On May 3, lava began erupting from new fissures in the Kilauea Volcano’s Lower East Rift Zone, sending flows of molten rock through entire communities on the southeastern corner of the Big Island of Hawaii. Lava has continued to erupt for a full three months, and now the area faces a new threat as Hurricane Hector is headed in the direction of the islands.
Forecasts from the National Hurricane Center on Friday morning said that although the storm has weakened, it is expected to strengthen to a major hurricane as it moves slowly in the direction of Hawaii. Weather forecasters say the hurricane could begin to impact the islands in the latter part of next week.
The National Weather Service in Honolulu is warning of the possibility of unrelated heavy rain storms this weekend in the Puna region that has been inundated by lava the past few weeks. Those rains could be followed by more wind and precipitation from Hector, creating additional problems for people that have been forced to evacuate because of the Kilauea eruption.
In addition to threats of flooding and mudslides, volcanic gases can create acid rain when they mix with water droplets in the atmosphere. This toxic precipitation can harm crops, drinking water and infrastructure.
Of course, there’s been plenty of rain in Hawaii since the eruption began, so this isn’t exactly a new problem.
The magma that is constantly changing the shape of the island may also help protect it from the hurricane. Accuweather reports that the Big Island’s high volcanic peaks tend to disrupt the strength of tropical storms as they approach from the East.
Nonetheless, the threat of heaping one natural disaster on top of another has the island on high alert… again.