After 250 earthquakes in 24 hours, Hawaii's Kilauea volcano might erupt

COURTESY HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY           A view of the lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u at the summit of Kilauea on Monday

COURTESY HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY A view of the lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u at the summit of Kilauea on Monday

Due to the possibility of a new eruption and unstable geologic activity, park management closed 15,688 acres near Kīlauea Volcano's Pu'u 'Ō'ō vent to the ocean today, including the gravel emergency access road from the eastern gate near Kalapana, to the western gate at the end of Chain of Craters Road, and all land on the makai (ocean) side of the emergency road.

In response to this, as a precautionary measure, the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency shut down the area for visitors Tuesday and forbid tour companies from taking people into the region.

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said that seismic activity over the past 24 hours could lead to a new breakout on the east side of the Big Island volcano.

A volcano watch for Kilauea has been issued, which means the volcano is showing "unrest" with a heightened potential for eruption.

"An outbreak of lava in a new location is one possible outcome", Neal said, in a news release. (EPA/Bruce Omori) A half-mile long fissure ejects steam resulting from the movement of magma beneath Kilauea's east rift zone on May 1.

Geologists flew over the area and observed a layer of red ash covering the ground near the Puu Oo vent.

In total, over 250 small temblors have been recorded in recent days, including a magnitude 4.0 tremor. Magma is now accumulating "at shallow depths" beneath the existing Puu Oo eruption. Because it is impossible to predict where an eruption could occur, those areas will be affected if an eruption were to occur. "Residents in that area should be prepared to evacuate", Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said in a statement. "The risk areas and possible hazards are being identified, and shelters have been identified".

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"At this time it is not possible to say with certainty if or where such an outbreak may occur, but the area downright (east) of Pu'u 'Ō'ō remains the most likely location".

According to a Civil Defense briefing, a magma or pathway of rising magma is making its way down to the lower Puna area past Highway 130. And a local charter school was also closed on Thursday.

Hawaii County officials reported Wednesday that a road in the Big Island's Puna District was closed after it was damaged by earlier quakes.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey report that an intrusion of magma is heading eastward towards Highway 30.

Babb said recent measurements indicate lava is already moving under an important island highway.

In 1955 there was a similar situation which lasted for three months in lower Puna. The event, named the "June 27th Flow" sent lava flowing more than 12 miles into the town of Pahoa. That one lasted almost three months and shut down the roads in lower Puna.

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