Update May 2018: No End to Hawaii Volcanic Activity; More Travel Waivers Issued by Airlines — But Travel Should Be Safe

The eruptions continue as a result of the unstable activity of Kilauea volcano on the eastern half of what is known as the Big Island of Hawaii; but although no end is currently in sight and travel waivers from several airlines are in effect, travel to or from the western half of the Big Island — as well as the remaining islands in the state — should remain safe.

Update May 2018: No End to Hawaii Volcanic Activity; More Travel Waivers Issued by Airlines — But Travel Should Be Safe

The latest official alert from the County of Hawaii — as of earlier today, Tuesday, May 8, 2018 — is as follows:

The East Rift Zone eruption in Leilani Subdivision continues. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory confirms volcanic activity has paused at all 12 fissures. Hazardous fumes continue to be released. Since the onset of this eruption, a total of 12 fissures have emerged. The lava has covered 104 acres and 35 structures have been destroyed.

Hawaii volcanic activity May 2018

At 10:00 in the morning Hawaii Standard Time on Monday, May 7, 2018, steam rose from fissure 9 on Moku Street in the Leilani Estates Subdivision. Scientists from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on the scene reported hearing rumbling noises in the area. Source: The United States Geological Survey.

The good news — relatively speaking — is that the volcanic activity has indeed paused; and it is occurring on the opposite side of the Big Island from the popular areas where tourists frequent; but that news is of little comfort to the residents of Leilani Subdivision and surrounding communities…

…but one reason why no end to the volcanic activity is in the foreseeable future is because lava flows generally cannot be stopped.

“Here’s the problem: Lava isn’t like water, snow or mud. It’s liquid rock, so it’s heavy, sticky and moving underground. And it’s nearly 2,000 degrees”, according to this article written by Trevor Hughes for USA TODAY. “The highest-profile time authorities diverted a lava flow was for a slow-moving flow in Iceland that was threatening a harbor. For five months in 1973, workers doused the front of the flow with ice-cold seawater until it ground to a halt. That required 1.5 billion gallons of water.”

This official notice from the Internet web site of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park — citing conditions as reported from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory — states the following:

As of 7:00 am, the eruption along Kīlauea Volcano’s lower East Rift Zone within the Leilani Estates subdivision has paused. Strong emission of gas continues from the fissure system that is now about 2.5 miles long. This pause is likely temporary and resumption of lava emission or additional fissure outbreaks are possible at any time.

Deflationary tilt at the summit of the volcano continues and the lava lake level continues to drop. There is no active lava in the Puʻu ʻŌʻō area. Aftershocks from Friday’s magnitude-6.9 earthquake continue and more are expected. Rockfalls into the Overlook vent within Halemaʻumaʻu crater are producing intermittent ash emissions. Seismicity at Kīlauea’s summit remains elevated.

USGS/HVO continues to monitor the situation 24/7 in coordination with Hawaii County Civil Defense and other authorities. Field crews are onsite this morning examining the fissure vents, lava flow of yesterday, and searching for any signs of new or resumed activity.

Flight Waivers, Delays and Cancellations

Nothing may happen if you are traveling to the big island of Hawaii over the next week or so; but expect delays and cancellations of flights anyway, just in case. Keep up to date on the latest information pertaining to the volcanic activity which may adversely affect your travel plans. Better yet, postponing or canceling your trip might be a better option — no matter which mode of travel you plan on taking.

If you have a flight scheduled, your flight may be delayed or canceled — and you may be eligible for a waiver of a fee to change your itinerary. If you are driving in any of the affected areas, watch out for deteriorating conditions and traffic problems — including roads which are closed due to fissures.

Here are four airlines which have issued travel alerts as a result of the volcanic activity in Hawaii:

  • American Airlines has issued travel alerts for both Hilo and Kailua-Kona for Saturday, May 5, 2018 through Sunday, May 13, 2018; and Wednesday, May 16, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Delta Air Lines has issued a travel alert for Kailua-Kona for Monday, May 7, 2018 through Sunday, May 13, 2018; and Wednesday, May 16, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • United Airlines has issued travel alerts for both Hilo and Kailua-Kona for Friday, May 4, 2018 through Sunday, May 13, 2018; and Wednesday, May 16, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Hawaiian Airlines has issued travel alerts for both Hilo and Kailua-Kona for Thursday, May 3, 2018 through Sunday, May 13, 2018; and Sunday, May 20, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.

Summary

To be fair, volcanic activity has been occurring on the Big Island for decades; so it is not unexpected. That does not minimize the potential danger, as earthquakes and eruptions continue to be possible and unpredictable. For example, a major earthquake registered at a magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter scale — the largest earthquake in 43 years — occurred 16 kilometers southwest of Leilani Estates on May 4, 2018 at 6:32 in the evening Eastern Daylight Time…

…but at this time, the western half of the Big Island of Hawaii — as well as all of the other islands in the archipelago which form the state of Hawaii — are under no threat of volcanic activity; so if you are traveling to or from them, you should not be affected.

Just the same, be sure to contact your airline or transportation provider for the latest information pertaining to your travels — if they are adversely affected — and please: travel safely.

A geologist from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory examines a part of the inactive fissure 10 in Leilani Estates on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Incandescence in the fissure was observed at a depth of about one meter. Source: The United States Geological Survey.

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