Coast Guard: Kilauea's Lava Ocean Entry Carries High Risks

Clay Curtis
May 22, 2018

The two entry points, where the Kilauea lava flows enters reached the ocean.

White plumes of acid and extremely fine shards of glass have billowed into the sky over Hawaii as molten rock from Kilauea volcano poured into the ocean. One man has been injured after being hit with lava spatter on his shin that "shattered everything from there down on his leg".

Lava that's flying through the air from cracks in the Earth can weigh as much as a refrigerator and even small pieces can be deadly, officials said.

The lava streamed across a highway and flowed into the ocean. Photos from the scene showed a towering plume of steam extending southwest along the shoreline, and Hawaii County Civil Defense warned residents to stay well back from the vapor. Laze can cause irritations of the skin, eyes and lungs, and those suffering from asthma or emphysema may be particularly vulnerable. More than 20 fissures have opened up since early May.Mario Tama/Getty ImagesLAVA AND HAZEWhen lava pours into the ocean, it produces "laze", a risky mixture of hydrochloric acid, steam, and glass particles.Mario Tama/Getty ImagesPICTURE ITA woman photographs a steam plume near Pahoa, east of Kilauea.Mario Tama/Getty ImagesSMOKE ON THE WATERSteam rises above the Pacific on May 20, 2018.

Laze - a term combining the words "lava" and "haze" - is formed when erupting lava, which can reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius), reacts with sea water.

"Like typical eruptions and lava flows, it's really allowing Madam Pele to run its course", he said, referring to the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and fire.

"Summit magma has arrived", US Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall told reporters.

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The USGS describes laze as a hot and corrosive gas mixture. "Be aware that the laze plume travels with the wind and can change direction without warning".

As lava flows have grown more vigorous, there are concerns more homes may burn and more evacuations will be ordered. With the problems compounding, scientists can not say if lava flows from almost two dozen fissures will keep advancing or stop.

Just feet away from the destruction sits Hawaii's normally verdant landscape, lush with vegetation yet dangerously close to the threatening lava.

The volcano has opened more than 20 vents, including four that have merged into one large crack.

Noni Farms Road is a residential road that lies to the east of the Leilani Estates neighborhood in Pahoa, where the majority of the attention has been focused ever since Kilauea's volcanic activity increased dramatically three weeks ago.

The area affected by lava and ash is small compared with the Big Island, which is about 4,000 square miles (10,360 square kilometers). Most of the island and the rest of the state is unaffected by Kilauea's volcanic activity.

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