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Kilauea crowds a welcome nudge for the economy ― and a public health test

Updated: Dec. 23, 2020 at 11:29 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The USGS said more than 2 billion gallons of lava have spewed out of Kilauea since Sunday night, when it began to erupt after a two-year pause.

The lava lake at Halemaumau Crater is now 470 feet deep.

It’s incredible to see it in photos or videos, but many people went to see it for themselves.

And that’s exactly what thousands have been doing since Sunday, flocking to the summit for a glimpse at the fiery show.

“Everybody is excited and there were pictures being posted and we immediately made a list of all the things we gatta do and this was number one on the list,” said spectator Mark McCormick.

Approximately 48 hours after the eruption began, nearby lodgings are also filling up fast.

“The phones have been going off,” said Savannah Heiden, a manager at Volcano Inn. “We used to only get like a couple calls a day and I’ve been pretty much on the phone all day.”

Volcano Inn is just 2 1/2 miles down the road from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

“We’re really close, at night we can see the glow,” Heiden said.

Heiden said the activity at Halemaumau Crater has brought a much-needed boost in business.

“We’re almost at full capacity today,” she said.

Authorities said the eruption has stabilized and poses no immediate threat to the public. However, officials are eyeing another possible threat: Large groups crowding together to see the fiery show.

“We saw easily in the thousands, several thousand people,” said Jessica Ferracane, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman.

Ferracane said park rangers had to remind people several times to wear their masks and practice social distancing.

“Don’t come during this peak hour of sunset through 10 o’clock. Try to get here at three in the morning if you can set your alarm. Or before sunrise,” Ferracane said.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said the county has reached out to the park to offer help with crowd control but was told park officials have it covered.

“It really is a beautiful site. But again, we want you to use your common sense, we are still are in the middle of a pandemic and just be careful, and if you’re going to come, be respectful of others, don’t crowd together,” Roth said.

The national park is open 24 hours a day.

However, the Kilauea Overlook has been full after 4 p.m.

Park officials suggest other viewing areas, including behind Volcano House, Waldron Ledge and Old Crater Rim Drive.

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