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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park prepares for big crowds as Kilauea erupts anew

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                                As the sun rises this morning over Kilauea volcano, lava from the eruption that began Wednesday afternoon fills Halemaumau Crater.


    As the sun rises this morning over Kilauea volcano, lava from the eruption that began Wednesday afternoon fills Halemaumau Crater.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is beefing up staffing as they anticipate thousands of people will head to Kilauea to view the lava eruption at the Halemaumau Crater.

“We do expect visitation to increase as the word gets out and spread through the weekend,” said park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane.

At 3:29 p.m. Wednesday, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory detected glow in the Kilauea summit web cameras indicating an eruption within the crater. This new lava flow comes about four months after the most-recent Kilauea eruption ended in May.

>> RELATED: Lava returns to Kilauea volcano’s Halemaumau Crater

“There seems to be a heck of a lot more lava on the surface of the lava lake than before,” Ferracane said this morning.

The park is open 24 hours a day.

Ferracane said they are beefing up staffing to help with parking and ensure people steer clear from closed areas.

Vantage points for viewing the new eruption include Uekahuna (former Jagger Museum parking), Wahinekapu (Steaming Bluff), Kilauea Overlook, Keanakakoi, Kupinai Pali (Waldron Ledge), and other overlooks along Crater Rim Trail.

Ferracane urged people to maintain social distancing. She said there were lot of people at the park Wednesday night standing shoulder to shoulder at different overlooks. “We strongly urge people to maintain six feet of social distancing and to wear a mask. It’s imperative that they do that,” she said.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said they are in daily communication with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory where scientists are monitoring the eruption. There have been no changes this morning, he said.

Officials have said the eruption is confined to the crater and there is no threat to property.

Magno visited the crater at about 5 a.m. today at the Uekahuna vantage point where he observed a red glow reflecting from the crater walls. “It was nice to see that in there again.”

Ken Hon, scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said, “The eruption is continuing to go strong. Our preliminary estimates are that the amount of lava has dropped significantly but it’s still extremely high.”

The fountains are much lower now, partly because the initial fissure cut across the old lava lake at the bottom of the crater which is now partially submerged by the current lava eruption, Hon said.

The lava lake has also been rising approximately one yard an hour since the eruption began Wednesday.

As of this afternoon, lava continues to erupt from multiple vents along the floor and western wall of the crater and remains confined within the crater, the observatory said.

Hon said, “The signs are this is going to continue for sometime. Whether it’s weeks or months, we’re not sure.”

Scientists warn the public of high levels of volcanic gas, Pele’s hair and other light volcanic glass fragments that strong winds may push downwind.

“Residents should minimize exposure to these volcanic particles, which can cause skin and eye irritation,” the observatory said.

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park officials offer the following safety tips when visiting Kilauea:

>> Maintain social distance of six feet from others and wear a mask to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Anyone who is sick should visit another day.

>> 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 Uekahuna (formerly the Jaggar Museum).

>> At 4,000 feet, the summit of Kilauea can be chilly at any time. Bring a rain jacket, wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. Bring a flashlight if visiting at night.

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