KAILUA-KONA — Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains closed because of increased volcanic activity, resulting ash fall and earthquakes.
The volatility of the situation makes the timing of reopening the park uncertain, which has wide reaching impacts on tourism and, by extension, local businesses.
“We understand and commiserate with our community and visitors about the prolonged closure, but we cannot provide safe access to the Kilauea section of the park as long as these very unpredictable dangers threaten the safety of park staff and visitors,” said Cindy Orlando, park superintendent.
Ash and earthquake damage are visible throughout the park. Layers of acidic volcanic ash coat picnic tables, roads and overlooks and ash has caused poor visibility on Highway 11, creating dangerous driving conditions at times.
Hundreds of shallow earthquakes beneath the summit of Kilauea have damaged at least three park buildings, fractured park roads and snapped water lines.
On Sunday, a magnitude-5.5 earthquake rattled the summit area at 3:50 p.m., cracking the overlook deck at Jaggar Museum. Over the weekend, the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) reported more than 500 earthquakes in a 24-hour period – the most ever measured by HVO scientists.
In addition, the park remains without running water.
Newly formed earth cracks observed near Holei Sea Arch on a recent overflight concern park officials. Crater Rim Drive and Hilina Pali Road near Kulanaokuaiki Campground are impassable in places.
Although U.S Geological Survey aerial footage last week revealed that the former eruption site (unofficially called the “overlook vent”) within Halema‘uma‘u appears to be plugged with rock and other volcanic debris, explosions and resulting ash fall continue. The vent expanded from about 12 acres to more than 100 acres in May, following the ongoing explosions and collapses.
“Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell when we can reopen the Kilauea section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park,” Orlando said. “We’ll only reopen when it is safe to do so, and we will need time to assess, make repairs and clean up. In the meantime, we ask for your understanding and support.”
Although two-thirds of the park has been closed since May 11, the park’s Kahuku Unit, located an hour south of the main entrance on Highway 11 near mile marker 70.5, remains accessible. The Kahuku Unit is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but can be impacted by poor air quality depending on wind direction.