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.
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).
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.