HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Days before the one-year anniversary of lava reaching the ocean at Kamokuna, rangers at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are warning visitors to stay out of closed areas.
On July 10th, field crews started noticing large cracks running across the surface of a the newly formed delta. That's leading scientists to believe the 6-acre shelf could snap off into the ocean at any moment.
"The cracks indicate that it's growing increasingly unstable. It's starting to come apart essentially. We noticed large cracks growing in the delta prior to the New Year's Eve collapse," said Scientist-In-Charge at the U.S. Geological Service at Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory, Tina Neal.
In December, a 24-acre portion of the delta gave way, crashing into the ocean. Explosions sent debris flying into the air.
"We were luckily able to close the area and move people back so nobody was hurt," said Hawaii Volcano National Parks Service spokesperson Jessica Ferracane.
To ensure everyone's safety, the National Parks Service set up a viewing area 60 feet from the fractured cliffs. Portions of the park that are closed have been roped off. There are also signs warning visitors.
"We do not have the ability right now to predict exactly when lava deltas will collapse. We don't know what the exact trigger is and we don't have the monitoring equipment down there to give us an instantaneous notification that the collapse is occurring," said Neal.
"There are park rangers out in that area monitoring, but everybody's safety is really reliant upon themselves," said Ferracane.
A potential collapse isn't the only hazard out there. Visitors should also be prepared for the hike that totals more than 8 miles.
"Make sure they're wearing study close toe shoes. Carry three quarts of water or more. Definitely a flash light and extra batteries if you're going to be there after dark. Bring snacks with you. And always bring your common sense," said Ferracane.
There have been five lava related deaths in the park since 1990. Rangers say they were all park goers who ignored warning signs.