by Loren G. Edelstein | May 18, 2018
As Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano continues to erupt, the island's tourism industry is losing millions in cancellations, but there's absolutely no reason for leisure or business travelers to cancel their plans, insists the Hawaii Tourism Authority, among many other entities. News reports have exaggerated the danger the volcano poses, confirmed an article posted Wednesday in Science News. Furthermore, popular resort areas like Kailua Kona and the Kohala Coast are 100 miles from the lava eruption site and completely unaffected, noted an article yesterday in 365 Kona.
The U.S. Geological Survey operates a Volcano Observatory on the Big Island, where experts are closely monitoring the eruption. Twenty fissures along Kilauea's East Rift Zone are oozing lava, small earthquakes continue to shake that area, and conditions are ripe for steam explosions, which could send bits of rockfall shooting out of the crater. But even these "volcanic bombs," as rocks shooting out of a crater are called, have a limited range and won't travel past the bounds of the national park surrounding the summit, according to the USGS
 
The Hawaii Tourism Authority issued the following comprehensive update yesterday, along with an extensive links of resources for reliable information.
 
• Hawaii is open for business: There is absolutely no reason for visitors planning a trip to the Hawaiian Islands to change or alter their leisure or business travel plans.
 
• Air access: All flights into the Hawaiian Islands are operating normally.
 
• Accommodations and activities: All accommodations, activities and attractions throughout the Hawaiian Islands are operating normally, with the exception of those in the area affected by the volcanic activity on the island of Hawaii.
 
• The affected area is a remote location on the island of Hawaii's east side: None of the Hawaiian Islands are affected by the Kilauea volcano except a remote area along the Lower East Rift Zone on the island of Hawaii's east side, Kilauea Summit and surrounding areas.
 
• Kilauea Summit activity: Steam and ash outbursts from the Halemaumau crater are occurring in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (approximately 40 miles away from the Lower East Rift Zone) and are being monitored. This is a natural occurrence as rocks fall into the crater and magma interacts with the groundwater (water table).
 
• Air quality: The air quality remains largely unchanged with this situation. However, air quality near where the volcanic activity on the island of Hawaii is occurring can be hazardous; SO2 (sulfur dioxide) and light ash fall might be present. Officials are continuing to monitor air quality.
 
MAY 17 KILAUEA SUMMIT ACTIVITY
At 4:17 a.m. HST on May 17, 2018, a steam and ash eruption occurred from Halemaumau Crater within Kilauea Caldera at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, resulting in an ash cloud that drifted northeast. Ash emissions continue from the Kilauea summit, which might affect the surrounding areas toward Kau, Volcano, Mountain View and Keaau, and as far as Hilo. 
 
To protect yourself from ash:
• Avoid excessive exposure to ash, which is an eye and respiratory irritant.
• Those with breathing issues should take extra precaution to minimize exposure.
• Stay indoors and keep your windows closed.
• If you're in car, keep your windows closed and drive with caution.
 
Click here for a guide on volcanic ash.
 
MESSAGE FROM HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park emergency managers are urging motorists to slow down and use caution on Highway 11, particularly between mile markers 28 and 29, and on Pii Mauna Road, due to cracks in the road and uneven surfaces resulting from an earthquake that occurred on May 16. In addition, motorists are reminded that stopping for nonemergency purposes along the side and shoulders of Highway 11 in Park territory to view the plumes is prohibited. Read more here.
 
Click here for for park updates.
 
HAWAII COUNTY CIVIL DEFENSE ERUPTION MAP
Click here to view the interactive map (please wait for the page to load).
 
BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND RESOURCES
 
AIRPORTS, ACCOMMODATIONS AND ACTIVITIES
• All airports in the Hawaiian Islands continue to operate normally.
• All accommodations, activities and attractions statewide also are operating normally, with the exception of those in the area affected by the volcanic activity on Hawaii Island.
• Visitors who have already booked a trip to the island of Hawaii with accommodations or activities in/near the Puna district should call their provider with any questions or concerns.
• Effective May 12, those who have vacation rental reservations in the Lower Puna restricted area should find alternative accommodations, until further notice.
• All roads remain open except in the restricted area.
 
