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Northwest Traveler

Travel news, consumer advice and trip reports for the Northwest and beyond.

October 31, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Get a close (online) look at Hawaii lava flow

A breakout of lava burns through vegetation on the outskirts of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island on Thursday afternoon. (USGS / Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

A breakout of lava burns through vegetation on the outskirts of Pahoa on Hawaii’s Big Island on Thursday afternoon. (USGS / Hawaiian Volcano Observatory photo)

With lava oozing toward homes and businesses in a  village on Hawaii’s Big Island, tourists (and islanders) want to see the flow of molten rock. But legally you can’t.

For public safety, and for the privacy of those whose buildings are threatened in the village of Pahoa, the land where the lava has flowed is closed to the public. The lava has traveled more than a dozen miles so far from its Kilauea Volcano source, mostly on remote,  state-owned forestland. As it flows into Pahoa, National Guard troops are helping keep curious outsiders out.

However, if you want to know more about the lava you can get detailed descriptions, photos and maps of what’s called the June 27th flow (from the day it started) and where it’s projected to go from several websites. (As of Friday early morning, the front of the flow had stalled although there were breakouts just behind it.)

A view of the flow over  Pahoa's Cemetery Road/Apaʻa Street on Oct. 29. The flow covered much of the cemetery. (USGS / Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

A view of the flow over Pahoa’s Cemetery Road/Apaʻa Street on Oct. 29. The flow covered much of the cemetery. (USGS / Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

The most comprehensive, and scientific, source is the website of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, a government agency that’s part of the U.S. Geological Survey.  Scientists monitor the lava flow on foot, from the air and with scientific instruments installed at various parts of Kilauea, the long and slowly erupting volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from which this flow emerged. Updates, photos and maps are posted. There also are Kilauea Volcano  webcams that show the source of Kilauea’s current two eruptions: the park’s main Kilauea Caldera, easily accessible to sightseers with roadside overlooks,  where a lake of lava under the crater floor emits fumes and at times a fiery nighttime glow and the remote, off-limits Pu’u O’o cone from which the June 27th lava flow is emerging.

Another good source of lava-flow information is Hawaii County which is issuing frequent online civil-defense updates about the lava flow: And the Big Island newspaper West Hawaii  Today has daily updates on what’s happening in Pahoa.

Several years ago lava was flowing for miles from the Pu’u O’o cone and tumbling into the ocean in fiery, steaming plumes. That flow was in the opposite direction from Pahoa, but stopped  entering the ocean in August 2013, making lava-viewing less dramatic.

Tourism in the Puna region, which is mostly centered on visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, could get complicated. If Highway 130 is buried under lava near Pahoa, it will make access difficult to small B&Bs, inns and retreat centers in the area. An alternate route  is being built, but it will add more than an hour to some journeys.

The lava flow at Pahoa as of Thursday. (USGS / Hawaiian Volcano Observatory photo)

The lava flow at Pahoa as of Thursday. (USGS / Hawaiian Volcano Observatory photo)

This  map shows the June 27th lava flow from Kīlauea Volcano  in the Puna area of the Big Island. The area of the flow on Oct.  24 is shown in pink, while the flow as mapped on Oct.  29  is shown in red. (USGS / Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

This map shows the June 27th lava flow from Kīlauea Volcano in the Puna area of the Big Island. The area of the flow on Oct. 24 is shown in pink, while the flow as mapped on Oct. 29 is shown in red. (USGS / Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)

Comments | More in Hawaii, Kilauea Volcano, lava flow | Topics: Big Island, June 27 lava flow, lava

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