptics and produces several forecasts and manages all social media platforms. Previously, Jackson forecasted local weather for southwestern Connecticut, founding his website, Jackson's Weather, in the March of 2015. He is currently studying Meteorology and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Miami.

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