Emergency officials are keeping a close eye on Highway 11 after cracks appeared Wednesday on the road near the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The highway is the main thoroughfare for residents living in Volcano and Kau.
Scientists say they were caused by a series of earthquakes, including a magnitude-3.5 earthquake located one-tenth of a mile beneath the summit of Kilauea Volcano at around 11:30 a.m.
The strongest earthquake so far Wednesday struck at 8:30 a.m. and was recorded at a magnitude 4.4.
Park officials say the earthquakes also caused noticeable structural damage in park buildings, and left behind a web of earth cracks and uneven road surfaces on Highway 11 and other park roadways.
No one was hurt.
Park emergency managers urge motorists to slow down and use caution on Highway 11, particularly between mile markers 28 and 29, and Pii Mauna Road, where most damage occurred.
The park, which has jurisdiction of Highway 11 between mile markers 28 and 38.5, is not closing Highway 11 at this time.
In addition, motorists are reminded that stopping for non-emergency purposes along the side and shoulders of Highway 11 in the park is prohibited.
“We are leaving Highway 11 open at this time, but will close it if it becomes unsafe for motorists,” said Chief Ranger John Broward. “We suspect we’ll find additional damage throughout the park once we have time to assess damage.”
The earthquake also created sizable cracks and floor shifting in the park’s Visitor Emergency Operations Center and caused a temporary loss of power and ruptured several water lines.
Geologists say the activity at Kilauea is becoming more dynamic.
“We have measurements that show that the floor of the caldera has dropped about three feet during this sequence, and as that happens, we are having a lot of earthquakes, including some pretty strong ones that are being felt by residents in the area today,” said Michelle Coombs, USGS geologist.
Also Wednesday morning, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey found rocks approximately two feet in diameter strewn in the parking lot a few hundred yards from Halemaumau Crater.
Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has been closed since Friday, May 11, due to ongoing seismic activity, summit deflation, and a possible steam explosion at the summit of Kilauea Volcano.
“Based on previous eruptions, that interaction in the past had caused steam explosions. The potential for larger explosions is still there. It’s all part of the same process. The lava continue to drain out of that area, and so that potential for the water and lava interactions is still very much there,” Coombs said.