Two strong quakes shake central Colombia: USGS

Two strong quakes shake central Colombia: USGS
(Reuters) – Two strong quakes, of magnitude 6.0 and magnitude 5.8, struck central Colombia on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The quakes’ epicenters were very close to each other, about 150 km (93 miles) south of the capital Bogota, and were very shallow, which would have amplified their effects.

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake is considered strong and is capable of causing severe damage however the area is not densely populated.

(Reporting by Sandra Maler in Washington; Editing by Alistair Bell)

California Earthquakes, many aftershocks jolt the San Fransisco area this week

The San Andreas Fault line. By Kate Barton, David Howell, and Joe Vigil -

By Kami Klein

A series of earthquakes have been hitting California in the last few days.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the quakes began Monday at 10:33 p.m., when a magnitude 4.5 temblor rattled out of the suburbs of Contra Costa County, in the East Bay about 20 miles northeast of San Francisco. The USGS reported at least 26 aftershocks following the tremor, Then, on Tuesday at 12:42 p.m., a magnitude 4.7 quake struck in the remote mountains of San Benito County. No major structural damage was reported.

On Tuesday evening another earthquake this one rated at 3.4 also struck the Pleasant Hill area. The quake was recorded at 7:11 p.m. pacific, Tuesday, Oct. 15 and was centered under Pleasant Hill at a depth of 9 miles, the USGS reported.

Monday’s quake was the latest reminder that seismic forces put the East Bay at high risk of a major earthquake, including from the dangerous Hayward Fault, which runs along heavily populated areas. The Los Angeles Times also reported that the earthquakes struck on an unusual section of San Andreas fault known for ‘creeping’, a series of smaller earthquakes that could lead to larger ones along the fault line.

“This is the 10th earthquake larger than magnitude 4 in the last 20 years in this area” within a radius of about six miles from Tuesday’s epicenter said Keith Knudsen, USGS geologist and deputy director of the agency’s Earthquake Science Center.

In 2008 the USGS created “The Great ShakeOut” scenario to warn communities to prepare the bay area for larger quakes. This scenario was based on a potential magnitude 7.8 earthquake on the southern San Andreas Fault— approximately 5,000 times larger than the magnitude 5.4 earthquake that shook southern California on July 29, 2008. It’s not a matter of if an earthquake of this size will happen—but when.

Dr. Lucy Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey led a group of over 300 scientists, engineers, and others to study the likely consequences of this potential earthquake in great detail. The result is the ShakeOut Earthquake Scenario, which was also the basis of a statewide emergency response exercise, Golden Guardian 2008.

In an earthquake of this size, the shaking will last for nearly two minutes. The strongest shaking will occur near the fault (in the projected earthquake, the Coachella Valley, Inland Empire and Antelope Valley). Pockets of strong shaking will form away from the fault where sediments trap the waves (in the projected earthquake, it would occur in the San Gabriel Valley and in East Los Angeles).
Such an earthquake will cause unprecedented damage to Southern California—greatly dwarfing the massive damage that occurred in Northridge’s 6.7-magnitude earthquake in 1994. In summary, the ShakeOut Scenario estimates this earthquake will cause over 1,800 deaths, 50,000 injuries, $200 billion in damage and other losses, and severe, long-lasting disruption.

Shaken communities take stock of damage after Southern California quakes

A house left destroyed by a powerful magnitude 7.1 earthquake, triggered by a 6.4 the previous day, is seen at night near the epicenter in Trona, California, U.S., July 6, 2019. REUTERS/David McNew

By Alan Devall

RIDGECREST, Calif. (Reuters) – High desert communities in Southern California on Saturday assessed damage and braced for potentially dangerous aftershocks from a major earthquake that shook buildings, ruptured gas lines and sparked fires near the remote epicenter of the second temblor in as many days.

