VOLCANO, Hawaii – Elevated levels of sulfur dioxide pouring from Kilauea volcano Wednesday forced the evacuation of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for the second time this month.
About 2,000 people were forced to leave the park when a lack of wind kept the noxious gas from Halemaumau Crater lingering over the Big Island volcano park, spokeswoman Mardie Lane said.
"Right now we have little to no wind," Lane said. The plume from the volcano's main crater was lingering over the area rather than getting blown away by trade winds the way it had been earlier in the week.
"When you step outside, definitely your eyes tear, you have that feeling that you'd like to cough or clear your throat," Lane said.
A rare two-day park closure earlier this month was caused by a shift in wind direction that prevented the gas from being blown out to sea.
"Our primary concern is for the health and safety of visitors and employees," said Joe Molhoek, the park's incident commander. "We're in close contact with the National Weather Service and look forward to favorable winds by week's end."
The closure included evacuation of the 42-room Volcano House hotel and the Kilauea Military Camp, a vacation facility for military families.
Hawaii County Civil Defense said no evacuations were ordered for communities outside the park. Residents of nearby Volcano Golf and Country Club Estates, however, were encouraged to leave if they were experiencing respiratory problems.
Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has been erupting since Jan. 3, 1983.