Maui News

Potential Volcanic Hazards Prompt Closure of 15,688 Acres at Kīlauea

May 3, 2018, 7:33 AM HST
* Updated May 3, 11:36 AM
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Due to the possibility of a new eruption and unstable geologic activity, park management closed more than 15,000 acres near Kīlauea Volcano’s Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent to the ocean.  The closure includes the gravel emergency access road from the eastern gate near Kalapana, to the western gate at the end of Chain of Craters Road, and all land on the makai (ocean) side of the emergency road.  Park officials say the new closure comprises less than 5% of the entire park.

NPS map of closure area. ​Note that the new closure comprises less than 5% of the entire park. Click on image to view in greater detail.

Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said the recent eruption changes and increased seismicity around the East Rift Zone and Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent may threaten land and the community outside the park. “The partial closure in the park is necessary to prevent unsafe travel onto lands under the jurisdiction of Hawai‘i County and to keep people safe.  Most of the park, which is 333,308 acres in size, remains open,” she said.

On Monday afternoon, April 30, the crater within Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō collapsed, and a flurry of low magnitude earthquakes continues to shake the eastern side of the island, particularly communities in lower Puna.

A small fissure opened to the west of the vent on Tuesday, May 1, but scientists at the US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory report that an intrusion of magma is heading eastward from the vent towards Highway 130.

Puna residents are encouraged to sign up for Hawai‘i County Civil Defense messages, and to subscribe to volcanic updates via USGS.

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The current eruption at Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō is off limits to hikers; however, the summit of Kīlauea continues to erupt within Halema‘uma‘u Crater within the park, and is best viewed from the Jaggar Museum overlook.

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The lava lake within the crater has risen dramatically since April 21, and has occasionally spilled onto the crater floor. The remainder of the park is open 24 hours a day.

The island’s Civil Defense Agency issued an update at 6:45 a.m. on Thursday, May 3, 2018 saying the situation continues with a slight drop in intensity since yesterday.  The agency reports that low magnitude earthquake activity continues along the east rift zone in lower Puna which includes Leilani Estates, Nānāwale Estates, to the coastal area of Kapoho.

According to information from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, an eruption is possible but not imminent.  Because it is not possible to predict where an eruption could occur, the areas that could be affected are the regions surrounding Nānāwale Estates, Leilani Estates or Kapoho.

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The following impacts have occurred:

  • The Pohoiki Road is now open (as of 11:30 a.m. 5.3.18) between Highway 132 and Leilani Avenue. It was closed earlier due to cracks, but was reopened following the installation of a metal plate to cover the damaged pavement.
  • Cracks within Leilani Estates have been reported.

Due to the possibility of an eruption, the following are issued:

  • Area motorists are advised to be on the alert for roadway damage.
  • Prepare and review your emergency plans in case you need to evacuate.
  • Stay alert and informed by listening to local radio stations for Civil Defense updates or call Civil Defense at (808) 935-0031.

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory research geophysicists say current seismic activity is similar to what preceded an eruption of Kīlauea Volcano in the lower Puna district in 1955. During the February 1955 event, at least 24 separate volcanic vents opened up and down the volcano’s East Rift Zone, with lava flows covering about 3,900 acres of land. Coastal communities from Kalapana to Kapoho were evacuated, and sections of every public road to the coastline were buried by lava before the eruption abruptly ended on May 26, 1955.

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