A house is left destroyed by an earthquake, triggered by a previous day quake, near the epicenter in Trona, California, U.S., July 6, 2019. REUTERS/David McNew

A house is left destroyed by an earthquake, triggered by a previous day quake, near the epicenter in Trona, California, U.S., July 6, 2019. REUTERS/David McNew

The powerful magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked the Mojave Desert town of Ridgecrest south of Death Valley National Park as darkness fell on Friday, jolting the area with eight times more force than a 6.4 quake that struck the same area 34 hours earlier.

California Governor Gavin Newsom placed the state Office of Emergency Services (OES) on its highest alert and requested federal assistance.

He told a news conference in Ridgecrest on Saturday that he had just got off a phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking a presidential emergency declaration.

“I have full confidence that the president will be forthcoming, in immediate terms, with the formal declaration,” Newsom said, flanked by first responders.

Cracks emerge on a road after an earthquake broke in Trona, California, U.S., in this photo from the USGS posted on July 6, 2019. USGS/Handout via REUTERS

Cracks emerge on a road after an earthquake broke in Trona, California, U.S., in this photo from the USGS posted on July 6, 2019. USGS/Handout via REUTERS

There were several minor to moderate injuries, OES Director Mark Ghilarducci told reporters.

“No reports of any fatalities, so I think we’re very lucky there,” he said.

There were reports of building fires, mostly as a result of gas leaks or gas-line breaks, Ghilarducci said.

State officials said all roads damaged by the quakes had been repaired and reopened.

Violent shaking also caused water-main breaks and knocked out power and communications to parts of Ridgecrest, home to about 27,000 people some 125 miles (200 km) northeast of Los Angeles.

Officials warned there was sure to be a significant number of aftershocks, including possible powerful ones, and advised residents to ensure they had necessary supplies.

“I’ve said this ad nauseam: be prepared for the worst,” said Newsom, who on Saturday met victims in the hospital and visited a hardware store where the earthquake hurled products from shelves and left ceiling tiles scattered across the aisles.

Standing outside her damaged home in Ridgecrest, life-long resident Sierra Wood said it was heartbreaking and scary.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this,” she said. “I mean – they say that it’s happened and you’ve heard about it. But once you’re in it, it’s completely different, it’s terrifying. It’s terrifying.”

Her husband, Keith Wood, said the aftershocks were grueling.

“It’s like when, when do we get a break from it?” he said. “When is enough enough? Mother Nature has had her way. Give us a break now, OK?”

Evacuees leave a fire station with their belongings after an earthquake near Trona, California, U.S. July 6, 2019. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

Evacuees leave a fire station with their belongings after an earthquake near Trona, California, U.S. July 6, 2019. REUTERS/Gene Blevins

The sprawling U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake just northwest of Ridgecrest was evacuated of all non-essential personnel following the quake.

The facility, which at more than 1.1 million acres (445,000 hectares) is larger than the state of Rhode Island, reported no injuries. Authorities were assessing any damage to buildings or other infrastructure, according to a post on the base’s Facebook page.

MORE TO COME

Friday’s earthquake was widely felt across Southern California, including greater Los Angeles, where shaking in some areas lasted about 40 seconds. Low-level rumbling extended as far north as the San Francisco Bay area and beyond to Reno, Nevada, and as far east as Phoenix, Arizona.

Seismologists said the initial quake on Thursday, and scores of smaller ones that followed it, proved to be foreshocks to Friday’s larger temblor, which now ranks as Southern California’s most powerful since a 7.1 quake that struck near a U.S. Marine Corps base in the Mojave Desert in 1999.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Friday’s quake was immediately followed by at least 16 aftershocks of magnitude 4 or greater and warned of a 50 percent chance of another magnitude 6 quake in the coming days. Geologists put the chance of another magnitude 7 tremor at 10 percent over the next week.

There were hundreds of aftershocks of 2.5 magnitude or greater in the area surrounding the epicenter, according to USGS data.

