Hawaii shaken by 6.9 earthquake as Kilauea eruption threatens residential neighborhood

Byby Katie Utehs KGO logo
Saturday, May 5, 2018
New Hawaii shaken by 6.9 earthquake as Kilauea eruption threatens residential neighborhood
Neighbors watched as the Earth split open and chunks of lava flew into the air.

LEILANI ESTATES, Hawaii (KGO) -- A 6.9 magnitude earthquake shakes the Big Island of Hawaii as residential neighborhoods are evacuated due to ongoing eruptions from the Kilauea volcano.

The view from the sky is stunning, but at ground level the destruction is apparent as fissures open and lava shoots up to 100 feet into the sky. Some lava paths have torn through roads and residential areas of the island.

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A family who relocated to the Leilani Estates neighborhood from Santa Rosa following the North Bay fires shared video of the lava from their front driveway. They never expected to be in the path of a natural disaster again.

Accompanying earthquakes are registering at UC Berkeley's Seismology lab more than 2,000 miles away.

"The first event the magnitude five is here. It's this little piece," explains Dr. Peggy Hellweg, as she points to a seismic graph. Hellweg is a geophysicist with the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory.

There've been a series of quakes with the largest so far happening Friday afternoon. The 6.9 magnitude quake's epicenter was in a closed section of Hawaii Volcanos National Park.

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UC Berkeley's seismology equipment is tucked in a vault in the hills behind the Botanical Garden and it can detect sizable earthquakes worldwide.

"Our instruments can measure anything anywhere in the world that's magnitude 5 or 5.5 or greater," said Hellweg.

Kilauea has been active since the 1980's, but rarely threatens homes. Dr. Hellweg says it's hard to say when and where the lava flows will stop. "It's like honey. It takes a while to flow, but once you tip the bottle over it keeps on coming out for a while even if you tip it up a little bit," she explained.

Volcanos, like earthquakes, are hard to predict. Dr. Hellweg added, "Could something bigger come? Yes. Do we know? No."

Currently, toxic gas from lava and burning debris is the greatest concern. Some 18-hundred people have been evacuated