Almost deadly lava delta collapse closes Kamokuna ocean entry at Kilauea, Hawaii

A large section of the 26-acre lava delta formed by the 61g lava flow collapsed into the ocean around 2:45 p.m. on December 31, 2016.

The huge subsidence launched showers of volcanic rock into the air and created a flurry of large waves that eroded away a portion of the older sea cliff and viewing area.

delta collapse Kamokuna Ocean Entry, delta collapse Kamokuna Ocean Entry picture, delta collapse Kamokuna Ocean Entry december 31 2016, lava delta collapse Kamokuna Ocean Entry kilauea eruption, A large plume of rock debris and gas from the Kamokuna lava ocean entry within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, just after the lava delta began to collapse
A large plume of rock debris and gas from the Kamokuna lava ocean entry within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, just after the lava delta began to collapse. NPS photo/Travis Delimont

As a result, the Kamokuna ocean entry within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park will remain closed until park rangers and USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists survey and reopen the area.

Rangers on duty New Year’s Day reported that the former viewing area is gone and that loud cracks continue to be heard throughout the unstable area.

Although park rangers temporarily closed the Kamokuna lava viewing area, five visitors ducked beneath the white rope closure line and made a beeline for the coastal cliffs around 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Eruption Crew Ranger Travis Delimont and a co-worker had to chase after them before they turned around. Within 15 minutes, the section of cliff where the visitors were standing crashed into the ocean.

It was a really close brush with death for them. Luckily, they finally listened to us and turned around in time,” Ranger Delimont said.

delta collapse Kamokuna Ocean Entry, delta collapse Kamokuna Ocean Entry picture, delta collapse Kamokuna Ocean Entry december 31 2016, lava delta collapse Kamokuna Ocean Entry kilauea eruption, A large plume of rock debris and gas from the Kamokuna lava ocean entry within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, just after the lava delta began to collapse
Although park rangers temporarily closed the Kamokuna lava viewing area last night, five visitors ducked beneath the white rope closure line and made a beeline for the coastal cliffs around 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. This ended up almost abruptly for the crazy adventurers. Pictures by Volcanoes National Park photo.

The lava viewing area will remain closed until it is determined safe to reopen. The County of Hawai‘i also closed the Kalapana access to the park.

Fortunately, there were no aircraft or boats reported in the area at the time of the collapse, nor were any visitors on the delta itself, which is closed for public safety. Had anyone been close by on land, water or air, lives would have surely been lost.

There is a temporary flight restriction of 1,000 feet above ground level at the Kamokuna ocean entry.

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