Ahalanui park, charter school taken by lava

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald A file photo from March 2017 shows Ahalanui Beach Park.

Authorities have confirmed a public charter school and a popular lower Puna beach park fell victim to lava overnight.

According to Janet Snyder, Mayor Harry Kim’s spokeswoman, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geophysicist Jim Kauahikaua told emergency workers at this morning’s briefing at Hawaii County Civil Defense headquarters in Hilo that Ahalanui Beach Park, also known as “Warm Ponds,” and Kua O Ka La Public Charter School’s campus on Highway 137 were both overrun by lava at about midnight.


“The flow is going to the west edge of Kapoho Crater,” Snyder said. “The current flow is going along the edge of the older flow.”

She said movement of the a‘a lava at the flow front is estimated at 45 meters per hour.

“There’s no visible surface channel, but there continue to be ooze-outs to the ocean,” Snyder said.

“The major point of entry (into the ocean) is at Ahalanui,” she added. “There’s some subsurface being supplied to Kapoho in a broad front — but we just can’t see it, because it’s subsurface.”

Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said the laze plume at Ahalanui “is quite large,” Snyder noted.

“He urged our personnel who are in the area to be very careful …,” she said.

While the county administered the beach park, Ahalanui was purchased by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1992 in a deal brokered by Kim when he was Civil Defense administrator, Snyder said. The transaction occurred in the wake of Kaimu black sand beach and much of Kalapana being destroyed by lava.

She said Kim noted that before Wednesday no one would have predicted that Ahalanui and the school would be covered with lava.

“That’s how unpredictable this is,” Snyder said.

All lava currently being produced is from fissure 8, as the weak spattering noted until yesterday at fissure 22 has stopped, Snyder said.

Snyder said the volume of lava from fissure 8 “is the only consistent factor. It hasn’t fluctuated much.”

“Anything downrift of it is at risk,” she said.

Snyder said gas emissions in the lower East Rift Zone “are unchanged, as far as we know.”

The National Weather Service is reporting that tradewinds from the northeast are 15-20 mph, pushing vog and gas emissions to the south and west.

Increased rainfall is forecast by Saturday.

“By the weekend, (there will be) stationary rainfall over Leilani Estates,” Snyder said. “Rainfall of nine to 12 inches per day.”

The three Leilani Estates homes destroyed by lava on Wednesday were the first taken by the eruption in the subdivision “since the first week of June,” according to officials.


The current lower East Rift Zone eruption began May 3.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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