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Fast-moving lava flow shuts down major Hawaiian highway

By Daniel Uria
Fast-moving lava flow shuts down major Hawaiian highway
Lava from Fissure 8 of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano crossed Pohoiki road on Tuesday morning and officials announced that fast-moving lava shut down Highway 132. Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey

May 29 (UPI) -- Fast-moving lava on Hawaii's Big Island prompted officials to shut down a major roadway Tuesday, county authorities said.

Highway 132 was closed from Lava Tree State Park to Four Corners as a flow of lava approached the highway, the Hawai'i County Civil Defense Agency said.

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The U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported lava was flowing about 100 yards from the road and civil defense officials warned the areas along Highway 132 could experience an extended power outage if lava managed to breach the highway.

Lava fountains at heights of 200 feet emerged from Fissure 8 overnight after it reactivated on Monday afternoon, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Lava flow from the fissure crossed Pohoiki Road on Tuesday morning and advanced along an older lava flow from Fissure 7 toward the access road to the Puna Geothermal Venture.

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Fissures 18, 19 and 20 showed signs of visual activity Tuesday and Fissure 18 produced channelized flows that made their way about a mile down the coast.

"HVO field crews are on site tracking the fountains, lava flows and spattering from multiple fissures as conditions allow, and reporting information to Hawai'i County Civil Defense," the observatory said. "Crews are also checking on the status of ground cracks on Highway 130."

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HVO also warned of high volcanic gas emissions and lightweight volcanic glass known as Pele's hair emerging from Fissure 8 and traveling downwind.

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"On Monday night, there were reports of Pele's hair falling in Pāhoa," the observatory said. "Residents are urged to minimize exposure to these volcanic particles, which can cause skin and eye irritation similar to volcanic ash."

Ash intermittently erupted from the vent within Halemaʻumaʻu crater, at Kilauea's summit and there was a small explosion at 1:56 a.m.

"The explosion was reported felt by a number of residents in the volcano area, and it resulted in the emplacement of some incandescent blocks on the east floor/wall of Halema'uma'u crater," the observatory said. "Additional explosive events that could produce minor amounts of ash fall downwind are possible at any time."

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