Lava claims Ahalanui Beach Park; Isaac Hale’s fate uncertain

  • USGS photo In this aerial view looking to the north, a robust ocean entry plume rises from just offshore of Ahalanui Beach Park, which was inundated with lava on Wednesday.

Lava consumed Ahalanui Beach Park on Wednesday evening, destroying yet another beloved Puna destination.

The park, commonly known as “Warm Pond,” was buried by lava late Wednesday evening, shortly before Kua O Ka La Public Charter School on Highway 137 likewise was destroyed.

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The park’s destruction follows the loss of the Kapoho tide pools and “Champagne Ponds,” both popular oceanside destinations that were lost when lava filled Kapoho Bay in early June.

“It’s a big loss for the whole island,” said Hawaii County Managing Director Will Okabe. “These were pristine spots that can never be replaced.”

One more beach park — Isaac Hale Beach Park — remains between the ongoing fissure 8 lava flow from Kilauea and an earlier branch of the flow that reached the ocean south of Pohoiki Road in late May. Okabe said the fate of the park is concerning, but acknowledged the state or direction of the flow could change at any time.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Mike Zoeller said the lava does not pose an imminent threat to Isaac Hale park because the lava would have to travel laterally along the coast to reach it.

Of course, noting that the flow’s southward advance already has done just that when it moved from Kapoho to Ahalanui, Zoeller said the lava could still threaten Isaac Hale “down the line.”

Until then, HVO spokeswoman Janet Babb said the lava entry into Ahalanui is “vigorous” and producing a dense laze plume. The flow front is now 3.7 miles wide, Babb said, with the majority of the flow directed toward the Ahalanui ocean entry.

The weak lava spattering from fissure 22 was observed to have stopped Thursday morning, leaving fissure 8 as the only producer of lava in lower Puna. A lava breakout from fissure 8 destroyed three additional homes in Leilani Estates on Wednesday, the first to be destroyed in the subdivision since early June.

At Kilauea summit, seismic activity continues in much the same way it has for the past several weeks, with semi-regular collapse-explosion events releasing energy equivalent to magnitude-5 earthquakes, and preceded by hundreds of smaller quakes each day.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency cautioned residents Thursday to closely examine their property for signs of earthquake damage, which might not be immediately obvious. Possible signs of quake damage include cracks in walls, doors that no longer close easily, unexplained debris near wall and floor joints, or cracks in foundations, piers or pillars.

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The U.S. Small Business Administration announced Thursday that nearly $11 million in federal disaster loans have been approved for businesses and residents. The SBA has authorized $9,211,900 in loans to residents and $989,500 to businesses to aid in recovery. FEMA, meanwhile, has approved more than $3 million in aid to more than 2,100 registrants as of Wednesday.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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