Officials: Hawaii Island on Red Alert; Major Volcano Eruption May Be Imminent

Kilauea volcano Hawaii
Photo by M. Patrick/U.S. Geological Survey via AP/Newscred

Hawaii Island has been placed on red alert by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) after the scientific agency of the United States government reported that volcanic activity at Kilauea on Hawaii Island continues to worsen, with an ash cloud growing as high as 10,000 to 12,000 feet. 

According to the USGS's official website, a red alert means, “Major volcanic eruption is imminent, underway, or suspected with hazardous activity both on the ground and in the air.”

On May 3, Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted, causing lava to spew out of cracks in the ground in residential areas and prompting thousands of people to flee. Over the weekend, President Donald Trump declared a Hawaii a major disaster zone after days of volcanic activity on Hawaii Island. 

“Ash emission from the Kilauea summit vent will likely be variable with periods of increased and decreased intensity depending on the occurrence of rockfalls into the vent and other changes within the vent,” according to the USGS. “At any time, activity may become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent.”

According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s (HTA) most recent statement issued on Tuesday, "plumes of steam and ash are being emitted from Kilauea summit in Hawaii causing ash to fall downwind across portions of the southern district of Kau.

"Ash is currently being reported along Highway 11 to the town of Pahala," according to the HTA. "Avoid excessive exposure to ash which is an eye and respiratory irritant. Those with breathing issues should take extra precaution to minimize exposure. Motorists are advised to drive with caution. All roads in this area are open at this time."

As of now, most of Hawaii Island’s tourism product has not sustained major damage. Here’s a breakdown of the current status of Hawaii Island’s tourism offerings. 


A spokesperson for the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau told Travel Agent the volcanic activity has resulted in zero hotel closings, mainly because the resort areas are located far from the Kilauea area.

“All hotels on the island of Hawaii are open and operating as usual,” according to a written Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau statement issued to Travel Agent Tuesday night. “The hotels are located in Hilo (40 minutes away), and Kohala and Kona Coasts (+100 driving miles away). None of the hotels sustained any damage from Kilauea volcano.”

According to the HTA, “All accommodations, activities and attractions on the island are also operating normally, with the exception of those in the area affected by the lava activity.”


But the disaster has been causing some cruise disruptions. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America had to skip its call at Hilo on Tuesday, and the cruise line issued a statement Wednesday morning explaining exactly why the decision was made. 

“At Norwegian Cruise Line, the safety and security of our guests and crew is our top priority,” according to the Norwegian statement. “We have been closely monitoring the adverse conditions impacting [Hawaii Island] and are modifying the itinerary of Pride of America to ensure our guests have the best vacation experience possible.
“Pride of America will not call in Hilo on Tuesday, May 15th, and as a result will spend the day at sea. On Wednesday, May 16th, Pride of America will not call in Kona, but will add an additional day in Maui and call in Lahaina instead.”

Last week, the volcanic eruption in Hawaii prompted Royal Caribbean to cancel a call by Radiance of the SeasRadiance of the Seas canceled its call at Hilo on May 7, instead spending the day at sea, a Royal Caribbean representative told Travel Agent.


According to the HTA, all flights into Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole (KOA) on the west and Hilo International Airport (ITO) on the east are operating normally. Several airlines have also issued flight waivers due to the eruption for guests scheduled to fly to, from or through Hilo or Kona.

Air Quality

According to the HTA, “Air quality on the island of Hawaii remains largely unchanged with this situation. However, air quality near where the volcanic activity is occurring can be hazardous (SO2-sulfur dioxide) and light ash fall may be present, and officials are continuing to monitor air quality.”

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