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Latest Halemaumau explosion leaves national park under a thin layer of ash


At 4:14 a.m. Thursday (May 17), the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) and Hawai‘i County Civil Defense reported a volcanic explosion in Halema‘uma‘u Crater, located at the summit of Kīlauea, in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

The event generated the tallest volcanic ash cloud associated with this event, which towered some 30,000 feet above sea level. A light layer of volcanic ash coated park roadways and property Thursday morning, but was dampened by light, steady precipitation.

The Federal Aviation Administration increased the Temporary Flight Restriction around KÄ«lauea Volcano up to 30,000 feet above ground level, extending out to a five-nautical-mile radius around the summit of KÄ«lauea. USGS HVO issued a red aviation alert May 17.

“Change continues to be the name of the game at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park with increased seismic activity, summit deflation and explosions that continue within the summit of Kīlauea Volcano,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “It is day seven and most of the park remains closed. We will re-open only when it is safe to do so,” she said.

On May 16, a series of small, shallow earthquakes rattled the summit of KÄ«lauea. A magnitude-3.5 earthquake at 11:31 a.m. fractured Highway 11 near the park entrance, and damaged park buildings and infrastructure. Highway 11 is open but motorists are urged to drive with extreme caution. Damage assessments will continue today. Stopping on the sides of Highway 11 in the park is prohibited, and violators could be cited.

Earlier yesterday, USGS scientists found rocks two feet across in the parking lot a few hundred yards from Halema‘uma‘u, the summit crater, following the latest series of vigorous explosions and rock fall events in the park. That area has been closed to the public since 2008.

Park rangers invite the public to downtown Hilo to learn about the volcanic activity, to get their NPS Passport Book stamped, and to experience the Hawaiian cultural connection to volcanoes. Rangers are providing programs at the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center at 76 Kamehameha Avenue, Tuesday through Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

In addition, the Kahuku Unit is open during the closure, Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Kahuku is a one-hour drive south of the main park entrance. Kahuku will add additional days; details are forthcoming.

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