Volcanic Activity in Hawaii – SITREP and Resources

SITREP (As of 5/21/18 @ 845 AM ET)

NACCHO is monitoring the volcanic and earthquake activity in Hawaii. Volcanic unrest continues in the lower East Rift Zone. Below is a description of the key public health impacts:

  • Air quality in some areas is dangerous due to high levels of sulfur dioxide gas and volcanic ash from eruptions. 
    • Suflur dioxide is a strong respiratory system irritant and can cause serious eye, nose, and skin irritations, coughing, shortness of breath, or other effects;
    • Sulfur dioxide presents particularly serious threats to the health of individuals with asthma or other respiratory conditions, people with cardiovascular disease, seniors, infants and children, and new and expectant mothers, but healthy people may experience symptoms as well.
    • Common masks sold in stores do not protect from volcanic gases; however, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is distributing dust masks to help protect residents from breathing volcanic ash.
    • (Source: Hawaii Emergency Mgmt Agency)
  • Three shelters are open with around 500 occupants. Residents of Leilani Estate and Lanipuna Gardens are under mandatory evacuations with 2,000 people evacuated. (Source: DHS)
  • Explosions from the Kilauea volcano produced a volcanic cloud consisting of sulfur dioxide and volcanic smog. As the plume interacts with the jetstream and moves along the Pacific Ocean it can cause significant rain which has the potential to impact parts of Mexico, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. (Source: USGS, NWS)


This post will continue to be updated with new information and resources as they become available.

About Katie Dwyer

Katie Schemm Dwyer is a Director in NACCHO's Preparedness Division. Her work focuses on supporting local health departments strengthen public health preparedness systems through governance, coordination and liaison with federal preparedness organizations, policy, and program management.

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