Lava covers viewing area, hits ocean
By Diana Leone
Advertiser Staff Writer
Over the past week, lava flowing on Kīlauea Volcano's east rift has made a new ocean entry and covered a public viewing area.
On April 29, the lava flow east of the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision poured into the ocean — ending a period since Jan. 3 without a visible ocean entry.
And Wednesday, slow-moving pāhoehoe lava covered the county viewing area, burning a 150-yard section of asphalt road and setting off small brushfires.
By yesterday, the county had moved its viewing and parking locations a bit eastward and reopened them for the regular 2 to 10 p.m. viewing hours.
Scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory are making daily trips to the area to measure activity and are sharing information with county officials.
A new round of aerial photos are to be taken today and posted on the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website, hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/.
A wooden house on Highway 137 is about a half-mile from the active lava, but is not considered in immediate danger, county Civil Defense director Quince Mento said yesterday.
The occupants of the house are staying in touch with Mento in case the lava changes course and they have to evacuate, he said.
The crowds trekking to the county lava viewing area have risen to 1,200 to 1,600 people a day, up from 800 a day a week ago, said Clayton Honma, deputy director of county Parks and Recreation. The department manages public access to the viewing area.
After walking about a half-mile on paved road from the parking area, people can get as close as 100 feet from the lava, said Honma, who visited there yesterday.
"The lava is creeping very slowly," he said. "And you can see red glows breaking out here and there."
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Matt Patrick described the recent events as "wonderful," noting "you can see the steam plume of the ocean entry from the highway as you drive down."
"This is the same general behavior we've seen for decades" on the east rift flow, Patrick said. "This just happens to be in an accessible location."
Meanwhile, at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, a number of park features — including the Halema'uma'u overlook, Crater Rim Drive between Jaggar Museum and Chain of Craters Road, and a number of trails — remain closed because of the ongoing risks from the sulfur dioxide fumes.
Park rangers were recently awarded a national parks public safety award for their efforts in monitoring sulfur dioxide levels and managing worker and visitor safety.
Tourism note: People planning a Big Island trip to see the lava are advised that the Volcano House hotel and its affiliated Namakanipaio Cabins are closed until early 2011 for seismic and fire safety improvements, national park spokeswoman Mardie Lane said.