Sunday, July 28, 2002

Power of Pele

The most dramatic lava flows
in 7 years make Kilauea Volcano
a hot tourist ticket

By Diana Leone

Lava flowing to the sea from the Puu Oo vent of Kilauea Volcano is drawing tourists and kamaaina alike to a show that hasn't been this good in seven years.

"This is the most accessible and some of the best lava viewing we've had since 1995," said Mardie Lane, Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman.

An ocean wave, glowing by lava light, curled toward shore Friday at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Lava resumed flowing into the ocean July 19 after months of flows on land only. As many as 3,200 visitors have been viewing the spectacle daily.

"You can put the binoculars down, take the glasses off. It's right there."

On July 20 the first finger of lava touched Chain of Craters Road, Lane said yesterday.

"This morning a different finger crossed the road. An area where maybe you would have walked yesterday but wouldn't walk today."

Rangers are counting 2,000 to 3,000 people a day making the 40-mile round-trip from Crater Rim Drive to see the lava, Lane said. Local stores are selling out of flashlights, since many viewers want to see the hot lava glowing in the dark.

"Viewing is excellent," Lane said. "We have two very active ocean entries."

About two weeks ago, park officials moved their ranger station and parking area at the end of Chain of Craters Road a half-mile away from the flow.

Lava also is flowing through forests, continually igniting new fires and keeping firefighters on alert, Lane said.

Flights from Honolulu to Hilo were hard to come by this weekend and rental cars also were in short supply.

"It's been pretty full the past three days," said Aloha Airlines reservations agent Kaylin Cavaco. At 7 p.m. yesterday she had just booked the last seat available for any Aloha flights from Honolulu to Hilo today.

The earliest two travelers could get a direct Aloha flight tomorrow was at 3:25 p.m.

"It's been that way for Friday, Saturday and Sunday," she said, with people saying they are coming to see the lava.

Hawaiian Airlines reservation agent Tara Akui was able to scrounge up a few Honolulu-to-Hilo seats today on the airline's 5:17 a.m. or 9:40 a.m. flights, agreeing that it was busy this weekend.

Doreen Hauoli at Thrifty Rental Cars in Hilo said, "Everybody is pretty much sold out of vehicles. There's been a lot of activity going on in Hilo -- the busiest I've seen since Sept. 11."

Kim Dinapoli, assistant manager of the Kilauea Lodge, has lived in Volcano 17 years, but followed the call of the lava Wednesday night.

"It was pretty neat," Dinapoli said. "There were a lot of little fingers up on the mountain coming down, then small surface flows into the ocean. ...We were down there almost four hours."

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