Kīlauea volcano’s new eruption site, which suddenly cracked open on Sat., Mar., 5, continues to spew lava through fissures on its east rift zone, following the dramatic collapse of Pu’u ō’ō crater’s floor.
Fiery curtains of orange lava – some as high as 80 feet – have been captured on video and in photographs the last few days, shooting up from fissures that extend more than a mile between Nāpau and Pu’u ō’ō craters. The eruption is in a remote area of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and is not accessible to the public.
While the park and most of its popular overlooks remain open, HVNP has closed Chain of Craters Road, all east rift and coastal trails, and Kulanaokuaiki Campground for public safety. Park rangers are sharing the latest real-time videos, photos and information at Kīlauea Visitors Center and Jaggar Museum, much to the delight of visitors to Hawai’i’s largest national park.
The Federal Aviation Administration reduced the temporary flight restriction (TFR) above the newly active fissure area on Mon., Mar. 7, making it easier for flight-seeing passengers to get a bird’s eye view of the molten lava from 1,500 feet above.
Residents in neighboring towns like Mountain View reported seeing a reflective red glow from the lava in the clouds on Sunday night.
“It’s definitely an exciting time to visit Hawai’i Island and our World Heritage Site. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park has always been a must-see experience for visitors,” said George Applegate, Executive Director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau. “It’s a perfectly safe experience to enjoy our changing volcanic action if visitors heed Park and Civil Defense officials,” he said.
Pu’u ō’ō is not the only crater on Kīlauea to “bottom out” recently. At Halema’uma’u crater, the previously rising lava lake within the vent suddenly dropped over the weekend. A brilliant red glow is sometimes visible after dark, and rocks continue to cascade down crater walls, creating occasional-to-frequent loud rumblings audible from the overlook at Jaggar Museum.
“Park visitors are very happy,” said HVNP Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “There’s a steady stream of cars coming in, and they absolutely love the real-time action our rangers are sharing with them.”
Orlando said that park visitation is up, but that it’s difficult to attribute the increase to one specific source, such as the recent volcanic events, an improving economy, or the start of a vigorous Spring Break season.
Outside of HVNP boundaries and down near sea level at the County of Hawai’i’s Kalapana Lava Viewing Area, the flow has temporarily halted its march across the surface towards the ocean. On the evening of Sat., Mar. 5, molten lava was very visible on the pali (cliffs) and coastal plain, tantalizing onlookers as it disappeared and reappeared through an underground network of lava tubes. County officials reported there was very little if any molten lava visible from Kalapana on Sunday and Monday. However, a significant red glow from the new fissure activity was illuminating the clouds after dark.
Conditions near the viewing area can change at any time depending on the direction and volume of the lava flows. That’s part of the thrill – this isn’t Disneyland. The area will be closed if visitors’ safety is ever in doubt. When conditions are right, the popular Kalapana viewing area boasts not only stunning vistas of the planet birthing, but also convenient parking and port-a-potties. And admission is free.
Currently, viewing and parking hours at the Kalapana overlook are 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Visitors must be parked by 8 p.m.
For the latest conditions at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, visit www.nps.gov/havo or call (808) 985-6000. The latest information for the County of Hawai’i Kalapana viewing area is available on the Lava Hotline: (808) 961-8093.
Breaking news thanks to the Big Island Visitors BureauFor more information on Hawai’i Island, please visit www.bigisland.org