(BIVN) – As lava nears Highway 137, and cracks stretch across Highway 130, state and federal authorities are looking at Chain of Craters Road as a possible emergency access route for lower Puna.
The announcement came from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokesperson Jessica Ferracane during a press conference held at the Volcano Golf and Country Club. The national park is currently closed as the summit of Kīlauea could produce explosive an event at anytime.
“This is day 9 of the park closure, feels like six months,” Ferracane said. “Every day brings a new challenge and that’s just here in the park, at the summit of Kīlauea. We have friends and family and co-workers who are in the Lower East rift zone and who are being much more impacted, and our hearts are with them.”
“When I came into the park this morning around 7:45 a.m., there is a fine dusting of ash all over the park roads,” Ferracane recounted. “Another large plume of dark grey ash, volcanic ash, was billowing out of Halema’uma’u. Some of our buildings are now without water. There’s cracks in Highway 11. And all that is following the earthquake that happened on Wednesday, May 16th.”
Ferracane said the National Park Service is moving the incident management team off-site. They will now operate out of the USDA Forest Service Building in Hilo. A corps of law enforcement officers will remain behind in the park to ensure public safety, she said.
“The NPS and State of Hawaii Department of Transportation are working with federal state and county agencies to prepare the Chain of Craters – Kalapana Road as an emergency evacuation route for residents should highways 130 and
137 in lower Puna be cut off by the current eruption,” Ferracane said. “Plans are in the works to remove the solidified lava from the 2016-2017 61g flows. That’s about a 0.7 mile section of lava that was covered during that time.”
“While we do these plans, we are also taking measures to prevent adverse impacts on the cultural and natural resources in that section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park,” Ferracane said.
Ferracane also mentioned that Park Rangers are serving visitors in Downtown Hilo at the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center, Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.