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Colorado Scientists Lend Helping Hand To Hawaiian Seismologists

By Jeff Todd

GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) - As dangerous volcanic activity continues in Hawaii, much of the support for seismologists there is coming from Colorado.

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"Our role really is to do the off hours monitoring to support them," said Dr. Harley Benz with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden about his counterparts in Hawaii. "We just assist when it gets really complicated."

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CBS4's Jeff Todd interviews Dr. Harley Benz. (credit: CBS)

Benz has studied the Kilauea volcano and it's flows for decades.

"I've been out on these flows in the past, the ones that didn't threaten neighborhoods, and they're spectacular," he said.

The southern end of the island of Hawaii has seen dozens of earthquakes each day.

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As of Monday lava has destroyed 35 structures; 26 of them are homes.

Benz says Kilauea is seeing lava flow through tubes known as the east riff zone. As the tubes fill with lava the excess is forced to the surface and during this particular period has erupted in the Leilani Estates neighborhood.

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(credit: CBS)

"It's really stressful for the local population down on the east riff zone because we simply don't know when it's going to stop and where it might pop up in the neighborhoods or not," he said. "It could be a few days, but it could go on for months and years, we simply don't know yet. It's really controlled by how much excess materials come up below Kilauea and is being distributed by the tube system."

And around the clock monitoring will continue from the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden.

LINK: U.S.G.S. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he's been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.

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