Hurricane Lane Created A Steamy White-Out In Hawaii


PAHOA, HI – MAY 22: A steam plume rises and lava glows as it enters the Pacific Ocean at dawn, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure, on Hawaii’s Big Island on May 22, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. Officials are concerned that ‘laze’, a dangerous product produced when hot lava hits cool ocean water, will affect residents. Laze, a word combination of lava and haze, contains hydrochloric acid steam along with volcanic glass particles. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

This weekend Hurricane Lane (later downgraded to Tropical Storm Lane) collided with another natural disaster on the Big Island of Hawaii when the storm dropped over two feet of rain on the island, including Kilauea Volcano’s lower East Rift Zone. The result was a rare steam white-out, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

While the eruption of lava from fissures in the rift zone has calmed in recent weeks, it laid down hundreds of millions of cubic meters of lava over the course of about three months and much of that material is still hot enough to boil water.

Earthquakes at the summit of Kilauea that happened regularly for several weeks have subsided in August and lava was slowly oozing into the ocean in just a few spots as Lane arrived. 

Unfounded rumors that the deluge of rain from the storm could have completely “extinguished” the state’s highly active volcanoes did not come to pass. In fact, the clouds of steam from rain interacting with still-hot lava rocks were the only significant effect Lane had on the eruption, aside from a few minor rock falls at the summit.

Meanwhile, the rains left Hawaii under a flash flood watch and turned normally small streams into powerful torrents.

The USGS will be flying over the lower East Rift Zone for a closer look on Monday.

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