'Night and day': Hawaii Volcanoes National Park sees big impact - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

'Night and day': Hawaii Volcanoes National Park sees big impact from ongoing eruptions

Continuous explosions at Halemaumau Crater have sent plumes of ash into the air and triggered dozens of earthquakes. (Image: USGS) Continuous explosions at Halemaumau Crater have sent plumes of ash into the air and triggered dozens of earthquakes. (Image: USGS)
A damaged overlook deck and rock wall at Jaggar Museum. (Image: NPS) A damaged overlook deck and rock wall at Jaggar Museum. (Image: NPS)
Hawaii Pacific Parks Association store at Jaggar Museum. (Image: NPS) Hawaii Pacific Parks Association store at Jaggar Museum. (Image: NPS)
Damaged floor inside Jaggar Museum. (Image: NPS) Damaged floor inside Jaggar Museum. (Image: NPS)
KILAUEA VOLCANO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The ongoing eruptions of Kilauea volcano are claiming a permanent mark in Hawaii’s history books.

They've also left dramatic physical marks at Hawaii Volcano National Park’s Jaggar Museum -- so much so that park officials don't know when or even if it will ever reopen.

Officials even moved out all artifacts and paintings from the museum’s exhibits.

“It was clear in a census with the USGS that the earthquakes were not going to stop,” said Ben Hayes, chief of interpretation and education with the parks.

So on June 19, all of the museum’s artifacts, including some that have been there since 1986, were moved to the basement of the Kilauea Visitor Center which houses the park’s artifact collection.

Hayes said that some of the artifacts and paintings need special permits for display, so there are currently no plans to find a new home for them.

Officials say it's "very doubtful" they would ever return to the museum not only because of the damage, but also because of its close proximity to a very unstable cliff.

Along with the museum, the Kilauea Visitor Center is also closed.

“These two store locations were the highest grossing for the Pacific Parks Association,” Hayes said. “It’s most important for their park operations.”

And that’s part of the reason why a new national park store was established in Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo in early July. The proceeds of the new Hawaii Pacific Parks Association Store will benefit all six national Hawaii and American Samoa park sites.

But even with the new store location, the once bustling Jaggar Museum overlooking the Kilauea caldera is now empty, covered in ash, with cracks and fractures throughout.

“On the inside, there’s pretty severe damage,” said Jessica Ferracane, National Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman, who recently took a look inside the more than 30-year-old facility Monday.

The museum used to be the no. 1 spot in the park, which averaged 5,000 visitors daily. Now, the area has been closed indefinitely since May 11.

And it’s not just the museum that has changed.

“The entire area looks like its been white-washed,” said Ferracane. “Like flour.”

That white dust is actually acidic volcanic ash. It’s covering picnic tables, roads and overlooks.

“Jaggar Museum overlook deck has so many cracks in it now, it really looks like it’s not going to be a structure that’s going to be there very much longer,” Ferracane said.   

Besides the dust and cracks on the viewing areas, there’s a more noteworthy change: The view.

“It’s like night and day,” Ferracane described.

For starters, there’s no longer a lava lake that viewers can see from the museum’s overlook area of the Kilauea caldera.

The shape of the crater has changed so significantly that it would be unrecognizable to people who are used to the sight, Ferracane said.

Cracks in roads nearby have affected mobility. At least three park buildings were damaged along with water lines. The emergency teams monitoring activity in the park are currently working without running water because of the damage.

Once the volcano quiets down, the museum won't just be making structural changes, but also historical ones.

From maps of the volcano to outlines of the coastline, information will be adjusted based on the new events.

What the new changes will look like is still uncertain, though. And that’s because history is still in the making.

“We still have future questions to answer,” Ferracane said.

Meanwhile, there is no way to tell when the Kilauea section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will open, according to officials. Even after the activity stops, time will be needed to assess damages and repair roads and buildings.

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