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4/09/2008

Vog forces closure of Volcano National Park

Hawaii, USA
Image:
The Halema'uma'u crater, seen here on Saturday, continues to emit elevated levels of sulfur dioxide. A voluntary evacuation advisory last night covered the Mauna Loa Estates, Ohia Estates and Volcano Golf Course subdivisions as well as the Volcano Village and Keauhou Ranch areas. USGS photo

Story: Volcanoes National Park closed this morning after park officials feared the combined emissions from Pu'u O'o and Halema'uma'u crater would be significant hazards as the wind shifts to the west at about noon today. That evacuation included the Volcano House hotel within the park. A voluntary evacuation advisory last night covered the Mauna Loa Estates, Ohia Estates and Volcano Golf Course subdivisions as well as the Volcano Village and Keauhou Ranch areas. Computer models of the weather patterns and volcanic emissions suggest that air quality in the Volcano Village area could reach the highest "purple" level today under the color coded chart used to warn the public of the short-term air quality risks. When conditions for an area are designated as purple, all people are advised to avoid outdoor activity, and people with respiratory problem are advised to leave the area. Hilo and many Puna residents awoke this morning to find their homes enveloped in a thick layer of vog. The wind is expected to push a relatively narrow plume of sulfur dioxide at levels more than double the federal ambient air quality standards out to about 30 miles west of Halema'uma'u crater. Inside Volcanoes Park, "the LEVELS OF SUFUR DIOXIDE ARE HIGHER THAN THEY'VE EVER BEEN HERE. They're way above the red level, extremely unhealthy. The park will reopen when the tradewinds come back." Visibility is poor on the Chain of Craters Road. All 180 park service employees, except for emergency responders, also have been evacuated.
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