Victor Abdullatif was helping clean up broken bottles and other debris inside his father’s liquor store, the Eastridge Market, which sustained damage to its ceiling, and found the periodic aftershocks unnerving.

“They’re still scary because you almost don’t know, ‘Is this going to be a full earthquake?’ You have to kind of have faith that it’s just an aftershock,” he told Reuters.

The last major destructive quake to hit Southern California was the 6.7 magnitude Northridge quake in 1994, which struck a densely populated area of Los Angeles. It killed 57 people and caused billions of dollars in property damage.

The comparatively limited damage from Friday’s quake, which packed greater force than the Northridge event, was a function of its location in a remote, less developed area.

Its ground motion, however, startled seismically jaded Southern Californians over a wide region.

Pools in Los Angeles sloshed wildly, and TV cameras at Dodger Stadium were shaking as they filmed the night Major League Baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.

A television anchorwoman ducked out of sight during a local newscast as shouts of “get under a desk” were heard in the background.

(Reporting by Alan Devall; Additional reporting by Bill Tarrant, Steve Gorman, Alex Dobuzinskis, Joseph Ax and Keith Coffman; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Toby Chopra, Will Dunham and David Gregorio)

Strong aftershock jolts California as residents mop up after quake

Fissures that opened up under a highway during a powerful earthquake that struck Southern California are seen near the city of Ridgecrest, California, U.S., July 4, 2019. REUTERS/David McNew

By David McNew

RIDGECREST, Calif. (Reuters) – A strong aftershock shook Southern California early on Friday as residents were still assessing the damage from the July 4 quake, the strongest in the region in 25 years, which was felt by more than 20 million people.

The temblor, one of many aftershocks predicted by seismologists, struck the same desert region as Thursday’s major earthquake with a magnitude of 5.4 about 11 miles (18 km) west of Searles Valley at 4:07 a.m. local time, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

There had already been more than 80 smaller aftershocks since Thursday’s 6.4 magnitude quake near the city of Ridgecrest, which was felt from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said.

“We should be expecting lots of aftershocks and some of them will be bigger than the 3s we’ve been having so far,” Jones told reporters on Thursday. “I think the chance of having a magnitude 5 … is probably greater than 50-50,” she said.

Some residents spent much of their July 4 holiday cleaning up the mess left by the quake.

“I mopped up over 20 gallons (75 liters) of wine that fell over in addition to the beer, soda and the cooler that fell over. We have several thousand dollars worth of damage,” said shopkeeper James Wilhorn.

Only a few injuries were reported, but two houses caught fire from broken gas pipes, officials said. Water gushed from zigzagged cracks in the pavement from busted water lines. Deep fissures snaked across the Mojave Desert, with passersby stopping to take selfies while standing in the rendered earth.

The quake hit the edge of Death Valley National Park about 113 miles northeast of Los Angeles at about 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. It was very shallow, only 6.7 miles (10.7 km) deep, amplifying its effect, and was felt in an area inhabited by 20 million people, the European quake agency EMSC said.

The Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, where 15 patients were evacuated earlier, appeared intact apart from some new cracks in the walls.

California Governor Gavin Newsom approved an emergency proclamation, and Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden said she had declared a state of emergency, a step that enables the town to receive help from outside agencies.

Breeden said she has asked residents to check on their neighbors in the high desert town.

“We’re a close-knit community and everybody is working to take care of each other,” she told Reuters by telephone.

The quake is the largest in Southern California since the 1994 magnitude 6.6 Northridge earthquake, USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso said. That quake, which was centered in a heavily populated area of Los Angeles, killed 57 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.

(Additional reporting by Bill Tarrant in Los Angeles, Sandra Maler in Washington, Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles, Gabriella Borter and Daniel Trotta and Peter Szekely in New York, Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Peter Graff and Chizu Nomiyama)

Hawaii volcano eruption slows to virtual halt after more than three months

FILE PHOTO: Lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – The destructive lava eruption at the foot of Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii has slowed to a virtual halt in recent days for the first time in over three months, geologists said on Monday, although it was too soon to tell what might happen next.

