'If people are concerned, they shouldn’t be,’ one tourist said. ‘They should come on. Other than a little haze in the air, they wouldn’t know anything was happening.’
By KIM STEUTERMANN ROGERS
Steve Bagwell and his family rose well before dawn on Friday morning to catch a tour van and head up Mauna Kea, a volcano on Hawai`i Island.
Mauna Kea is not that volcano, the one that’s erupting and wreaking havoc on parts of Hawai`i Island. The tallest of Hawai`i’s volcanic mountains, Mauna Kea hasn’t erupted for 4,500 years—since about 2,482 B.C.
“Driving up, we ran into the marine layer but once you get up above that, it was clear. The star gazing was great,” Bagwell, visiting from Oklahoma, told The Daily Beast. “Then, it was a great sunrise with high clouds and low clouds and the sun coming between them.”
Bagwell’s hoping he got some great photographs. “I took enough,” he said.
It’s the kind of story Hawai`i tourism authorities are hoping to hear more of after devastating volcanic eruptions on the southeast side of the island at Kīlauea stalled Hawai`i’s tourism business, the state’s number one economic driver, right as the busy summer season was expected to kick into gear.
“I would not hesitate to come to Hawai`i. If you’re coming to enjoy the beaches or eat the delicious food, know it’s [the eruption’s] happening in a small, eastern edge of the island.”
— Wendy Stovall, USGS volcanologist
And it’s an industry the island critically needs. Hawai`i reported record totals across numerous categories in the visitor industry in 2017. This year was on pace to top those numbers. Total visitor arrivals for the first quarter across the state notched up 9.4 percent to total 2,478,604 visitors. Now, Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawai`i Visitors Bureau says the island’s wholesalers and hotel partners are reporting a slow-down of bookings—apparently due to fears of catastrophic volcanic destruction.
Before departing Oklahoma for Hawai`i, Bagwell had heard about the ash plume rising tens of thousands of feet from the island’s youngest volcano. He’d heard about the new eruptions along the lowest east rift zone that’s resulted in dozens of fissures popping up in neighborhoods, estuaries of lava flowing to the sea in three locations, and the evacuation of a couple thousand people from their homes.
“People were like, ‘Are you going to cancel your trip?’ and I was like, ‘No,’” Bagwell said.
Bagwell remembers as a child in the early 1970s watching news of an earlier Kīlauea eruption. He was fascinated. “Kīlauea’s not like Mt. St. Helens [in Washington],” he continued. “Where it’s an explosive eruption and if you’re within 50 miles, your life is in danger. So I was not concerned at all about it.”
But other travelers to Hawai`i are concerned.
Jason Cohn, vice president of sales and marketing for Hawai`i Forest & Trail, the company that escorted Bagwell and his family to the summit of Mauna Kea, said people are calling to ask if the island is covered in noxious gas (it’s not), whether the recent earthquakes will stir other volcanoes to life (they’re not), if it’s safe to travel to Hawai`i (it is), if there are any airport delays (there are not).
Officials with Hawai`i Tourism Authority have been firing off press releases trying to quell fears and stem losses, with similar messaging: Hawai`i is safe. Hawai`i is fun. You should come here.
It’s a classic exercise in crisis management. In one such prepared statement, Hawai`i’s Governor David Ige said, “All of Hawai`i is open for business and welcoming visitors with the hospitality, aloha, warmth and picturesque settings visitors seek in our islands. This includes Hilo, Pāhoa and the Kona and Kohala coasts on the island of Hawai`i. The one area that people need to avoid is lower Puna where the eruption is ongoing.”
Even volcanologists have stepped in trying to calm people’s fears. U.S. Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall was quoted in a press release, saying, “I would not hesitate to come to Hawai`i. If you’re coming to enjoy the beaches or eat the delicious food, know it’s [the eruption’s] happening in a small, eastern edge of the island.”
It’s worth noting the eruption site is currently concentrated in 10 square miles in a 4,028-square-mile island that measures 60 miles long and 30 miles wide. The car drive from Kīlauea to the tourist destination of Kona takes approximately two hours.
Based on the number of press releases addressing it, air quality appears to be the primary concern of would-be visitors. Stovall pointed out that laze, a natural process when hot lava hits the ocean and emits hydrochloric acid and steam mixed with particles of glass into the air, has been occurring over the past 35 years whenever Kīlauea’s lava flow reaches the ocean.
Vog—volcanic smog—has been around that long, too. Vog has created a visible haze from the release of sulfur dioxide mixed with sunlight, atmospheric oxygen, moisture, and dust.
