Thanks to the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, we have a “new” word.....well new to me anyway......”vog”. That's volcanic smog, or air pollution created by vapor, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide gas released from Kilauea. It reacts in the atmosphere with oxygen, sunlight, moisture and other gases and particles creating a haze downwind from Kilauea. One person who lives over there and grew up in Southern California compared it to “Los Angeles-like smog”.
Kilauea was belching 15,000 tons of gas each day, up from 6,000 tons daily prior to the May 3 eruption. The U. S. Geological Survey said sulfur dioxide emissions from the volcano have more than doubled since the current eruption began.
So far, the positive effect is that the prevailing winds are taking the vog out to the east and south of the Big Island. If there is no wind, or little wind, then some area on the west side of the Big Island does feel the effect. One person describes the effect as burning eyes, headaches and sore throats.
Of course the news reports and televised scenes are alarming, and for those folks who live there, it is devastating. But for those on the other islands, and for many on the Big Island, life goes on, so does tourism. Even on the Big Island, one tour operator said that the island is 4,000 square miles and about 20 square miles are being impacted by the volcano. Western Kohala and the Kona coast are more than 100 miles away from the volcano.
The biggest negative for the Big Island is that the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is closed until further notice and damage to roads and structures will have to wait for repairs. A National Park Service reported that in 2017, more than two million visitors came to the park, spending $166 million in local communities and supporting 2,020 jobs.
Despite the efforts of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and other state officials to let everyone know that travel to all of the islands is safe, the industry has taken a significant hit to their tourism efforts. Agents, tour operators, and hotel managers recently reported a drop in bookings ranging from 25% to 50% for the Big Island. Interestingly, the volcano has been active since 1983. It was active and producing lava flow to the ocean when we were there a year ago. Our ship paused for about an hour just off shore about a mile watching the lava flow into the ocean and watching steam ooze into the atmosphere. At night it was quite a sight.
We have had clients who have just returned, and they agreed that they had no problems, but of course, they did not have the Big Island as one of their stops. We also have others who are planning on cruising the Hawaiian islands and the cruise line, Norwegian Cruise Line, have notified them that they would be eliminating the port stop at Hilo which is on the east side of the Big Island, even though Hilo is quite a few miles from where the lava is flowing into the ocean. The winds are blowing the “vog” south of Hilo, so for the most part, the residents there are not feeling the direct effect of the “vog”.
My advice is that there are too many beautiful venues available in the Hawaiian islands to let the volcano interrupt plans to go there. Would I go? Absolutely!! Give the travel agents at The Travel Factory a chance to help you plan to go to our 50th state, or any other vacation idea you might have. We are at 4150 Southwest Drive; a phone call away at 698-1421, or visit our website at: www.thetravelfactoryabilene.com. For now....Alo-o-o-o-o-Ha!!!!