The lone volcanic fissure that was still active last week has dwindled from a fountain of molten rock to a bubbling pond of lava no longer spilling out of the blackened cone surrounding it, said Tina Neal, chief scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Levels of sulfur dioxide gas vented from the fissure, located on the lower east flank of Kilauea, about 25 miles (40 km) from its summit crater, have also dropped dramatically, she said.

The subdued activity there coincided with another major collapse in the outer wall of the summit crater last Thursday, followed by a final flurry of earthquakes before the peak of the volcano grew still.

“The system appears to have almost shut down completely over the course of a couple of days,” Neal told reporters on a conference call. She said it was “all consistent with something turning off the spigot to the surface.”

At this point, the volcanic reservoir at the bottom of the summit crater appeared “significantly drained” of magma – the term for molten rock before it erupts – that was feeding the lava vents downslope at the surface.

At the height of Kilauea’s current eruption, which began on May 3, a total of two dozen fissures had opened in the ground at the foot of the volcano, in an area scientists call the lower east rift zone. But only one vent, dubbed Fissure 8, was still active last week.

It was a river of lava from Fissure 8 that had crept eastward to the ocean, engulfing two seaside housing developments before pouring into the Pacific. Hundreds more dwellings have been swallowed closer to the eruption site.

FILE PHOTO: Lava fragments falling from lava fountains at fissure 8 are building a cinder-and-spatter cone around the erupting vent, with the bulk of the fragments falling on the downwind side of the cone as it continues to feed a channelized lava flow that reaches the ocean at Kapoho during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S. June 11, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS

FILE PHOTO: Lava fragments falling from lava fountains at fissure 8 are building a cinder-and-spatter cone around the erupting vent, with the bulk of the fragments falling on the downwind side of the cone as it continues to feed a channelized lava flow that reaches the ocean at Kapoho during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S. June 11, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS

The property losses marked the most destructive eruption event of Kilauea or any other volcano in Hawaii’s recorded history.

Neal said it remains to be seen whether the reduced flow at Fissure 8 will turn out to be a brief pause or an extended lull, or whether other vents will reactivate. A similar 88-day eruption in the lower east rift zone in 1955 was punctuated by one pause of five days and one lasting 16 days, Neal said.

Neal said scientists would be surprised if the summit crater produced any new major eruptions in the near future.

The current shift in volcanic activity happened as Hurricane Hector churned across the Pacific toward Hawaii, with forecasters predicting it would skirt past the southern coast of the Big Island on Wednesday.

Neal said the storm would have no effect on the volcano, except for the possibility of large steam clouds producing “white-out” conditions in areas where heavy rain falls on top of molten lava that has yet to thoroughly cool.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Paul Tait)

Tourists flee Indonesia’s Lombok island after earthquake kills 98

People crowd on the shore as they attempt to leave the Gili Islands after an earthquake Gili Trawangan, in Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018, in this still image taken from a video. Indonesia Water Police/Handout/via REUTERS

By Kanupriya Kapoor

PEMENANG, Indonesia (Reuters) – Scenes of destruction greeted rescue workers across Indonesia’s resort island of Lombok on Monday, after an earthquake of magnitude 6.9 killed at least 98 people and prompted an exodus of tourists rattled by the second powerful quake in a week.

People recover a motorcycle from a damaged home near a mosque after a strong earthquake in Gunungsari, West Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/ via REUTERS

People recover a motorcycle from a damaged home near a mosque after a strong earthquake in Gunungsari, West Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/ via REUTERS

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said it expected the death toll to rise once the rubble of more than 13,000 flattened and damaged houses was cleared away.

Power and communications were severed in some areas, with landslides and a collapsed bridge blocking access to areas around the quake epicenter in the north. The military said it would send a ship with medical aid, supplies and logistics support.

