Lava from Kilauea volcano’s Puu Oo vent is starting to spread out on the coastal plain of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a little more than 2 miles from the ocean.
New photos and video released by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory show aa lava following several channels down the steep slope of the pali and slowing as the flow spreads on the flat ground of the plain, covering previous lava flows.
The lava advanced about 492 feet on the plain since it reached the bottom of the pali Wednesday afternoon.
Hawaii County opened a lava viewing and parking area Thursday night that allows visitors to park at the end of the paved road in Kalapana and walk 3 miles along a gravel emergency access road to the entrance of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The flow is within the park and is about 2 miles above the road.
The park service is keeping the road closed in the park to preserve its use as an emergency road, a spokeswoman for the park service said.
The flow is also visible in the distance from scenic outlooks on Chain of Craters Road, the park service said.
It is possible to hike to the lava in the park, but officials warn that the hike is not for beginners and goes over sharp, hardened lava. It is also dangerous to get close to the lava flow, officials warned.
The current flow began on May 24 and has traveled about 4.7 miles from its origin on the east slope of the Puu Oo vent.
The photos taken Thursday also show skylights above lava tubes that have developed along the flow. The tubes keep the lava hot and flowing until the lava breaks the surface above the pali as smooth, slow-moving pahoehoe lava, which becomes rocky, fast-flowing aa lava as it tumbles down the steep pali in channels.
The last lava flow to reach the plain and the ocean, the 2011 Peace Day flow, flowed into the sea for several months from November 2012 to the beginning of 2013.
Scientists said the current flow could also reach the ocean, but lava flows are notoriously unpredictable and the flow could also stop and stall before reaching the sea.