Hawaii jolted by magnitude 6.9 quake as residents flee volcanic eruptions

For residents of the Big Island of Hawaii, Friday was a day of fraught nerves as a strong earthquake shook their home...

Posted: May 5, 2018 7:08 PM
Updated: May 5, 2018 7:08 PM

For residents of the Big Island of Hawaii, Friday was a day of fraught nerves as a strong earthquake shook their homes, which are increasingly threatened by a volcanic eruption that doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

The magnitude 6.9 temblor that jolted the island was one of more than 110 earthquakes in just 24 hours. It knocked out power to some residents who were already dealing with mandatory evacuation orders, molten rock and high levels of sulfur dioxide in the air.

The situation wasn't getting any better, Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno told reporters Friday afternoon.

"Activity continues. It doesn't look like it is slowing down," he said.

Magno said five volcanic vents have opened and indicated that at least one home and another structure were destroyed by lava.

It is highly unusual to see the vents so far from Kilauea volcano, he said.

Hundreds of people have evacuated from Leilani Estates, a community of about 1,700 people, and Lanipuna Gardens. Harry Kim, mayor of Hawaii County, said the government will support residents, including those who want to go back to their homes to pick up some belongings.

"We have to work with them as to how we are going to minimize (the inconveniences) as best as possible," he said. The mayor said people who want to check on their homes would be allowed into the neighborhoods.

'We had to evacuate,' resident says

Stephen Clapper said there was no choice.

"We had to evacuate. My mother was out of portable oxygen, so that's a first concern. She's 88 years old," he told CNN affiliate KHON.

Clapper became one of hundreds of residents to flee the threats from the volcanic eruption. He said he told his mom on Friday morning to pack a bag, just in case.

But with lava setting trees ablaze and threatening homes, and with gas coming out of cracks in the ground, Clapper went back to the house, got his mother and the dogs, swept up some of his clothes in one arm, and took off for a shelter.

Cracks in Kilauea volcano's rift zone -- an area of fissures miles away from the summit -- erupted Thursday and early Friday, spurting lava near the island's eastern edge.

US Geological Survey seismologist Jana Pursley said there have been 119 earthquakes on the Big Island since Thursday afternoon. The USGS said Friday's 6.9 quake was the most powerful on the island since 1975.

About 14,000 customers of Hawaii Electric Light lost power immediately after the earthquake.

"We've had some unofficial reports there (is) some damage to some buildings," spokeswoman Rhea Lee-Moku said.

Lee-Moku said power has been restored to about half of the customers who were without, but sulfur gas levels in some areas are beyond what Hawaii Electric Light deems safe so they cannot work in those places.

"When you are exposed to that level of SO2 in the Leilani Estates area you need more protection than we have available to us," she said.

KHON reported that some viewers on the island of Oahu, about 200 miles away, felt the shaking.

Lava shoots into the air

Video posted on social media showed lava spewing several feet into the air from a new crack in a Leilani Estates street. Aerial videos showed lava searing a long orange and smoky line through a wooded area.

Jeremiah Osuna, who used a drone to record one of the videos Thursday, said the area "sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could," according to KHON.

"You could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff," Osuna said, according to the TV station. "I couldn't believe it. I was kind of shaken a little bit and realizing how real everything is, and how dangerous living on the East Rift can be."

The eruption, in photos

Leilani Estates resident Meija Stenback told CNN affiliate KITV that she left the area with her family. The eruption came after hundreds of earthquakes shook the eastern side of the Big Island over four days, and residents had been warned an eruption was possible.

"We knew it was coming, and even now it's ... really surreal at this point," Stenback told KITV.

A thick plume of smoke and ash also rose Thursday from the Puu Oo volcanic vent, roughly halfway between Kilauea's caldera and Leilani Estates.

Concerns about sulfur dioxide

Destructive molten flows weren't the only concern. Volcanic eruptions can release potentially dangerous sulfur dioxide -- and fire department personnel have detected high levels of the gas in the evacuation area, the civil defense agency said.

Exposure to high levels of sulfur dioxide could be life-threatening, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Breathing large amounts of sulfur dioxide could result in burning of the nose and throat and breathing difficulties, the agency says.

Senior citizens, the young and people with respiratory issues have extra incentive to leave the evacuation zone, because they are especially vulnerable to the gas, the state's Emergency Management Agency said.

Gov. David Ige said he's activated the Hawaii National Guard to help with evacuations and security.

"I urge residents in Leilani Estates and the surrounding areas to follow instructions. ... Please be alert and prepare now to keep your family safe," he tweeted.

The Guard will do security patrols and help evacuate residents, Hawaii Adjutant General Arthur "Joe" Logan said.

Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes. It's in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which closed Friday.

Since Monday, several hundred earthquakes -- most of them around magnitude 2.0 -- have been recorded in the area. The series of quakes came after a collapse of a crater floor of Puu Oo.

The tremors have jarred residents, who've been reporting nearly constant ground vibrations. They have also reported cracks in roads.

"It has now become unnerving," resident Carol Shepard told KHON.

She said the flurry of earthquakes seemed to happen every minute.

"It'd be like the house would shake. It'd be like somebody that weighs 300 pounds came in my living room, and jumped up and down," she said.

West Lafayette
Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 65°
Kokomo
Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 61°
Rensselaer
Partly Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 63°
Fowler
Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 65°
Williamsport
Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 65°
Crawfordsville
Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 63°
Frankfort
Cloudy
63° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 63°
Delphi
Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 60°
Monticello
Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 60°
Logansport
Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 61°
Wet, then drier with very warm to hot & humid weather.....
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 735999

Reported Deaths: 13486
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1007151752
Lake54249977
Allen40946680
St. Joseph36335553
Hamilton35829408
Elkhart28844443
Tippecanoe22475219
Vanderburgh22367397
Porter18946311
Johnson18067381
Hendricks17317315
Clark13036192
Madison12762339
Vigo12501249
LaPorte12086215
Monroe11957172
Delaware10755187
Howard10001218
Kosciusko9466117
Hancock8373142
Bartholomew8098156
Warrick7799155
Floyd7690178
Grant7098174
Wayne7072199
Boone6745101
Morgan6611140
Dubois6166117
Marshall6111112
Cass5876105
Dearborn583178
Henry5785105
Noble565984
Jackson503773
Shelby494396
Lawrence4602120
Gibson437192
Harrison436672
DeKalb430585
Clinton428453
Montgomery425889
Whitley398739
Huntington394480
Steuben391057
Miami383968
Knox372890
Jasper372649
Putnam363760
Wabash355380
Adams342755
Ripley340770
Jefferson331881
White317754
Daviess298399
Wells292081
Decatur285992
Fayette282162
Greene280585
Posey272034
LaGrange268970
Scott267554
Clay261347
Washington242132
Randolph242081
Spencer232931
Jennings230949
Starke219354
Fountain213946
Sullivan212242
Owen203356
Jay197830
Fulton196040
Carroll190420
Orange184754
Perry184637
Rush174025
Vermillion170044
Franklin168535
Tipton163445
Parke146716
Pike135634
Blackford135132
Pulaski117445
Newton108934
Brown102641
Crawford101415
Benton99014
Martin89515
Warren82615
Switzerland7948
Union71410
Ohio57111
Unassigned0417

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events