In a message on social network Twitter, the Indonesian Red Cross said it helped a woman give birth after the quake at a health post. One of the names she gave the baby boy was ‘Gempa’, which means earthquake.

Lombok was hit on July 29 by a 6.4 magnitude quake that killed 17 people and briefly stranded several hundred trekkers on the slopes of a volcano.

The Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG) said more than 120 aftershocks were recorded after Sunday evening’s quake, whose magnitude the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) revised down to 6.9 from an initial 7.0. At that magnitude it released more than five times the energy of the quake a week earlier, the USGS website showed.

The dead included no foreigners and there were 236 people injured, BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference.

Residents sit outside their home with their belongings following a strong earthquake in Pemenang, North Lombok, Indonesia August 6, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/ via REUTERS

Residents sit outside their home with their belongings following a strong earthquake in Pemenang, North Lombok, Indonesia August 6, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Ahmad Subaidi/ via REUTERS

HOSPITALS OVERFLOWING

The tremor was powerful enough to be felt on the neighboring island of Bali where, BNPB said, two people died. The first quake was also felt on Bali.

Indonesia sits on the geologically active Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Nugroho said more than 20,000 people had been displaced.

Among them were residents of a northern village called Mentigi, who fled to nearby hills. Blue tarpaulins dotted the landscape as people prepared to spend the nights outdoors because of aftershocks or because their homes were destroyed.

“We are getting some aid from volunteers, but we don’t have proper tents yet,” said a 50-year-old villager sheltering with his wife and children, who gave his name only as Marhun.

Ambulances with sirens blaring raced along the coast from north Lombok, but BNPB spokesman Nugroho said emergency units in its hospitals were overflowing and some patients were being treated in parking lots.

The main hospital in the town of Tanjung in the north was severely damaged, so staff set up about 30 beds in the shade of trees and in a tent on a field to tend to the injured.

A boy with a heavily bandaged leg wailed in pain, an elderly man wore a splint improvised from cardboard strips of cardboard on a broken arm, and some hurt by falling debris still had dried blood on their faces.

Chief Water Police of Lombok Dewa Wijaya takes a picture in front of hundreds of people attempting to leave the Gili Islands after an earthquake Gili Trawangan, in Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Indonesia Water Police/Handout/via REUTERS

Chief Water Police of Lombok Dewa Wijaya takes a picture in front of hundreds of people attempting to leave the Gili Islands after an earthquake Gili Trawangan, in Lombok, Indonesia, August 6, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Indonesia Water Police/Handout/via REUTERS

“THIS IS IT FOR ME INDONESIA”

Sengiggi, a seaside tourist strip on Lombok, wore an abandoned look. Amid collapsed homes, some hotels seemed to have shut, restaurants were empty and beaches deserted.

Long lines formed at the airport of Lombok’s main town, Mataram, as foreign visitors cut their holidays short. BNPB said 18 extra flights had been added for leaving tourists.

“I was at the rooftop of my hotel and the building started swaying very hard … I could not stand up,” said Gino Poggiali, a 43-year-old Frenchman, who was with his wife and two children at the airport.

His wife Maude, 44, said the family was on Bali for the first quake and Lombok for the second.

“This is it for me in Indonesia. Next time we will stay in France, or somewhere close,” she said.

Dutch tourist Marc Ganbuwalba injured his knee in a stampede of diners from a restaurant after the quake.

“We are cutting short our holiday because I can’t walk and we’re just not in the mood anymore,” said the 26-year-old, sitting on a trolley at the airport with his leg bandaged.

Officials said more than 2,000 people had been evacuated from the three Gili islands off the northwest coast of Lombok, where fears of a tsunami spread among tourists.

Michelle Thompson, an American holidaying on one of the Gilis, described a “scramble” to get on boats leaving for the main island during which her husband was injured.

