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Volcano Watch — Emergency preparedness in Hawaii encompasses multiple hazards

October 2, 2014

First, it was Tropical Storm Iselle. Now, it's lava wending its way down the slope of Kīlauea toward housing subdivisions and essential infrastructure. Residents of the Island of Hawai‘i, especially those who live in the Puna District, have spent considerable time and money preparing for impending emergencies in recent months.

With people still recovering from Iselle, and many more on edge about the potential impacts of Kīlauea Volcano's active lava flow, we are reluctant to remind Hawai‘i residents of yet another hazard that could strike the island—a devastating earthquake. We mention it now only because of an upcoming earthquake awareness and preparedness event, the Great Hawaii ShakeOut, that will take place on October 16, 2014.

The goal of this event is to encourage residents throughout the State of Hawaii to learn about and practice "Drop! Cover! Hold on!"—actions that that have been proven to prevent or reduce personal injury during an earthquake.

You can learn about "Drop! Cover! Hold on!" through the Great Hawaii ShakeOut website, which includes helpful resources, such as "Recommended Earthquake Safety Actions in Hawaii." These recommendations describe how to protect yourself during an earthquake, no matter where you are—for instance, if you're on the road, in a store, or at the beach.

The Great Hawaii ShakeOut website also provides information on other steps you can (and should) take to prepare for Hawaii's next big earthquake, such as organize an emergency kit, develop an evacuation plan for your family, and secure household objects that might fall.

Unlike hurricanes and lava flows, which arrive with forewarnings, a large earthquake could strike Hawaii at any time with no warning. In fact, the probability of a magnitude-6.5 or higher earthquake occurring in the Hawaiian Islands in the next 10 years is 50 percent. So, it's not a matter of "if" a large, destructive earthquake will happen in Hawaii, but rather "when" it will take place.

Since 1868, more than 30 magnitude-6.0 or greater earthquakes have impacted residents across the State. To learn more about these earthquakes, you are invited to view a slide show—"Earthquakes in Hawaii: What you need to know"—posted on the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) website.

Two talks about earthquakes in Hawaii will also be presented by HVO seismologists in the coming weeks. On Tuesday, October 14, Paul Okubo will speak at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo in the Sciences and Technology Building, Room 108, at 7:00 p.m. On Wednesday, October 15, Wes Thelen will speak in Kailua-Kona in the Maka‘eo Pavilion at the Old Kona Airport State Park at 6:30 p.m. Both talks are free and open to the public. Details are posted on HVO's website or you can call 808-967-8844 for more information.

We do not wish to increase anxiety during an already stressful time for many Island of Hawai‘i residents. But, because Hawaii has a long history of destructive earthquakes, we would be remiss to not promote the Great Hawaii ShakeOut as a time to prepare for the possibility of a large earthquake.

So, on October 16, we hope that you will take a moment to think about and practice "Drop! Cover! Hold on!" Knowing what to do will be the key to protecting yourself during our next damaging earthquake—and the Great Hawaii ShakeOut is the perfect opportunity to increase your awareness of and preparedness for earthquake hazards.

Speaking of hazard awareness, we continue to encourage Puna residents to stay informed about Kīlauea Volcano's active lava flow. Daily updates, as well as recent maps and photos, are posted on the HVO and Hawai‘i County Civil Defense websites ( and

Another way to keep informed about Kīlauea and other Hawaiian volcanoes is through Volcano Activity Notices (VANs) distributed through the USGS Volcano Notification Service. This free service sends notification emails about volcanic activity happening at monitored volcanoes in the United States. You can sign up to receive VANs at


Volcano Activity Update

The June 27th lava flow from Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō remained active on Kīlauea Volcano's East Rift Zone, but advancement was sluggish. By September 20, the flow front had stalled 2.3 km (1.4 mi) from AP‘A‘ā Street/Cemetery Road. Breakouts upslope of the front reached the stalled flow front on October 1, and extended the leading edge of the flow a short distance. By October 2 the flow front was 2.2 km (1.4 mi) from AP‘A‘ā Street/Cemetery Road. Within the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō crater, glow was visible above several small outgassing openings in the crater floor.

The summit lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u Crater produced nighttime glow that was visible via HVO's webcam over the past week. After dropping to low levels with summit deflation more than a week ago, the lava lake rose with inflation over the past week, and was roughly 35 m (115 ft) below the rim of the Overlook crater as of this writing (Thurs., Oct. 2).

One earthquake on the Island of Hawai‘i was reported felt during the past week. On Friday, September 26, at 7:51 a.m., HST, a magnitude-2.4 earthquake occurred 2.3 km (1.4 mi) north of Hōnaunau at a depth of 10 km (6 mi).