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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park prepares for partial reopening

HONOLULU — The National Park Service is planning to reopen sections of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park next month following the lull in activity from the Kilauea volcano.

The reopening date has been set for Sept. 22 after the May eruption prompted the Big Island park closure, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

The U.S. Geological Survey downgraded the volcano’s alert level to “watch” last week. It had maintained the “warning” level since May 3.

The pause in seismicity and other activity allowed staff to assess damages and repair water lines, park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said. While park hours upon reopening are expected to be limited, the Kilauea Visitor Center near the entrance will likely be among the areas, she said.

Officials are also looking for a possible viewing area for the public to be able to see the changes to Halemaumau Crater.

“We’re working really hard to determine where that will be because we know that’s what visitors will want to see,” Ferracane said. “That’s a priority.”

The crater at a depth of more than 1,200 feet is about four times deeper than it was before the eruption, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The crater’s diameter has more than doubled, swallowing portions of a road and a parking lot.

Extensive damage to the Jaggar Museum means the facility will not be included in the reopening, Ferracane said. The Thurston lava tube will also be left out. A team will evaluate other park sites.

The barrage of seismic activity since the eruption has caused rock falls, sinkholes and fractures on the museum’s deck, hiking trails, parking lots and roads.

“We have the difficult task ahead of us of identifying what we can safely open,” said Cindy Orlando, the park superintendent. “Our first step will be bringing staff back into the park, while getting assessments done. National Public Lands Day is our goal but not definitive.”

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