6.9 Earthquake Rocks Hawaii Following Multiple Eruptions of Big Island’s Kilauea Volcano; Landslides, Small Tsunami Waves Reported
By weather.com and the Associated Press
At a Glance
- A major 6.9 magnitude earthquake rattled the Big Island early Friday afternoon.
- At least six volcanic eruptions have occurred on fissures associated with Kilauea.
- Cracks in roadways began to spew lava Thursday afternoon on the eastern end of the Big Island.
- Hundreds of residents in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens were ordered to evacuate and remained so on Saturday.
- More than 500 earthquakes have shaken the Big Island since mid-day Friday.
A major 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Friday on Hawaii’s Big Island near the site where multiple eruptions from Kilauea Volcano sent lava spewing into communities, prompting evacuations.
The earthquake, the largest since 1975, was felt more than 200 miles away from the epicenter in Honolulu.
The 6.9 earthquake was the third large earthquake to rattled the eastern end of the Big Island since Thursday. Two smaller earthquakes, measured at 5.4 and 5.0 magnitude, signaled the beginning of the awakening of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano on Thursday and early Friday.
The quake triggered several landslides along the Hamakua Coast and small tsunami waves around the island. Sea fluctuations ranged from 8 inches in Hilo to 16 inches at Kapoho, the Hawaii Civil Defense Agency told Hawaii News Now.
“It did generate a very small tsunami around the coast of the Big Island, and we’re even seeing very small sea level fluctuations, less than a foot in amplitude,” Dr. Charles McCreery, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, told Hawaii News Now. “But it’s enough to let us know that the earthquake did cause the ocean to move and it did generate a small tsunami.”
More than 500 earthquakes have shaken the Big Island since mid-day Friday.
Scientists say the magma lake at the crater of the volcano has dropped significantly, indicating that it likely has moved towards Puna District, home to about 10,000 residents, papaya farms and forests. It’s also the area where at least six fissures have opened up since Thursday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaii Volcano Observatory.
Janet Babb, a spokesperson for the observatory, said the earthquakes are the result of the volcano adjusting to the moving magma.
“The magma moving down the rift zones, it causes stress on the south flank of the volcano,” Babb said. “We’re just getting a series of earthquakes.”
Mandatory evacuations remain in place Saturday for Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions and water restrictions were ordered Friday for Leilani Estates, Nānāwale Estates, Kapoho and Lanipuna Gardens, the Hawaii Civil Defense agency reported.
The Hawaii Civil Defense Agency cautioned residents that refused to evacuate that “first responders may not be able to come to the aid of residents who refuse to evacuate.”
Authorities said Friday “extremely high levels of sulfur dioxide gas” were detected in areas near the eruptions and warned residents and onlookers to stay away.
The volcanic activity forced officials at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to evacuate all visitors and non-emergency staff after rock slides were reported on path trails and crater walls.
Lava flows on Friday destroyed two homes at Kaupili Street and Leilani Avenue, located in the evacuation zone, Hawaii News Now reported.
Late Thursday, Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency so state funding can be used in the response.
Authorities say new lava outbreaks remain a possibility.
“The opening phases of fissure eruptions are dynamic and uncertain. It is not possible at this time to say when and where new vents may occur,” the observatory said. “Areas downslope of an erupting fissure or vent are at risk of lava inundation. At this time, the general area of the Leilani subdivision appears at greatest risk.”
Jeremiah Osuna, a local resident who captured drone footage of Thursday’s eruption, described the river of lava flowing through forest land as a “curtain of fire,” AP reports. He noted the smell of sulfur in the air and the overwhelming sound, which he compared to someone “putting a bunch of rocks into a dryer” and turning it on high.
Residents told local media their houses shook as the eruptions triggered earthquakes, though not all said they were scared of what could come from the lava flow’s impacts.
“If Pele comes, Pele comes,” resident Curt Redman told KHNL-TV, referring to the Hawaiian goddess who, according to legend, lives atop Kilauea’s summit. “We have to do what we got to do, but … now we’re kind of crossing our fingers to see what Pele might do next.”
Since Monday, several earthquakes and the collapse of a crater floor at the Pu’u ‘O’o vent on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano signaled that the Kilauea volcano was waking up.
Several cracks were found Wednesday in Leilani Estates, but steam and ash did not erupt from those cracks until Thursday afternoon.
University of Hawaii Geology professor Scott Rowland told KHON-TV conditions in south Puna are similar to an eruption in 1955, which lasted almost three months.
“Certainly if it were to happen today in the same place there are many more homes and structures in danger,” Rowland told KHON.
Prior to the eruption, all public access from the island’s Puna District near Kalapana was shut down and visitors were warned to stay away. Private excursions, including boat and hiking tours, were also suspended.
Pu’u ‘O’o’s 1983 eruption resulted in lava fountains soaring over 1,500 feet high. In the decades since, the lava flow has buried dozens of square miles of land and destroyed many homes.
In 2008, after a series of small earthquakes rattled the island, Kilauea’s summit crater opened and gushed lava and rock over 75 acres of the mountain, damaging a nearby visitor overlook. (Click to Source)
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