According to Bagwell, “Somebody on the tour made the comment that the haze is probably worse in Southern California than it is here right now with an active volcano.”
He can thank Hawai`i’s characteristic northeast trade winds for that. When they whip up, vog gets blown off the island to the southwest. But when they slow or switch directions, vog is more present and can be an eye and throat irritant to some people.
Another thing Kīlauea is making clear is a misunderstanding of the state’s geography. Outrigger Hotels and Resorts’ Chief Marketing Officer Sean Dee reports summer room bookings are soft across the state, an indication that some visitors are even hesitant to travel to other Hawaiian Islands. The Hawaiian Island archipelago is made up of eight main islands. The state’s government seat of Honolulu and iconic beach of Waikiki is located on O’ahu, 120 miles away from Kīlauea, which sits on the largest of the islands, known as Hawai`i Island.
“Somebody on the tour made the comment that the haze is probably worse in Southern California than it is here right now with an active volcano.”
— Steve Bagwell, tourist
“Visitors to Hawai`i can be assured that the volcanic activity is having no effect whatsoever on the other islands, O‘ahu, Maui, Moloka‘i, Lāna‘i and Kaua‘i,” the governor advised. “Visitors can book their trips comfortable in the knowledge that their vacation experience will provide all the enjoyment they expect when coming to our beautiful islands.” [...]
See travel-related articles via Google Play Newsstand on how Big Island's recent Volcano (Kilauea) activity has impacted airfares, vacations ...
By Jason Armstrong / May 16, 2018
Losses are mounting in the hundreds of millions of dollars as Kilauea pushes molten lava through neighborhoods.
From mounting property losses and government expenses to reduced tourism dollars, Hawaii’s latest natural disaster is sending financial shockwaves throughout the Big Island.
The price tag – and the volume of human suffering – keeps climbing as the eruption approaches its third week.
Kilauea volcano’s advancing flows have destroyed at least 26 homes, left many of Leilani Estates’ 770 dwellings inaccessible and threatened to sever all road access to Lower Puna.
“The affected areas are severely impacted to zero values because it can’t be sold and it can’t be used,” said Heather Hedenschau, principal broker at Big Island Brokers.
That means up to $170 million in lost property in Leilani Estates alone, based on a review of several online sites such as areavibes.com that offer varying median homes prices of around $220,000.
Leilani Estates and the much smaller Lanipuna Gardens, the first two subdivisions to be evacuated, generate a combined $1.2 million annually in property taxes for Hawaii County, said Lisa Miura, acting real property tax administrator.
“Everything inundated would go to zero (tax liability),” Miura said. Any property with an assessed value of $500 or less is exempt from taxation, according to county law.
The county also expects to collect less from owners of properties impacted by, but not within, the inundation zone, Miura said.
Lowering those values, and accompanying billings, would require an emergency proclamation from Mayor Harry Kim, who is considering taking that action, she said.
“What we’d like to do is provide tax relief to the immediate area,” Miura said.
That will affect the main revenue source for the county, which relies on property tax collections to pay more than 60 percent of its operating costs, according to Kim’s latest budget request. Impacts will be felt not only in the coming budget year that starts July 1, but also this current fiscal year as the county expects to provide partial refunds due to lowered values, Miura said. [...]
BY CAROLYN GRAMLING 5:02PM, MAY 16, 2018
Kilauea isn’t about to become another Krakatoa. So let’s just stop that rumor right there.
Twitter was awash last weekend in indignant volcanologists responding to a now-corrected Associated Press story that appeared to link the Hawaii volcano to the so-called Ring of Fire, and suggest its eruption could spark others in the ring. That’s just wrong, for a number of reasons.
The Ring of Fire is a picturesque description of the hundreds of volcanoes that surround the Pacific Ocean. Tectonic plates converge along all sides of the Pacific, and where you have converging tectonic plates, you have volcanoes. But an eruption at Mount St. Helens in the Cascades mountain range in the United States, for example, cannot trigger an eruption at Indonesia’s Krakatoa.
Furthermore, Kilauea isn’t at the edge of a tectonic plate. The volcano, along with the other volcanoes that formed the Hawaiian Islands, sits in the center of the Pacific plate. Those volcanoes, some extinct and some still active, have all been fed by a hot spot, a plume of magma rising from deep within Earth’s mantle.
Another Twitter post — also now deleted, thanks to many angry volcanologists — suggested that Kilauea was about to blow, and that it could be as devastating as the planet-scale eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 that killed tens of thousands of people. Also wrong. Yes, the U.S. Geological Survey, or USGS, has said that there is an increasing chance that a steam explosion will happen at Kilauea. And in fact, Kilauea has had such steam explosions before, most recently in 1924.