EAST RIFT ZONE ERUPTION LOCATION
• The volcanic activity and where lava has flowed along the East Rift Zone in/near Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions is limited to an isolated area in Lower Puna on the island of Hawaii's east side. This area in the Puna district covers less than 10 square miles of the island's 4,028 square miles. The district of Puna is approximately 500 square miles, or the size of half of Rhode Island.
• This is more than 100 driving miles away from the western Kohala and Kona Coasts, where the island's major visitor accommodations and resorts are located, and the area furthest from the current activity.
• In addition, Hilo town is approximately 20 miles away, and accommodations and activities are unaffected by Kilauea volcano.
• Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and has been erupting for the past 35 years.
 
VACATION RENTALS IN LOWER PUNA AREA
• Effective May 12, the County of Hawaii Civil Defense Agency has directed all vacation rental owners and operators in Lower Puna to cease operations so that emergency operations can focus on residents who live in the area. 
• The Lower Puna restricted area encompasses the area accessed by Highway 132 from Leilani Estates to Kapoho, Highway 137 from Kapoho to Kalapana, and Highway 130 from Pahoa to Pohoiki, including Pahoa's Black Sands Beach Subdivision.
• Current vacation renters in this restricted area should find alternative accommodations outside the restricted area as soon as possible.
• Until further notice, visitors who have vacation rental reservations in the restricted area should find alternative accommodations.
• This directive has been issued to owners and operators of vacation rentals within the restricted area, online advertisers of vacation rentals, current vacation renters in the area and vacation renters with reservations.
 
AIR QUALITY
Air quality throughout the Hawaiian Islands remains largely unchanged with the exception of where the volcanic activity is happening, which can have hazardous levels of SO2 (sulfur dioxide). Officials constantly monitor SO2 levels across the island. Vog, or volcanic haze, is relatively common on an island with active volcanoes (consider Kilauea has been erupting since 1983), and the level of haze is dependent on volcanic activity and wind direction/strength. Click here to view SO2 conditions in real-time across the state. For statewide air quality, visit Air Now (data and forecasts courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Health - Environmental Health).
 
REPORTS ABOUT ACID RAIN
• News reports about acid rain during the Kilauea eruption have mischaracterized the severity of its potential effect on human health. In fact, acid rain is a common occurrence anytime there is rainfall on an area where volcanic haze, or Vog, is in the atmosphere, whether on the island of Hawaii or anywhere else in the world.
• According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "Walking in acid rain, or even swimming in a lake affected by acid rain, is no more dangerous to humans than walking in normal rain or swimming in non-acidic lakes."
• Data about the composition of rain falling on the island of Hawaii is closely monitored on a continual basis by the National Atmospheric Deposition Program's National Trends Network.
• Visit the State Department of Health's Hawaii Interagency Vog Information Dashboard for the latest information.
 
ACCESSIBILITY IN THE PUNA AREA
• Road closures are taking place on select areas of Highway 130, 132 and 137.
• No access is allowed at this time for residents of Lanipuna Gardens.
• Residents and visitors who do not have official business in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens are asked to stay away from the area.
• As a precaution, residents of Lower Puna between Kapoho and Kalapana are advised to be on alert in the event of possible volcanic activity in the area. 
• Temporary flight restrictions are in place for most of Lower Puna. Drones will be confiscated in this area.
• Those who have rented accommodations or made tour reservations in the general area should check with those respective companies for the latest updates.
• Unless otherwise noted, area businesses are open and accessible. Motorists are advised to drive with caution and be prepared for increased traffic.
• The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks has closed Lava Tree State Monument and Mackenzie State Recreation Area until further notice.
• All beach parks in Lower Puna have been closed, including the Pohoiki Boat Ramp.
• The County of Hawaii has closed the Kalapana Viewing Area until further notice.
 
VOLCANOES IN HAWAII
Eruptions of Hawaiian volcanoes are typically nonexplosive or weakly explosive. Hawaiian eruptions, which is a term used by volcanologists worldwide to characterize similar eruptive style at other volcanoes, are usually gentle due to the highly fluid lava composition, which tends to flow freely both beneath the surface and upon eruption. For more information about Hawaiian eruptions, visit the U.S. Geological Survey.
 
Travelers planning a trip to the Hawaiian Islands who have questions can contact the Hawaii Tourism United States Call Center at 1-800-GO-HAWAII (1-800-464-2924). Click here for other updates.