Hawaii and Alaska Tourism May Be Affected by Volcanic Activity


Volcanic activity in Hawaii and Alaska may affect tourism as eruptions increase and lava flows. On Saturday, the National Weather Service warned airplanes not to travel near Alaska’s Pavlof Volcano after it spewed 30,000 feet of ash plumes. Meteorologists at the University of Hawaii in Manoa are closely monitoring the slowly advancing lava flow from Hawaii’s Kiliauea Volcano.

Lava began flowing out of Pavlof’s vents on Wednesday with smoke and ash reaching 16,000 feet. The volcanic activity caused the eruption to intensify early Saturday morning. A geophysicist at Alaska Volcano Observatory, Dave Schneider said it is not yet apparent how long the volcano will continue to erupt. Volcanoes can remain active in various levels of intensity for a few weeks or several months. Pavlof is the most active volcano in Alaska with more than 40 eruptions since last year.

Kiliauea Volcano has been emitting a slow pour of lava since June of this year. The Hawaii volcano has been active off and on for the past 31 years. Hawaii’s civil defense agency notifies residents if and when the lava flow becomes a threat. So far, it has covered a cemetery near the city of Pahua, and burned two structures.

In Hawaii, meteorologists are using vog modeling to predict the amount of smoke the lava is producing and how far the smoke will travel. This helps residents of Pahua avoid being outside if they have respiratory problems. Reports and infographics show the lava flow widening with several breakout flows. Officials continue to maintain that none of the additional movements of lava will affect residents. The flow seems to have stalled about 480 feet above Pahoa Village Road with .4 miles of distance between some of the outbreaks.

Darryl Oliveira, the Director of Hawaii County Civil Defense, said those residents living on the slope beneath the flow have been advised to evacuate. Public safety personnel and the National Guard are monitoring the area throughout the day to keep close observations. Oliviera said that while roads near the lava flow are closed, the town center and businesses are open and residents can access them. It is not clear yet how the slow-moving volcanic activity will be affecting tourism here or in northern Alaska.

Right now, the lava flow running through Pahua is burning asphalt and vegetation. One of the structures burned was a home where residents were on site when the lava flow reached them. John Byrd, one of the residents, said that “property and stuffs can all be re-done,” but that the lava flow was “going to affect a lot of people for a long, long time.” The most important thing, he said, was for everyone to stay safe.

In Alaska, the Pavlof volcano is 40 miles from Cold Bay, a small community, and 625 miles from Anchorage. The ash cloud from the volcano extends more than 250 miles from the erupting vents. Intense seismic activity is still a factor according to the state’s volcano observatory. Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said no flight restrictions have been ordered yet, but pilots are under warning. Many pilots report seeing the 30,000 ash plumes as Alaska is a stop along the U.S.-Europe international flight routes. The volcanic activity in both Hawaii and Alaska may pose problems for upcoming tourism, as flights will be affected by any increases in eruptions.

By Didi Anofienem

KITV ABC Honolulu
U.S. Army National Guard Photo By: Staff Sgt. Katie Gray – Flickr License

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