Park is closed around Hawaii volcano for fear it will erupt

  • A couple sits on the edge of the Jaggar Museum’s overlook to view Kilauea’s summit crater in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, Thursday, May 10, 2018. The park is closing Friday due to the threat of an explosive volcanic eruption. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Steam and gas rise from Kilauea’s summit crater in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, Thursday, May 10, 2018. The park is closing Friday due to the threat of an explosive volcanic eruption. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Raindrops sit on the plastic cover of a park ranger’s hat outside the Jaggar Museum overlooking Kilauea’s summit crater in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, Thursday, May 10, 2018. The park is closing Friday due to the threat of an explosive volcanic eruption. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Visitors view Kilauea’s summit crater outside the Jaggar Museum in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, Thursday, May 10, 2018. The park is closing Friday due to the threat of an explosive volcanic eruption. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • This Wednesday, May 9, 2018, photo shows an aerial view of the East Rift Zone, along which the Leilani Estates neighborhood sits, from the ongoing Kilauea eruption, as seen from a helicopter flying around Pahoa, Hawaii. Hawaii County Civil Defense official reported Wednesday morning that lava has spread across 104 acres, destroying 36 structures, most of them homes. (Cindy Ellen Russell/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

  • Steam and gas rise along the edge of Kilauea’s summit crater in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, Thursday, May 10, 2018. The park is closing Friday due to the threat of an explosive volcanic eruption. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

PAHOA, Hawaii — The national park around Hawaii’s Kilauea was off-limits to visitors Friday for fear the volcano will blow its top in the coming days and hurl ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air.

“If it goes up, it will come down,” said Charles Mandeville, volcano hazards coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey. “You don’t want to be underneath anything that weighs 10 tons when it’s coming out at 120 mph (193 kph).”

An explosive eruption could also ground planes at one of Big Island’s two major airports and release steam and toxic sulfurous fumes.

The volcano has been sputtering lava for a week, forcing about 2,000 people to evacuate, destroying two dozen homes and threatening a geothermal plant. Scientists are now warning of the possibility of a violent eruption caused by trapped steam.

The volcano park closed indefinitely Thursday night because of the risks.

“We know the volcano is capable of doing this,” Mandeville said, citing similar explosions at Kilauea in 1925, 1790 and four other times over the last few thousand years. “We know it is a distinct possibility.”

The danger zone from such a blast could extend about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the summit, land that all falls within the national park, Mandeville said. No one lives in the immediate area of the summit.

He would not estimate the likelihood of such an explosion but said internal volcanic conditions are changing in a way that could lead to a blast in about a week.

Kilauea has destroyed 36 structures — including 26 homes — since May 3, when it began releasing lava from vents about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of the summit crater. Fifteen vents are now spread through the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens neighborhoods.

Gov. David Ige said crews at a geothermal energy plant near the lava outbreak accelerated the removal of stored flammable fuel as a precaution. The Puna Geothermal Venture plant had about 50,000 gallons (189,270 liters) of pentane. It was removed early Thursday.

Barbara Lozano, who lives within a mile of the plant, said she would have thought twice about buying her property if she had known the risks.

“Why did they let us buy residential property, knowing it was a dangerous situation? Why did they let people build all around it?” she asked.

Avani Love, 29, moved to the Big Island about a month ago from Maui with her four children. They evacuated their home May 3 and found out it was destroyed when a relative went back to get some belongings.

She said she was sad to lose her home but also felt a sense of renewal brought on by Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. She said the eruption was Pele’s way of correcting overpopulation of the island.

“Everyone comes here,” she said. “When you have that, it’s Pele’s way of clearing house and restoring the place. There’s beauty and also darkness.”

If the volcano blows its stack, communities about 2 miles (3 kilometers) away could be showered with pea-size rocks or dusted with nontoxic ash, said Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

The small town of Volcano, Hawaii, population 2,500, is about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from the summit.

Janet Coney, office manager of the Kilauea Lodge, an inn and restaurant, said officials told her lodge employees probably won’t have to worry about rocks raining down on them but might experience falling ash.

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Borenstein reported from Washington. Associated Press journalists Audrey McAvoy, Caleb Jones, Haven Daley and Jennifer Sinco Kelleher contributed to this report.

3 Comments
  1. harryoyama2 May 11, 2018 3:55 pm Reply

    That would be the day when all those tourists with cloth hats and umbrillas suddenly see a massive steam explosion erupt with shock wave bellowing ash cloud rising out of the crater like some atomic blast mushroom cloud and gets pelted by pebbles and 10 ton boulders.

    You can hear his wife say “oh honey, look at that falling object, its about the size of our pickup truck”! Quick get a self-profile picture!


  2. No_They_Didn't May 12, 2018 7:34 am Reply

    I am happy though that Kilauea volcano and the eruptions made national headlines news. We’re the center of attention. HTA has made this into a attraction site for visitors.


  3. kushal kumar May 19, 2018 2:07 am Reply

    News reports say that Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted on 4 May 2018 while some rumbling had started a week earlier. The development prompted evacuations and declaration of state of emergency. Obviously , the ash and lava being emitted by volcano eruption into sky has potential threat to the residents in the nearby area of health issues as well. The potential threat was , however , indicated by this Vedic astrology writer in alerts of 11 October , 2017 in article – “Astrological probable alerts for the United States in 2018” – published in monthly Webzine of Wisdom Magazine from the US at wisdom-magazine.com/Article.aspx/4647/ on 1 December , 2017. The text of the alert closely related to the point reads in the article as :-
    “ May-June 2018. ……… There may arise need to deal with some widespread diseases in one or more vulnerable States or regions as follow for July-August in 2018 here in this article unless prompt measures are put in place at the initial stage when such a scenario appears on the scene. So a close watch in that direction by the concerned health departments in the Govt could be useful”.
    The place of likely occurrence referred to in May-June 2018 was mentioned like this in the article :-
    “July-August in 2018. …. .. Some States which may keep a watch on any developing such scenario in one or more vulnerable States or regions like … .. . Hawaii Island. Increased watch in one or more of said States against likely volcano eruption , fire , earthquakes , leakages of one or more commodities like chemicals or gas , could be meaningful”.
    The aforesaid details of alert on 11 October , 2017 leave one in no doubt that volcano eruption in May-June , 2018 in Hawaii island was indicated by this writer for more care and appropriate strategy.


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