Severe ground cracks associated with fissure 14 in Leilani Estates. Photo Credit: USGS
Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will close on Friday
because of the possibility of a steam-induced explosion at the summit of
The volcano has been erupting on the Big Island, sending lava
flows into inhabited areas and interrupting service at the national park.
All but the Kahuku Unit of the park was due to be closed Friday
until further notice.
"Due to the possibility of a steam-induced explosion at
the summit of Kilauea due to the receding lava lake, an ensuing ash fall event,
plus southerly wind patterns forecasted for Friday, the majority of the park
will be closed Friday until further notice. We will reopen when it is safe to
do so," a statement reads.
Also, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division
of State Parks has closed Lava Tree State Monument and Mackenzie State
Recreation Area until further notice, and the County of Hawaii has closed the
Kalapana Viewing Area until further notice.
While the national park has been forced to close
intermittently over the last two weeks, much of life on the Big Island remains
unaffected by eruptions and lava flows. The Kona-Kailua resort area is 100
miles from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and operating as usual.
"All of the Hawaiian Islands are unaffected by Kilauea
volcano except a remote area on the Island of Hawaii's east side. Out of the
island's 4,028 square miles, only less than a 10-square-mile area of Leilani
Estates and Lanipuna Gardens Subdivisions in Puna is affected," a
statement from the Hawaii Tourism Authority said.
Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world,
began erupting on March 10, 2008. Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
noticed pressure building in the volcano in April, and had been closely
watching for more powerful eruptions. On May 3, big plumes of smoke and ash
emerged from Kilauea and dangerous lava flows crept toward residential areas on
the island's east side. At least 2,000 people have been evacuated from the most
vulnerable areas, and more than 30 homes have been consumed by the lava flows. Flights
into the Kona and Hilo airports have been largely unaffected.
Now, scientists are concerned that a powerful eruption could
spew toxic gas, ash and rocks into the air, putting the regions closest to the
volcano at new risk.
There is some concern from scientists that vog (volcanic air
pollution) could impact some areas farther from the volcano depending on wind
conditions. However, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory does not anticipate any
large-scale evacuations or widespread devastation from the eruptions.
All residents of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens
Subdivisions have been required to evacuate. Pohoiki Road is closed from the
intersection at Highway 132 down to Highway 137 to allow evacuation efforts of
residents in Leilani.
Anyone with plans to visit or stay in the lower Puna area
should check for the latest updates.