Governor: “Air Quality is Safe in the Hawaiian Islands”

May 25, 2018, 9:02 AM HST · Updated May 25, 8:23 AM
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Poor weather at the summit of Kīlauea has obscured views of Halema‘uma‘u for much of Thursday, but a brief break in the weather around noon allowed HVO’s webcam to capture this image of an ash plume rising from the crater at 12:17 p.m. HST on 5.24.18. Even though weather has obscured visual observations of the ongoing summit explosions, HVO scientists are able to track them using signals from monitoring instruments, such as seismometers. PC: US Geological Survey

Knowing travelers are expressing concerns about emissions from Kīlauea volcano, Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige and State Department of Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler emphasized today that the air quality of the Hawaiian Islands is safe and should not dissuade them from booking vacations.

Dr. Pressler commented, “The air quality for the vast majority of the Hawaiian Islands is clean and healthy. The emissions from Kīlauea volcano are a non-factor for Oʻahu, Maui, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kauaʻi. The weather is beautiful and warm with cooling trade winds everywhere in Hawaiʻi and is exactly what travelers expect when coming here for a relaxing and fun vacation experience. This includes Hilo, Pāhoa and the Kona and Kohala coasts on the island of Hawaiʻi.

“The areas where precautions are required for people are in lower Puna where lava is flowing and downwind from there on the island of Hawaiʻi, particularly if they have respiratory problems. Because of heavy emissions of vog, as well as occasional bursts of ash plumes from the Kīlauea summit, the southeast portions of the island are also routinely experiencing concerning conditions. Those visiting areas south of Hilo should stay alert for air quality updates, especially when wind conditions change. Fortunately, when trade winds are blowing, the vog and ash routinely move in a southwesterly direction and out to sea away from the Hawaiian Islands.”

Governor Ige stated, “Hawaiʻi’s air quality is being closely monitored on a continuing basis by scientists, meteorologists and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health. This team of experts says the air quality in the Hawaiian Islands is safe for residents and visitors, except in the affected areas.

During Thursday’s overflight of the ongoing lower East Rift Zone eruption, HVO geologists noted that fissures 6, 13 and 22 were still erupting, with two channelized flows reaching the ocean. The eastern lava channel splits just before reaching the ocean, so it has two entry points, creating a total of three ocean entries on the flow field. USGS photo by M. Patrick, 5.24.18

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Laze Hazard Limited to Area Where Lava Meets Ocean

“Two other topics that I want to alleviate people’s concerns about are laze and the Puna Geothermal Venture plant. Laze is a natural reaction that occurs whenever lava flows into the ocean as it is doing now and has from time to time over the past 35 years. This is all part of nature’s way of creating new land for life to grow. Laze is limited to the area where the lava meets the ocean and is not a danger to people who keep a safe distance away.

Preventative Measures Taken at Puna Geothermal Venture

“At the Puna Geothermal Venture plant, the state is actively directing protective actions to reduce the risk from lava flows moving nearby. The underground wells have been sealed and secured minimizing the threat to the safety of people and communities.

“The bottom line is that there is no reason for travelers to avoid making their vacation plans in the Hawaiian Islands due to safety concerns because of Kīlauea volcano.

“Visitors will be welcomed with open arms and treated to the hospitality, aloha, warmth and natural beauty that is found everywhere in Hawaiʻi. The only area to avoid is lower Puna where the eruption is ongoing.”

George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority, echoed the governor’s sentiment in welcoming visitors to Hawaiʻi. “We understand the concern some travelers may have about coming to Hawaiʻi while Kīlauea volcano is so much more active at this time. But we encourage everyone to do their research and rely on trusted federal, state and county resources that are providing truthful, accurate information about what is taking place in Hawaiʻi. Those who do will find that coming to Hawaiʻi is a smart decision to enjoy a wonderful summer vacation.”

Kīlauea has been an active volcano since 1983 and is one of Hawaiʻi’s most popular attractions. Over the years residents and visitors have been drawn to the wonder of seeing nature at work in the creation of new land via tours or visits to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Most of the park is currently closed until further notice.

Travelers planning a trip to the Hawaiian Islands who have questions can contact the Hawaiʻi Tourism United States Call Center at 1-800-GOHAWAII (1-800-464-2924).

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