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Offbeat Volcanic ashes. Acid rain. And now massive boulders? All the calamities Hawaii is facing

21:11  10 may  2018
21:11  10 may  2018 Source:   cnn.com

Lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano leaves path of destruction

  Lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano leaves path of destruction Magma has already devoured more than two dozens home in and around the neighborhood of Leilani Estates .By helicopter, the destruction down below can be seen clearly. There aren't any firefighters down there because there's nothing they can do. The volcano is an unstoppable force. © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Lava from volcanic fissures slowly advances and overtakes structures and trees in the Leilani Estates neighborhood in the aftermath of eruptions from the the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island on May 6, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii.

This Friday, May 4, 2018, aerial image released by the U.S. Geological Survey, at 12:46 p.m. HST, a column of robust, reddish-brown ash plume occurred after a magnitude 6.9 South Flank of Kīlauea earthquake shook the Big Island of Hawaii, Hawaii. The Kilauea volcano sent more lava into Hawaii communities Friday, a day after forcing more than 1,500 people to flee from their mountainside homes, and authorities detected high levels of sulfur gas that could threaten the elderly and people with breathing problems. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP) © U.S. Geological Survey via AP This Friday, May 4, 2018, aerial image released by the U.S. Geological Survey, at 12:46 p.m. HST, a column of robust, reddish-brown ash plume occurred after a magnitude 6.9 South Flank of Kīlauea earthquake shook the Big Island of Hawaii, Hawaii. The Kilauea volcano sent more lava into Hawaii communities Friday, a day after forcing more than 1,500 people to flee from their mountainside homes, and authorities detected high levels of sulfur gas that could threaten the elderly and people with breathing problems. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Things at Hawaii's erupting Kilauea volcano are kicking up.

The Latest: Hawaii volcano could have explosive eruption

  The Latest: Hawaii volcano could have explosive eruption The Latest on the eruption of Kilauea volcano in Hawaii (all times local):10 a.m.Geologists say Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could erupt explosively and send boulders, rocks and ash into the air around its summit caldera in coming weeks.The U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday the risk will rise if the lava drops below the groundwater level beneath the summit's caldera or craterlike basin. That's because an influx of water inside could cause steam-driven explosions.The agency says the volcano may eject blocks up to two yards (meters) in diameter a little less than a mile (a kilometer) away.

The volcano has already been oozing lava, which has gobbled up roads and homes and emitted dangerous gases.

Now scientists are warning of a whole bunch of other possible hazards: acid rain, a bunch of falling ash, and eruptions that could propel huge boulders into the sky.

These plagues sound almost Biblical in their frequency and fury. They're a lot to keep track of. Here are the main threats:

Volcanic ashes

What we're looking at: Kilauea has been erupting almost continuously for years, but earthquakes and lava breakouts kicked off in the past couple of weeks. Now there's increased activity in the summit's Halemaumau crater.

Just this Wednesday, there was an explosion that sent a huge column of ash above the crater.

We could see even larger explosions and columns of ash over the coming weeks, the US Geological Survey says.

Scientist: Hawaii lava is magma stored from 1955

  Scientist: Hawaii lava is magma stored from 1955 Scientists believe lava that's been erupting in a Hawaii residential neighborhood since last week is magma that's been stored in the ground since Kilauea volcano erupted in the same area 63 years ago. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Scientist Tina Neal says a rock sample analysis indicates the lava's chemistry is similar to that from a 1955 eruption. She says that's why the lava has been cool and has been moving sluggishly. She says fresher, hotter and faster-moving lava could emerge.Load Error

What causes it: That crater has a vent -- a crater within the crater -- that has a fluctuating lake of lava. At the moment, that lake of super-hot molten rock is dropping.

As the lake retreats, rocks from inside the crater's walls will fall. That triggered Wednesday's explosion, the USGS says.

That's expected to continue. But bigger blasts could be in store. If the lava column drops to groundwater level, water could rush into the void and create large, steam-driven explosions.

The volcanic ash coming from the explosions are small particles of rock and volcanic glass, and can be spread far by winds.

How it impacts people: If there's enough of it, it could make daytime seem like night.

"Because of the unexpected darkness during daylight hours ... and the sometimes strong smell of sulfur during an ashfall, many people describe the experience as eerie and frightening, disorienting and confusing, or dreadful," the USGS says.

Trump issues disaster declaration for Hawaii volcano damage

  Trump issues disaster declaration for Hawaii volcano damage President Trump on Friday approved a disaster declaration for Hawaii as the state deals with damage from a volcanic eruption on its largest island. The White House announced Friday night that federal funding had been approved for local recovery efforts in the area affected by the Kilauea volcanic eruption and earthquakes that began early last month."Additional designations may be made at a later date if requested by the state and warranted by the results of further damage assessments," the White House added in a statement.

