Lava flow presents dangerous new hazard

KAPOHO, HI - MAY 19: Lava from a Kilauea volcano fissure flows on Hawaii's Big Island on May 19, 2018 in Kapoho, Hawaii. The U.S. Geological Survey said the volcano erupted explosively on May 17 launching a plume about 30,000 feet into the sky. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

First it was catastrophic lava. Then it was sulfur dioxide. Now Big Island residents have yet another danger to worry about.

Laze — a mashup of “lava” and “haze” — is a nasty product formed when hot lava hits the ocean, sending hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles into the air.

And now it’s a real threat after lava crossed Highway 137 late Saturday night and entered the Pacific Ocean, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) said.

Laze can cause lung, eye and skin irritation. And it’s proven deadly in the past.

“This hot, corrosive gas mixture caused two deaths immediately adjacent to the coastal entry point in 2000, when seawater washed across recent and active lava flows,” the HVO said.

Officials are warning people to stay away from areas where lava meets the ocean. But further inland, residents have other problems.

The Kilauea volcano erupted at least twice this weekend — at one point launching a cloud of ash up to 10,000 feet high.

“These eruptions caused a 5.0 magnitude and a 4.9 magnitude tremor at the summit,” CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.

“Additional explosive events that could produce minor amounts of ashfall downwind are possible at any time.”

Since Kilauea’s massive eruption May 3, Brink said, about 2,250 earthquakes have struck on or around Hawaii’s Big Island.