Hawaii County residents are on alert.
The collapse of Puu Oo Crater in Kilauea Volcano Monday and an increase in earthquakes both point to the possibility of a lava outbreak.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said they are working closely with Hawaii Volcanoes Observatories to keep the public informed.
“We mobilized and activated our emergency operation center and called in all the first responder partners and departments that would be responding to any kind of eruption,” Magno said.
He said it’s important for residents to take the necessary precautions.
“It’s a good time to go get supplies if you need to replenish your supplies and just stay in tune with what’s going on with civil defense at this point.”
Magno said nearly 10,000 people live in the area around Puna, some of them are concerned.
“We’ve got people calling up and trying to get clarification on things. Others are waiting to see what happens,” Magno said.
USGS Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory Geologist Janet Babb said they had been watching Puu Oo closely since March.
“What happened yesterday is the change that did occur in that the crater floor within Puu Oo collapsed. When the collapse occurred that indicates that the magma that was pressurizing the cone has moved elsewhere,” Babb explained.
She said they saw that the magma, or lava, moved underground along the East rift zone.
Babb said she saw an event similar to this in August of 2011, but this one was different.
“What’s different this time is that there’s not been a break-out of lava in a new location as of this time. The magma has remained below ground,” Babb said.
She explained that lava moving underground doesn’t always result in an outbreak, but it can.
“The good news it that around 7:00 a.m. this morning the seismicity declined. At least for now, the intrusion seems to have paused but what we don’t know if it’s just a pause and the activity will resume or if this event is over.”
What’s more concerning is where the lava is underground.
“We can clearly trace the movement of magma through our seismic and our deformation instruments. We could track the movement of magma down the rift zone towards Highway130 and towards more populated areas,” Babb said.
Highway 130 is located in Puna. An area that has dealt with this type of warning before.
Babb said for now, it’s just wait and see.
Rep. Joy San Buenaventura said she and residents in her district are concerned.
“Thankfully what we’ve seen from the projections it is any less populated area Kalapana from the 2014-2015 lava flow, which was right in the middle of the Pahoa village. We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” San Buenaventura said.
The Department of Parks and Recreation shut down the Kalapana viewing station and residents are asked to stay tuned for more information
“We would like your prayers and we would like your thoughts and hopefully Pele will spare us,” said San Buenaventura.
USGS found a new .6 mile long crack on the West up-side of Puu Oo crater. The crack was spotted by a geologist around 2:00 p.m. Tuesday during an overflight of the crater.
Babb said their vision and ability to clearly see Puu Oo had been hampered by bad weather earlier in the day.