(BIVN) – National Park Service officials guided media through the closed Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park on Friday, offering journalists a first-hand look at the earthquake-damaged infrastructure and the dramatically altered Kilauea Caldera.
“As a reminder, up until two weeks ago we were experiencing 18,000 earthquakes a month, which is completely unprecedented in the history of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, as is the closure,” said Jessica Ferracane, the park’s public affairs specialist, adding that “tomorrow will mark 100 days that the park’s been closed because the increase in hazardous volcanic activity.”
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park issued this media release on Friday:
Although it’s been more than two weeks since the summit area of Kīlauea was rocked by dangerous earthquakes and collapse-explosion events, the damage inflicted upon roads, trails and infrastructure in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park will take time to evaluate and repair.
The park is taking advantage of the lull in hazardous conditions to assemble a specialized team that will conduct thorough damage assessments and become the foundation of the park’s recovery plan.
“The science informs the decisions we make,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “We have entered the phase of managing the park as if the hazards could return at any time, while maintaining hope that the lull in activity lasts so we can continue the momentum towards eventual reopening,” she said. “We are actively considering and making short-term repairs to safely reopen at least part of the park.”
Earlier today, the U.S. Geological Survey lowered the alert level of Kīlauea from Warning to Watch, but cautioned that the seismicity and collapse-explosion events at the summit, and the eruption in the lower East Rift Zone, could resume without warning at any time.
Most of the park, except the Kahuku Unit, has been closed due to increased volcanic and seismic activity since May 11. Saturday, August 18 marks the 100th day of the closure.
Superintendent Orlando and other park staff are reaching out to the community in a series of Talk Story meetings to get feedback on what the future of the park should look like.
“Before the recent volcanic activity forced us to close the park adjacent to Kīlauea, we were grappling with congestion management issues,” Orlando said. “Do we want to return to that, or do we press the reset button? We want to hear from our communities,” she said.
The Talk Story sessions continue this evening at Pāhala Plantation at 5 p.m., at the Volcano Art Center Niaulani Campus Aug. 21 at 1 p.m., and in Kahuku at 10 a.m. on Aug. 23.