USGS COURTESY PHOTO
Before and after shots of the area of the blast. [ Enlarge image.
Second Halemaumau blast blows more rock and glass
Volcanic debris is reported as far as 19 miles away
HILO » The gas-spouting vent inside Halemaumau Crater blew up again Wednesday night, sending hot rocks and pieces of natural glass melting through plastic containers placed to collect volcanic ash, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said yesterday.
A previous explosion on March 19 widened and opened a vent that was already releasing up to 2,500 metric tons of sulfur dioxide.
"Based on field observations, (Wednesday) night's explosion ejected considerably less rocky material than the March 19 event," the observatory said. The Wednesday explosion was "considerably smaller," it said.
But the effects were still noticed in distant Pahala.
A plume of sulfur dioxide gas and ash rose from Halemaumau Crater at dawn Tuesday, above.
"Hawaii County Civil Defense received reports of ash fall in Pahala, suggesting that tiny fragments of rock pulverized by the explosion were carried downwind at least 19 miles," the observatory said.
The explosion took place at 11:08 p.m. When morning arrived, scientists discovered that the debris included "volcanic glass shards" blasted 230 feet up from near the bottom of the crater.
Another find was a rock blasted from the crater pit about 8 by 8 by 14 inches, they said.
The blast blew away a rock ledge that separated the vent from the crater floor, enlarging the vent by as much as 30 feet.
The growing size of the vent has scientists watching for an full-scale eruption of lava, although only spatters of molten rock have so far been seen.
They believe that a large storage area of magma lies just a half-mile below the floor of Kilauea Crater where Halemaumau sits.
The gas vent is also believed to have carried some magma up as close as the length of a football field from the surface.
USGS COURTESY PHOTO
Debris from the second explosion Wednesday night at Halemaumau landed in an ash collector near the overlook. The wooden box is about 1 1/2 by 2 feet.
All this drama served as a punctuation mark ending two days of heavy sulfur dioxide fumes temporarily choking parts of the nearby Volcano community and drifting across the island, out to sea, reaching as far as Honolulu.
It also meant that Pahala, in the path of normal tradewinds, is again a potential target for nature.
Pahala resident Julia Neal said she found ash blasted from Halemaumau on her car yesterday.
The fumes mostly bypassed Pahala and nearby Wood Valley, where flower farmer Claudia McCall hopes sulfur dioxide output from Halemaumau will continue to decline.
Otherwise, life will be like the days when Wood Valley suffered from vog from the Puu Oo vent.
"Your eyes would burn. Your nose would burn. Your lungs would burn and you'd be coughing," she said.