Hawaii Volcanoes National Park managers to recap success and work ahead a year after the 2018 Kilauea eruption

  • JON CHRISTENSEN/National Park Service photo A team including National Park Service geomorphologist Eric Bilderback logs earthquake damage and assesses stability along Crater Rim Trail on Aug. 31, 2018.

As the anniversary of the 2018 Kilauea eruption nears, staff at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park continue efforts to repair and reopen trails and roads, assess and monitor unsafe areas and welcome the public back to a landscape forever changed by last year’s epic volcanic activity.

Members of the park’s management team will share successes and challenges as part of “Road to Recovery: One Year Later,” a special After Dark in the Park presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 9, in the newly upgraded Kilauea Visitor Center auditorium. The event is free, but park entrance fees apply.

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The historic Kilauea eruption and caldera collapse of 2018 resulted in most of the park closing for 134 days because of unsafe, unpredictable and unprecedented eruptive activity at the volcano’s summit. A hurricane, two tropical storms and a wildfire on Mauna Loa added to the intensity of an unforgettable year, but park rangers continued to serve the public at locations outside the park, protect natural and cultural resources and expand hours at the park’s Kahuku Unit.

Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is now open, including two-thirds of the popular Kilauea Iki Trail, but some areas remain closed for safety.

“We invite our community to hear firsthand how we managed the extraordinary challenges this eruption created, and what we face moving ahead,” said Acting Superintendent Rhonda Loh. “The presentation will be about a half-hour, and we welcome questions afterward.”

Until 2018, Kilauea erupted almost nonstop from two locations within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: the remote Pu‘u ‘O‘o vent in the East Rift Zone since 1983 and its summit crater, Halema‘uma‘u, since 2008. Pu‘u ‘O‘o was renowned for producing surface lava that periodically streamed into the ocean, while Halema‘uma‘u hosted a dazzling lake of lava for nearly 10 years with glowing lava often visible from vantage points along the caldera rim.

Many Native Hawaiians consider Halema‘uma‘u the home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano deity, and the entire summit area is one of the most sacred areas in all of Hawaii.

On April 30, 2018, the floor of Pu‘u ‘O‘o vent collapsed, followed by earthquakes (including a magnitude-6.9 temblor May 4) and movement of molten rock toward the lower Puna community. More than 700 structures were destroyed by the following lava flows, and more than 2,000 people were displaced.

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At the summit, lava disappeared from Halema‘uma‘u, and 60,000 or so earthquakes damaged park buildings, roads, trails, water systems and other infrastructure through the summer. Most of the park was closed May 11-Sept. 22.

Currently, Kilauea is not erupting, and there is no molten lava on the surface, but the volcano remains active and is closely monitored by scientists.

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