“People were just throwing their suitcases on board and I had to struggle to get my husband on, because he was bleeding,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Fransiska Nangoy, Gayatri Suroyo, Fanny Potkin, Agustinus Beo da Costa, Bernadette Christina Munthe, Tabita Diela, Cindy Silviana and Jessica Damiana in JAKARTA, Jamie Freed and Jack Kim in SINGAPORE, and Colin Packham in SYDNEY; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Neil Fullick and Clarence Fernandez)

Geologists eye Hawaii volcano for signs eruption may be easing

FILE PHOTO: Lava fragments falling from lava fountains at fissure 8 are building a cinder-and-spatter cone around the erupting vent, with the bulk of the fragments falling on the downwind side of the cone as it continues to feed a channelized lava flow that reaches the ocean at Kapoho during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S. June 11, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Geologists are keeping a close eye on the crater of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano and a lava-spouting cone on its flank for possible signs a nearly three-month eruption may be slowing.

Up until Thursday, Kilauea had not had an explosion in 53 hours, the longest break in such activity since May, government geologists said on the last in a series of regularly scheduled news briefings since the eruption began on May 3.

Down Kilauea’s east side, a lava channel flowing from its fissure 8 cone has turned sluggish and its level has dropped, said U.S. Geological Survey geologist Janet Babb.

Could the lava eruption in the southeast corner of Hawaii’s Big Island be easing after destroying over 700 houses and forcing thousands to flee their homes?

“That really is the million-dollar question right now,” said Babb. “We’re watching this closely. I think it all depends what we see after the next collapse (explosion) event.”

Right on cue, a collapse explosion came during the news briefing, kicking out the equivalent energy of a 5.4 magnitude earthquake.

It was the 58th such event in the current eruption cycle as magma steadily drains from the volcano’s summit lava reservoir, causing its crater to collapse.

The USGS released a report last week saying the eruption could last months or years and a main hazard was a possible collapse of fissure 8, or a blockage or breach in its lava channel, that could send some or all lava in a new direction.

Geologist Rick Hazlett of the University of Hawaii at Hilo said material breaking off the cone had so far been flushed down the channel in “lava bergs.”

He did not see any more structures in danger, other than the Pohoiki boat landing, which is 500 feet (152 meters) from the lava.

“We’re not very worried at the moment about the loss of further facilities,” said Hazlett. “This can be maintained for many months without the risks of a major diversion.”

As to whether crater explosions are winding down, Babb said it was too early to say.

“We need to wait and watch and see how the next collapses occur, to see if this interval between collapses is indeed increasing, or if this was an anomaly,” she said.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Sandra Maler)

Scientists defy ‘force of nature’ to unlock secrets of Hawaii volcano

A USGS geologist making observations of the fissure 8 lava channel at sunset is pictured in this July 3, 2018 fisheye lens handout photograph near the Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii, U.S. USGS/Handout via REUTERS

By Terray Sylvester and Jolyn Rosa

PAHOA, Hawaii (Reuters) – Dressed in heavy cotton, a helmet and respirator, Jessica Ball worked the night shift monitoring “fissure 8,” which has been spewing fountains of lava as high as a 15-story building from a slope on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.

The lava poured into a channel oozing toward the Pacific Ocean several miles away. In the eerie orange nightscape in the abandoned community of Leilani Estates, it looked like it was flowing toward the scientist, but that was an optical illusion, Ball said.

Kelly Wooten, a geologist and volcanologist at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) is downloading radiometer data on rim of Halema‘uma‘u Crater in Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, U.S., December 19, 2008. Picture taken on December 19, 2008. Courtesy USGS/Handout via REUTERS

Kelly Wooten, a geologist and volcanologist at Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) is downloading radiometer data on rim of Halema‘uma‘u Crater in Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, U.S., December 19, 2008. Picture taken on December 19, 2008. Courtesy USGS/Handout via REUTERS

“The volcano is doing what it wants to. … We’re reminded what it’s like to deal with the force of nature,” said Ball, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists have been in the field measuring the eruptions 24 hours a day, seven days a week since Kilauea first exploded more than two months ago. They are a mix of USGS staff, University of Hawaii researchers and trained volunteers working six-to-eight-hour shifts in teams of two to five.

