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Kilauea sends flow over road but stalls


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POSTED: Monday, October 26, 2009

Demonstrating that a by-now-familiar phenomenon can still dish out surprises, Kilauea Volcano sent lava over an old access road to Kalapana late last week in a smoky show of deja vu.

While the rogue lava finger had stalled, the road was still burning yesterday and igniting the lava-enclosed oasis of rain forest known as a kipuka, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The flow brought back memories of the demise of Kalapana in 1990, when lava destroyed more than 100 houses, many by spectacular conflagration as pahoehoe buried roads and property.

As of yesterday morning the lava paused due to an ongoing “;deflation-inflation”; related to the ground's subtle but measurable swelling, geologists said.

Clear skies were reported yesterday by Civil Defense officials, and no plumes were observed, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Web site.

The excitement began at about 1:45 a.m. Friday when a narrow finger of lava traveled east along the access road about 200 yards, burning thick vegetation and pavement. It stalled 200 yards west of the county viewing area trail head.

Hawaii County Civil Defense, which runs the viewing area from 5 to 10 p.m., opened up a new path for visitors to get a closer look at the lava in the vicinity of the area locals refer to as “;Dungeons,”; according to Big Island Video News.

Police said the lava did not pose a threat to homes.

In recent months, lava has been active on the coast, spilling into the ocean at Waikupanaha and sending poison-laden plumes aloft.

In fact, over the past two years Kilauea has become a veritable witches' brew. The double trouble: airborne lava particles and assorted acid droplets.

At the summit last week, sulfur dioxide emissions averaged 980 tons a day, compared with the average of 140 tons a day during the period from 2003 through 2007, U.S. geologists said.

Meanwhile Thursday, the observatory recorded a magnitude-4.8 earthquake at Kilauea's cousin, the submarine volcano Loihi, about 20 miles off the Puna coast. The epicenter was at a depth of 27 miles, well below the surface of the seamount, which rises to within about 3,000 feet of the surface.

Geologists said the quake caused no apparent change in Kilauea's east rift zone or summit eruptions.