Summit explosion serves as warning for trespassers near Halemaumau Crater

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is urging visitors not to venture near Kilauea’s summit, especially following a recent explosion.

It occurred just after 10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6, flinging chunks of molten and solid rock onto the rim of Halemaumau Crater. It also destroyed the power system for scientific equipment used to monitor the volcano.

The explosion covered the southeast crater rim with a layer of volcanic rock, about eight inches thick in places, and lava bombs and spatter were hurled nearly 300 feet out beyond the crater rim at the closed overlook, extending over an area about 720 feet in width along the rim.

Park officials say the explosion highlights the dangers of being in the area.

“This type of volcanic explosion is not that uncommon at the summit of Kilauea, and could have easily killed or seriously injured and burned anyone in the area,” said park superintendent Cindy Orlando.

The summit lava lake and Halemaumau Overlook, and the partial closure of about four miles of the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive and Crater Rim Trail have been closed since 2008, but “people continue to trespass into the closed area, putting themselves and first responders at great risk,” Orlando noted.

Park ranger Tim Hopp was on routine patrol when he heard a loud “sloshing” sound coming from the crater and saw the sky light up.

It was “so surreal and bright you could read a book,” he recalled. Fragments of volcanic rock rained down on his patrol vehicle as he left the area.

He also saw the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory equipment perched on the rim shooting off light as electrical wires burned.

An hour later, Hopp cited two individuals for sneaking into the closed area to get a closer look at the potentially lethal lava lake.

The park has no plans to reopen the closed areas until the eruption from Halemaumau ceases.

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