Serious health problems aren't common, but some people may have trouble breathing during severe ashfall, especially those with existing conditions like asthma. Everyone should generally avoid the ash as much as possible, and people who can't avoid exposure should wear face masks when outside, the USGS says.

Flying boulders

What we're looking at: Remember those steam-driven explosions at the summit -- the ones caused by groundwater entering the void left by the retreating lava? Those would be trouble.

Those blowouts could blast out all sorts of debris: "Ballistic projectiles" from pebble-size rocks to several-ton blocks, the USGS says.

The pebbles could be thrown several kilometers. The huge boulders could travel more than a half-mile.

How it impacts people: Fortunately, the immediate area mostly comprises a national park and is not heavily populated. One of the nearest communities, creatively named Volcano, and its roughly 2,000 people are about three miles from the summit.

But the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will be closed Friday until further notice, because officials are worried one of those steam-driven explosions could happen.

Hawaii volcano raises concerns of eruptions along West Coast

  Hawaii volcano raises concerns of eruptions along West Coast As the threat of a Hawaii volcano hurling ash and boulders looms, geologic experts are also turning their attention to the other volcanoes that make up the Pacific "Ring of Fire." The horseshoe-shaped belt includes a chain of 13 volcanic peaks on the West Coast, from Washington's Mount St. Helens to California's Lassen Peak. The impact already felt by Kilauea volcano is raising fears that other parts of the West Coast could be in danger.The West Coast is home to an 800-mile (1,300-kilometer) chain of 13 volcanoes , from Washington state's Mount Baker to California's Lassen Peak. They include Mount St.

'Vog' and acid rain

What we're looking at: Erupting volcanoes spew hazardous sulfur dioxide gas. If conditions are right, that gas and other pollutants can settle with moisture and dust to create a haze called volcanic smog, or "vog," with tiny sulfuric acid droplets.

If it rains when it's voggy, you get acid rain.

What causes it: We've had vog already, but mostly south of the island over the ocean, because trade winds have largely been keeping it away.

But the winds are expected to calm down Thursday and Friday, possibly allowing the vog to settle over more of the island.

It should rain over the Big Island on Thursday into Saturday. The vog's sulfuric acid droplets would fall, too -- thus, acid rain.

How it impacts people: Vog seems to be the more immediate health concern. At higher concentrations, vog can cause headaches and irritation to the lungs and eyes, the University of Hawaii at Hilo says

High levels of acidic particles in vog "can induce asthma attacks, especially in adolescents, and can also impede the ability of the upper respiratory tract to remove other potentially harmful particles," the USGS says.

For people with asthma and other respiratory problems, "the effects are much more serious, causing a tightening of the airways in the lungs and making it very difficult to breathe," the university says.

Hawaii's Big Island residents frantically searching for masks the government says they don't need

  Hawaii's Big Island residents frantically searching for masks the government says they don't need As volcanic eruptions spew toxic gas into the air, some residents of Hawaii's Big Island are frantically searching for masks for protection. But the Hawaii Department of Health says "no commercial mask sold in stores" would actually do residents any good."I'm just worried about, you know, the air quality," resident Clayton Thomas told CNN affiliate KHNL/KGMB. He wanted to get a mask for his nephew, who has asthma, but went to five different stores with no luck. By Sunday afternoon, 17 volcanic fissures had opened, pouring lava into the area, according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Emergency System.

But it adds: "There's been no clear evidence that vog causes lingering damage to normally healthy individuals."

How acid rain affects human health is more complicated.

Walking in acid rain or swimming in a lake affected by it "is no more dangerous to humans than walking in normal rain or swimming in non-acidic lakes," the Environmental Protection Agency says.

But acid rain can contaminate household water supplies by leaching metals from building and plumbing materials, the USGS says. That includes rooftop rainwater-catchment systems that Hawaii residents use for drinking water.

And more lava

What we're looking at: Lava has been erupting from new vents, or cracks, around the community of Leilani Estates -- east of the summit -- intermittently for days. There's no sign of that abating.

A 15th vent formed Wednesday in the nearby community of Lanipuna.

How it impacts people: This lava doesn't usually get very far from the vents, but it has swallowed up streets, cars and homes.

Lava has destroyed at least 36 structures and covered more than 115 acres.

The more than 1,700 people who live in that area were ordered to evacuate a week ago, when the lava emerged.

Residents are now allowed to check out their homes during an 11-hour period during the day, but officials say they must be prepared to flee at a moment's notice.

Four residents airlifted, dozens more structures destroyed by lava on Hawaii’s Big Island .
A short explosion from the Kilauea crater sent an ash cloud about 10,000 feet into the air around midnight Saturday.Lava crept through residential areas on Hawaii’s Big Island, destroying dozens more structures, including four homes, over the past 24 hours as Kilauea capped off another week of volcanic activity.

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