Hawaii National Park, Hawai‘i – The National Park Service announced today that it will work with the State and County of Hawai‘i to construct an emergency route along the former Chain of Craters Road to assist residents of lower Puna, whose access to the rest of the island would be cut off if lava covers Highway 130.
“For the past several weeks, we have been putting all of our efforts into getting approval for an alternate route that can be used during this devastating emergency,” said Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.
Scientists at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory estimated on Sept. 19 that based on the flow’s location and rate of advancement at that time, lava from Kīlauea Volcano’s Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent could reach Highway 130 in 21 days – but noted as of Sept. 22, the lava flow advance rate has slowed.
The route, mostly within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, would provide emergency access for the community and would not be open for visitor use. Nearly eight miles of the coastal section of Chain of Craters Road is buried beneath rough, hardened lava, and 5.4 miles is within the national park.
The open section of Chain of Craters Road spans 19 miles from the summit of Kīlauea to sea level within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Opened in 1965, the road has been blocked by lava for 37 of its 49-year existence.
To protect park resources, the emergency route will follow the old lava-covered road alignment as much as practicable.
“The NPS is deeply concerned about this potential disaster to our community, our friends, families, employees and volunteers,” said Orlando. “We have been working diligently with our partners to find an acceptable solution in accordance with federal law,” she said.