Category Archives: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

It’s getting realer

Cracks are appearing in roads near me. A Civil Defense employee came to my house to warn me about ash and toxic gas. Hawaii Volcano Observatory sent me the following message:

“As deflation continues, strong earthquakes in the area around Kilauea Volcano’s summit are expected to continue and may become more frequent. The shallow depths of these earthquakes make them more damaging in the immediate vicinity of the epicenter, and individuals need to take precautions to minimize damage from the shaking, including the removal of unstable items from walls and shelves.”

I live about six miles from the summit. Some of the recent earthquakes were centered almost directly underneath my property. And when they say more frequent earthquakes, more frequent than what? More than two hundred a day???? Geez Louise.

I have cleared shelves and walls; my home looks very different all of a sudden, and I am looking differently at it. I seem to be moving out of the “it’s happening to them” stage.

I briefly consider unsubscribing to Civil Defense and Hawaii Volcano Observatory text and email alerts, because every time I hear the ding of an incoming message my body goes YIKES. I think that maybe I should quit the internet all together for a while, to relax a bit, make another hat or two, but then I would lose the ability to vent (vent, ha) my feelings in these posts . . .

The air was strong with the smell of sulphur today, and my throat is quite sore. The air purifier I ordered is on its way; I’ll be staying indoors and keeping rolled up rugs against gaps to the outside. The chemicals in the air adversely affect this 5’8″ human body, but they are having no affect on the tiny *#@&*$# invasive coqui frogs whose insanely loud screeching croaks are like nails on chalkboard to me. What the? I had fantasized that the “quieting” of the coqui might be a positive outcome of this situation, but no. They are like the cockroaches of nuclear blasts.

Sorry. These are first world problems, I know. I also know that the folks downslope have it ten thousand times worse than I do. But writing this blog is helping at least one person on this planet: me.

Holy moley!

When I pulled out of my driveway on my way to run town errands this morning, I saw the above sight.

It is a plume coming up from Halema’uma’u.  Apparently, the water level has been breached! Instead of heading to town I turned instead towards Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to catch the action.

There were news crews on the spot, some friendly (KITV) some condescending (starts with a C; has two Ns) along with many fancy cameras and cell phones all pointed at the billowing plumes, which kept coming and coming, growing larger by the second.

Many people were excited and posing; some were thieving: one photographer who used my red shirt to frame some of his shots told me he’d been away from his unlocked car for two minutes when he returned to discover his phone had been stolen.

I’m amped up after what I saw this morning.  So much power.  I feel fortunate to have witnessed it.  Yet, had the wind been coming from the SW instead of the NE, this would be a very different post.  I wonder at the condition of the facilities at the National Park.  It’s not going to be the same there, that’s for sure. And downslope, fissure number 20 just opened up. The curse of interesting times.

small plume

plume 4plume 3

plume 6


USGS: Raised potential for explosive eruptions

Living upslope, I had been thinking I was comfortably distanced from the drama of the recent eruption: the burning houses are all near the coastline.  Yes, it is true that lava breakouts are not expected in my neck of the woods. And yesterday I felt some measure of relief after listening to a scientist on a podcast say another large earthquake was not anticipated (smaller ones, yes, but not another 6.9). So far, the worst I have known is jangled nerves and a sore throat from poor air quality. Then I received this alert from the USGS: “If the lava column drops to the level of groundwater beneath Kilauea Caldera, influx of water into the conduit could cause steam-driven explosions. Debris expelled during such explosions could impact the area surrounding Halemaʻumaʻu and the Kilauea summit.”

I live just a few miles from Halemaʻumaʻu.

From my bed, I can see the glow of the caldera on clear nights.

lava advancing on house

lava burnign house 2

More from the USGS message:

BALLISTIC PROJECTILES: During steam-driven explosions, ballistic blocks up to 2 m (yards) across could be thrown in all directions to a distance of 1 km (0.6 miles) or more. These blocks could weigh a few kilograms (pounds) to several tons (emphasis mine). Smaller (pebble-size) rocks could be sent several kilometers (miles) from Halemaʻumaʻu.

