Thurston Lava Tube likely to remain closed until 2019

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo Tourists walk through the Thurston Lava Tube in early 2016 at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

While much of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has reopened since its historic closure earlier this year, some parts likely will remain closed until at least next year.

One of the park’s most popular features, Thurston Lava Tube, has remained closed since the park’s reopening because of concerns about its structural integrity following the several thousand earthquakes that rocked the park during the Kilauea eruption in lower Puna, which began in May.

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Analysis of the lava tube’s structure is expected to be completed by the end of the year, said park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane.

Ferracane said the park recently conducted a 3-D laser scan of the tube’s interior, allowing analysts to precisely map its contours. The results of the scan will be compared to pre-eruption scan data to determine what changes to the tube, if any, occurred, with subsequent analyses conducted to determine whether any changes affected the tube’s integrity.

Furthermore, the park will conduct an additional in-person inspection of the tube by the end of November, Ferracane said.

Meanwhile, Ferracane said park officials are discussing the possibility of reopening areas of the park around the southwest side of Halema‘uma‘u Crater that were closed since 2008 because of the high amounts of volcanic gases and vog rising from the crater. Because the crater is no longer venting fumes, such downwind areas could be reopened to the public for the first time in a decade.

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However, Ferracane said Monday that the park’s administration had only begun internal discussions about the possibility of reopening downwind areas. Furthermore, a decade of disuse and the violent tremors of the eruption left that region of the park in dire need of repairs.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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