As predicted, Kilauea erupted violently on Thursday morning, spewing lava bombs and ash into the atmosphere.

Kilauea is causing huge fissures to rip open the ground on the Big Island, with 22 now exposed in Puna.

Reporting in the early hours of Friday morning in Hawaii, Matt Gutman said: “You can see it gurgling and bubbling that lava dozens of feet into the air.

“What’s incredible is that we are actually seeing molten rock ooze down the hill. That rock is 1100 degrees. You can see it over there another fissure bursting and just beyond that trees, smoking, they have just been lit on fire.

Perhaps the oddest report made during this continuing natural disaster was the fact that golfers were continuing to enjoy the greens at the Volcano Golf Club prior this major eruption.

Since the Thursday eruption, there is a new term that is now entering the collective vocabulary: Vog.

Vog (volcanic emissions + smog) results when sulfur dioxide and other gases react with oxygen and moisture in the presence of sunlight and is now the reason thousands of dust masks are now being distributed to Hawaiians.

Hawaii County officials had distributed about 2,000 N95 masks, but cautioned that they would not protect against gases and vapors.

The sulfur dioxide was an immediate concern to people living near the fissures. However, the ash was ranging farther from the mountain. Winds blowing a plume emanating from crater 30,000 feet in the air were mostly directing it away from people.

The event has sent Hawaiian homeowners on a quest to get volcano protection included in insurance policies.

…Because the community sits in a zone deemed by the U.S. Geological Survey to have a high risk of lava, few insurance companies will issues policies there.

But homeowners are not without options. One possibility is the Hawaii Property Insurance Association, a nonprofit collection of insurance companies created by state lawmakers in 1991 to provide basic property insurance for people who are unable to buy coverage in the private market.

The horror of seeing houses turned to ash has motivated some people who went without insurance to scramble to purchase a policy. The association announced last week that it would issue policies to uninsured homeowners in the affected area – but they will have to wait six months.

May 18th was the 38th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington. One worry that has been expressed is that there will be a more violent eruption of Kilauea that will impact the region as significantly as the Northwest’s infamous volcano.

Such a massive eruption will not occur because the chemistries and geology of the two volcanoes are different. Hawaiian magmas are “runnier” because they contain more metal and less silica.

“It’s like if you’re blowing bubbles in milk versus blowing bubbles into yogurt. If you blow bubbles into yogurt, it’s going to take longer for that gas to be released, and when it releases, its going to fling yogurt in your face,” [ Erika Rader, a volcanologist at the University of Idaho] says.

As a reminder of the Mt. St. Helens disaster, here is video:

57 people died during the 1980 event, which generated 540 million tons of ash. Mot of the volcano’s victims succumbed to asphyxiation by gases or hot ash. While there are no reports of death and serious injury, I urge those who want to get “up close and personal” with the volcano to be cautious.

The dust masks will not offer protection from toxic gases or refrigerator-sized lava bombs.


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