People hoping to get a view of the new Kilauea eruption at Halemaumau Crater are flocking to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park today, but officials are urging visitors to be cautious about both the volcano and the coronavirus pandemic.
Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane told the Associated Press this morning that the volcanic activity is a risk to people in the park.
“It’s pretty spectacular this morning,” she said, “but there are high amounts of hazardous sulfur dioxide gas and particulates and those are billowing out of the crater right now and those present a danger to everyone, especially people with heart or respiratory problems, infants, young children and pregnant women.”
She said cars were lining up at the park entrance to get a glimpse of the lava.
“There is a lot of cars waiting on Crater Rim Drive to get out to Kilauea overlook. People should expect long waits for parking places,” she said.
Ferracane also said people should be mindful of the pandemic and take measures to remain safe.
“We’re not doing crowd control yet, but that could happen,” she said. “Right now, we’re urging people to wear a mask to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We did see quite a few visitors last night unmasked.”
Kilauea volcano ended its 35-year eruption in September 2018 after the devastating lava outbreak in Leilani Estates destroyed over 700 homes. But lava returned Sunday night in a spectacular eruption within Halemaumau Crater, which had been drained of lava just before the Leilani Estates eruption.
Hawaii County officials said the latest outbreak does not pose an imminent threat to the public, and they have downgraded or canceled several alerts for the Big Island.
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park provided the following safety tips for people who plan to visit the Halemaumau Crater to view the eruption:
>> Volcanic eruptions can be hazardous and change at any time. Stay on marked trails and overlooks and avoid earth cracks and cliff edges. Do not enter closed areas.
>> Hazardous volcanic gases are billowing out the crater and present a danger to everyone, especially people with heart or respiratory problems, infants, young children and pregnant women.
>> Slow down and drive safely. Expect long waits for parking spaces at popular vantage points like the Kilauea Overlook.
>> Maintain social distance of six feet from others and wear a mask to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
>> The summit of Kilauea can be chilly at any time. Bring a rain jacket, wear long pants and closed-toe shoes.