Officials still don’t know when damaged Hawaii Volcanoes National Park may reopen

Officials still don't know when damaged Hawaii Volcanoes National Park may reopen
Updated: Aug. 6, 2018 at 11:12 AM HST
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HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - As volcanic activity slows down on the Lower East Rift Zone, officials are updating the public on the status of the largest tourist attraction on the Big Island: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The park has mostly been closed because of hazardous earthquakes near Kilauea's summit since May 11, costing the local economy about $455,000 per day, according to Governor Ige's office.

"The temblors – more than 18,000 in the last 30 days – have wreaked havoc throughout the park," the park said in a news release.

Area roads, overlooks and trails have been riddled with dangerous sinkholes and cracks, the result of over 60 seismic events at the summit since early May. Earthquakes at the summit have also caused increased the risk of fire in the area.

"Broken waterlines have left most of the park without running water for fire suppression. Fixing them makes little sense as long as the earthquakes continue," park officials said.

(Photo: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park)

The park, which has also been pictured covered in ash and stone projectiles, will not assess a strategy to reopen until destructive earthquakes stop.

"It's impossible to say when the park can reopen, what it's going to look like and what the visitor experience will be. We are cautiously optimistic that seismicity decreased over the weekend," said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. "Everyone's safety is our top priority and we are still in an unpredictable and hazardous phase of this eruption cycle. Right now, the only certainty is uncertainty," she said.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty, scientists said last week that activity on the Lower East Rift Zone appeared to be decreasing, including a significant reduction in lava output from fissure no. 8.

"It is common for eruptions to wax and wane or pause completely," the U.S. Geological Survey said in a status report on Sunday. "A return to high levels of lava discharge or new outbreaks in the area of active fissures could occur at any time."

As of Monday, the abandoned Jaggar Museum and the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory buildings are damaged, but still standing. The summit crater, which was previously viewable at the park, has collapsed significantly as magma drained from Leilani Estates since May.

"We miss being in the park, we miss sharing Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with visitors from around the world and across the street. We realize the extended closure is very hard on our community and disappointing to travelers," Orlando said.

The governor's office has said that economic losses could add up to about $222 million annually when things such as tourism spending and local job losses are considered.

"It's hard on all of us, and we appreciate everyone's continued understanding and support," Orlando said.

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