Hawaii volcano disrupts play at Volcano Golf Club after golfers’ photos go viral

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Emissions from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano diminished Wednesday, a day after a plume of ash spewed from the crater in a massive cloud that rose some 12,000 feet. Residents and scientists are keeping a close watch for more violent activity. (May 16) AP

Golfers played through earlier this week at Volcano Golf and Country Club on Hawaii’s Big Island.

It’s highly unlikely anyone will be playing through there anytime soon.

Since May 3, the ongoing eruption and lava release of the Kilauea volcano has caused evacuations, destroyed nearly 40 structures in the area and sent huge plumes of ash 30,000 feet into the air on the southeast side of the Big Island.

But that didn’t keep golfers from playing Volcano Golf and Country Club on Tuesday, the course that rests on the rim of the active volcanic crater some 4,000 feet above sea level and is near the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has been closed since May 11. Photographer Mario Tama snapped photos that went viral of men playing golf with the massive ash plumes in the background.

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On Thursday, however, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported an eruption at the Kilauea summit happened at 4:17 a.m. local time. The Hawaii Country Civil Defense Agency message at 5 a.m. said wind will likely carry the plume toward the southeast and warned people to seek shelter. The massive plumes raise the possibility of volcanic smog, or “vog,” which can be packed with noxious sulfur dioxide.

Reached by phone at 6:15 a.m. Thursday, an employee at the Volcano Golf and Country Club said a meeting was taking place to determine if the course would open and asked to call back in an hour. An hour later no one answered the phone.

“I’m 99% sure the course is closed,” said Danielle Tucker, the host and producer of the popular The Golf Club radio show in Hawaii. “The ash – which is blown up rock – isn’t toxic but it’s irritating. You want to stay out of the ash. The lava, for now, is affecting a very small area as it moves.

“The sulfur dioxide gas is the greatest danger. The are no masks available to protect from the toxic gases.”

Tucker said no other golf courses on the Big Island or in the state are in jeopardy by the Kilauea volcano, which is always active. An eruption in 1924 sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.

“In a geologic sense, you could say it’s business as usual,” Tucker said. “In a generational sense, this happens once every 30 years or so. The last major eruption where boulders the size of cows were thrown was 1924.”

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