GAS: Gas emitted during steam-drive explosions will be mainly steam, but will include some sulfur dioxide (SO2) as well. Currently, SO2 emissions remain elevated.

WARNING TIME: Steam-driven explosions at volcanoes typically provide very little warning. Once the lava level reaches the groundwater elevation, onset of continuous ashy plumes or a sequence of violent steam-driven explosions may be the first sign that activity of concern has commenced (emphasis mine).

lava in a row

I drove to Hilo yesterday for errands. Everyone everywhere shared tales of the eruption; there was much stress in the atmosphere. Friends have been telling me their eyes are swollen, their plants are dying; those with pets have unique worries.

Many people are upset, yet I have been reading stories of great kindness, even from those who just lost their own homes.

So, it is crazy times here on Hawaii Island.  As for me, I am not in immediate danger of watching my house be consumed by lava.  I don’t have furry friends to be concerned for.  If I stay inside it will reduce my exposure to the pervasive SO2.  There isn’t anything I can do about the acid rain in my drinking water.

And, in a couple of weeks, ash and rocks may rain down on my roof (or head!).

Yesterday, I felt one way: I was an outside observer. Today I feel very different.

All photos from Hawaii News Now online.

Volcano Life

Note: I assume anyone reading this post is aware of Kilauea’s current activity.

pink smoke

I’m pretty sure I was awakened seven times last night due to the swaying and jostling of my house; the USGS earthquake record supports this with the number of quakes nearby in that timeframe. That said, perhaps I was dreaming or imagining the movement: since the 6.9 quake the other day I’ve felt shaking and wobbling that does not officially appear on the list, and I’m checking it a lot (, zoom to Hawaii). Phantom earthquakes? Why my body feels the need to imagine more drama is beyond me.

jesse tunison

I love Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; I live just a few miles from its entrance. I have photographs of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater by local artist Jesse Tunison and glowing lava by G. Brad Lewis on my bedroom walls. I ‘know’ about lava and eruptions. Or rather, I thought I knew. I’ve been surprised a lot lately.

g brad lewis

My house, built twenty feet off the ground, has all the required earthquake joists and connectors – in theory it is better to sway than to snap – but I surmise it also makes the house more responsive to the moving rock beneath it. But I don’t really know. I had to agree to these specifications when building; it’s not like I seriously imagined that there would come a 24-hour time period with over 200 earthquakes in the vicinity.

At over 3000 feet, I expect that my four acres are not in danger of opening fissures, as is the case downslope, but the fact of the matter is that there is a ginormous river of magma down below me. In 2014 I was stunned when lava inched towards the town of Pahoa. The current inundation of residential areas south and east of Pahoa is also a shock, although locals know the area is officially in the number one spot of Lava Hazard Zone reckoning (one holds the most danger; nine the least; but the 2006 6.7 earthquake, sans lava, did a lot of damage in Zone Nine). I barely took notice of the designation when searching for property; when Madame Pele is not active, it is easy to forget what lies beneath (see photo of my driveway above). My current property is in Zone Three (although it abuts a Zone One); as the crow flies I’m some twenty miles upslope from the photos you are seeing in the news of the ongoing devastation. I do smell what I assume to be volcanic gas, but it’s not at the deadly levels of Leilani Estates.

A 1955 event near the current activity lasted months and covered thousands of acres, including the town of Kapoho. Wish us all luck.

Post note: After experiencing the wettest winter since I’ve lived in this area, and just before all the Civil Defense alerts started flying, I undertook to clean every inch of my house, top to bottom. I’m still cleaning, even though the fact remains that a particularly situated earthquake could level the entire structure. I’ve just stopped long enough to put down my thoughts about what’s happening in my neck of the woods. Now back to moving furniture and dusting. Hey, I haven’t felt a quake in the last half hour – woo hoo!

To see more of Jesse’s work:

G. Brad Lewis:

The photo of pink smoke is from the internet, source unknown.