But the danger to communities from a steam explosion at Kilauea is pretty limited. One reason that Kilauea and Krakatoa are so different in their explosiveness is silica. Krakatoa, which last erupted in 2017, is a stratovolcano, with tall, steep sides made of ash and lava. Its magma is relatively high in silica, which is also what makes it so explosive. The high silica concentration means the magma is more viscous, or resistant to flow — so any gases it contains struggle to expand. But the change in pressure when the magma reaches Earth’s surface means the gases can suddenly expand — and they do, explosively.
Kilauea, by contrast, is a shield volcano: Its magma is relatively low in silica and flows easily, oozing out in characteristic ropy flows called pahoehoe and thick, blocky flows called aa. Kilauea’s magma tends to be lower in gas concentrations, as well, and what gas there is finds it easier to escape, so that less pressure builds up within the magma. As a result, the volcano is far less explosive.
The Hawaiian volcano has been erupting more or less continuously since 1983. Its most recent phase, which began in April, has garnered persistent media attention in part because of the location of the newest fissures: along the east flank of the volcano in the middle of a populated subdivision. More than 1,700 residents have been forced to evacuate and watch as slowly encroaching lava swallows houses, roads and cars. Thanks to the ongoing eruption, it’s not clear when they will be able to return home.
USGS’ volcano observatory on Hawaii’s Big Island has been closely monitoring the eruption. Twenty fissures along Kilauea’s east rift zone now are oozing lava. Some small earthquakes continue to shake that area, indicating the ongoing movement of magma through the rift area. A lava lake once visible within the volcano’s summit has completely sunk out of sight, USGS scientists said in a daily news briefing May 15.
That’s a cause for some concern, because it’s where the threat of a steam explosion comes in. As the magma drops further within the central column of the volcano, rocks forming the column may become unstable and topple into the magma. Meanwhile, groundwater in the rocks around the column may also seep in. That potent mix of water and hot rocks could produce steam explosions that could send bits of that rockfall shooting back out of the crater.
The good news is that these volcanic bombs, as those 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, USGS said. As a safety precaution, the National Park Service closed much of the park on May 11, and it remains closed for now while the threat still looms.
But that’s about as explosive as Kilauea is likely to get, and it isn’t likely to have much effect on most people living on the Big Island, let alone the rest of the Hawaiian chain. For now, the main danger to people on the Big Island is ash shooting out the summit crater. As of May 15, USGS noted that the crater is nearly continuously emitting ash that can rise in plumes as much as one to two kilometers above the ground. That ash can make roadways slick, contaminate open water reservoirs and cause some respiratory problems to people living in areas downwind.
Meanwhile, volcanologists continue to keep close watch on the volcano and the oozing lava on its lower east rift zone. Scientists are currently analyzing ash samples to determine their water content, to better understand how large a role water is currently playing in the ash plumes. But so far, according to USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory deputy scientist in charge Steve Brantley, there’s no evidence of the kind of vigorous explosive activity at the summit that led to its last steam explosions. So not only is Kilauea no Krakatoa, it’s not yet clear whether it’ll be as explosive as it was nearly a century ago.
Aloha! Outrigger Hotels and Resorts is ready to welcome you to your island home.
As of Friday, May 18, 2018 – the Hawaiian Islands [Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Lanai, Molokai and the Island of Hawaii] are unaffected by the Kilauea volcano activity, except for 10 square miles of a remote area on the Island of Hawaii. There is absolutely no reason at this time for travelers to change or alter their leisure or business plans.
Accommodations – all Outrigger Hotels and Resorts are open and operating business as usual, including our Hawaii Vacation Condos by Outrigger on the Island of Hawaii. Outrigger's Island of Hawaii condos are all on Kona side, located approximately 100 miles away or a two-hour car drive from any volcano activity:
Kanaloa at Kona by Outrigger®
Royal Sea Cliff Kona by Outrigger®
Fairway Villas Waikoloa by Outrigger®
Kohala Coast Vacation Rentals by Outrigger®
Airports – all flights into Kona International Airport (KOA) and Hilo International Airport (ITO) are open and operating business as usual.
Activities – all activities and attractions on the Island of Hawaii are operating normally, with the exception of the remote area affected by the lava activity, including Hawaii Volcanoes National park as a precaution.
Air Quality – on the Island of Hawaii, air quality remains largely unchanged. Officials continue to monitor this and do not recommend going near the volcanic activity.
For the most up-to-date visitor information, visit the Hawaii Tourism Authority website.
If you have specific questions regarding your stay with Outrigger, feel free to contact us here.
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