Hawaii Volcano Eruption – May 2018

By Napua Heen

Screenshot of the drone footage posted to Jeremiah Osuna’s Facebook page.

A new lava flow opened in the Puna district of Hawaii Island the afternoon of Thursday, May 3, 2018. Residents have been evacuated from the neighborhoods of Leilani Estates and Lani Puna subdivisions.

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The most important thing for visitors to know is that the area affected is limited to the southeastern area of Hawaii Island, also known as the Big Island of Hawaii.

Please note:

  • No airports have been affected by volcanic activity
  • Lava activity is contained to the south east area of the Big Island (also known as Hawaii Island)
  • Volcanic ash is only affecting the southern/south eastern area of the Big Island
  • All other islands are not affected – Oahu (Honolulu, Waikiki) is unaffected, Maui is unaffected, Kauai is unaffected, most parts of the Big Island are unaffected
  • Visit www.hawaiicounty.gov/active-alerts for Civil Defense Messages and Alerts
  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is currently closed, check www.nps.gov for the most current information

Where is the Lava Flow Happening?

The new lava flow is occurring on Hawaii Island. Hawaii Island is the largest island of the chain as well as the southern and easternmost island. The new lava flows are located in the southeastern corner of Hawaii Island, in an area known as Leilani Estates near the town of Pahoa.

Will the Volcano Eruption Affect My Trip to Hawaii?

Google Map of Hawaii Island (the Big Island)’s southeastern tip. Leilani Estates is marked in red. This is the area where the new lava flow has erupted. You can also see Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which is closed, to the west (left) and Hilo (the main city and location of Hilo International Airport) to the north.

The short answer is NO. Unless you are planning on staying in or visiting the area near Pahoa town in lower Puna, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or Kau, you will not be affected by the new lava flows.

Places to avoid at this time:

If visiting Hawaii Island, you may experience earthquakes, which the locals are accustomed to. Also, depending on which way the winds are blowing, the Hawaiian Islands can sometimes experience vog. Here are 10 tips for reducing the effects of vog.

Is Kilauea Like Mount St. Helens?

A comprehensive map by the National Park Services detailing the various lava flows of Kilauea volcano. The original map is available here.

Some Hawaii.com members are nervous about their upcoming trips. There’s concern that what happened with Mount St. Helens in Washington and other tragic volcanic events could potentially happen in Hawaii. Fortunately for the people and visitors of Hawaii, NO, Kilauea volcano is not like Mount St. Helens and other explosive type volcanoes, and here’s why.

Mount St. Helens is a composite volcano whereas Kilauea is a shield volcano. Composite and shield volcanoes are very different in their chemical make-up, their lava systems and their eruptions. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was a sudden, explosive eruption leading to a violent pyroclastic flow characterized by fast moving rock fragments and a gas cloud.

Hawaiian volcanoes are shield volcanoes and do not erupt explosively. Shield volcanoes have the least violent eruptions and are characterized by fire fountains, plumes, bubbling lava lakes and slow moving lava flows. They are quite beautiful when viewed from a safe distance. And though lava inevitably causes property damage, it rarely endangers human life. People are usually injured when breathing hazardous volcanic gas or entering into off-limits areas within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park where the ground is unstable. As a reminder, please observe all posted signs and safety warnings.

Hawaii Island’s Raw Beauty

Kilauea’s summit lava lake reaches the floor of Halema’uma’u Crater on Monday. Photo: JANICE WEI/NPS volunteer.

Hawaii Island is no stranger to volcanic eruptions and lava flows. There’s no getting around the impact to the locals, and it’s always sad when homes are destroyed and communities are displaced. However, the mighty power of nature is one of the draws to living on and visiting Hawaii Island. Some would say there’s no better place in the world to soak in the raw beauty of the natural world. And with Madam Pele showing off her fiery plumes once more, it’s an exciting time to visit.

Official Hawaii Tourism Authority Release: All of the Hawaiian Islands Unaffected by Volcano ActivityExcept Remote Area on Island of Hawai‘i’s East Side

See also:
Hawaii is Open for Business
Recent Overflows Are Largest Seen at Kilauea Lava Lake in 10 Years
Visiting the Volcano
The Best Volcano Tours in Hawaii

In the news:
Vog and acid rain add to Big Island concerns
Disaster brewing at summit?
Kilauea could blow its top soon, hurl rocks and ash

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