Can we keep our natural disasters to one-at-a-time?
This is getting to be just a bit much. We have an ongoing eruption on Kilauea that is larger than anything the volcano has put forth in centuries.
As a result of the eruption we are experiencing daily earthquakes of mag three to five. Not counting the hundreds of first and second magnitude earthquakes each day. The eruption also brings serious air quality issues, cracking highways, and more
There is currently a large brush fire burning above Waikoloa Village and roads remain closed for a second day. Like most village residents we spent a nervous night wondering if the high winds would allow the fire to jump the firebreaks.
And to top it all off we now have Hurricane Hector bearing on a direct course for the island.
It is the question everyone on the island would like an answer for… How long will this eruption last?
As I write this the eruption continues unabated in lower Puna, with fissure 8 producing somewhere between 50 to 150 cubic meters of lava every second.
This lava has covered much of the Kapoho area and built new land out almost a kilometer beyond the old shoreline into waters that were once over hundreds of meters deep. In the process well over 700 homes and farms have been destroyed and permanently altering the landscape of the Puna district.
The ongoing collapse of the summit caldera on Kilauea has been generating a daily five point something earthquake. While not powerful enough to damage the facility, these events do show up in the data each night, bumping the telescope, disturbing the tracking, and occasionally ruining an exposure.
We are now more than two months into this new eruption from Kilauea. Two months ago the fissures opened in the Leilani Estates subdivision and homes began to burn.
For two months this slow motion catastrophe has continued. While a major earthquake may be over in minutes, or a hurricane over in a few days, this eruption just goes on. For the folks in lower Puna the lava continues to destroy homes and disrupt lives.
For those of us outside the eruption zone things are not quite as immediate. We read the daily news, peruse images of helicopter overflights each morning, and wonder when it will be over.
For the most part these events pass unnoticed by much of the island. The volcano area gets shaken up pretty well, but these fifth magnitude quakes are often not felt very far beyond that.
On the summit of Mauna Kea these daily quakes often do disturb the telescopes at night, bumping the tracking and ruining exposures, but otherwise too weak to cause any damage to the facilities.
The most significant island wide impact has been the vog, wreathing the island in a sulfurous haze. Sulfur dioxide pours from the active vents, mixes with water in the air and forms a thick brown grey haze.
When the vog is bad you not only see it, you smell the sulfur, it irritates eyes and nasal passages. Fire and brimstone reaches out to touch us all.
While the vog makes for spectacular sunsets, the vog can also be thick enough to curtail outside activity. A day like today, with brisk trade-winds to clear it away, is a welcome relief.
Opportunities to legally witness this eruption are few, authorities have been enforcing the evacuation area increasingly strictly. Legal options are the fly or float to the eruption. Deb and I chose to fly a month ago, a helicopter flight I am sure we will remember for a lifetime.
I have not attempted to go to photograph the lava river, despite a very strong desire to do so. The county and state have repeatedly talked about opening a lava viewing area. while there is a great deal of pressure from the community, so far nothing has materialized.
We are so ready for this eruption to be over.
Given the collapse of the summit caldera and the enormous volume of lava emitted so far, it may be possible that when this is over there will be no further eruption for a while. It may take a while for the volcano to recharge, perhaps a year or two. Will we return to the pattern of intermittent eruptions that was seen through much of the 20th century?
Arriving back to the house late I realize something is under the lanai. A loud rustling of leaves and a jingle betrays something bigger than one of the neighborhood stray cats.
I pull the flashlight from my pocket to start looking about when a dog emerges. A very friendly shepherd mix appears in the flashlight beam. Deb reminds me that this is the Fourth of July, and that this dog may be panicked by the fireworks that are still crackling through the neighborhood.
Fortunately this dog has good tags, one tag includes an address just a few blocks away. Deb gets me a leash while I hold the collar, scratch between the ears, and make friends.
A nice evening for a stroll. This stray dog is very well behaved, walking alongside me up the street. A few fireworks are still going off and I worry about the dog bolting again. My guess is that some human accompaniment is all that was needed.
As I arrive in the cul-de-sac indicated on Google maps I see five houses, which one? I did not need to pull out the flashlight to check the addresses, the dog tugs me straight for one particular front door. Sure enough, the same address that is on the tag.