HAWAII KEEPS GETTING HOTTER!!!
Current flow off limits by foot, but air tour demand is sky-high, and visitors continue to flock to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Hilo, Hawai’i’s Big Island (February 22, 2008) – Twenty five years never looked soÂ hot. KÃ®lauea volcano, on Hawai’i’s Big Island, recently marked a quarter century of ongoing eruption, and visitors and residents alike are eager to experience the natural phenomenon of one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
The current flow has changed dramatically in recent months and is strictly off-limits by foot. Today’s eruption site is not gushing into the ocean but is higher up the volcano, discharging lava from a fissure northeast of Pu’u Ã”’Ã´ vent, in the Pu’u Kahauale’a Natural Area Reserve outside the boundaries of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Since late January, the flow has continued to build itself vertically and laterally, forming a series of low shields that collapse and ooze, stall and gush on a continuously changing path. At press time, scientists at Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory reported a narrow, slow-moving pÃ¢hoehoe (smooth) lava flow had entered the upper reaches of Royal Gardens Subdivision. Much of the subdivision was abandoned during the late 1980s and early 1990s when previous flows engulfed the region, but two homes remain under close watch.
Right now, the public can only observe the molten lava from the air. Helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft tour companies in Hilo and Kona are reporting a huge surge in demand – and some of the most spectacular flight-seeing imaginable.
“We are flying as much as we ever have,” said Dave Griffin, Chief Operating Officer and part-owner of Blue Hawaiian, a helicopter tour company with 10 Big Island-based aircraft. “We’re at full capacity every day.”
Blue Hawaiian pilot David Hoadley reports that passengers are ecstatic by what they see. “It’s a great big flow, something they don’t get to see back in Kansas,” he said.
At Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the current flow conditions happening outside its boundaries haven’t deterred visitors from exploring the Park’s many attractions. Although the increased activity has elevated sulfur dioxide (SO2) levels at the summit of KÃ®lauea volcano, and prompted the closure of a four-mile stretch of Crater Rim Drive on Feb. 20, most of the park and plenty of its facilities remain open, including KÃ®lauea Visitor Center, Jaggar Museum, Volcano House Hotel, KÃ®lauea Military Camp, Volcano Art Center Gallery, Thurston Lava Tube, Devastation Trail, KÃ®lauea Iki Trail, Sulphur Banks Trail, Chain of Craters Road, Kulanaokuaiki Campground, and all backcountry campsites.
“SO2 is a hidden volcanic hazard,” said Mardie Lane, public information officer at Hawaii Volcanoes. “Exposure to the invisible gas can aggravate pre-existing heart and breathing problems such as asthma.” As soon as SO2 measurements drop back to acceptable levels, officials will reopen the four-mile stretch, she said.
For more information on current conditions at KÃ®lauea volcano and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, please visit:
For information on air tour companies offering Hawai’i Island flight-seeing tours, please visitÂ http://www.bigisland.org/activities-air/175/flying-tours