They avoid synthetics because they melt in the intense heat and wear gloves to protect their hands from sharp volcanic rock and glass. Helmets protect against falling lava stones, and respirators ward off sulfur gases.

This is not a job for the faint hearted. Geologists have died studying active volcanoes. David Alexander Johnston, a USGS volcanologist was killed by the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state. In 1991, American volcanologist Harry Glicken and his French colleagues Katia and Maurice Krafft were killed while conducting avalanche research on Mount Unzen in Japan.

Ball, a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, located in upstate New York near the Canadian border, compared Kilauea’s eruptions to Niagara Falls.

“It gives you the same feeling of power and force,” she said.

A geologist is collecting sample of molten lava from 2011 Kamoamoa eruption, at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, U.S., March 6, 2011. Picture taken on March 6, 2011. Courtesy USGS/Handout via REUTERS

A geologist is collecting sample of molten lava from 2011 Kamoamoa eruption, at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, U.S., March 6, 2011. Picture taken on March 6, 2011. Courtesy USGS/Handout via REUTERS

WORTH THE RISKS

Kilauea, which has been erupting almost continuously since 1983, is one of the world’s most closely monitored volcanoes, largely from the now-abandoned Hawaiian Volcano Observatory at the summit. But the latest eruption is one of Kilauea’s biggest and could prove to be a bonanza for scientists.

Ball and the USGS teams are studying how the magma – molten rock from the earth’s crust – tracks through a network of tubes under the volcano in what is known as the “Lower East Rift Zone,” before ripping open ground fissures and spouting fountains of lava.

They are trying to discover what warning signs may exist for future eruptions to better protect the Big Island’s communities, she said.

Fissure 8 is one of 22 around Kilauea that have destroyed over 1,000 structures and forced 2,000 people to evacuate. They are what make this volcanic eruption a rare event, Ball said.

“They’re common for Kilauea on a geologic time scale, but in a human time scale it’s sort of a career event,” she said.

Meanwhile, the summit is erupting almost every day with steam or ash, said Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for the County of Hawaii, where Kilauea is located.

Scientists had thought the steam explosions resulted from lava at the summit dropping down the volcano’s throat into groundwater. This was based on Kilauea’s 1924 eruption, to which the current one is most often compared.

But the explosions this time have released lots of sulfur dioxide gas, which means magma is involved, said Michael Poland, scientist-in-charge at Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, one of many volcanologists seconded to Kilauea.

“So we have already made a conceptual leap, leading us to believe it was different from what we had understood,” he said.

Poland and other scientists pulled equipment and archives out of the abandoned observatory at the volcano summit after hundreds of small eruption-induced quakes damaged the structure, and have decamped to the University of Hawaii in Hilo on the Big Island.

The archives included photos, seismic records and samples, some 100 or more years old, Poland said. “These materials are invaluable to someone who says, ‘I have this new idea, and I want to test it using past data.'”Now the second longest Kilauea eruption on record, surpassed only by one in 1955, this eruption offers far better research opportunities than previous events, Ball said.

“We’ve got much better instruments and we’ve got longer to collect the data,” she said.

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester and Jolyn Rosa; writing by Bill Tarrant; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Minor explosion at Hawaii volcano spews more ash into the air

FILE PHOTO: Journalists and National Guard soldiers watch as lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

(Reuters) – Another small explosion at the summit of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano shot more ash high into the atmosphere, putting communities in the southern part of the Big Island at risk, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The volcano, which has been erupting since early May, has sent occasional columns of ash and volcanic gas into the atmosphere at between 10,000 (3,050 meters) and 30,000 feet (9,145 meters) above sea level, it said.

On Sunday, another explosion spewed ash from the volcano, creating a driving hazard for roads on parts of the Big Island.

