by Loren G. Edelstein | May 15, 2018
As Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano continues to erupt, meteorologists are adding some rare terms to their weather forecasts. A current concern is "vog," or volcanic smog, caused by sulfur dioxide and other gases and particles emitted by an erupting volcano. More than a dozen fissures are currently emitting poisonous gases, according to the latest update from Accuweather.
Typical trade winds, bringing a light breeze from the northeast, will persist across the Hawaiian Islands through the early part of the week. And that's not good news: Those winds will direct hazardous vog to the southern and western areas of the Big Island, according to Accuweather.
The National Weather Service warned residents yesterday of "light ashfall" throughout the day in Kau, the island's southernmost district, after a burst of volcanic emissions around 9 a.m. Nearly 20 fissures have opened since the Kilauea volcano started erupting 12 days ago, and officials warn it may soon blow its top with a massive steam eruption that would shoot boulders and ash miles into the sky. Meanwhile, the Big Island's tourism industry is losing millions of dollars, as would-be visitors cancel their trips, M&C reported today.
To keep residents and visitors informed, several agencies have partnered to create the Interagency Vog Dashboard, including the Hawaii State Department of Health, the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network, the National Weather Service and the National Park Service.
According to resources posted on the site, short-term health effects of exposure to vog include:
• Eye, nose, throat, and/or skin irritation;
• Coughing and/or phlegm;
• Chest tightness and/or shortness of breath;
• Increased susceptibility to respiratory ailments;
• Possible fatigue and/or dizziness.
In the event of vog conditions, the following precautionary measures are advised by the Hawaii State Department of Health:
• Reduce outdoor activities that cause heavy breathing. Avoiding outdoor activity and exercise during vog conditions can reduce exposure and minimize health risks. This is especially important for sensitive groups such as children, the elderly and individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic lung and heart disease.
• Stay indoors and close windows and doors. If an air conditioner is used, set it to recirculate.
• Always keep medications on hand and readily available.
• Do not smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke.
• Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
• Have family emergency plans prepared and ready.
• Heed warnings by county and state emergency-management officials.
• Contact a doctor as soon as possible if any health problems develop.