A fissure in the volcano spewed molten rock 160 feet (49 meters) on Tuesday, slightly lower than the 180 feet (55 meters) it reached from Saturday night into Sunday, pushing a steady flow of lava into the ocean, the USGS said.

A representative for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The eruption, which entered its 40th day on Tuesday, stands as the most destructive in the United States since at least the violent 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state that reduced hundreds of square miles to wasteland and killed nearly 60 people, according to geologist Scott Rowland, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The Hawaii eruption has caused no casualties, but lava flows have swallowed about 600 homes since May 3, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said last week.

Vacationland, a private development believed to comprise about 160 homes, was completely erased, and at least 330 houses were devoured by lava at Kapoho Beach Lots, Kim said.

On Saturday, hundreds of construction workers and volunteers, including officials from the Hawaii National Guard and the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, began building 20 temporary housing units in Pahoa for families forced from their homes.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Volcanic lava buries two housing tracts on Hawaii’s Big Island

Lava destroys homes in the Kapoho area, east of Pahoa, during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Terray Sylvester

PAHOA, Hawaii (Reuters) – An ever-creeping wall of lava from Kilauea Volcano has engulfed two entire seaside housing tracts at the eastern tip of Hawaii’s Big Island, government scientists reported on Wednesday, an area where civil defense officials said nearly 280 homes once stood.

The obliteration of the Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland subdivisions by a river of molten rock some 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) tall brings to at least 400 the number of homes and other structures consumed by lava during the past month.

That latest toll of property losses from Kilauea’s ongoing upheaval, which entered its 35th day on Wednesday, far surpasses the 215 structures destroyed by lava during all 35 years of the volcano’s last eruption cycle, which began in 1983.

“Vacationland is gone, there’s no evidence of any properties there at all,” Wendy Stovall, a vulcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), told reporters on a conference call. At the adjacent Kapoho Beach Lots to the north. “Just a few homes” are left standing, she added.

County property tax records show a total of 279 homes existed in the two subdivisions combined, according to David Mace, a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman currently assigned to the Hawaii County Civil Defense authority.

Several miles (km) to the west, another 130 homes have been confirmed destroyed in and around the Leilani Estates community, where lava-spouting fissures in the ground first opened May 3 on the volcano’s lower flank, according to civil defense officials.

Mace said property losses in the east-end developments of Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland have yet to be officially documented.

The two communities, comprising a quiet vacation spot once popular for its snorkeling and tide pools, sat at the edge of a small, shallow inlet called Kapoho Bay. Lava pouring into the ocean there has completely filled in the bay, extending nearly a mile (1.6 km) out from what had been the shoreline, USGS scientists said.

Plumes of white steam and hydrochloric acid fumes, a vaporous, corrosive mix formed from lava reacting with seawater as it enters the ocean, could be seen rising from a distance.

‘EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER’

Authorities began evacuating the Kapoho area last week, with most residents ushered to safety by early on Saturday, hours before lava severed all road access to the region.

“I just locked my doors and walked away,” said Betty Oberman, a 28-year Vacationland resident who headed the neighborhood watch group there. “It’s an emotional roller coaster.”

The river of lava then spread out into a towering blob about a half-mile (800 meters) wide as it crept through the flat, open expanse of the subdivisions, swallowing everything in its path over the next few days.

A handful of residents who initially stayed behind rather than heed evacuation orders were airlifted by helicopter on Sunday.

Most of the two dozen volcanic vents have grown largely quiet over the past week, with just one, Fissure 8, still spewing large volumes of molten rock from the ground as of Wednesday, the USGS said. That fissure is the origin of the lava flow that devastated Kapoho.

Lava had covered nearly 8 square miles (20.7 sq km) of landscape as of Monday, and some 9,900 earthquakes had been recorded on the Big Island since Kilauea rumbled back to life last month. That’s nearly 10 times the monthly historic average for seismic activity on Hawaii Island, the USGS said.

(Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Michael Perry)